Today, we welcome in Lee Allen Howard for a fantastic, in-depth Q&A. Let's dive right in.
1. HRR – Hey, Lee. Can you start things off by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, John. I’ll start off by admitting I’m a bit of an oddball. I’ve always and only wanted to be a writer. I started writing fiction in second grade and have continued until the present. I’ve been employed as a technical writer and publishing system administrator in the software industry my entire working life.
One word that characterizes me is “studious.” Learning is one of my highest values. Besides earning a BA in English and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction (graduating in June 2023), I hold a master’s in biblical studies and worked toward an MDiv for a while. I was married to a woman for eighteen years and pastored a Pentecostal house church for three years before divorcing amicably and coming out.
I also went to bartending school and took horticulture classes. My heart may be black, but my thumb is green.
After a young relative’s suicide, I wanted to know what happens after you die. So, I studied and became a licensed Spiritualist minister through the Morris Pratt Institute (considered to be the educational branch of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches). I also attended the two-year ministerial program at Fellowships of the Spirit in Lily Dale, New York. I’m an ordained minister, medium, and metaphysician. You’ll see communication with the dead cropping up in much of my fiction, such as Death Perception.
I write biblical teaching texts, nonfiction books about spiritual topics, as well as dark fiction. I also edit fiction. I’m an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction and consider myself a perpetual student.
2. HRR – How long have you been writing, and what prompted you to start?
I knew since second grade I wanted to be a horror writer. I ordered Norman Bridwell’s How to Care for Your Monster (1970) from a Scholastic Books flyer. That little book from the author of Clifford the Big Red Dog turned me on to horror. I loved all things creepy and was terrorized by a recurring nightmare in which Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Mummy chased me all around the house at breakneck speed. This led to telling stories on the dark side of reality.
As soon as I learned to print my letters and form sentences, I started writing horror stories in pencil on school-issued tablet paper. My second-grade teacher passed one of my stories to the elementary school principal. Both he and my father, a Methodist pastor, were members of the local Lion’s Club. Principal Sprunger read my story at a club meeting and fined my father a dime because the preacher’s son had written such a horrific story “full of skeletons, witches, and blood.” That was the first time money exchanged hands for my fiction, but it unfortunately did not find its way into my pocket!
About age twelve, I got my hands on a copy of Thomas Tryon’s debut novel, The Other (1971). That book, along with James Herbert’s The Rats (1974), electrified me and demanded I write stories that shocked and horrified. I’ve been trying to live up to them with my fiction ever since.
3. HRR – What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
I write both fiction and nonfiction. Overall, I subscribe to the three C’s: clarity, conciseness, and consistency.
The primary element of fiction writing is being able to tell a story that’s entertaining and, hopefully, meaningful. Yet, narrative craft is certainly important and can make the difference between an okay story and a great one (as well as a story that’s rejected or accepted for publication).
To write successful fiction, a writer must understand at least the most popular forms of story structure, plot, characterization and character arcs, cause and effect, scene and sequel, the fundamentals of good dialogue, how to best represent narrative modes (such as description, action, dialogue, exposition, etc.) and when to use them—and especially how to skillfully present narration and point of view. A working knowledge of grammar and spelling are also advantageous.
When you’ve completed a draft (congratulations), you must revise and rewrite, if necessary, self-edit, and proof.
4. HRR – What is your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
My favorite part of publishing is finally seeing a book I’ve worked on (perhaps for years) in print—and gathering positive reader reviews. Nothing like it. I also enjoy reading book reviewers’ takes on my work.
Least favorite? The answer differs, depending on what kind of publishing you’re talking about.
Some of my short fiction is traditionally published, and I still submit short stories, novellas, and novels to paying markets. After finding and submitting to a publisher where my work might fit, the worst part is waiting for a response. I’ve spent months and years of my writing life waiting to hear back from potential publishers—if they get back to you at all.
Most of my fiction, however, is independently published. The hardest part of this process is designing a book launch, getting reviewers, and promoting the release. If you’re self-publishing, all this work is yours, whether you like it or not.
