J. STEPHEN HOWARD INTERVIEW
What/who inspired you to become a writer??
There’s a what and a who to answer your question. The what part would be movies. In fact, I guess I could point to one movie, “Star Wars,” that expanded my mind to the possibilities of imagination. I was a child of about seven, and my strict Catholic parents consulted with the priest to make sure it was okay if I saw the PG movie. With the padre’s blessing, I fell in love at first sight with allowing myself to dream of a galaxy far, far away.
The who part would be my eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Reynolds. But actually, she inspired me to be an actor. Basically, she suggested I might enjoy participating in a summer theater workshop. As a shy kid, this was therapeutic because I ended up stealing the show as a hammy Boris Renfield in “Dracula, the Musical.” This inspired me to see what I could do when I used my imagination, and since it received stimulation, I began writing stories.
Do you have a favorite genre of book that you like to read/write? If so, why??
I enjoy writing in the horror genre, but I like fantasies and thrillers as well. Basically, anything that can transport me to another world gets the vote of my eyeballs. Horror, in particular, provides a gateway to the forbidden, which is exciting and scary. Growing up, I had a happy but repressed childhood. As long as one followed the rules, one didn’t get spanked with a ping pong paddle. Using my imagination, though, I could go anywhere and explore anything.
What helping aids do you use to focus when you write? Music?? Nature???
I listen to Pandora, the film soundtracks channel. This helps me imagine I am inside the movie which is the story I’m writing.
What character(s) of your book(s) do you relate to the most??
For Frankenstein’s Confessional, I’d have to say I’m like Kenny Blaze. He’s an aspiring singer/songwriter living in a seedy studio apartment in North Hollywood, California. I write songs and have lived in such an apartment where the cockroaches rule the roost. I’ve also worked in an Italian restaurant, but unlike Kenny, I wasn’t a singing waiter. Also, another striking contrast would be that I’ve never had a guitar pick that tried to influence me in evil ways. That’s an important distinction, by the way.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring writers like myself?
Keep writing. Don’t you hate that? People ask what advice do you have about writing and they say, write. However, it’s what needs to be done. We have many blank pages before us that must be filled before we can get any sleep. And, as with any other endeavor, you have to keep practicing at it.
How do you visualize your stories?? In pictures?? Conversations? Dreams?
I visualize them as movies unfolding before my eyes. As someone who has acted, I imagine the characters on stage. I think of what their movements should be. I think of their clothing and what motivates them.
What are your writing goals for the next 5 years??
For the next five years, I’d like to create a series of books (probably a trilogy) that centers on one protagonist. I’ve always been an ideas guy, coming up with all kinds of ideas illustrated, for example, in a series of short stories. Even the novel before this collection, Fear in Appleton, was essentially a number of vignettes that coalesced around a college student protagonist and ghost/former professor antagonist. Now, I’d like to develop an intriguing character in a unique world that will (hopefully) captivate readers.
How long did it take you to write Fear in Appleton?? What/who inspired these books??
That novel took about three years to complete. I came up with the idea of a ghost that could inhabit people’s minds and root around in there to discover fears that could then be used against them. In his mortal life, the creative writing professor who would become the ghost had a number of phobias. It sounded interesting to me to have a ghost that would want to publish the stories of his exploits.
The current collection of stories I’m working on, Frankenstein’s Confessional, should be completed by this October (about a year after I began writing it).
If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, famous or not famous, who would it be and why??
I would like to have dinner with Stephen King. He’s a big inspiration. I’ve always enjoyed the imaginative leaps he employs in his books. His stories don’t just involve a lot of mindless splatter. There are fascinating ideas to explain the weird phenomena populating his creations. Also, he never forgets to make his characters human. The reader cares about these people who face horrible things.
Let's do something fun...write something about each of the next 10 words in 10 words or less.
Movement: how a character behaves.
Fantasy: the gateway to our imagination.
Chaos: the friend of a writer who enjoys solving a puzzle.
Energy: the sizzle of inspiration, breathing life into creations.
Balance: the symmetry of description, dialogue, and action in stories.
Synchronicity: when the threads of a story come together, magically.
Imagination: the soul’s wings.
Invention: the way out of boredom.
Freedom: a sense of confidence that allows creativity.
Intelligence: a marshaling of resources to deal with problems.
What made you decide to jump on the E-book trade?? And how do you feel about it??
I wanted to get my stories out there. The world is a far different place, even just going back five or ten years. The Internet has exploded, with social media paving the way for self-expression and self-promotion. It’s a do-it-yourself environment, and I feel it’s a good platform for authors. Look at how many singer/songwriters have been discovered after striking out on their own.
If you found yourself on a deserted island, what 10 things would you take and why?
I’d take my wife (couldn’t live without her; is this cheating?), my Kindle (to read books, duh!), something to write with (again, duh!), food (one has to eat), water (one has to drink), a guitar (the wife likes to hear me sing), my iPhone (Gilligan would have loved Angry Birds), a box of flares (so I could signal for someone to rescue me, duh!), a fishing pole (to catch fish, I won’t say it), and a boat (in case I decide I don’t like being stranded on an island).
How do you write your books?? Are you by the seat of your pants writer or do you plot out your books in advance??
I’ve done a little of both. I feel, more than anything, I need to understand the characters. I need to know who they are, where they’ve come from, and where they’re headed. After all, they’re in charge of the story.
And last by not least, if you could time travel what period of the history of future would you go to??
I would go to a time when we’ll be traveling to other planets and trading with various alien species. I’d skip over the intergalactic wars to a period where we’re able to accept our differences and appreciate what each race has to offer.
Feel free to any other interesting tidbits about yourself :) Please include your social media links.
Fear in Appleton is available for purchase now on Amazon.
Frankenstein’s Confessional will be available for purchase on Amazon in October, 2012.
Over 400 have liked the Frankenstein’s Confessional Facebook page!
Frankensteins Confessional on Facebook
Over 1,100 have liked the Fear in Appleton Facebook page!