Interview with Author H.G. Howell, Part 3

Welcome back to our chat with H.G. Howell, author of The Spark.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.


Airship Ambassador: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like?

H.G. Howell: Very exciting. The proof copy required a few adjustments but overall it has been an enlightening experience. I really enjoy the idea of being in absolute control over the entire process, its just time consuming which, if not balanced well, can burn out the desire of maintaining that desire to stay in control.


AA: If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like The Spark. What is “X”?

HGH: Of the books I have read the easiest comparison would be the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin in terms of both maturity and story delivery.


AA: What do you think puts this story on someone’s must read/have list?

HGH: The concept. From what I have seen of Steampunk literature there is a lot of standard adventure/action plots out there whereas The Spark is a more diverse plot with more focus on character and how the events of the story impacts the individual.


AA: If The Spark were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

HGH: I haven’t really given much thought to this. Sir Ian Mackellen would make a great choice for Julien. As curious as he is Shia Labuff would make an excellent Marcus.


AA: If The Spark had a soundtrack, what would it be like?

HGH: Any classical music. Writing the book I listened to all sorts of different orchestral music which really helped guide my pen. Although, Flight of the Valkyries is a must when reading the final action packed moments of the prologue.


AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

HGH: Right now through Facebook and Goodreads. I had the book in a local Chapters store where I also did a successful signing event.


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that  been like, and the fan reaction?

HGH: This hasn’t happened yet but I am planning on doing a small tour across Ontario in support of The Searing.


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing  and the rest of your life?

HGH: I keep my writing to my alone time as it offers the least amount of distraction.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

HGH: Not usually. There was a gentleman a while back I was speaking with due to an idea he had. It was a great concept and I hope he finishes the story one day.


AA: Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too. What do you think about that and what would you say your ratio of reading to writing is/was?

HGH: I completely agree. To a point. When I first started writing the book I was heavy into my umpteenth read through of A Feast for Crows. I soon realized that my writing style was becoming too much like Martin’s and not so much of my own. As a new writer this is a terrible thing to have happen because it means you don’t have a voice of your own. Upon this realization I promptly stopped reading while I wrote. Once I moved into the revision stages I picked my books back up. These days I will only read on days I either haven’t written or have already accomplished the day’s writing target.


AA: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing?

HGH: This has only happened to me with two books. The first was The Dreaming Void by Peter Hamilton. It was just an incoherent mess of a book with no real semblance of a plot, deus ex machinas everywhere and inconsistent characters – amongst other things. The other was A Dance of Dragons by George R. R. Martin. I have read all of his Ice and Fire books at least a dozen times each, if not more, except for that one. I had to force myself to finish the first read through. Once again, inconsistent characterizations, but in this case of already well established and defined characters, and a lot of unnecessary repeated phrases. For myself, I try to be as mindful as possible about which character I am writing and what their individual plot line is and where they are as a person – which has been developed in subsequent chapters. If that fails I will catch it during the revision process and make the changes as needed.


AA: What do you consider your first real writing experience? Was it the back-to-school exercise of “What I did this Summer” or something you just did on your own?

HGH: Spending an afternoon at the funeral home my Dad worked at writing a piece of short fiction inspired by a choose your own adventure Goosebumbs story.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

HGH: Yes and no. My work has always been on the darker side and has always been known for pushing boundaries. It has changed as I have gone from writing abstract prose [which may one day get published] to fully fledged novels.


AA: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

HGH: Formatting. I am still not perfect with it and am planning to reformat the eBook version of The Spark when I roll out the second edition.


We’ll pause here in chatting with H.G. Howell, Join us next time when he talks about challenges and interests.

Keep up to date with H.G.’s latest news on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

You can support H.G. and our community by getting your copy of The Spark here.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 6:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author H.G. Howell, Part 2

Welcome back to our chat with H.G. Howell, author of The Spark.

Read Part One here.


Airship Ambassador: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story?

H.G. Howell: The role of kinetic imbued technology plays a major role in the story. As mentioned earlier, kinetics can control the elements and through these gifts along with the curious inventing minds of the scholarhood, devices containing elements of kinetic power exist. Most notable of all the inventions is the cortex technology. These devices are solely electrical in nature and are leading the way in phasing out steampowered technology. Cortex technology is used to power airships, horses, mechanical golems such as Gossimer’s friend, and even other nefarious uses.


AA: Ha, nefarious! Always a draw, lol. What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Wynne?

