Thursday 25 January 2018

Interview: Ethan Howard

This morning, I'm super thrilled to be inviting sci-fi and fantasy author Ethan Howard onto The Writing Greyhound to chat about his life, work, inspiration, and his novel Starry Messenger.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
Born and raised on the East Coast. Migrated to the West coast for better weather after I graduated college. Joined the military after September 11th and did a few deployments. Now I am currently a Program Director for a non-profit organization in sunny San Diego. I am a husband and father who is still in the military through the Reserves. I love to read, exercise, and I have been a New England Patriots fan since I could walk.
How did you first become interested in writing?
Since childhood. I read any and everything I could get my hands on. My parent's house was like a library and at an early age, I had access to all forms of literature. I developed a love of Shakespeare, London, Thoreau, Melville, and Greek Mythology. As a boy, I promised myself I would write a book like them one day. Life always seemed to get in the way until I was older, more mature, and had stories to tell.
Tell me about Starry Messenger.
The first story of the series begins in 2018 when an enigmatic man who calls himself Quentin comes to Earth with a mission to learn why the planet has not progressed to the liking of his masters. The world has stagnated because humanity has been lulled into a false sense of security. Poverty, war, homelessness over the years have been largely eliminated thanks to the generosity of Rex Talion, the world richest man. But it is all a charade. This beloved man is conspiring with dark forces and monsters to destroy the world. 
starry-messenger, ethan-howard, book
Quentin’s mission is derailed when he meets and immediately becomes infatuated with Regina Tate and her son. Regina is a divorced, single mother with a Catholic upbringing and Quentin is a devoted cosmic warrior without peer. Meanwhile, the dark forces gain a greater stranglehold on the planet and Quentin has visions of a destroyed planet that may or may not be Earth. His masters order him back to his own world because they believe Earth is lost cause. Quentin must decide to stay and help a so-called doomed world with the woman he loves or obey his masters. 
Starry Messenger is certainly a science fiction and fantasy story, but there is romance, and it is also a mystery/thriller. The book gives the reader many things to contemplate like:

What happens when everything you have believed in is proven false? Are legends, myths, and fairy tales true stories that have been forgotten over the years? 
Why did you decide to write about a fantasy world?
Fantasy has always interested me. Asimov’s Robot Foundation series. Burroughs’ Tarzan, After I read Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels in 2009 I was compelled to finally write fantasy. I have admired Moore’s work for years and once I developed a story I thought was worthy of print, I set out to do it.
Did you undertake much research?
Oh yes. Opportvnvs Adest series takes place all over the world. England, India, Africa, the Netherlands, France, Romania, are just a few of the locations that are weaved into the story. It was necessary to familiarize myself those countries and customs. The little details like time zones, street names, and dialects are important to get right. 
Legends, myths, fairy tales, and folklore are at the heart of the series. I reacquainted myself these tales and their origins from all over the world. I put a science fiction twist on them, so I had to know these stories inside and out. 
Another major theme in the series is the explanation of major world events and unexplained occurrences. I have three sketchpads filled with notes about the strange and the macabre from ancient times to the present day.

This was months of research and I needed every second of it. Readers out there are too smart. You must put the groundwork in on your writing or you run the risk of losing all credibility.
ethan-howard, author

What’s your writing process like?
A concept is first formed in my mind. Then I ask myself how can I turn this into a story that is interesting? From there I give myself a working title. Then I outline the story from beginning to end. Decide on the main plots first and how I want to get to the end.

With a completed outline, I set to work on the characters and create profiles and detailed histories on each of them - even if I do not show these histories to the reader. By then, I know the characters inside and out, the dialogue is considerably easier to write. I allow the characters to drive the plot and the story itself.

Once the story is finished, I go back and read the story from start to finish; looking for and identifying any plots holes. When I believe that task is completed, I am ready to edit for grammar/spelling.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Never stop writing if that is your passion. Do not write for money or fame (those are great!) but do for the sheer joy of it and the joy of expressing yourself. Be thick skinned. Not everyone is going to like your writing, give you a review, or even want to HEAR about your stories. Put the work in to improve your craft. Read as much you write and take notes on grammar, styles, themes, and character development. Support other writers EVERY chance you get.
What are you currently working on?
I am finishing an encyclopaedia (A-Z) with every character, world, weapon, item, directly, or indirectly related to the Opportvnvs Adest series. 
The other project (and the most enjoyable) is a timeline for my alternative universe. This ambitious timeline begins 4.6 billion years ago and ends 2020 CE. It gives you a crash course on the Opportvnvs Adest Earth and universe. Everything from the pyramids to the Kennedy assassination is in there. Unexplained, weird things throughout history are explained.
What are you reading at the moment?
Laura Daleo’s Immortal Kiss and Victor Grewal's Rollercoaster. Two independent authors I have met here in San Diego.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
There are so many, but if I had to pick one, it would the very first book I read at age four: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was the ultimate fantasy book for me and I have come to appreciate its brilliance more so now that I am older.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To find more time to keep writing stories. I have at least a dozen more outlines that need to be developed. 
To somehow get Alan Moore to read the Opportvnvs Adest series and get his opinion on it. 
Oh, and to turn Opportvnvs Adest into a series on SciFi network!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Board games with the family. We are big Monopoly and Risk players on a Saturday night. Hiking anywhere that has an abundance of wildlife. I am still in the Reserves, so I do many things like running, weights, and swimming to stay in shape.
Starry Messenger is available to buy now. For more about Ethan and his writing, you can visit his blog or find him over on Twitter.

Are you a sci-fi fan? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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