I find authors interesting, enlightening, and passionate about living, writing, reading, and everything. Today I’m delighted to share a wonderful conversation with John W. Howell. I think you’ll find his journey to full-time writing inspiring. He lives in Texas as I do, and he writes thrillers which I love. Please enjoy our discussion and share it with your friends.
Welcome, John. To open up our discussion today, please share a bit of your background with my readers and friends.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Rox. It is so lovely of you to open your place to writers, and I’m pleased to be here. Goodness, I love what you have done to the place. That Ming vase makes my brown eyes green. Oh, yes, you wanted a bit of background. To be brief, I have led four lives. The first was as a brand name marketeer when I worked for a top 100 advertiser and became the chief marketing officer. The second was as a consultant to the consumer products industry. I did that for five years and was proud of some of the products brought to market. The third was in the telecommunications industry, where I picked up a giant client while consulting. I became an employee of the client and served the next fifteen years, making it possible for new products to be actualized. My current life is that of a writer. I began my writing career in earnest when I retired from what I call organized commerce. I have published six books and am working on the seventh.
John, you have a professional background in telecommunications. How do these experiences influence your writing?
This is a great question, Rox. During my time spent in telecommunications, I was fortunate to be involved in some cutting-edge technology. This involvement opened my vision to a more “what is possible” view rather than a “what is” restriction. This has led me into a more creative path than I might have chosen. I think my stories benefit from a more open minded approach to writing.
At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a serious writing career?
Since college, I have wanted to be a writer, but family commitments meant doing something to bring in money. I tried to write a book while working, and after what seemed to be forever until the final first draft. As I was editing the book, I realized that this was some of the worst crap I had ever read. I decided to wait until I could devote full time to writing which I did. So. I began the writing journey in earnest in 2012.
I am excited to know you enjoy creating your thriller novels and short stories, but I was surprised at your poetry. When did you get focused on poetry, and do you still pursue this writing?
Like writing stories, I enjoy creating moods and images using poetry. I started writing poetry in the early 90s when a good friend and I were in Paris. He was posted there for his work, and I was visiting. We spent a lot of time at café tables, and he would craft a poem to cover some of the scenes we were witnessing. I thought that was an excellent way to capture the moment, so I took it up. My poems are very private, and I doubt that they will ever be published. I showed one to someone I was trying to impress at the time, and her remark stayed with me. “They don’t rhyme.” I stopped trying to impress her, but the thought stayed with me. I have studied various poetry conventions and enjoy Haiku the best. I write one each Friday and publish it on my blog. I call it a JohnKu, but it carries the 5-7-5 convention.
What inspires your poetry writing?
Mostly it is the experience happening at that minute. I think I love the Haiku because I can record the moment without getting hung up in a complex form. I will see a situation and then put it down. The ones done on Friday are usually a summary of whatever was on my mind while composing the post.
For almost ten years, you have focused full-time on writing. How do you balance your writing day?
I am coming up to my tenth anniversary of full-time writing too. My writing day is elementary, with my priority being my WIP. I try to write 1000 words a day on the WIP. I used to do that before anything else, but in my old age, I’ve become sloppy. I generally start the day with coffee and answering comments on my blog. I blog six days a week, so there is only one day when the need to respond is light. I then move to visit other blogs. Next is to author the post for the next day and mind the Twitter engine after that. Usually, after lunch, I take to the WIP. I do no more than a thousand words at a sitting. I found more than that leads to the need for a lot of rewriting. The final task for the day is to go through the e-mails and visit Twitter once again.
John, what was your first novel that you released, and when?
The novel’s name is My GRL and is the story of a boat that terrorists intend to use to blow up the Annapolis Midshipmen on their summer cruise. The protagonist is John J. Cannon, who owns the boat and has no idea what is in store for it or him. The book came out in 2013
Your fictional novels focus thriller, suspense, and action. John J Cannon is the main character in your series. Did you envision a series when you first wrote My GRL?
I did not envision a series when I started writing. I was so green that I just started writing the story. After the story grew to ginormous proportions, I decided I had better think of a way to split it up. Since the introduction of all the characters was in book one, I decided to make it a trilogy.
Are you self-published or small press, or a mixture?
I was with a small press for My GRL but went to self-published once I got a taste of the lack of control over my work. I also republished My GRL under my banner after my small press contract terms expired.
Do you like to attend library and bookstore events to shares your stories with new potential readers? If so, what are your favorite events to meet and greet readers?
I love to meet readers, and before COVID, I tried to do as much as possible. My favorite events are at libraries. The event was usually a one-author appearance, so there was a more intimate discussion opportunity and time for question-and-answer periods. My second favorite is book festivals. I have a killer booth and enjoy having one on one discussions with potential readers.
You have several published books. Which of these is your favorite and why?