HGH:  Madness is a real ailment in Wynne. From the outside world one stricken with Madness seems no different than an individual with Alzhiemers. The difference, however, is that Madness is a key to the deeper secrets of Wynne. This is not explored too in depth in Wynne, but it is important to note.


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

HGH:  Dalar’s storyline contains some fun discoveries that will have major impacts on the world of Wynne.


AA: What passage, paragraph, or scene was really memorable to write? (description of, or copy in text)

HGH: Two stand out the most. The number scene is actually the last chapter in the book. I find there is a great duality in how the story begins and finishes, but also how the scene itself plays out. The other scene is the introductory chapter of Dalar. His opening scene is one of those disparate ideas I had had for years without finding a home for it.


AA: Was there any scene-passage-text-etc that you loved but which just didn’t work and had to be cut?

HGH: I had a whole story arc for the character of Rosemary, who only gets one chapter in the whole book. It explained more of her backstory and motivations. When it came time to print I ended well exceeding the maximum page count through createspace. At first I went through and skimmed out excess fat in chapters but was still well over.

After much thought I ended up cutting two of her three chapters. This brought be to exactly even with the print company in terms of page count. In hindsight I am glad that it happened as I am able to imply and build a history for her arc in the next book where she has a much larger roll.


AA: What kind of back story is there for The Spark which didn’t make it into the final book?

HGH: For several of the characters I have written a short biography in the form of short stories. These really helped me get the feel for the individual, but also how their life would lead them to the decisions they make in The Spark. I even wrote one for the main antagonist who is nothing more than a tertiary character in this book.


AA: I’m sure readers who enjoy The Spark will want to read those shorts stories, too. When people read The Spark, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

HGH: Life never goes the way you want it and all you can do is take it by the horns and do your best to survive.


AA: How did elements of your own life and experiences play into The Spark?

HGH: There are a lot of elements of my own life that have filtered into The Spark. In some cases characters are inspired by people I know, or at least share a similar backstory. Thinking about it, it is rather baffling how much I’ve drawn from my own life has fallen into the story. I know this is rather vague, but there is just so much I don’t really know where to begin.


AA: What was one memorable story while writing this story? Any laugh out loud or cry in the corner moments?

HGH: The end act of Lillian’s introductory chapter has always been hard for me. I won’t go into details so as not to spoil it. When I finished that chapter I needed to break away from writing for a little bit. Even after, during the revision stages, that chapter always finds a way to hit me in the feels. Every. Time.


AA: That’s good emotional writing, and hopefully the readers will feel the same intensity. Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?

HGH: Both actually. Currently I am writing the sequel, titled The Searing, which takes place immediately after the events of The Spark. As of writing this I am about to finish the fourth act and dive into the final act. As for the spinoff, I am planning a series of stand alone adventure novels set about 60years after the events of The Imperial War. This series won’t be as heavy as this trilogy, in terms of themes, and will feature a very robust dieslepunk/jazz cat atmosphere. The title of the first book is Duffy Lawerence and the Skychasers of Tinker Town.


AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel The Spark history?

HGH: I have long been inspired by the works of Tolkien and [George] Martin. When writing The Spark I tried to find moments or avenues where I could inject a touch of the world’s history so the reader could develop a sense of scope and wonder.


AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, The Spark? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

HGH: I started the first draft in 2011 and finished in 2014 when the eBook went live. The summer of 2015 saw the print edition released. My schedule was, and always will be, very flexible as I try to maintain the day job and my family.


We’ll pause here in chatting with H.G. Howell, Join us next time when he talks about comparisons and the writing process.

Keep up to date with H.G.’s latest news on Twitter, Goodreads,  and Facebook.

You can support H.G. and our community by getting your copy of The Spark here.

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 7:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Interview with Author H.G. Howell

This week we are talking with H.G. Howell, author of The Spark.


Airship Ambassador: Hi H.G., thanks for joining us for this interview.

H.G. Howell: Thanks for having me!


AA: Readers will get to know you now from your first published work. What is The Spark about?

HGH: The Spark is a character driven, sci-fi epic that chronicles the downfall of 200 years of peace brought about by radical ideologies.


AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for this story?

HGH: When I first began writing The Spark, steampunk had not yet broken out as such a major cultural movement as it is now. Even then it was an aesthetic I really enjoyed and felt it was the best fit for the story that was beginning to ferment in my imagination.


AA: How does The Spark express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?

