Interview with Harper Glenn for Debut Novel Monarch Rising

In association with HearOurVoices, I was given the opportunity to interview the insightful Harper Glenn on their debut novel Monarch Rising. Special thanks to Harper for their time.

A little bit about Harper: Born and raised in Georgia, they now reside in Washington state. Through their writing, they shed light on underrepresented spaces and are passionate about highlighting and unveiling truths regarding socioeconomic disparities, particularly in regions with high poverty rates.

Monarch Rising was released October 2022. See also Monarch Rising review.

The Interview

What was your writing process like when approaching this project? 

Monarch Rising came in a dream Fall 2016. In the dream, a young girl walked toward a forbidden bridge where a boy stood amazed, staring at her. “What are you doing?” the boy said. The girl wiped her tears. “I wanna see duh water.” “You need to go back.” the boy looked over his shoulder. “Why?” And then the boy said, “They’ll hang you if they catch you.” I woke up electrified, with chills, excited about the world I’d dreamt about. Who was this black girl? Who the hell was this white boy? Who was this “they” the boy referenced? And why the hell would they hang her for crossing a bridge? Why was she crying? I had to find out. That’s how Monarch Rising started.

How long have you been writing, and how did you get started? 

I can’t put an age on when I first started. I was young. Interest in traditional publishing came in (I believe) 2009. I started writing by just… writing. Then worried about all the other stuff (editing / agent (s)/ publisher(s) ) after drafting the manuscript. 

What comes to you first-— the story or the character? Or a mixture of both?

Story begins with character. Characters reveal the human condition and move stories forward. That movement needn’t be linear. It only matters that there’s authentic movement.

While Monarch Rising is similar to previous titles, it has still set itself apart as a unique entry in dystopian YA—especially with its role reversal concept. What inspired you to tell Jo’s story? How did Jo come to be?

Creating a world separated by class—in which the rich use to be poor,  and poor folks once rich—this concept was created by thinking about the invisible ones; poor kids living in places unseen in travel brochures. I was one of those kids. Most nights, I’d fall asleep wondering: If rich folks had to live wondering. “Where’s the next meal coming from?” –They’d care more about kids /families without answers to that question. 

Monarch Rising includes many visceral and emotional scenes depicting the dystopian aspects of their future that also reflect our current society’s dystopian aspects. What sort of emotions did you feel while you wrote these scenes? 

Characters are real in my mind. They’re real identities— and like real identities, characters struggle. They live, love, fight, laugh in every region of the world. That’s what I love the most about writing; making fictional characters imperfect creatures like humans. We humans are full secrets we’d never tell, stories never heard, and goals unreached. I’m fascinated by human emotion and jump at the chance to attach feeling(s) to characters. I do this because feeling it all  is what it means to be human. 

There are so many things to take away from this work; are there some specific themes or ideas you would like your readers to take away after reading Monarch Rising?

Love and Betrayal are major themes. And how sometimes, our hearts are broken platonically, via friends, family. Etc. And when that heartbreak happens. Fight like hell. Don’t allow hurt caused by others to alter the kindness we gift to others. 

I feel like every author infuses a part of themselves into their work. While the work itself is a part of you, there may be a character you mainly associate with or a scene that resonates with you. Are any scenes or characters holding a special place in your heart?

As a reader/film buff, I won’t give away scenes. I dislike hearing even the smallest details about books / films I want see/books I want to read. But I wrote Monarch to explore the complexities of love and the effects of poverty. Much like the character Jo, I grew up poor. Monarch’s my love letter to my childhood as well as an anti-love/ love letter to love because… love transcends time. We need only close our eyes to touch how love brings joy, and sometimes, how love hurts.

Josephine gets her name from a character from the classic Little Women and shares many characteristics with her namesake. She shares the pages with many other characters with inspired and unique names (Cove, Boah, Vimberly). What was the inspiration or thought process behind these uncommon names?

Great question!  Monarch is Jo’s last name. Growing up, I was a fan of little women—Josephine March, was the writer in me, the tom in me.  

While researching hunting tools for Monarch world building, I stumbled upon the word Bow.  I’m Buddhist, but as a kid I was taught all humans alive descend from Noah (Noah’s Ark, etc.) — and yet, land we “alive” on / inhabit belongs to Indigenous people). I’ll stop there. And pause. I can talk Colonization all day. Cliff Notes version: I married the words Bow and Noah and created Boah. And said…that’s a cool name. 

On Cove: When I was little, even now, my mom tells me I’m like water. I can move through anything. That I’m strong. I thought of names that meant water. Names I’d not seen in books read—and thought. Cove. 

I create most Character names this way—by using an assembly of letters, derived by reasoning; something felt, experienced, researched, etc. 

The ashes have a specific way of speaking, as do the people of New Georgia.  What inspired some of the more unique slang used in the book? 

The Ashes and New Georgia is how I spoke as a kid. The twang/ slang of most folks in southeast Georgia/ down south. My voice / writing style is rooted in Georgia—always will be.


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