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Copyright 2004 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Tara K. Harper


      .           In this File:
   •  Author Bio
   •  Interviews
   •  Schedule
   •  Author's Thanks
   •  What's New  with TKH

   •  More About the Author
   •  News
   •  Photo Galleries


You can contact Tara K. Harper via e-mail or by writing to:  
PO Box 23-0107; Tigard, OR  97281-0107

[ And yes, that really is my photo; it was taken about four years ago.]

About the Author

Tara K. Harper was born in 1961, in the year of the first, manned, suborbital hop.  Although she was raised in northwest Oregon with cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and horses, hers was a truly nuclear family.  Her father had worked in a nuclear lab analyzing radioactive cloud samples from Russian atomic test blasts; her mother had been a uranium buyer. Tara K. Harper's first electronic toy was an oscilloscope.

Between a father who was a metrologist, woodworker, luthier, and otherwise jack-of-all-trades, and a mother who was an accomplished horsewoman, seamstress, musician, and community activist, Harper had a difficult time choosing between life goals.  She did know by the time she was eleven that she would become an astronaut, a stunt person, or a science writer.  However, her interests continue to range from fencing to forensics.  She is a violinist and composer who also studies voice, paints in oils, sculpts in stone, and collects dryer lint.  She plays the dulcimer that her father built; and plays blues and folk guitar, even though she can never find her favorite pick.  She reads almost anything, complains bitterly about the lack of news on the local news, and thinks that a vacation is that thing where you find something really interesting to do--like cloning human DNA.  

Competitve, driven, and passionate about her beliefs, she freely admits that she can be as irritating as a two-ounce flea in a sleeping bag.  She enjoys a good discussion, refuses to take herself too seriously, and is often accused of being a thrill-seeker.  In four words?  Eclectic, eccentric, opinionated, blunt--but as some say, that's just her dark side...

She judges herself so harshly;
I think she's more irritating to herself than anyone else I know.

            - Richard Jarvis

In 1979, Harper won a journalism honor and a communications scholarship, and enrolled at the University of Oregon.  She worked nights in a cannery, fished to feed her cat, and lived in a filbert orchard while studying physics, mathematics, and journalism.  Uncertain as to whether she should pursue a career in physics, music, writing or space science, she attended the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.  At the same time, she served an internship as science journalist on The World newspaper (Coos Bay, OR).  

During that period, the cruise launch sank, her mentor accidentally electrocuted himself, an 85 to 105-mph gale (in which she went canoeing) destroyed the docks outside her rooms, and the decomposing sea lions behind the barracks ripened dramatically, while her hair began to mildew in the constant rain.   While several of the other fourteen students dropped out, Harper concluded that she had to make these sorts of experiences into a more permanent lifestyle.

In 1984, Harper graduated from U of O with a Bachelor of Science.  She returned to northwest Oregon and immediately took a job with a company in R&D high-tech, test and measurement.  This allowed her to make enough money to support her personal research (aka vacations) in engineering, genetics, virology, and other disciplines.  Her fiction writing was, at that time, a hobby--something for weekends and evenings.  

(Harper's) personality and her writing are the same:
the power switch is full-on and broken off in that position,
and we don't know how to turn the damn thing off.

                    - Ernest V. Curto, Ph. D., Physicist and Biochemist

By the end of 1988, Harper had completed four science-fiction novels.  Under forcible pressure from a friend, she sought an agent.  Her her first novel was accepted at Del Rey Books (an imprint of Random House) six months later, and she saw Wolfwalker published in 1990.  The novel was an immediate best-seller, and Harper's career moved quickly forward.

Currently, Harper is the author of nine science-fiction novels, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Wolfwalker series and Cat Scratch series, as well as other stories.  Her work is available internationally in a variety of languages and as books on tape.  Two of her novels, Cat Scratch Fever and Wolf's Bane, were nominated for the Oregon Book Awards.  She has also received numerous awards for science writing, has been Guest of Honor at several conventions, and was nominated in 1999 to a University of Oregon inaugural Hall of Achievement.  In late 1999, she was a Guest Speaker at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C..

