Fire in the Bones

THE AUTHOR:  Mark R. Harris

: Jaimie Engle

: Black Rose Writing

SUMMARY: Spanning the years 1964-1972, Fire in the Bones follows Luke, an American boy plagued by panic and loneliness growing up in a nominally religious middle class family.  He looks for security and companionship wherever he can, first through daydreams, including a relationship with an imaginary friend named Bob, and then on to sixties pop culture, via TV icon Batman and pop music sensations the Beatles.  As Luke comes to pattern his identity after the Beatles and others, he creates a fantasy world for himself that keeps the panic and loneliness at bay. But when Lonnie walks into his life, he enters a new reality where a flesh-and-blood female offers him tangible security—but at a price Luke may not be willing to pay.

THE BACK STORY: What inspired me to write this? That’s pretty cool.  My son had been doing NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—for a year or two, where you try to draft a novel of 50,000 words in a month. So I decided to do it too.  We went to a little café in a bookstore for the first “write-in,” and I had a song in my mind—I’ve always loved popular music, and I’m an auditory person, so music is often floating around in my head—anyway, I had in my mind this song about fire and how it can actually clean or purify things, make them better.  And I started to picture a scene I vaguely remembered about a little boy sitting in a little country church, fanning himself with one of those rectangular picture-fans on a stick that little country churches in the South used to have (maybe they still do).  And the words started to come.  That turned into the first scene/chapter in the book.  The next three or four chapters of the book I based on other early memories or early stories I had heard.  Then as the plot and the characters started to take shape and develop, it became clearer and clearer where the story needed to go.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I wanted a phrase that would capture the idea of things we feel strongly, whether good feelings, like love, or bad feelings, like fear.  “Fire in the bones,” based on a quote from Jeremiah, fit the bill.

What makes your book unique, and what niche audiences might it reach?  If you like American pop culture, rock music, 60’s and 70’s, coming of age stories, characters most people can relate to or even remember being, you would probably enjoy Fire in the Bones. I take relatable elements like these and weave them together in a way that makes the book different.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “There are few young men and women in life who haven’t felt that immense love for a certain group of musicians in their lives; the kind of fascination that is so strong, every lyric to every song is nearly memorized, even without the usage of Google. Mark Harris captures this fascination excellently in Fire in the Bones, while also delving into the inner turmoil of preadolescence. Luke is a protagonist with many fears and many moments of overanalysis. Throughout the novel Luke finds his emotions channeled and guided through his passion for the Beatles’ music, while also through his crushes on pretty girls. Throw in a pinch of his raising in a church going family, and you get a complexity of character that alone makes this story worth reading. In dealing with his past fears of car accidents, the break-up of the Beatles, or pursuing a lovely gal named Lonnie, Luke’s story is reminiscent of the growing up that all young adults undergo, and written in a manner that makes it feel unique.”

“This is a very well-written gripping coming of age story with lyrical prose and characters you swear are alive and breathing somewhere. Taking place in the 60s, Harris did a fabulous job weaving in songs and events of the time-period into the plotline. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy stories that remind you of life back when you were growing up and trying to make sense of the world around you, including yourself.”

“The book was great. I felt the angst of the main character in his quest to make sense of his world and could even identify with his youthful anxieties in spite of he being a boy and I, a girl. We all go through similar fantasies and struggles as we negotiate our first relationships with the opposite sex. It was comforting to see Christ working in him without it screaming “this is a Christian book.” You wove that in nicely. Also really enjoyed the walk down memory lane with so many great song references from the 60’s and 70’s. Music is such a great connector to places and experiences that make up our lives.”

“A sweet look into the mind of an introverted young boy growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I really enjoyed the teen romance at the end!”

E:  I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, moved to New Jersey as a small boy, and met my wife in college in Pennsylvania.  I now teach English in central Virginia, where I live with my wife and sons, as well as our border collie/yellow lab Emma and our completely antisocial cat Betty. Fire in the Bones is my first novel, and I have just finished a first draft of a second novel. I have also published a short story, several poems, several songs, and several articles on works of literature. When I’m not writing I enjoy playing games, thinking deep thoughts and thinking about nothing, listening to classic rock, making videos, and telling dumb jokes.

Fire in the Bones deals with things most people go through, like trying to find the right person in your life, searching for love, security, a place to fit in and belong.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 24502

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: (paperback), Barnes& (paperback), Kindle, Nook, Black Rose Writing

PRICE: $15.95 (paperback); $6.95 (Kindle)



                                        Twitter:  @mark_r_harris

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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