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Writing Student Voted Into Royal Scottish Society of Arts

Bradley Harper is a U.S. Army veteran, a published author, and one of the newest members of the Royal Scottish Society of the Arts. He’s also a student in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. Program, currently studying in Edinburgh. He recently took the time to answer a few questions about what it’s like living, writing and hobnobbing in Scotland.

As a published author, what was the impetus for you to enter the WPF/Edinburgh Napier Program and move to Scotland?

My decision was partly professional and partly personal. I have an eighteen-month associate's degree in creative writing, and that was a huge help to me, but I knew I still had room to grow. Most graduate degrees in creative writing are geared towards literary fiction. The Seton Hill/Napier program is focused on genre fiction, or what I call blue-collar writing, so it seemed the perfect fit. On the way to a recent meeting, I walked by a film crew that was filming Neil Gaiman's show, "Good Omens." Surreal!

Is this your first time in Scotland?

I'd spent time in Scotland before while I was stationed with the Army in Germany, and the idea of returning to live here for close to a year was appealing. I've lived in Turkey, Germany, Puerto Rico, and Italy, so going to an English-speaking country seemed like a dream. 

How are you and the other Seton Hill students in Scotland faring?

We've bonded. We have social gatherings, movie nights, and we just celebrated Thanksgiving at the flat of one of us, with the rest bringing something to share. It wasn't fancy, but the spirit of the holiday was fully realized. It'll be one of my favorite memories. As the classes are split to reduce class size as part of the school's COVID regulations, I don't see everyone during the week, but we have a WhatsApp group we use to keep track of one another.

"Bottom line: I'm getting what I came for, and much more."

How did you end up discussing forensic science and Sherlock Holmes at the Royal Scottish Society of Arts?

I'm a retired U.S. Army physician. While stationed at the Pentagon I was sent to the UK to study how the British treated closed head injuries. I made some connections, and when I popped up here a retired British Army nurse I'd met invited me to join the Society. A featured speaker had to cancel five days before their first in-person meeting in fifteen months, and I was asked if I could fill in. I gave a brief overview of the history of forensic science and how the Sherlock Holmes stories inspired the world's first crime lab. I was voted into the society afterward.

What was it like to be voted into the Society?

I'm from Oklahoma, so to be rubbing elbows with some of the most distinguished members of Scottish society is humbling. But they are kind and generous people, and I've made some good connections.

What is your current novel about? 

I like to take real people and situations and twist events in a hopefully entertaining way. My novel places the leader of an actual all-female gang of criminals known as the Forty Elephants onboard the Titanic to steal a valuable painting. Opposing them will be Harry Worth, son of Adam Worth, who was the real-life inspiration for Professor Moriarty, the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes. Worth the Elder surrendered a valuable painting he'd stolen years ago to the Pinkertons in return for Alan Pinkerton's promise that he would make his son, Harry, a Pinkerton agent when he came of age. Since I have female thieves and it's the first (and only) voyage of the Titanic, my working title is Maiden Voyage.

How is the Seton Hill/Edinburgh Napier Program helping you to develop as a writer?

My mentor is the program leader, David Bishop, who also writes historical fiction. He has been tough on me, helping me to simplify my plot, and to figure out whose story I'm really trying to tell. He's probably saved me over six months of wasted writing. The classes are excellent and some of the short stories I've written I honestly could not have created before I got here. My writing is more confident and I have a better idea of how to proceed when I first sit down to write. Bottom line: I'm getting what I came for, and much more.