Author Interview–Paul Howard

Books, Blogs, and Bits

is proud to present:

Paul Howard!!

“I am an author, screenwriter and film maker, my screen credits include the cult classic “Night Terror” (1990) and the soon to be released “Hunt for the paul howardDesert Apeman” in collaboration with M.L. Behrman.

 I published my first novel: “The Galley“(2012) and its’ short story extract: “The Unthinkable (The Great Fire of Rome)“(2012). My newest books are “Timelines: The Beethoven Incident“(2013) and the first installment of “The Palindrome Chronicles”: the short story “We Were Here!”(2013) In October, my newest book; “Phoenix Part One: Spooks” was published.

 After spending my early years in the Midwest, I migrated to Southern California where I received most of my education. There is an old saying: “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” I think that’s true in my case. Although I’ve lived in L.A. most of my life, the simple ways of Southern Illinois are still close to my heart. I love the opportunities to get away to the quiet of the deserts and countryside. It helps me think. My joys in life are playing the guitar and spending time with my grandchildren, (as well as writing!).

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BB & B: You are a very diversified gentleman—author, screenwriter, film maker, and guitar player.  What triggered your passion for the creative arts?

Paul: I think it was a combination of things throughout my life. My mother was an accomplished pianist; some of my earliest memories are of sitting under the piano as a toddler listening to her play. I grew up in a house full of books; my brothers and I were allowed to read any of them that we wanted.

By the time I was three I was drawing on the walls of our house. Our dining room had a barnyard scene with a giant pig over the table. I think I was two when I drew that. It burned through every time my father tried to paint it out. By my early teens, my desire to create took on the nature of a yearning, at first I was drawn to music and studied it in college.

Then, one night I found myself sitting in the front row of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, watching Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I immediately got myself a camera and film making textbooks. It was like all of the fine arts wrapped in one: music, literature, painting, sculpting, and drama all at once. I love all aspects of film making, but the business just wasn’t for me.

After completing my first feature, I found myself turning down every project that was offered to me after that over the next several years. I turned more and more to writing, first screenplays and teleplays, and ultimately books, where I could speak in my own language and tell the kinds of stories that really interested me.

I love the guitar; it makes me feel so good when I play it. Nothing gives a sense of pleasure and reward better than a musical instrument. Playing electric guitar was always a childhood dream. When I picked it up and started playing at the age of 50, I discovered that it was even better than I imagined it would be. If I had picked one up at the age of 15, who knows how different my life would have been?

BB & B: Your latest work was just released in October 2013.  Spooks is set in the year 2127 to a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.  Can you tell us a little bit more about Spooks.  I’m intrigued about “ecto-infused.” Can you share with us how Spooks Cover3 copyyou came up with the concept.

Paul: The core concept of Spooks and the entire Phoenix Saga, is resurrection on different levels, first as the individual, but eventually of humanity as a whole. I’m not speaking spiritually, but sociologically.

The ecto-infusion process is a technical way of regenerating the recent dead using their own tissues as a template for the “ecto-being”. There is no magic or religious basis for it, thus keeping the storyline in the realm of pure science fiction.

I have always wanted to write a detective story with sci-fi overtones, this is my shot at it. As for the inspiration, ideas like this just pop into my head. I am always developing new material in my day-to-day activities. This idea just appealed to me so I developed it.

The biggest problem with most of my writing is that it doesn’t fit into any of the standard genre molds, which makes my books very hard to market. Spooks is still trying to find its audience, if people knew what it was, I think they would really go for it. It takes patience to write, it takes even more to find a readership for your work. 

BB & B: Spooks, is the first book to the Phoenix Saga, can you give us a sneak peek at what’s to come as the saga continues?

Paul: Should I? Here goes: as I stated before, the central theme of Phoenix is resurrection.

 The seed for the second book has already been planted in the first one. When it becomes apparent that they have an infused homicidal maniac running loose, Sam suggests that the U.S. should be chipping its criminals with GPS trackers. By the second book, which takes place a generation later, this becomes the standard practice. In fact, everyone on Earth is chipped. Almost everyone, anyway. Those who aren’t, are invisible in society; the LAPD, (who are now almost exclusively Spooks), find they are back to using old investigative methods to deal with such a person.