5. HRR – How many books have you written, and which is your favorite?
I’ve published five novels to date, four of which are still in print: The Sixth Seed (family drama meets alien abduction), The Adamson Family (YA gothic), Death Perception (supernatural thriller), and The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath (horrific psychological thriller). My first collection of early horror and dark crime stories, Perpetual Nightmares, is also out. You can learn more about each of these titles at https://leeallenhoward.com/books/.
Which is my favorite? I love Death Perception, which is my most popular novel with readers. But I must say that The Bedwetter is my masterpiece to date. The idea and plot came to me quickly, I wrote it in a three-month frenzy, and it’s the most intense work I’ve ever produced. It isn’t for everyone (comes with trigger warnings), but I think it’s a great story, one I hope I’m remembered for.
6. HRR – Which of your characters are most similar to you or people you know?
That’s a tough question to answer. Looking over the past five decades of my fiction-writing career, I’ve written many stories and novels that explore personal issues I’d been dealing with, some since childhood. So, I suppose, there’s a little bit of me in every protagonist I create.
Tom Furst in The Sixth Seed dramatized many of my financial concerns at the time I wrote it. I hope I’m nothing like Russell Pisarek, the budding psychopath in The Bedwetter!
I’m probably most like Kennet Singleton, the psychically gifted crematory operator in Death Perception. He can discern the cause of death of people that he cremates and communicate with the departed. Little did I know that in a few short years I would be studying and practicing mediumship myself. I modeled the antagonist, Cecil Grinold, in the same book after a deceased family member.
7. HRR – What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Social media and the internet are always temptations that lure me away from writing productivity. But I’ve got a good chair, a wireless keyboard, a decent set of speakers, and a subscription to Apple Music that lets me listen to whatever I’m in the mood for—often horror movie soundtracks when I’m drafting. Sometimes, I wear my “lucky writing ring”—the one with the cross and skull.
8. HRR – What is your schedule like when writing a book?
I have a process that I follow, described on my blog at “Ramping Up My Writing Process.” Its seven steps include ideation, brainstorming, plotting, outlining, drafting, editing, and marketing. Whenever I spend time “writing,” I may not be drafting, but I will be working through one of these phases on a project.
For several years now, I’ve been working on half a dozen projects, all in different stages in my process pipeline. I spend a lot of time plotting and outlining before I begin actual drafting, which I concentrate on until I complete the manuscript. Then I take a break from that project and attend to phases for other works in the pipeline. It’s going well for me. Working round-robin on multiple projects gives me a chance to rest and clear my mind of one project while I make progress on another.
I devote time to my process every day. I get up early, have coffee and breakfast, then spend at least an hour on writing-related reading. I also may edit what I printed out at the end of the previous day. Then I spend at least ninety minutes at my laptop plotting, outlining, writing, or revising. After a full day of working from home on my day job, I commit another ninety minutes or so in the evening on fiction. And read more. Between my job and fiction writing, I regularly work fourteen hours a day.
9. HRR – What do you have in the works now, and when is your next release?
The Covenant Sacrifice (folk horror/gay romance/coming out) is due out in the second half of 2023. Cover art will be by François Vaillancourt. Tagline: “When the dead abduct the living, the living turn into monsters.”
I still need to significantly revise my last draft of The Prosperity Society (dark mystery/occult horror) but hope to see it ready for release in 2024.
I’ve submitted an LGBT supernatural horror novella, You Promised Me, to publishers and am hoping for acceptance this year. Two more novellas are in the pipeline, and I’ve started revision on my MFA thesis novel (pandemic horror).
10. HRR – Finally, where can we find you online?
My writer’s website is https://leeallenhoward.com/.
All my books and stories are available at https://leeallenhoward.com/books/.
My editing services for dark fiction are explained at https://leeallenhoward.com/dark-fiction-editing/.
Finally, all my social media links are listed at https://leeallenhoward.com/contact-lee/#social-media.