Interview with Raphael Harlan

Today's guest is Raphael Harlan, author of Water Rate Challenge...

In a Flint suburb of Grand Blanc, Michigan, Michelle used to teach at an elementary school for a few years before she suffered three massive injuries in a car accident. Michelle had broken ribs, knees, and back.
The accident left her unable to teach, so she dug deeper in financial trouble. Michelle and her husband Sean used nearly $100,000 worth of credit to pay for her surgery and medical costs. Michelle had broken ribs, knees, and back.

With Sean working in the nuclear plant industry, the couple attempted to pay off their debts by living their lives frugally, reusing water for washing laundry and bathing, reusing bags, and using cash and debit cards in place of credit. After 15 years, the couple was closer to completely wiping out their debt worth $190,000. Then, a turning mishap in the sewer changed not only their journey, but their water costs.

Join Michelle and Sean in their adventure full of a mixture of mysteries, suspense, and courage.

Tricia: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Raphael: My name is Raphael Harlan, and I’m a native Detroiter who resides in Flint, Michigan. I was diagnosed with ADHD at birth. When I was six, I was put into a foster family that became my adoptive family in 2001 at nine years of age. I’m an author of three e-books, including Water Rate Challenge, the first short story of the Breaking Debt mystery series. I also edit and proofread authors’ e-book manuscripts professionally. I’m a four-year graphic design student at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Tricia: When did you begin writing?

Raphael: When I was 10, I started writing poems and short stories. When I was 15, I stopped because I was editing newspaper for my former high school’s JROTC, which I spent two years doing. I started back writing in 2011 and self-published my first two e-books, The Woman of Greatness and Inspiration: A Tribute to My Mom and Unlimited No Contract Cell Phone Companies vs. Unlimited Contract Cell Phone Companies. From there, people were impressed by my writing.

Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

Raphael: When I dream and imagine events that wouldn’t happen in the real world, or when I find myself looking back at certain events that happened in the world, I find myself making stories out of them. I plot as I imagine what and when the stories take place and how the events happen. I don’t try to rush through the finish of the book; I take my time slowly and steadily write in order. My stories are a mixture of imagination and reality, so people can find themselves being part of events that you wouldn’t see happening in the real world but had some real-life mishaps.

Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Raphael: Water Rate Challenge, I can say, is a mixture of mystery, suspense, courage, and persistence. In the story, a Midwestern American married couple had a history of being debt, dating back when they were in their late 20s. Michelle was teaching English at her elementary school until she was injured in a car accident. Her ribs, knees, and back were broken, so she was hospitalized and had to have surgery. The accident left Michelle unable to teach, and the surgery cost her and her husband Sean $100,000 in credit, meaning they dug deeper in debt.

In the next 15 years, Michelle and Sean attempted to pay off their debts by living their lives frugally and making more money and spending less of it. With Sean working at a nuclear plant, the couple managed to reuse water for laundry and baths and using cash and debit cards in place of credit. The couple was close to completely wiping out their $190,000 debt until a mysterious mishap in the sewer water changed the town’s monthly water costs to unbelievable highs. Then, the couple’s journey took an unexpected turn for the worst, which involved sources from out of their state.

Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?

Raphael: I happened to be visiting a town south of Flint called Grand Blanc. Sometimes, I go there on the bus to shop at Wal-Mart, but I also go there to visit a friend of mine who runs her jewelry business and manages the farmers’ market. I enjoy the suburban town because it’s quieter and cleaner. People there are friendly and make you feel welcome. I plan of moving to Grand Blanc in the future when I’m financially stable.

One winter day, I was taking pictures for my photographic class at my college. I found myself looking back at the Great Recession, and how people dealt with it as they were laid off and found themselves paying more for their utilities. I also had in knowledge that Flint and Detroit were among the urban towns in the United States with high costs for water usage in the last few years. Without any conscience, I wanted to make a story that reflects those events in ways they wouldn’t normally happen in the real world. If there were a single thing that I wish would happen, it’s that people acting out of control with paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a month for utilities. Knowing myself, I would be out of my mind and want to figure out what caused the costs to increase ridiculously.

Tricia: If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?

Raphael: If you are a mother who is about teaching kids, especially yours, things that will benefit the kind of humans they are in society, then my tribute book, The Greatness of Inspiration: A Tribute to My Mom, is the perfect book. Throughout the vast majority of my life, my mom had inspired me to be the very best person that I was destined to be. She taught me things that benefited me in my life, and her experiences had impacted my God-given abilities and endeavors, for I was joyful to make my dreams realities. If something horrible were to happen to me, I would go to solve the problem. If it’s impossible to solve, I move on to make sure it doesn’t come up. So, if you are the people who are stuck to the same o’ problems, the book will give you the inspiration to move forward.

Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Raphael: I’d say that Michelle is my favorite. When things go awry, she always comes up with bright ideas that weakens the problem or solve it. For example, when she and her husband found out that they had to pay a water bill that was a certain number of times as high as the previous month, she got in a groove to go back to her old passion. I won’t tell you what that passion is, but I’ll say that she’s willing to make herself a contributing member of her household, plus work hard towards her goals as an individual. If you need someone to connect yourself with, Michelle’s your woman.

Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Raphael: The most challenging aspect is, of course, having the book edited. I’d edited most of the book, but I had a writing tutor to edit and give me feedback. She and I worked on the book for a couple months towards its release. First, she would read the story aloud to me. Then she would give me feedback about what she thought needed to be added or deleted to make the story flow and sound the way a real-life person would say and wouldn’t say. My goal was to make the events similar to the real world but the way the events happened connected to my imagination.

Tricia: What would you like to tell us about your book or your writing that someone wouldn’t discover during a casual review of your blurb or website?

Raphael: I’d say that when people review the e-book, they’ll find themselves in shock because they wouldn’t even dream of the way the events happened in the story happening to them or in the towns they live in.

Tricia: What is your primary goal as an author?

Raphael: I hope that someday I will be a best-selling author. I won’t say that I’ll be the greatest because there are people who are more skilled in their areas of writing. However, I’m a good dreamer of things that can capture the attention of readers. I can use what I am about to bring the audience things that they can relate to, that they will be surprised and shocked. It’s all about what you imagine and believe in that makes a best-selling author.

Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?

Raphael: There aren’t a lot of authors that inspire my writing, though I enjoyed their books. I can say that my writing is mostly inspired by all of the Law & Order shows and series and financial shows like Extreme Cheapskates, The Suze Orman Show and Til Debt Do Us Part. Every time I watch any Law & Order show, I find myself getting on the action with the detectives. They find clues and they always solve cases, finding their suspects and prosecuting them.

Every time I watch Extreme Cheapskates, I learn tactics that I didn’t know that I would like to use to build my savings, such as picking leaves out of trees and bushes and making salads out of them. Trust me; it’s cheaper than buying lettuce to make salads. Also, I get inspired by that show to maintain my cheapskate ways. I reuse paper towels by wiping out colored stains off tables and other furniture and drying them over. I repeat them several times until they wear off. I unplug TVs and microwave when I’m not using them, and I reuse plastic bottles repeatedly. For men who are readers and believers of frugality, I use baking soda as deodorant for armpits. I find myself not only doing those things, but I don’t spend money on impulse things. Plus, I stack up consumer items and use little amounts at a time.

Financial shows like Til Debt Do Us Part allow people to think critically about inventing ideas that not only please people, but produce extra income to put away for retirement, business, student loan repayment, or any combination. I find myself not being inventive, but being a saver of my own money. I love being frugal because I enjoy preparing myself for the future, for it involves me being in business for a long period of time and helping students start their own businesses and living debt-free entirely. I don’t believe anyone should live their lives rushing into debt when it comes to everything from necessities to wants. I believe that everyone should live debt-free, but they should make decisions based on their patience that will last for a long time.

Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?

Raphael: Right now, I’m focused on my editing business. So far, it’s moving steadily as I display my abilities to authors around the world, giving them good service for their books. The best thing about my editing business is that I enjoy reading e-book manuscripts, editing them, and giving authors my honest feedback. I believe authors should be joyful with the service they get for the editing of their ebooks in an affordable way. I’m not writing a second ebook for Breaking Debt, but I’ll say that it’ll be written in a near future.

Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Raphael: Go for that highest star on your writing tree. Don’t let anyone stop you from becoming authors. Invest time and energy to make your writing dreams come true. It’ll be a crazy adventure, but it’ll be one enjoyable ride worth taking if you stick to your instincts and heart.

To learn more about Raphael Harlan's books, please visit the following links:


  1. I always like finding out about new authors and new books, especially mysteries, but I'm having a hard time understand what makes this book a mystery. I mean, is the cause of Michelle's accident the mystery? Is the debt or the new job the mystery? I'm sorry, but that blurb honestly doesn't tell me anything about the book other than these people get in to debt and spend their time getting out of it. I know that myself and other Americans are in the same boat, so unless the blurb can throw something at us that defines why the book is a mystery, why would we want to read a book about getting out of debt? Perhaps the author might want to consider having someone help him rewrite the blurb to grab the audience. Also, doctors do not and cannot diagnose a child with ADHD until they're at least 7 years of age and have shown symptoms for at least 6 months. I'm sorry, but I had to get that out. An infant cannot be diagnosed with something like that, regardless of condition the mother was in when they were born.

  2. Hi, Aurora. Actually, the debt, the job, and the accident aren't the mystery. Instead, the increase of the water rates is the mystery. Perhaps I should mention the continuous increase in the description. I thought that not telling the details of the increase would grab the audience and make them think the water bill would take a toll. If you were to read the e-book, you would see that the mystery is the question, "What caused the water bill to rise, and who caused it?"


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