 The third book is based on the development of new chips, which are enhanced to educate through “Direct Memory Implantation”. Within a decade, everybody under the age of ten has the brain of an Einstein. But they are still caught up in a moronic culture, ruled by greed and power. The Spooks of the LAPD are now dealing with a generation of Superminds who still have the emotional responses of young children, and the powerful people who feel the growing threat of their presence.

BB & B: What inspires your stories and your characters?  

Paul: This not a cop out: everything I see, everybody I meet, every note of music I hear. The role of music in my inspiration is huge. My first book, The timelinesGalley was inspired mostly by Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade. My second book, The Beethoven Incident drew its feel from The Eroica Symphony and band music from the mid-nineteenth century. Go figure.

Maybe there’s something wrong with my head, but I’m enjoying it. I draw my characters from the people all around me. Not as individuals, but as personalities. I let my characters develop on their own as much as possible. I try to not to interfere with their motivations. If they can’t surprise me, they are not real enough. I don’t write characters, I try to write people who could exist outside of my muse. It seems to work for me; so far none of my critics have ever suggested that my characters don’t play.

BB & B: To what extent do your characters remind you of yourself or someone you know?

Paul: All of my characters are extensions of me to one degree or another. I think that is true for many authors, whether Shakespeare or Genet. The diversity of who they are is drawn from others that we know or meet, and are built on empathy.

I always ask myself: “What would it be like to be in your shoes?” I try to internalize the answer to that as honestly as possible. I think the best authors do that, too. You really can’t write good characters without a high degree of empathy and self-honesty. I love all of my characters; I love all the people I meet, even if I can’t stand to be around them. I feel sorry for those who can feel hate or alienation; it must be a very lonely world for them.

 BB & B: If you could put together a dream project, what would that be and why?

 Paul:Uncivil Nation” If there is one Great Truth of human existence, it is this: “Man is a genius race trapped in a moronic culture by self-centered idiots.”

The most humbling experience of my life is to look into the face of a six month-old child. There is all the unbridled potential and optimism that Man is capable of achieving. Turn on your television or internet and look at the continuous effort to process that potential out of him or her.

Why are we obsessed with celebrity culture? It has absolutely nothing to offer us but lowered self-esteem. The only stars in our lives are the people we are close to. Sit in a room full of people and observe the isolation imposed by the new phones which keep us distracted from our lives and each other. Why is this happening? The answers are out there, but god help the person who expresses it. I can only imagine what Hugo or Dickens would be writing about today.

If I had the time or resources, I would undertake such a project, but it would also take more than that. Vonnegut wrote about these things and couched them as humor, if he hadn’t, his books would have been unpalatable, and he would have been silenced. We nail those who try to find our better angels to crosses.

BB & B: What can fans expect from you in the near future?

Paul: Now that I have published three series novels, I am going to service those. The next book is going to be the follow-up in the Timelines Series, followed by “Galley II: The Fall of Nero”. I have also resumed work on a fourth galleyseries: The Palindrome Chronicles, but it will have to wait for the other three series to develop. My plan is to issue new installments of past series, along with a completely new book, at least once a year. Goodness knows where I will find the time, my hands are so full.

BB & B: Do you have any closing words you’d like to share?

Paul: Wow! Yes there are. After spending over a year in the self-published e-book environment, there are one or two points I would like to make.

First of all, the vast majority of you who are reading this are self-published authors. That is my first point. While the e-book market is growing rapidly, the actual marketing and discussion tools on the web are being used by the authors themselves, not the reading audience. We have become a cloistered group like the Free Masons; writing for the consumption and approbation of our colleagues instead of our readers.

While I admire and support you all, I am not interested in doing that. I am interested in the guy with the Kindle sitting on the commuter train on the way home from work. Am I entertaining him? Based on my numbers, I am reaching that audience. But he doesn’t write reviews. I have known many people who are avid readers, not one of them writes reviews. When I look at most e-book reviews, including my own, I see authors, not readers commenting on each other’s work. Most of them of them, to be frank, are terrible at it.

