This week I am very pleased to bring have Eric Howard joining us for an author Q&A.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure, I’m possibly the oldest computer geek in town. I’ve worked on micro-computers almost since the day they were invented, first repairing and then moving on to programming them.
These days I spend my working days cutting code, writing SQL or figuring out the best way to operate the big packages companies install.
I live in Cheshire in the UK. Married twice with three children and now seven grandsons. I keep ordering a granddaughter, but there seems to be a delivery issue. I suspect if we dropped one girl amongst seven boys she’d be spoiled rotten.
I’ve often said I would like to go and live out on a Greek Island, but in honesty, I love the life I have with my family and think I would miss it too much. So, instead I escape out to Wales as often as I can.
Can you give us a brief description of your most recent book?
Pog and the King’s Armour is my first children’s book. In many ways, this was the book I have been in training to write since the day I decided to try to write fiction.
I read to my children and now read to my grandchildren. I wrote the book I would want to read or have read to me. I set a few principles in it. I wanted a book with real words and plot. I find the current crop of celebrity authored books fairly mundane and derivative.
Peregrin Otis Grimshaw (Pog) is a ten-year-old boy. He falls through to a world where game playing is a serious part of life. There’s an evil ruler to overcome and a lot of lessons to learn along the way.
I wanted to write something a bit like the Narnia books, but wanted to make it more accessible. I hope that’s what I have done. Only time will tell.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I know a lot of authors wrote their entire lives, but I was brought up as a techie. My childhood activities were more along the lines of building transmitters and broadcasting loud bodily noises to interfere with the radios in the area.
I started telling my children stories when we were driving. Obviously, I had to make them up, trying to read with three kids in the car would be silly. Even though I read a lot, I quickly realised I didn’t know how to make a story hook the listener. I did a course on writing to learn the craft and then set off trying to break into being published. I had a few competition successes, and had a couple of short stories published.
So, I guess I don’t remember the first story I tried to write, but the first short story I sold, The Wish Star, was a piece in memory of my father in law’s passing and the way characteristics are passed through a family.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life! I have a tremendous passion for every aspect. I still love my work 40 years on, I get a real thrill creating a computer program that delivers a benefit to somebody. My writing spirals ever more complex, hopefully as I improve in the craft. I know I will never be a literary author, but I am happy to be an entertainer. Learning and travel combine in my love of the classical era. To clamber across antiquities in Greece and know that Alexander the Great walked here, or Leonidas passed this way on his road to Thermopylae sparks my imagination.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Finding the time in the day to empty the thoughts bottle-necked inside my head. I love to let a story fly from my fingers. That’s like working at the coal face hacking my way forwards. I don’t so much enjoy the editing process, but I am getting better. With editing, I polish the raw coal into a diamond.
Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a PC?
With still working and doing an Open University course I don’t get to write every day, but I do try to grab time wherever and whenever I can. One of the hard parts about snatching time to write is I develop repeating phrases and don’t realise until the first edit is going through. I might find a love for a word, such as ‘emerge’, or ‘tiny’ and it pops up on every other page. In my current WIP, I had so many people shrugging I could scream.
I very rarely hand write anything. My entire life has been blighted by near-illegible handwriting. Parents, grandparents and teachers all bewailed my scrawl on the paper. If I do write things out, I have to get to it before I forget what I was thinking, otherwise I will never decipher it. I now write 99% of the time using Scrivener on a PC. I have a good app on my phone and I will use that to jot things down. I also use mind-maps to develop ideas.
I really believe in letting a story rest. This means I often have two or even three books in various states of production. Once I finish a big edit on one, I put it away and start work on another, possibly leaving a story alone for months before coming back to it.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I love to write in my caravan in Wales. It is peaceful and I have lovely views along with a beach to walk the dogs on. That said, I can write anywhere. I have a mental cutout that stops reality impinging and so I write on trains, buses, cafes and even Doctor’s waiting rooms.
Is there a reason you decided to write some of your books under a pseudonym?
Yes, a couple. The first reason was I wanted to separate the business man from the author. When I started writing I earned my crust as a dour business man who went to important meetings and gave advise to important people. I was worried that they might not be able to take me seriously, especially if they ever read some of it. I decided that
(a) I didn’t care what they thought
(b) They probably didn’t care how I spent my time.
(c) They had home lives and children as well. To my knowledge, I don’t think writing damaged the business man image.
When I first published Amara I worried that it could be inappropriate for a grown man to be writing for teenage girls, especially with some of the scenes. I seriously considered hiding my gender and age. I sometimes worry that I have so many genre-crossing plans that I ‘ought’ to create a persona for each style. I really don’t want a Pog reader to pick up the Amara books by accident and when my next book comes out, that will skip genre again. Sadly, I really don’t have time to market one pen name, never mind multiple personalities.
What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Lord of the Rings was a magnificent discovery. The breadth and the depth of the story. Many might find it odd, but Terry Pratchett Discworld books are a great inspiration. Terry wrote a lot of good fantasy, mixed with good humour and excellent philosophies for life. A truly sad loss.
CS Lewis and Narnia stayed with me from school days up to today. I know they’re for children, but I will still pop the audio book of one of the Narnia tales on when I am on a long drive.
Do you have any future projects that you would like to discuss?
I have the third and final Amara book at an exciting stage. The book is finished I know exactly where it goes and how it ends. I now have to smooth out the lumps and bumps before pushing it over to my editor.
Bubbling through is the next WIP in the queue. ‘The Tales of Tork the Wanderer.’ It is a parody of Greek mythology. Almost an exact opposite to Stephen Fry’s Mythos. I have unsympathetically mangled the pantheon of Greek gods and ancient tales. I started it many years ago and became discouraged with trying to write humour. For some reason I recently dug it out and read a piece of it, I found myself laughing out loud. Tork’s encounter with the blind Seer and his escape from the Sirens are quite extraordinary. I decided to try to breath a little more life into it.
Starting to stack up is Pog-2. I didn’t plan to write a second story, but I think there are things that need to be taken to the next level.
Thank you so much for reading. You can find Eric Howard and his books via the links below:
Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.co.uk/EH-Howard/e/B00EIIHFD0/
Pog and the King’s Armour