Kevin Howe Author of Bone Walk
Bone Walk was one of those books found while looking for interesting new work from new – unknown authors. For Yellow30 Sci-Fi it proved to be a wonderful find. He was gracious to share his writing experiences with us.
Title of your first novel.
Bone Walk was my first attempt at a novel. I had written some short stories, one of which was a science fiction story set in contemporary times. I liked that story and kept working at it until it just sort of evolved into a dark fantasy with a medieval setting.
How long did it take to complete your manuscript?
The first draft used for submissions took roughly five years and involved three rewrites. It was done in my spare time and included some long layoffs, so that may not be a fair estimate. Once I was working for publication with an outside editor, the next drafts were done in about 18 months.
Writing Habits – Routines.
Early on, I wrote whenever I had a decent sized block of free time. Most commonly, this was late at night after the house had settled down. More recently, I have tried to build about two hours of writing time into my morning. I have found that the whole mood of writing is very different at midnight than, say, seven in the morning. The quiet nighttime is good for tapping into your emotions. Daylight is good for editing and cleaning up. I am very big on outlines. I like to map out the entire book, chapter by chapter, before I start writing. If you have ever had a large painting project, think about everything you did to get ready before you actually dipped a brush into the paint can. And think about how easy the painting was after you had done all that preparation. Having said that, I use the outline as a very general road map. I routinely veer off the road and discover many good things while I am writing. So I feel very secure with the outline, but I do not feel bound by it. I compose on the computer although sometimes I will outline in long hand. Computers are wonderful, especially for editing, but writing in long hand is meditative. It forces you to slow down and think. It is a great way to get deep into your story.
Editing processes you incorporate.
I self-edit, probably more than I should. I will write at least two or three drafts of a manuscript before I seek input from others. When the story is moving nicely, I just let it go and worry about cleaning up later. Then I let the book sit for a while and come back to it when I feel a genuine desire to read it. I may do this phase in screen or in hard copy. Then I will often show it to a few trusted readers and get their feedback on the story. Finally, I will seek out a “professional help.”
Main stream publishers vs. small press. Your perspective.
I like the small presses because you get more attention and get to be more active in the decisions about your book. It seems to me that the big presses hand-select a few titles to promote each year. Those books get the money and the marketing. The rest are pretty well on their own. The big presses clearly control the shelf space at the book stores, but with the advent of Internet and print-on-demand technology, it is becoming easier for anyone to reach a broad audience.
I enjoy the writers who are pure story tellers. I love getting lost in a book and becoming genuinely fond of the characters, so much that you miss them when they are gone. Beyond that, I greatly admire my parents simply for the example they set with their lives. Writing is fun but writing for publication can also be very hard work. My folks were not writers, but they gave me a good appreciation for the fact that any accomplishment comes only after much effort.
Does movies have any influence on your writing? If so how?
Not really. I love movies but I do not think about script potential when I am writing.
Favorite books – authors.
I will just list some titles I have enjoyed greatly. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke; The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury; IT and The Stand by Stephen King (as well as his novellas The Mist and The Langoliers); A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley; The Quincunx by Charles Palliser; Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; Cuts by Malcolm Bradbury; Homeboy by Seth Morgan; The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres; Watership Down by Richard Adams; A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
The worst book you ever read.
My first draft of Bone Walk. Once it was ready for publication, I was amazed at how far it had come and how much it had improved. This was a good lesson for me. Like many new authors, I just thought I would write a manuscript, submit it, and if a publisher liked it we would correct the spelling, add a few adjectives and off we would go. But being selected for publication is more of a start than an end. I have been surprised at some books I have read by major best-selling authors that were simply awful. They start out well and just run out of steam about two-thirds of the way through. The end reads as though someone was quickly trying to meet a publication deadline. It seems this invariably happens when an author’s name becomes a franchise. Now, I don’t want to create the appearance of some “serious artist” who turns up his nose up at popular fiction. Wouldn’t lower myself to write for the bestseller list and all that. Quite the contrary, if the NY Times stuck its head out the window and said ‘Hey! Number 15 is open this week, anyone want it?’ I would trample kittens to grab it before anyone else got there. I would snatch it and swallow it with flat Tabby’s still purring on my instep and say ‘Thank you sir, may I please have number 14?’ I am just saying that a bad book can be found just about anywhere.
Future plans – projects.
I have written another volume of the Bone Walk story and a bit of a third volume. I also have a new novel that I hope to publish in the near future. It is the story of another world where people live dangerous and spartan lives as keepers of time. A unique and gifted boy with a good heart finds a way to break through to earth where he discovers a small band of people from his world who have been living quietly for generations, not knowing how to get back. This boy finds himself in the middle of a dangerous looming battle between those who want to get back and those who do not.
Advice to new writers.
Write because you love to write. If you want to write for publication, be prepared for frustration and drudgery and gut wrenching criticism. In the end, you will be glad you did the hard work to produce a good book.
Editor’s Note: Over the years we have lost contact with Kevin Howe. A careful search of Amazon and Barnes & Noble online reveal that no new books have been published to date by Kevin. It would appear that his original publisher, Firelight Publishing, has closed their doors, which happens to a lot of small presses these days.