I think my favorite is a tie between Circumstances of Childhood and Eternal Road. Both have a spiritual element that while writing them, I got a great deal of satisfaction that my fictional depiction of eternal life is the way it should be for me. Circumstances of Childhood is described as a fictional biography since the subject material came from my life experiences. Also, one of the main characters is the best friend of the protagonist and has died. I also had a best friend die, and it was very comforting to bring him back in my book. Eternal Road is a multi-genre piece that proposes possibilities for choosing where one would like to spend eternity. I love history, so the characters had to go back and see if some historical occasions would fit the bill for eternal life.
How much does your imagination drive your story, or is it the characters who tell you what to do?
My characters pretty much run the day-to-day progress of a book. My imagination sets the path. Before I start the story, I write down the last three lines. This gives me and the characters a target to hit.
Your covers are unique in several ways, who does your designs?
My covers are by a very talented artist by the name of Roseanna White. She is also a best-selling author.
Are your characters created from people you know?
Most of my characters are a compilation of people I know. They consist of more the essence or sense of those people rather than their actual attributes. I like to keep the characters pretty much free to behave on their own.
I believe you also write short stories. How do you compare the writing effort to your novels?
I love the idea of short stories in that in a very brief amount of time, you can pound out a three-act play. I don’t think they are any easier to write, but the satisfaction factor is more immediate. Novels are a slow build to a satisfactory ending. The downside to a short story is it may not work at all. It might be the subject matter of the characters are too big to capture in a smaller view. I do dislike short stories that go on and on as if they were novels. My ideal short story is no more than two thousand words.
Most authors I know are also readers. Do you have a favorite author and genre that keep you flipping pages?
For the last five years, I have been reading indie authors exclusively. In doing so, I have jumped from genre to genre, resulting in liking a broad spectrum of authors and genres. As a result, I have a large pool of indies that are favorites, but it would be challenging to try and mention just one or two.
Are there other genres you want to explore creating in either a short story or novel format?
I have broken out of the Thriller Genre and am now working in a multi-genre milieu. My latest book is a speculative, supernatural, historical suspense thriller. I have decided to leave the convention and just write the kind of story that readers and I find interesting.
Can you share additional details of your writing process and maybe tips other authors might consider? Things like beta readers, reviewers, challenges.
Once I have a complete manuscript, I give it to Beta readers. I’m not big on sharing anything until at least the first draft is finished. Too often, I’ve seen good authors get bogged down in the critique process. So, when I send it to beta readers, I have specific questions that I ask them to answer when they finish the book. I also send out ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) after the beta process. This encourages reviews, but I never make that a stipulation of receiving an advanced copy.
Do you believe at some point you might re-release one or more of your books with changes, and why?
I don’t think I will re-release any books. They are all professionally edited, so there would be no reason to do another edition to correct mistakes. Also, my early work needs to stand as it is to contrast my more recent stuff.
What formats are your books available to purchase?
All my books are in Kindle and paper formats.
What is your next story on the drawing board, and when can your fans plan to enjoy it?
My next is a sequel to Eternal Road – The last stop. It doesn’t have a title yet but is a story of the two main characters from Eternal Road who can help rescue another soul lost on the Eternal Road. The soul is a combat pilot who stayed with his fighter in Afghanistan rather than bailing out, knowing the plane would crash into a school. His name is Ryan Sanders, and he is being escorted on the Eternal Road by none other than Eddie Rickenbacker. It seems Eddie and Ryan have come up missing, and there is speculation that Lucifer has had a hand in their disappearance. They were last seen in aerial combat over France in 1918. Sam and James must find the pair and help Ryan chose his Eternal Home. It should be out next June.
Do you read your book reviews, and if so, what do you get out of them?
I do read my reviews. I get a great sense of fulfillment when someone takes the time to read my work and comment on it as well.
What sort of groups are you involved with and why?
I am a member of Authors Marketing Guild and the Story Empire Blog Group. The Authors Marketing Guild is an organization dedicated to marketing Indie books and authors. The Story Empire is a group of very talented writers who provide solid writing advice to Indie authors. We also help each other with support and guidance when necessary.
You are invited to join an author evening cruise on Lake Travis on one of those fabulous party boats. One of the locals who lives along the shore wants you to do a bit of reading. Which novel would you prefer to read a bit to influence this group to read your stories?
I would read from Eternal Road. There is so much in the book that would appeal to all kinds of readers. There are cowboys, rustlers, early settlers, Alamo defenders, D-day warriors, artificial intelligence beings, time travel, angels, and of course, Lucifer.
Two other authors are also going to be reading from their works. You tell me who (living or dead) they are and what you want them to read that you have enjoyed the most.
Kurt Vonnegut would be there reading from his book Jailbird.
John Irving would be there reading from his book Hotel New Hampshire
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming authors?
My advice for new authors is to keep writing no matter what. Do not worry about getting published. Worry instead about getting enough experience to become proficient in the craft. There is a lot of advice out there, but continued writing is the best teacher.
Where can folks find you and follow you, John.
Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/