Professionally, Harper has worked for over 20 years as a science editor and writer in fields as diverse as software engineering,  high-speed microwave (satellite, not kitchen appliances) wafer communications, superconductor and microprocessor technology, medical sciences, genetics, and herpetology.  It is this continuing background in R&D medical science, high-tech, forensics, and other disciplines that Harper credits with being the inspiration for the science in her fiction novels.

Harper credits the realism of the action in her novels to a lifetime of competition and participation in outdoor and athletic activities.  Her overall success as a novelist, she attributes to a diverse academic background; extensive experience in fending off wild and feral animals; a continuing involvement in science; and in-depth experiments in drowning.  Other activities have included archery, shooting, rock-climbing, waterpolo, soccer, sailing, scuba diving, fencing, and martial arts.  In the latter two fields, she competed nationally and internationally.  (She also earned the nickname TKO, but that is a different story.)  Active in community service, Harper currently teaches creative writing for an alternative school, trains youth in wilderness skills, and serves on the board of directors for a youth treatment center.

Many people find Tara confusing and intimidating,
but she's the best friend I ever had.

      - Kris Hasson

When pressed, Harper admits to having been caught in undertows, tidal waves, bogs, quicksand, river-bottom runs, and a tsunami.  She has slept with bees in her ears and deer at her feet; she has been bear-bashed too many times to count.  She has a phobia of women driving white station wagons--she has been hit three times by such drivers, although luckily, the third hit was right next to a hospital.

In winter, she travels with heavy-duty hiking boots, snowshoes, and an emergency stove; in summer, she leaves the snowshoes behind--sometimes.  She refuses to buy any more fire extinguishers--she claims that buying an extinguisher guarantees she will have a fire.  Upon reflection, she says she really doesn't know why so many things keep happening to her.  Although she claims to have only one good joint left in her body (her left elbow), Harper continues to hike, shoot, camp and canoe, and still claims she wants to be a stuntperson.

Author FAQ - Answers to commonly asked questions

Playing around on the stays.  
This 40' ferrous-concrete sailboat
was incredibly steady in high
winds.  Other boats tossed
back and forth, while we
simply cut through with a
slow, steady roll.

Photo Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.
 All rights reserved.

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Interviews and Articles

Interview with Tara K. Harper

- 2000, SFF World

Wolf's Bane - Out of a Dream

- 1997, Del Rey article

Interview with Tara K. Harper

- 1997, Science-fiction section, The Mining Co.

Living the Adventure

- 1996, Del Rey article

Fire-Breathing Books

- 1992, Oregonian (newspaper) article

Novel Idea

- 1990, Oregonian (newspaper) article

Beaverton Author Backs into SF Writing

- 1990, Valley Times (newspaper) article

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Schedule of Speaking Engagements

Requests for speaking engagements, interviews, and/or
Web interviews may be made by email.

Date Title Event Location
Nov, 2005 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
July, 2005 Guest of Honor Inconjunction Indianapolis, IN
Mar 31, 2005 Guest Speaker Powell's Books, 7 pm Portland, OR
Jan, 2005 Guest Panelist Rustycon 22 SeaTac, WA
Nov, 2004 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Nov, 2002 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Nov, 2001 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
July, 2001 Guest Panelist Westercon Seattle, WA
Nov, 2000 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Jan, 2000 Guest of Honor Chattacon Chattanooga, TN
Nov, 1999 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Oct, 1999 Guest Speaker Library of Congress Washington, DC
Sep, 1999 Guest of Honor Moscon Pullman, WA
Jul, 1999 Conference
Apprenticeships in
   Science and Engineering
Linfield, OR
Nov, 1998 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Nov, 1997 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Jul, 1997 Conference
Apprenticeships in
   Science and Engineering
Portland, OR
Jan, 1997 Event Speaker STC Awards Banquet Portland, OR
Mar, 1996 Guest Speaker National Library Conference Portland, OR
Nov, 1996 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Nov, 1995 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Jun, 1995 Conference
Apprenticeships in
   Science and Engineering
Linfield, OR
Nov, 1994 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
XX, 1993 Guest Panelist Confrancisco (Worldcon) San Francisco, CA
Nov, 1993 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR
Sep, 1993 Guest Speaker RWA Conference Manuca, OR
Nov, 1992 Guest Panelist Orycon Portland, OR


Smith Rocks, in central
Oregon, where, while on
my first serious climb,
I dropped a cliff on my
boyfriend's head.  (When
they say, "rotten rock," they
really do mean rotten.)