How many times do I see, “I have an obligation to tell the audience what they’re getting.”? An e-book costs less than a hamburger these days, we have no such obligation to ourselves, or each other. People are burning over four bucks on a gallon of gas! Get real. I never review a book I don’t like, if I see errors or typos, I contact the author personally and give them my report. I review on content, not style or grammar; I have no wish to do injury to the efforts of another author, and neither should any of the rest of us. If you read an e-book and feel like doing it, you should ask yourself why. I see typos in books that are over two thousand years old. The only reason I bring this up is because the reviews on e- books are marketing tools: raw numbers on a book page.

The real reviews are in the book stats. I am getting very high loan numbers on KDP. About one loan for every three sold. That is a reader review that matters. They are passing my books around to their friends! I’m not getting rich, but I’m showing thousands of readers a good time. Which leads me to my second point: I am very encouraged by the quality of the novels that are being self-published! Over the past year, I only encountered one that was unreadable, one that was badly written to the extent of distraction, and over a hundred that were actually worth reading.

There are some really good authors out there! I am constantly reading comments from authors who are worried about bad product giving self-publishing a bad name. Based on my experience, that is not a problem to worry about. I think that the overwhelming majority of those who can bring a book to completion are also capable of writing a decent book in the process, and the majority of what I have seen is consistent with that. If you have a finished book online, the odds are that it is pretty good, and you have good reason to believe in it.

This is wonderful Paul! Thank you for sharing your time with us and best wishes on all your future endeavors.

To follow Paul and his work, you can find him at any one of these links below:

Check out Paul’s books at Amazon.com.

Author Interview–Graham Downs

Books, Blogs, and Bits

is proud to present:

GRAHAM DOWNS!!

Graham Downs was born in Alberton, in Gauteng, South Africa. He now lives in Germiston with his wife. He is a computer programmer in Rivonia, who has always had a passion for writing.

The stories he writes are not constrained by genre, length, or time period. They are the stories that are burning to be told, and unleashed onto the world.

BB & B: You are a very busy gentleman—author, reviewer and librarian for Goodreads, blogger, and a computer programmer!  How do you maintain a healthy balance between all these great things that you do?  Any tips for other authors who find themselves maintaining a full time day-job while trying to pursue their creative passion?

cover jpegGraham: Well, it’s not easy, I’ll admit. My day job keeps me busy for long hours, but I always find time to read. Reading is incredibly important, and I find that Goodreads keeps me focused and disciplined in my reading.

Since discovering that site a year and a half ago, I don’t read anything (except what I have to read for work) that I don’t review anymore. I really enjoy thinking of all the things that I’m going to say when I review books, as I’m reading them.

As for my writing, well, I’ve always been the kind of person who really struggles with discipline. I always have at least three unfinished projects (writing projects, programming projects, household projects) on the go at any given point in time, most of which I’m sorry to admit will never see the light of day! The reading helps with my writing as well (you’ll hear a lot of authors say that); it keeps my imagination ticking, and when I’m struggling to write a difficult scene, or an ending for a story, I turn to a good book to clear my head and motivate me to press on.

I also have an amazingly supportive wife, who has promised to support and back me in anything that I want to achieve. Having that kind of love and support is invaluable!

BB & B: You are a fiction author.  Your collection of stories range from fantasy to thriller.  This is quite a range. Tell us what you love best about writing in these genres.

Graham: To be honest, I don’t really think about what genre I want to write in; I come up with the story, and the genre comes naturally. My first book was a short story called A Petition to Magic, and I don’t think I could’ve told that story any other way. Next came Heritage of Deceit, which is a modern day thriller set in an office environment. The idea for Stingers just hit me, and I knew exactly how the story would play out before my fingers hit the keyboard. As for what’s next, who knows?

BB & B: What inspires your stories and your characters?  What fuels your creativity?

Graham: I think the best way for me to be creative is to just “switch off” froma petition to magic technology and the world. Again, I think you’ll hear a lot of authors say that–it really works!

I’ve always had a really vivid imagination, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to tell stories. Growing up, I played a lot of table-top RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, and I was always ended up being the “Game Master”, the one in charge of telling the story.

