Today we sit down with author and blogger John Howell. He is also my hero of sorts becoming a full-time writer after many years in business. This is something I am working toward in the next ten years or so.
Please enjoy this very interesting 20 questions session with accomplished author and blogger, John W. Howell.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I guess the first real desire to be a write hit me in college. I remember my friends and I trying to decide what we really wanted to do. I wrote a few poems and short stories and thought that this would be a great way to make a living. Unfortunately, the practical world rose its ugly head, and I sold my soul to Procter and Gamble.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I write one-thousand words a day, every day. So I can turn out a novel in ninety-seven days. Of course,, that is first draft. From start to publish takes me no less than seven months.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I used to do family stuff in the morning and then start writing after lunch. I found that all too often the afternoons were taken up with other things as well. My wife and I agreed on a schedule of one thousand words first and then I’m available for anything else. We have been doing this for two years now, and it works well.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure it is interesting, but I write with music. I discovered I Heart Radio about a year ago, and I programmed in my favorite genres. Every morning I pick a genre and write while the music plays. I used to write to Queen CD’s exclusively but then when I found variety I couldn’t help myself.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
My first book My GRL is traditionally published, and I’m still under contract. The second and subsequent books are self-published. I simply could not abide the restrictions of the traditional route. Of course, it is a very small publisher, and if they had paid a huge advance, maybe I would have been happier.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The ideas generally come to me while I’m doing something like walking the dog or taking a shower. The idea for my first book came to me while I was standing on the flight deck of the Aircraft Carrier Lexington. I was touring the boat since my dad was a naval aviator during World War II and I wanted to walk where he did. The story popped into my head and never left. Four years later I wrote the book.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first full-length book at age fifty-nine. I wrote it while I was working on nights and weekends. It is a 120,000-word thriller which is in manuscript form and being used to hold open the laundry room door. Yes, it is that bad.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I don’t seem to have a lot of time these days. In addition to my novel writing, I also have a daily blog. When I’m not writing, I take a daily walk on the beach with my wife and two Boxer dogs. I love to cook and watch movies. We do record some television shows we like and watch an hour a day.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Wow, that is like asking which child is a favorite. Let me answer this way. The first book that I read which had an effect on me in terms of the writing was Neville Shute’s “On the Beach.” It was the first time I experienced a story that was destined to have a sad ending. I was fascinated with how the author portrayed the characters in light of the fact that they had no future. I think this was the book that got me really interested in writing.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My friends all read my books and tell me they enjoy them. None of them have posted a review nor asked for a signed copy. I suppose they figure I’ll be around and no need going to any formalities. They will remark now and then about the stories and do ask when the next one is going to be ready. My immediate family are very supportive. My extended family may or may not know I write. If they do, they don’t say much.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how the characters can pretty much take over the direction of the story. I used to hear about this phenomenon and pretty much scoffed at the idea. I now know I was a fool, and it actually happens.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Hate is a strong word. I prefer to use despise. I despise the marketing aspect. I spend an inordinate amount of time with marketing efforts and feel I don’t get a degree of payback that would be proportional to the effort. I don’t mind working my butt off I just wish I had more to show for it. I envy those who can afford to have a professional run the selling of their book.
Q13) How many books have you written?
Which is your favorite? Counting my door stop, I have written five. My favorite is my last titled Circumstance of Childhood. It is in draft form and will be published in 2017. It’s a story about a successful guy who is a victim of fraud and potentially loses everything until a friend of his helps clear his name. The fun part is the friend is dead, and I totally enjoyed writing such an offbeat thriller.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
The only suggestion I can offer is to write. Practice tends to make perfect. The other thing I would say is for any writer is to finish what you are working on before showing your work to anyone. You can always take suggestions and correct the MS after it is finished. When a writers show work that is not complete, they are risking critical comment that could cause them to give up.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
Yes, I receive comments since I put my email in the back of each book. Most say they love the story and the protagonist. There are a few who offer story ideas which I always appreciate. I get maybe a couple of comments a month.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I prefer thriller readers. I have had a number of readers who don’t like thrillers but say they enjoyed the story since the protagonist is a different kind of hero.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
A good story to me is one that engages the reader in the situation and elicits a strong emotional reaction throughout the course of events. I also believe a good story leaves the reader with a sense of caring about the outcome and the fact that the story is over.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I grew up in Detroit Michigan, and I wanted to be an automotive designer. I pursued this desire right up to high school and then discovered my skills as an artist were somewhat lacking. I drew a number of car designs and unfortunately they were consistently awful.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
They are available in paper and eBook versions from Amazon.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works? Yes here is an excerpt from His Revenge.
The water rushes over my head. I’m sinking and don’t know why. With my breath held, I have trouble stopping the air from escaping since the pressure drives the air up and out. I try to keep my mouth closed, but the water pressure pushes the air out more and more. Will I pass out? In the distance, the light is dim. To rise to the surface in time might not be possible─I need to breathe right now. Toward ending the pain in my chest, my rambling mind rationalizes taking a deep breath—even knowing it will end my life. In conflict with the irrational thought of ending it, my body won’t let me suck in the water, as it fights to retain the little bit of oxygen left to fuel my brain.
The despair is nearly overwhelming, and my mind considers other ways to battle the feeling. What more could I have done with my life? The pressure becomes more intense, and I’m about to lose it all, and I decide I’ve lived the way I wanted and have no regrets. I close my eyes and hear only the roar of the sea. I’m so tired. Exhausted. Sleep will fix everything, and I want to give in.
Click on the cover images to view them on Amazon
About John W. Howell
John’s main interests are reading and writing. He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business. John writes fictional short stories and novels as well
as a blog at http://www.johnwhowell.com.
His first novel, My GRL is available on Amazon and wherever e-books are sold. His Second His Revenge is available on Amazon. The third Our Justice will be released in July of 2016.
John lives on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and spoiled rescue pets.
He can be reached at:
his e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter at @HowellWave