Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Author Interview: J. Stephen Howard
About the Author:
J. Stephen Howard has written several books in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Also, he contributed several articles to "American Songwriter Magazine," wrote a humor column for "Evansville Business Journal," and recorded essays for public radio station WNIN.
He teaches English in California where he lives with his wife.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I create an outline and brainstorm important details regarding character development. However, I allow the story flow, guided by character motivations, to alter the outcome.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
Yes, they often reveal something about themselves that I hadn't known about. I can think right now of an example. In the one story that's a novella, “The Guitar Pick," the singer-songwriter protagonist discovers the malevolent nature of his guitar pick. What I discovered and didn't fully know about beforehand, though, concerned his reaction to this development. Led by his impulses, the ending surprised me.
What is your favourite food?
I love Mexican food. Give me a fully-loaded burrito, freshly made, and I'm a happy man.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I used to be a night owl, but when I became a middle school teacher and had to get up early, that changed. Now, especially on weekends and during vacation, I like to write as soon as I get up. I find I'm still in a dream state.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I'd love to travel to a major country on every continent. This would give me a well-rounded experience of the world. While I take pride in being American, I want to take in the differing viewpoints of various cultures.
Do distant places feature in your books?
No, but I'd argue that having traveled to other places, my philosophy on the human experience has been influenced. In turn, my writing is indirectly affected.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Yes, I listen to film scores on Pandora. It helps put me in the mood of creating a suspenseful, “cinematic" story. I think it's important to keep the action in motion and paint visceral images for the reader. Movies remind me of how to do that.
Frankenstein's Confessional is a book of eleven short stories and one novella. It takes so little to create a monster. Add self-loathing, throw in some jealousy, and maybe a pinch of revenge for starters. Serve it all up with guilt, and voilà--evil is alive, and it has a voice. From the mouths of self-made monsters come these tales, confessionals so to speak, detailing how their lives went wrong.
As a human, a firefighter lived to save people. Now as a vampire, he kills to live, but what happens when he falls in love with a mortal? Will he have the impulse to run into the fire to rescue others, or will he throw them into the flames of his torment?
A priest meets a troubled penitent whose confession hints at murder. When victims turn up with their hearts removed, striking a chord of remembrance, the priest feels somehow responsible.
A former football player-turned New York C.S.I. agent has a new case and an even newer partner. Thundering headaches smash against his temples like brutal linebackers, blocking his ability to solve the crime. Meanwhile, the glory days on the pigskin field keep haunting him as it turns out to be no coincidence that the victim is a pro football player of great fame.
These are just a few of the characters who discovered how forgiveness comes with a price. They learned that in Frankenstein's Confessional, you enter a sinner but leave a monster.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
I've learned you have to write what you would like to read. Then, you can worry about publishing. After the book is written, then it's a matter of reaching out to potential readers who might enjoy reading the type of story you've crafted.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I'd write more if I had the time! However, since I'm a full-time teacher, I like my current approach. During summer vacation, I do all the planning for a book. Then, throughout the school year, I try to write at least one page a day. Typically, I find myself too exhausted at the end of a school day to do too much planning.
The two Stephens, King and Spielberg, introduced me to the magic of using my imagination. If I can transport the reader, I've been successful. Most of us appreciate the ability to escape from the stressfulness of reality.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Believe in yourself, and write first to entertain yourself. Don't let critics stymie your artistic urges.
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
I appreciate how Stephen King can combine several layers that may seem incompatible. In the same story, a reader can describe what he's reading as being creepy, humorous, and touching.
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book:
Anita from The Kindle Book Review says: "If you enjoy reading Stephen King, John Saul, or Dean Koontz then you will enjoy reading J. Stephen Howard." Tracy Cook from “Booked Up" says: “This is a good collection and got me more in the mood for Halloween.” Horror writer, Tara Fox Hall, says it's a “very well written collection sure to entertain and enthrall."
List of previous books if any:
Fear in Appleton.
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
Thank you, J. Stephen and good luck with your books!