HGH: One of the main things I feel The Spark does is that it brings a level of “use” for all the fanciful gear, accoutrements and invention so commonly found within the steampunk culture. I believe every item has a purpose outside of simple fashion. The fun bit of The Spark is that most of these machinations and fashion has been relegated to a group of people known as Kinetics – men and women that develop an affinity with natural elements of the world.

The Kinetic folk have tremendous power through their gifts; they are able to harness electrical currents in the air, or the manipulate the heat and earth. These attunements, however, cause great discomfort and risk to the kinetic people. In turn they have developed technology to help combat these shortcomings.

For instance, pyrokinetics (fire wielders) are plagued by being able to see the worldly heat (think a hot day and seeing the heat radiating off a sidewalk but much more intense). What did they do? They crafted fine crystal lenses with adjustable dials to accommodate their locale and to alleviate the strain on their vision.


AA: That’s a nice way to mix natural biological gifts with the scientific mechanical accompaniments. What was the inspiration and motivation for creating The Spark?

HGH: I always wanted to write a novel. For years I was in a rut, always having great scenes in my head but I could never find a way to develop upon them in any proper way. In 2011 I met a fellow writer whom introduced me to NaNoWrimo. I loved the idea of the challenge and signed up. I had no idea what I was going to write at the time.

One afternoon I found myself rummaging through the NaNo forums and came upon their Sentence Adoption center. Essentially, this was a forum for writers who had written a sentence but couldn’t find a place for it. As I read through the various entries I came across one that just “sparked” my imagination; all of a sudden with one sentence all of my previous scenes that went no where now had a home. That sentence was “The world outside was angry.”


AA: That would definitely set a tone, for you, what’s written, and the reader. What are the key themes in The Spark?

HGH: The main theme in The Spark is the loss of innocence. There are many levels in how this theme plays out throughout the overall narrative. In some cases it is quite literal, but in other cases it plays a bit of a subdued part. Also the themes of tradition versus progression, alienation of people, and on some level the inadequacies of an overseeing governmental body for the welfare of the people.


AA: What can you share with us about the personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities of the characters Julien, Katherine, Marcus, and others?

HGH: Julien represents the old guard. He is an aged kinetic that has spent his life trying to uphold the values and mission of the Great Peace. Julien represents the stubborn pride in the face of danger, and progression.

Katherine plays the role of the atypical damsel in distress. Her life, however, is tied to the greater threat within the narrative. Her heart has always been duty to her family, but an event in her past brings shame to her name. To rectify her mistake she takes on a life of missionary work in the poorly province of Syntar.

Marcus, oh Marcus. His is a story of youthful optimism and the tragic propaganda of the Imperial Order. With Marcus, I wanted to show the destructive nature the Imperial Order put its recruits through. In a lot of ways his arc was inspired by the Hitler Youth and the propagated brainwashing that took place in Nazi Germany. What I most enjoyed about Marcus was finding the challenge in making the deplorable acts the Order does seem justifiable from their perspective.

Gossimer, not listed above but a very important character, represents the everyman thrust into a situation he is wholly unprepared for. He spent his life as a steward for politicians and is suddenly thrust into military service. Young and brash, but yet scared for his life, Gossimer is perhaps a favourite of mine – if not for his story arc then at least for the mechanical construct he befriends.

Dalar has ties to many of the cast of characters within The Spark. He is a high scholar – essentially a scientist – born to a wealthy family. He has a son and wife in a quaint little town just to the north of his province’s capital. Due to his area of expertise, his peaceful life is upset as he is sent on a search and rescue mission for Katherine.

Lillian is Dalar’s wife, and mother of their son Jakob. Her arc is perhaps one of the most tragic in the story. Her history is marred with sorrow, causing her to be a worried mess in the present. The events of narrative bring yet more tragedy to her. Instead of succumbing to her anguish, Lillian turns it into a burning hatred.


AA: Those are some strong character foundations. How do they change throughout the story, or does the world change around them, instead?

HGH: Many of the characters go through changes through the organic course of the story. Marcus springs to mind as the most drastic, but that can be attributed to the plot of his arc. Katherine, and even Julien, are perhaps see the least change in character throughout the narrative. The world, however, changes for all the characters through actions and decisions other members of the cast make.


We’ll pause here in chatting with H.G. Howell, Join us next time when he talks about story details, memorable passages, and what might come next in The Spark world.

Keep up to date with H.G.’s latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

You can support H.G. and our community by getting your copy of The Spark here.

Published in: on August 29, 2016 at 7:07 pm  Comments (3)  
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