Sunday, October 27, 2013

20 Questions for Horror Authors: Lee Allen Howard



Lee Allen Howard writes horror, psychological thrillers, and supernatural crime. His credits include "Call of the Piss Fairy," "Death Perception," "The Sixth Seed," "Mama Said," "Desperate Spirits," "Night Monsters," and "Stray." He blogs about his writing at leeallenhoward.com and nitpicks editorial topics at wordsmithereens.net.



1. What do you think makes a good story?
Compelling characters and an interesting situation. And anything creepy. I love creepy.


2. What do you think makes a character a compelling villain or hero?
A psychological and a moral need make any character compelling. Also a worthwhile goal, as well as the motivation—or desperation—to achieve it at any cost.


3. What did you learn from writing your book that you think would help other writers out there with their craft?
With CALL OF THE PISS FAIRY, I did a lot of pre-writing about the characters and events. I got to know them quite well before I outlined the story and started drafting. This made the writing much easier.


4. Are there any horror books that have influenced your life? If so, what are they?
Tom Tryon’s "The Other," James Herbert’s "The Rats," Patrick McGrath’s "Asylum," Cormac McCarthy’s "Child of God."


5. What is the scariest book you ever read, and what was your reaction to it? 
I read a lot of dark stuff to study the genre, but it’s hard to get past my analysis of it. However, Ramsey Campbell’s "House on Nazareth Hill" sucked me in and actually scared me. He’s a master.


6. Do you think that writing will be a long-term career goal for you?
Absolutely. I've been writing fiction since the second grade. I've been a full-time professional writer in the corporate world since 1985. And in the coming year, I plan to transition into full-time fiction writing.


7. Who is your favorite author, and what have you taken away from their books?
It’s hard to pick one, but I would say that Cormac McCarthy is at the top. He tells a great story and conveys it powerfully, with beautiful language. I want to write like that.


8. While this may seem like a given to some people, others may be wondering, why write horror? 
There’s positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Both work. Horror is negative reinforcement of a message and is just as valid a way to communicate ideas and themes as any other genre. And if you like thrills, it’s terrific entertainment.


9. What is it that attracts you to the macabre?
I've waged a lifelong battle with depression and anxiety, so the way I see the world has tended toward the horrific. The ideas I get are usually dark. On the other hand, for some strange reason horror pumps me up. If a character can overcome the worst, I feel like I can make it, too.


10. Halloween is just around the corner. Have you ever had any interesting/spooky/fun experiences during the best holiday of the year that you'd like to share with your readers?
I recall fondly the excitement of making my costume, and running from door to door in the dark to shout “Trick or treat!” as cold wind scuttled dead leaves down the street.


11. What is the one thing that scares you the most?
Not fulfilling my purpose in life.


12. How were you introduced to the horror genre?
One of my favorite childhood books was Norman Bridwell’s "How to Care for Your Monster." Scary and funny.


13. What is your favorite horror movie?
That’s a tough one, because it changes. Right now, I would say Chained (2012) by Jennifer Lynch. It’s horror and crime combined, with fascinating characters.


14. Do you use childhood experiences and your own nightmares as inspiration? Have you ever used some of your own personal phobias in your writing? 
Most of my early stories have to do with childhood experiences. For example, “Mama Said” came from finding a litter of kittens with palsy on my grandparents’ farm. “Big Dark World of Commerce,” a recent story that’s out for consideration, is about agoraphobia and OCD. My hope in writing such tales is that they'll encourage a therapeutic purging…


15. Does your creative process, the one where you originally come up with the concept for a horror story, involve daydreaming, brainstorming, ripping stories from headlines, research into legends and myths, or just using plain old terrific fantasies that you've had?
All those things. Usually, I'm reading something or watching a movie when I get ideas. I either jot them down or record them for later. The idea for THE SIXTH SEED came to me in the car as I approached the Fort Pitt tunnel on my way home from work.


16. What is one thing that you'd like people to know about horror writers?
Horror writers live normal lives just like everyone else. Sure, I like creepy things. But I also have a spiritual side and am otherwise a kind and gentle soul.


17. What got you interested in writing, and how long have you been doing it?
I was a precocious reader. 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. That was over 40 years ago.


18. What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? How do you overcome writer's block?
It’s a challenge disciplining myself to develop ideas and inspiration into a workable story. When I feel blocked, it’s usually because I don't know enough about my characters or situation. So now I do more pre-writing, asking characters questions and letting them talk about themselves. From this information, a story emerges. And then I have a better basis for developing and writing the story.


19. Tell us about your current novel. 
CALL OF THE PISS FAIRY is a dark psychological thriller about the effects of abusive upbringing and continued rejection.

Russell Pisarek is 26 years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him by advertising his problem to all their high school classmates. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.

Now fixated on paying women back, Russell fantasizes about finding just the right girl—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.

During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.

When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse. Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife, Russell accepts his dark commission.

CALL OF THE PISS FAIRY is available now as a collectible signed, limited-edition hardback (50 copies, and they’re going quickly). It’s also under consideration for paperback and electronic publication.

20. Are you working on your next novel or short story at the moment? If so, what is it about?
I'm currently working on a couple of shorts, but most of my writing time and effort are going into novel #6, whose working title is DEAD CEMETERY. It’s about a closeted young man who must right a crime in his past while solving the mystery of the dead returning to abduct the living.


Lee is a practicing Spiritualist medium and metaphysician: http://buildingthebridge.wordpress.com. You can find him on Facebook (Lee Allen Howard, author), and Twitter: @LeeAllenHoward.



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