Coming-of-age fantasy novel marks Stittsville author’s debut

(Author Payson R. Harris of Stittsville launched their first novel, The Quantity of Desire, in late October, 2021. Photos: submitted)

Payson R. Harris (the author’s pen name), from Stittsville, recently published their first novel. The Quantity of Desire is about a minotaur named Chase who comes to a new land without his family and must learn to make his own way in the world.

“Chase stepped off a slaver’s boat and into a strange land. Scared and alone, the young minotaur learned to be meek and subservient to survive. But when a childhood scuffle goes wrong, Chase is thrust into a world he’s completely unprepared for—one under threat from monsters that come without warning. He will have to fight to protect his new family. And the fallout of that fight will spread until it engulfs much more than just his family…”

Some themes explored in The Quantity of Desire are “questions of how we relate to our society around us, and how those systems shape us. It focuses especially on economic systems. It’s also about how we define who we are from the people around us, and we grow both from their advice and their failures.” Payson believes that, as the story is ultimately one about coming-of-age, people who are currently transitioning to adulthood will appreciate the novel, going on to say they wrote a novel they themself would want to read today.

(Stittsville author, Payson R. Harris.)

While The Quantity of Desire is Payson’s first novel, they have been writing for a long time, having published short stories previously. They had tried to write novels in the past, which would start very strong until they got lost and ultimately stopped. However, Payson knew where they wanted to go with this story from the beginning. “I’ve had a lot of the ideas for this novel percolating in my head for a long time, but this novel actually started as a role-playing game backstory.” Knowing where they wanted to go from the beginning kept Payson on track with writing. Having more structure first before writing a novel is a lesson Payson has taken for their next novel, “which I think will be even better.”

Describing their writing process, Payson states they would try to write for two hours each day – one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. After multiples rounds of editing – “until there was almost no content from the first draft left” – the novel was sent to an editor, edited some more, and shaped into the novel it is now. Overall, writing The Quantity of Desire took Payson about three years.

Without any specific work influencing this novel, Payson admits that everything they’ve seen, read, and heard has inspired their writing in some way or another. Included in this inspiration are some local spots: “I will say that there are a lot of scenes in forests in the book, and I drew on my experience in the forests around Stittsville. As a child, I spent a lot of time in the forest where Granite Ridge is now, and then in the Stittsville dog park, going off-trail.”

When asked if they are in the process of writing anything else, Payson shares that their next novel, historical fiction set in Finland during the Second World War, is in the works. “I’ve taken a lot of the lessons I learned from writing The Quantity of Desire, and that should mean it’s better—and finished sooner. We’ll see! But I’m really excited for this novel.”

The Quantity of Desire is available for purchase online.


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