Monday, January 21, 2013

INCOMING PATIENT: LEE ALLEN HOWARD

PATIENT: LEE ALLEN HOWARD
ILLNESS: WRITER

When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?

I wrote my first story on ruled tablet paper in second grade. My teacher passed it on to the elementary school principal. He read it at a meeting of the local Lions Club, of which my father was a member. As president of the chapter, Principal Sprunger fined my father a dime because the preacher’s son had written such a sordid tale full of skeletons, witches, and blood. I've always loved horror and crime and psychological thrillers. More about this in Why I'm a Horror Writer. 

Where you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?

I journaled in secondary school; I don't anymore. When I come across intriguing articles on the Internet, I'll print them and put them in an idea file, although now that I think about it, I rarely use them. Most of the ideas that I've turned into stories come by inspiration. I'm faithful to jot them down and then create a file in my electronic ideas folder. Or I'll start working on one immediately, like my current project about a homicidal bedwetter. That's right, I leaked the story here first, on Stephanie Wytovich's MADHOUSE blog!

What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?

Because of my job, I don't get to write fiction every day. But last weekend I met someone for lunch to interview him about his job, which I plan to use for my protagonist (they can't all be writers). Then I spent the afternoon in a coffee shop developing characters. When I got home I edited a story for someone. The next morning I went to another coffee shop for breakfast, then worked on some plotting. Since I work at home full time, I often go out to a coffee shop (where else?) to get an hour or two of writing work done on weeknights.

Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?

I love Patrick McGrath's Asylum--dark, psychologically complex, and beautifully written. I'm currently in the middle of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I wish I'd read that as a kid, but... what am I saying? I never grew up! In fact, I still sleep with stuffed animals. As a special favor to me, the taxidermist sews their eyes shut.

Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?

I used to write poetry in high school and college but haven't since, although I would like to study more about it and try again. I write mostly prose: non-fiction and fiction (novels and short stories). My left-brained ideas require more development than I can express with poetry.

Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?

Until recently I required absolute silence to write because any kind of noise shattered my attention. Now I can write in a coffee shop with music and ambient noise. But if the TV is on, I can't do anything except watch it, the primary reason I stopped watching for a decade.

Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?
I begin every writing session by sacrificing a small woodland animal. Just kidding. They're actually quite large. I haven't written exclusively in longhand for 20 years, although if I have a printout with me (you guessed it, at a coffee shop) I will handwrite inserted sections on the backs of pages and key them in later. When I edit, I use Uni-ball Roller micro pens (0.5 mm, red or black).

Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pantser?
I'm definitely a plotter. I couldn't write more than a scene off the top of my head, and then I'd be lost until I did some plotting and outlining. I don't like wasted effort. The more my writing moves toward the crime genre, the more planning I must do ahead of time.

What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
Marketing. I hate it. But I understand the necessity and am focusing my efforts this year on building a bigger following and getting my work out there in front of eager new readers.

Current projects?

Death Perception is due for release early in 2013. This novel combines my love for crime with my experiences with Spiritualism and the supernatural. Spirits, murder, and marshmallows! And a smidgen of kink. You can read the first chapter at http://leeallenhoward.com/2012/12/12/read-the-1st-chapter-of-death-perception/).

How do you balance being an editor and being a writer? (Or double jobs, being a mom/dad, husband/wife etc.- apply to your situation)

I'm a technical writer for a software company and work from home full time. So I write for my day job using left brain skills. If I have any brain left over at the end of the day, I use the right side to create fiction. And because I'm stuck in the house all day, I need to get out evenings and weekends. That means coffee shop. I also do freelance editing for others, both fiction and non-fiction. But I consider all of this part of being a writer. Even my work as a medium and metaphysician uses the same creative channel that inspires my writing. More about this at Psychic Development for Writers

What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?

Lee_greenbay.jpgI hope readers expect an interesting story well told--and well written. There are plenty of people dumping stories and books out there that aren't ready for prime time because they aren't sufficiently edited. I strive to make my stuff as smooth and clean as possible. Considering what I have out there for sale, I think readers can expect a generous helping of misery in my fiction, served up with a side of creepiness,

Advice for aspiring writers?
I thought I deserved publication long before I did. It often takes much longer than you think it should to become successful. But: 1) Keep learning about the craft of writing (read books, take classes or workshops, join a critique group, hire a developmental editor like me). 2) Read and review the work of others, because you'll need karma in your favor later. 3) Keep writing. 4) Strive for excellence in every aspect. "Good enough" will not get you published. 5) Don't give up. When you're ready, your work will find a channel for expression, for this is the reason you are inspired.


Death Perception small.jpgLee Allen Howard writes horror, dark fantasy and supernatural crime. He’s been a professional writer in the software industry since 1985. Besides editing fiction and non-fiction, Lee has served as a book publishing consultant and now publishes fiction and Spiritualist classics for Kindle. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Mama Said, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, and Stray. Death Perception is due for release in 2013 (read the first chapter at http://leeallenhoward.com/2012/12/12/read-the-1st-chapter-of-death-perception/). He blogs about writing and editing on his writer’s site: www.leeallenhoward.com. Lee also discusses metaphysical and spiritual issues at www.buildingthebridge.wordpress.com. He works part-time as a Spiritualist medium and healer.