Welcome to 2018 and my new author interview series. Author interviews will be posted every Friday throughout the year.
I am honored to kick off this series with John Howell. I have read all of John’s books, except for his latest, and have enjoyed them all thoroughly. His latest book, Circumstances of Childhood, has been getting rave reviews and I can’t wait to read it.
For those of you that have read my interviews in the past, you’ll find a new set of questions in this series. You can catch up with all of my past author interviews (nearly 200) on my Author Directory page.
Now, please enjoy this conversation with author John Howell.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’m in the camp of trying to write a good story above all else. If it becomes so original that no one likes it, then to me it is not a good story. If I try to write what people want, I have a ton of research to do to find out what it is that the people want. I would instead concentrate on the story and then hopefully it will appeal to enough readers without going through the hassle of research.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Please younger John, slow the hell down. There is no reason to rush toward success, happiness, or immortality. All that will come in time if it is meant to be. There is no amount of not smelling the roses that you will look back upon as being a good thing. I love the old saw about nobody on their death bed ever saying, “I wish I had worked more.”
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I think that has to be Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut. At the time of publication, it did achieve some status as a best seller but has since gone into obscurity. It is a typical Vonnegut story taken from the headlines. This time it is the Watergate break-in, and the protagonist is an unknown White House bureaucrat who takes the fall for the whole thing. The story is masterfully drawn and has some hilarious situations that only Vonnegut could conger.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I read every one. I think I owe it to those who have taken the time to read my books and write a review for me to understand what they have to say. This is their time to let me know what they think of my work and such time should be respected. When I read a good review, I have this feeling of being blessed. I especially like when a reader points out the message of the book and believes the news is noble. Whether the review is favorable or unfavorable, I always try to put myself in the position of the reader. Real joy and true misery take two to create. The writer and the reader conspire together to produce the value of the written word. I would like to knock on wood, but I have never received a bad review. I am defining bad as one where it is obvious the reader chooses merely to criticize the work as opposed to an honest review. I have had reviews where the reader felt improvement was necessary. In those cases, if I believe they have a point I strive to improve. I do try to thank each one of my reviewers, but due to the anonymous nature of some reviewers, it isn’t always possible. I never argue with a reviewer. I believe they are sincere in their opinion and I respect their right to say what is on their mind.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I do hide things in my books, but they are discoverable only by those who know me. Many times, in the descriptions of things I will take a personal item and use it as a prompt. My children and spouse always know. I also tend to use character names that have become a bit of a household joke. These would be folks that have become immortal through their colorful behavior.
Do you Google yourself?
I have not until just now. In fact, I never thought of doing so. It was a fascinating look up. Several of my namesakes have died this year, but besides that, there is a fair amount of me and my books.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Without a doubt, it was the Babar the Elephant. I could not seem to get enough of that picture book. I was entranced with the idea of the elephant becoming a king and having a life scaled to his size.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would have begun writing a little more seriously. I remember constructing stories as a kid but did not do it too often. I wish the school system of my day had a less structured curriculum to allow more free time to devote to creative endeavors. Most of my writing was out of school at home. When homework was finished, there was little time to spend writing.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I’m working on a book, I devote myself to a minimum of one thousand words a day, seven days a week. Given this schedule, I can complete a ninety-thousand-word manuscript in ninety days. Once done then I have to edit what I write. This process is agony for me and takes longer than the actual document. So, let’s say another one hundred days. Once edited then the book goes to beta readers who need at least eight weeks to do a good job. After the beta reader input is received, it is another thirty days of a rewrite. Once complete then the manuscript goes to the editor for a month. Then it comes back for three weeks of corrections and then back to the editor. So, if I add all that up, I would say from the first word to finished product takes one year.
John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. His latest book Circumstances of Childhood, a thriller fiction story, was launched in October of 2017. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.
John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.
Connect with John:
Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/
Circumstances of Childhood https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SKWHCR/