Some writers tell stories and some build worlds.
John W. Howell is a writer’s writer; he truly plays God and infuses life into his characters and gives them entire realities to inhabit, rather than just going through the same motions we’ve all read a mllion times before. He’s so dedicated to his craft that John even trained with Seals to add a layer of authenticity to his espionage thrillers. Of course, it was at Sea World with actual seals – but it still counts.
Some authors worry about living up to the standards set by their idols, and so they’re constantly asking thmselves, “What would Stephen King do with this chapter?”
I often think, “What would John Howell do with these characters?” or “I wonder what John will think of this direction I’m taking my characters in?”, and of course, “I wonder if John will ever pay me back for that 50k I loaned him for that grey market kidney?” (Incidentally, the grey market is the Canadian version of the black market, where the participants are geniuinely sorry about their participation.)
Here’s John bio in his own brilliant words:
John is an award-winning author who, after an extensive business career, began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written five other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. The paperback versions are also available in the Indie Lector store.
John lives in Lakeway, Texas, with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.
Told you he was cool. Let’s get on with this show, shall we? Take it away, John.
It is so great to be here with you today, Robert. I certainly appreciate you having me here to talk about the writing life. I must say it is a tad chilly for a Texan up here.
True, but it’s a dry cold, John. Let’s proceed while I fetch you a sweater.
ONE) You’re a master of your chosen literary field, but is there any genre you’d like to tackle but have always been hesitant to explore?
I have been slowly exercising my genres. (notice the development) I started as a pure thriller writer for the first three books. Then I decided I needed to throw a little paranormal. Why? Well, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. After doing the supernatural, a dear friend (Gwen Plano) and I took a swing at a thriller that also had some spiritual and romantic elements. My last book Eternal Road – The Final Stop, is a multi-genre work covering several, including thriller, paranormal, religious, and historical fiction.
As you can see, I’ve been playing with genres almost since I started writing. Oh, what? Yeah, I guess I didn’t answer the question. I think I would like to do a science fiction book but have been hesitant due to the conventions involved in that genre. I would not want to make a glaring mistake. I did put a little Sci-fi into my last but not enough to be nailed for inaccuracies.
TWO) If you could hang out with any of your characters, John, who would you choose and why?
I have two that I would love to be able to spend some time. The first is Stephanie Savard. She is now John Cannon’s (My protagonist in the John Cannon trilogy.) wife and a person I came to respect. She is a Navy pilot and no-nonsense woman. She has no fear, and even when shot as a warning to John, she showed true grit.
The other is Samantha Tourneau, who is one of the main characters in Eternal Road – The last Stop. She was murdered as a child and waited seventeen years for her childhood friend to join her in the eternal phase of life. She spent the time learning and studying and then became the guide to her friend’s eternal home. She has a great sense of humor and seems comfortable in any situation.
(That premise sounds awesome, doesn’t it?)
THREE) I’ve always admired your commitment to forging relationships with our fellow authors; what have you learned about our craft from these interactions?
The biggest thing I’ve learned in these interactions is those fellow authors are the people to turn to if you need help. I’m not talking about craft help because that is available everywhere on the internet. I’m talking about those times when an author reaches the limit of endurance and is ready to kick it in. Most writers have reached that critical point in their writing lives, and it is excellent hearing shared experiences from others. Also, I find the more support I give to other writers, the more I return.
(John really is the biggest suporter of fellow authors I’ve met yet, though the entire community is amazing.)
FOUR) In your opinion, what is the most important element in creating a gripping, intriguing work of fiction? Well-developed characters? A strong plot? Plenty of technical knowledge of the subject matter? Gobs of sex?
All of the things you mentioned go a long way to form a gripping, intriguing work of fiction. I believe, though, that the writer’s voice goes furthest with the reader in making a piece of fiction unforgettable. So, what do I mean by voice? I’m talking about that easily recognizable narration that the reader immediately falls into a state of trust. It could well be the point of view of the story.
Let’s just say the author takes the first-person approach to the point of view. The story becomes an intimate relationship between the character and the reader. The reader is drawn into the story as if they are on the stage with the other players. Once the reader is part of the ensemble, none of the action can occur off stage. Every little surprise or twist the reader experiences along with the main character. It makes for a thrilling ride. Not to blow smoke, but I think your conversational method of telling a story as you do in Into The Dark goes a long way in creating the environment for a gripping tale.
FIVE) Did you ever have one of those lightning bolt moments when you knew being a writer was your destiny?
I never had a lightning bolt moment but knew I wanted to write for a long time. I started writing my first novel while working and spent ten years trying to make something compelling. I finally finished the 121,000-word manuscript and decided to print it off so that I could edit it while traveling. I got 50 pages into it and had to make a note in the margin. This is the worst crap I have ever read.
The manuscript is now at the ready in the garage to hold the back door open in case of wind.
I realized that I needed to devote myself full-time to writing. When I turned 70, I decided to retire and have been writing ever since. That was ten years ago, and I have six books published and a nine-year-old blog with a new post every day.
SIX) When should a fledgling writer like myself consider themselves successful? To that point: Are you at all concerned with achieving “fame and fortune” as a writer, or are you in it for the sheer joy of playing God and creating new worlds?
“What is success?” is a question which every new writer asks. I try to answer it this way. If you care about your writing and create stories that you find satisfactory, you are a success. If you think your success is measured by how many books you sell or how well known you become, then you are in for a rude slap of failure.
Writing is a lonely job.
If a writer not happy writing for its own sake, then the writer has to hope to score a big contract to offset the misery. If there is no big contract and just misery, then it is time to quit. So how much time should go by before a writer decided to call it quits? Until a writer has written one million words, there is no need to worry about success.
Thank you again for having me and I wish you all the best on Into the Dark.
John is a true gentleman, isn’t he?
Here is where you can fmake contact with John W. Howell if you don’t have telepathic abilities like Professor Charles Xavier.
Blog Fiction Favorites – http://johnwhowell.com/
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave
Amazon Author’s page – https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell
I want to thank John for providing some insight into his process, his thoughts of the writing game and for just beng himself.
John’s someone I’ve turned to many times over the past few years as I’ve struggled with my always waning self-confidence. There have been days I want to chuck my new book into the virtual trash and just give up on writing completely. And there have been days I want to just give up and let my grief over the losses I’ve experienced wash me away.
But John and so many others have always been there to lift me back up.
Lose yourself in John’s work, you won’t be disappointed.
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookstores, friends…