Photo Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.
 All rights reserved.

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Author's Thanks

There are many people who are important in my life.

My husband, Richard Jarvis, who rewires my office, my computer, and our home nearly as fast as I fry everything I touch; who tolerates me heeling his dogs (or is that dogging his heels?) when I'm thinking, and who graciously enjoys the lights-out piano I play late into the night.  I also thank him for the bird feeders for the Gang-of-104, for the sailboat that gleams with its nine layers of varnish, and for the roses which open each day.

My brother, Kevin Harper, who keeps loaning me his canoe so I can go exploring (someday, he might even get it back).  He saved my life twice: once from being crushed by those logs I started rolling up on that lake in the mountains, and again, later, on the Oregon coast, from that bull sea lion with the broken tusk.  There are other stories--there are a lot of stories--I could tell about my brother (for example, just ask me about the time I was dragged around by a 50', double-trunk tree), but they would all end up saying the same thing: he has been one of my heroes.

My sister, Colleen Harper, who bought me flowers (155! as she keeps reminding me), forced me to take ballet when I was 37, and insisted on remembering my birthday in spite of all the graves.

My father, Dan Harper, who keeps me on my toes devising every work-around imaginable for Its dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator software (name omitted to protect me from Its fanatical, but misguided users, who are everywhere--Ken Ewing, I continue to toast your discretion).  If I ever needed an excuse to be creative, my father certainly gives me that.  It is my father--himself a creative, jack-of-all-trades (before he settled on high-tech)--whom I thank for teaching me to understand and solve problems.  He also taught me about being objective in spite of myself--to think beyond the oration to the fundamental issue, to do the best job I can, and to accept only that from myself.  He taught me to explore, to admire, to respect, and to do.  He taught me never to quit.  People speak of role models and about living the example you want to set.  Well, my father was the example--he was the role model I wanted to become.

My late mother, Shirley Harper, who also raised me to think for myself, even though it irritated her no end, to stand up for what is right rather than just what is popular, to dream, and to drive myself, one hundred percent, for my goals.  She taught me to check the water, then dive in without hesitation, whether or not I felt fear--fear was not an excuse.  She encouraged my interests, expected the world of my talents, and didn't realize, I think, that she created herself in me.  We were too alike to live together, and too close to stay apart. Nothing else matters.  She was one of the most courageous people I knew, and along with my father and brother, she was one my heroes.  In the end, it was her body, not her courage which failed her.  I thank my God and my father that she was allowed to die when she needed to let go.

Caving near the base of
Mt. St. Helens, in a newly
discovered lava tube with extremely
delicate soda-straw formations.

Photo Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.
 All rights reserved.

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I would also like to thank:

Ed Godshalk, physicist, for constantly listening to my crazy ideas and then helping me figure out how to make them work; for our annual all-nighter (our spouses are saints) discussions of bayonets and kings; for push-hands/sticky-hands at 3 am; for rally-car rides and mechanics, and Lord of the Rings.  And I love the hematite!

Ernie Curto, Ph. D., for knowing and understanding across time and space, and for the Principle of Maximum Irony.

Marc Wells, my friend.

Dave Munroe, who simply doesn't understand how I could deliberately put the sun in the wrong latitude, just to see the shadows on the peaks, but who has a great appreciation for underwater aliens and tiny MOAs.

Bob Wright, for the use of his canoe, his telescopes, his hot tub, pinball, keyboard,... And, most importantly, for making my husband leave the house and go motorcyling when Richard's rewiring habits get out of hand.

Sandy and John, my previous mechanics, who kept my beat-up, horse-bit, boulder-bent, Chevy truck running so I could escape to the mountains for adventure.

