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Author Interview: Rob Howell


As a child, Rob Howell’s parents discovered books were the only way to keep him quiet. Without books, either he or his parents would not have survived. Possibly both. Naturally, he became an author.  Please welcome fantasy author Rob Howell to No Wasted Ink.

author-rob-howellMy resume is cluttered with odd things that aren’t necessarily tied together, but which have all fed into my writing style. I’ve been a medieval academic, an IT guy, a paperboy, a soda jerk, a cook, and along the way dabbled in carpentry, acting, poetry, and a number of other things. I haven’t always been great at any of them, but I’ve learned a ton muddling through.

When and why did you begin writing?

Do you mean the first time? Then the answer is a school assignment. D&D modules and campaigns? Then the answer is junior high through college and to this day. Random scribbles and short stories? I’ve written here and there over the decades. Poetry in a variety of medieval styles? About 15 years ago.

If you are focusing on *completing* novels, though, then the answer is about 3 years ago when my various experiences made me unhireable for most jobs but with a nice set of experiences and skills to bring to writing. I started A Lake Most Deep, which like many things I do is a mélange of influences, which is why my first reviewer called it a “Raymond Chandler novel in a Tolkien world.”

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I had a physical copy of A Lake Most Deep in my hand. Until that point, even though I had completed a 100k-word novel, it still seemed a little ethereal. Now, with three books completed, a fourth on the way, and a process to complete two books a year, I feel like I’m a journeyman level writer.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

It is the third of my Edward novels and will be called Where Now the Rider. Forensic magic has discovered that a series of stranglings over at least four years was done by the same person. Can Edward see anything that Kapric, the man who is charged by the emperor to find that person, has not?

What inspired you to write this book?

I try to put out an Edward book each year. I guess my inspiration is the work ethic of people like Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis. In terms of the idea of this book, I would credit Randall Garrett and Parker.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, but I think every writer has their own style. I don’t really know how to describe my own, other than to reiterate it’s a mélange of the many influences I’ve had.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It’s from the Anglo-Saxon poem the Wanderer. It refers to the loss of place in society to the poem’s narrator. Edward, the main character of these novels, is based in part that narrator.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’m not big on messages, really. I try to create compelling characters and then write what they tell me they’re doing. I suppose if there’s any message in the Edward novels it’s to keep your word, but that’s only because of the kind of character Edward is. If you’re looking for a message in the Kreisens trilogy, the characters haven’t told me yet what’s going to happen so I don’t really know.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Occasionally, yes. My rule is that if my friends want to be in my books, I’ll tuckerize them but they will always die in a way I think they’ll like. Do I sometimes have snippets of experiences or shadows of people I know influence my writing? Of course. I don’t think any writer is limited to merely his or her experiences because our entire job is to imagine people, places, and events, but I also don’t think a writer can help using those experiences as either positive or negative influences on their writing.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Oh, this is going to take a while.

JRR Tolkien is first, both as a medieval scholar and fantasy author. I love his blending of real world history and mythology to create a depth of world that remains unmatched in my mind. All fantasy authors, including and especially me, are but pale imitators of him.

Garrett for the Lord Darcy novels, which was the first mix of magic and mystery I’d seen.

Isaac Asimov has, oddly enough, influenced my magic system greatly. The R. Daneel Olivaw mysteries are also a wonderful blending of genre and mystery.

Robert B. Parker for his sharp style of writing, especially dialogue. Also, I love his characters.

Elizabeth Moon added a grittier, more solid element to fantasy. The Deed of Paksenarrion is strong work. She is one of the few authors to really touch on the logistical underpinnings of life in a fantasy world.

Robert Heinlein created some fantastic characters, and I love his use of language.

Dick Francis has an amazing way of getting people to keep turning pages. It is especially impressive because he rarely has recurring main characters, but rather instead starts fresh most of the time.

David Drake has taught me how to twist historical events into a great kernel of a story. His RCN novels, especially, are fantastic because he’s pulling Greek and Roman events into a far future space opera.

David and Leigh Eddings gave me a great appreciation of how characters interact.

You gave me a word limit, so I’ll stop here. Like I said, though, my writing is a mélange and I’ve been reading for a long time.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Patrick McEvoy, www.megaflowgraphics.com. I had seen his work in some gaming books. He has a liquid, flowing style I enjoy and he has given me three beautiful covers.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

You can’t write a 100k-word novel in a day. Not even John Ringo can and he’s legendary for his productivity. You just have to keep plugging away. A bit here, a bit there. If you do that, sooner or later, this settles into more and more efficient processes. Nothing happens without the flailing away inefficiently part, though, and nothing happens without consistent writing. Bad writing is still writing, and what is bad in one place in a novel may be just right somewhere else, or at least close enough to use. Just keep writing.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Four things:
1. Thank you
2. I hope you enjoyed them
3. Please send me feedback so I can get better
4. Thank you again

iaawt-electronic-cover-smallRob Howell
Olathe, KS


A Lake Most Deep

Cover Artist: Patrick McEvoy
Publisher: Aesc & Thorn Publishing