Robert Harken finds foothold as a budding sci fi novelist
September 3, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Robert Harken is far from being crowned the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but the Sammamish resident has found a modest level of success after the publication of his first novel.
Harken’s self-published debut, “Life on Nubis,” hit library and online shelves in January.
The 44-year-old, who works full-time developing business strategies for a technology firm, had never tried his hand at writing until recent years.
The 18-month writing process, which included several major revisions, ended with the publication of a short story, “Snow Falls,” last November, followed by “Life on Nubis” two months later.
Since then, some strong reviews have bolstered Harken’s sales figures.
The Library Review, which Harken calls “one of the top-five review publications,” compared his novel to works from long-established science-fiction writers like Ben Bova and Kim Stanley Robinson.
The Midwest Book Review also had favorable comments, calling it a “first-class read from beginning to end.”
Maybe the best praise has come from public reviews. “Life on Nubis” is in hundreds of libraries across the country, Harken said, and about 25 percent of his sales come from book giant Amazon.com.
“Within the first two pages, Harken had me traveling at the speed of light along with the characters,” one Amazon review stated.
Harken’s road to becoming a published author began with a conversation in the car while driving his daughter, Grace, to school. She asked what she should do with her life, and when her father’s impromptu response failed to help, he chose to “do something different to really convey my learnings in an effective manner.”
Harken said he discovered he enjoyed the process of writing and editing, and the end result was a book that addressed the challenges children could face in the future.
Set in the year 2040, “Life on Nubis” tells the story of Aiden Haven and his daughter, Sarah, who choose to leave Earth because artificial intelligence has made machines superior to humans in the completion of most tasks. They travel to a new planet, only to find it virtually inhabitable.
“They have to struggle to survive, very much like the Pilgrims did when they came to North America,” Harken said.
The story arc stays true to Harken’s personal experience: Unlike some people, he said, he didn’t find his career path quickly or easily.
The book speaks about people finding their passion and following it, something Harken wanted his 6-year-old son, William, and Grace, 11, to understand.
Harken is working on his literary chops – he’s been part of a critique group of fellow writers for the past few months – and he said he’d love to create more books.
However, he believes the publishing world is very competitive and there’s a small percentage of authors who earn a living wage.
“It’s kind of like acting or trying to be a musician,” he explained. “If I can achieve that level of income then, yes, I’d love to do it full-time, otherwise I think it’s going to be a serious hobby for a while.”
He also noted that success derives from building a strong readership base, which typically takes time.
Harken chose to self-publish, a decision he hasn’t spent much time regretting.
“From my understanding about going after publishers and agents, there’s a lot of effort required to market to them, and there’s a high rejection rate,” he said. “None of those things really suited my goals with writing or added to my enjoyment of the work.”