Mark Schlesser, whose masks were always right, and who trusted me first.

Lise Youngblade and Amber Lewis, and they know why.

Jenny Rice-Gilge, for helping me survive.

Lorraine Covert, who combined support and love with understanding and open-mindedness.  To say that she was simply a confirmation teacher is misleading.  Her approach to answering questions and dealing with things in which she did not personally believe had a profound influence on me.  She is the Christian antithesis of the narrow-minded, intolerant, hateful fanaticisms of the religious right.  What she accomplishes with simple faith and love should be a lesson for everyone.

Clyde and Elsie May.  I grew up without relatives nearby other than my immediate family (Mom, Dad, brother, sister).  Clyde and Elsie were neighbors who became my "grandparents."  They claimed they hated children, and yet Elsie baked me cookies, talked about silver patterns, and taught me her canning secrets.  She told me about her decisions, why she made them, and why she wished she had done some things differently--not regrets, exactly, but things that made me think about what my decisions would mean, not just what my decisions were.

And Clyde, grumpy as a one-eyed dog, who loved flowers as much as he insisted that he hated children--he told me stories of how Oregon looked at the turn of the century, of how he and Elsie met, of how he courted Elsie, of hand-digging out his basement and building the home to which he brought his wife, of how he helped build the Port of Portland.  He taught me about plants and trees and turned my brother into a naturalist before Kevin even finished high school.  Although they didn't have children of their own, Clyde and Elsie gave me a connection to history, not just home.

Russ Jones, my waterpolo buddy, my dancing buddy, my tequila buddy, my river buddy, my martial-arts buddy, my camping buddy...  One of the best men I know.

Paul Hubbard, for perspective and far too many puns.

Bettina Schulert, for continually inviting me over for good whines.

Vanessa Dacascos, who asked me to give up my formal position as Fairy GodAunt to become her Fairy Godmother.

Shantel and Hannah Smith for letting me share some of the fun of science with them: kitchen chemistry, kiddie-pools for standing waves, tsunami boxes, geodes, crystals, fossils, animals, blizzards at the zoo, and light science..

Kris Hasson for insight and for knowing.

basalt cliffs
at the base of
Mt. Hood.

Photo Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.
 All rights reserved.

Iron-Legs D.K. (or, Sandy's Little Tractor, as we fondly call him).  I've known D.K. twelve years now.  I used to train him in martial arts--used to run across his stomach when he did sit-ups, and stand on his thighs while he tried to hold a low horse stance for minutes on end.  One time, when I was demonstrating a defense technique for three high-school girls, I asked D.K. to attack me (this is one solid guy, by the way).  He hit me from behind, his arms striking and encircling my shoulders, his hands grabbing for my neck.  I reacted, grabbing him back to manipulate his energy.  All of a sudden, he went limp.  He was draped over my shoulders, neck, and back like a 200-pound squid.  I staggered.  There was nothing to grab, nothing off which to leverage--there was no more force anywhere, except gravity.  I started to go down under his weight.  The girls started giggling, and all I could say between D.K.'s guffaws and my choking laughter was, "Your attacker doesn't usually collapse at this point--at least, not before you hit him."

Of course, D.K. is also the one who, knowing I hadn't raced or ridden seriously since university days, said, "Let's bike up to Newberry Crater."  I don't think he's stopped laughing even now at the way I had to ride back standing up the first mile because my behind was so sore from cycling up and down the Cascade Mountain Range that I couldn't even sit in a hot tub when we finally returned.  Oh, and this is also the man who tried to get me to park my tent on an underground ant nest one time.   (Luckily, I always--always!--check the ground myself for subterranean nests and other insect abodes.)  I still don't know whether or not to believe that he really didn't see those ant holes...

D.K. has made my life just that little bit more interesting, and I thank him for it.  Really.  Truly..

Tamara Hanna for talking over the graves.

Sandra Keen for friendship above and beyond, and for, well, everything.

"There are only two ways to live your life.  
One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."

                 - Albert Einstein

Copyright 2004 by Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file, including text, photographs, and/or graphics, without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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