As to my inspiration, that’s a really difficult question to answer. Stories just come to me at the weirdest times. For A Petition to Magic, it was one particular scene where Solon was standing in his study preparing to cast his fateful spell. I dreamt about that one, one night, and it was really vivid.

Heritage of Deceit, not surprisingly, hit me one day at work when I was struggling with a particularly difficult programming problem and decided to step away from my computer for a few minutes. And as I’ve mentioned, Stingers came to me as more or less a complete story, all at once.

BB & B: To what extent do your characters remind you of yourself or someone you know?

Graham: Well, it’s not intentional, but I think there’s a little bit of me in all of my protagonists. Solon the Wizard is a mirror of my fears of trying new things, or “getting back on the horse” when I’ve made a horrible mistake (although thankfully, none of my mistakes have ever killed anyone!).

James Clarke is reminiscent of my Primary School days, when I was a bullied kid –although the bullying never escalated to the point that it did in Stingers.

cover jpegI guess that Lloyd from Heritage of Deceit is a lot like one or two people I’ve met in my career, whereas I fancy myself as being a bit like Robert.

There’s probably a little bit of us in all of our characters, for better or worse, and there’s a certain amount of “confession” that goes on in all our stories. Writing is a writer’s special kind of therapy, of getting things off his chest.

BB & B: You recently collaborated in a great children’s charity project—I am not Frazzle.  What inspired you to be so giving of your time? Would you do it again?

Graham: I just love to write. I saw a blog post by Darren Worrow (our editor on the project), looking for people to participate. His brief was very broad: A story, geared at adults, with at least one main character who’s a child. As I’ve already mentioned, when I read that brief, Stingers just came to me. I don’t know from whence it came, or why, but it just did. Before responding to Darren (and certainly before I knew whether he still had space, or whether I’d be accepted), I bashed out the first scene of the story, popped it off to him, and he loved it!

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was a huge honour to be part of such a big project, and to work with all the amazing authors. Words cannot describe how I felt when Darren told us all that the project was going on sale. Even though I’m not making any money off of it, and I’d never heard of the charity before I embarked on the project, I have humbled and grateful to be supporting that worthy cause, in my own small way.

BB & B: Like many authors, you must have a ton of ideas for stories.  How do you decide which of your stories to bring to life and devote to paper?

Graham: I know what you’re thinking: you’re probably thinking that, as a computer programmer, I must have this carefully organised folder of story ideas, maybe I’ve even written a computer program to help me keep track of them all, and that I carefully choose what my next story will be from that list, based on market trends, genre, and so forth.

None of that is true, though. Most of my ideas aren’t even stored anywhere outside of my own head. The ones that get written are the ones that choose to be written when I sit down at my keyboard, stare at a blank screen, and start typing. You see, I don’t decide; the story does!

BB & B: Do you have any current projects and what can fans expect from you in the near future?

Graham: You know, every time someone asks me what I’m working on currently, they get a different answer!

I’m busy with a really short horror story, which I’m hoping is going to be accepted into a well known Independent Author Magazine. But I might not finish that, we’ll see how it goes. Then I have two ideas which might actually turn into novella length books, but I don’t think I’ll be any more specific than that, because by the time someone interviews me again, I may have forgotten all about them and be working on something completely different!

BB & B: Do you have any closing words you’d like to share?

Graham: Ooh, an open-ended question; those are difficult!

Readers, keep reading. If you’d include my stories in your reading, even better! Even better than that, though, is if you’d leave a review of each when you’re done. Reader reviews are independent authors’ bread and butter, and not just because we don’t have access to the insane marketing resources that big businesses do: we all tend to be an insecure bunch, and we’re never truly sure if anybody out there is actually reading what we’ve put out into the world. So, good or bad, please leave your thoughts on our stories. Every word of encouragement or criticism means that somebody has read our work and taken the time to say what they thought. You, dear reader, are the reason we keep writing!

Writers, keep writing! It’s a labour of love, and most of us will never get rich off it, nor even ever make enough to quit our day jobs. But it’s as necessary to us as breathing.

I find that I’m a lot like Graham in that my stories, my characters tend to take over and they dictate what’s next.  Thank you Graham for your time and we look forward to your next work!

To get to know more about and Graham and his work, check out these great links:

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