Interview with Matthew N. Howard

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first was something by Dr. Seuss, surely. But the first that I can say had a real impact - my parents were going away for a weekend and bought me a book to take to my grandparents - Asimov's The Currents of Space. I was around 11 and had never read science fiction - and neither did they, no idea how they picked this one. But I was hooked. I headed to the SF section of the bookstore for the first time, found Heinlein's Job, a Comedy of Justice, and that was the end. (Of course the latter book is not really appropriate for 11 years olds - that was surely part of the impact.) I still have both of those books.
How do you approach cover design?
Although The Tornado of Souls is my debut, since it's part of a quintet I decided to get all five covers done at the same time. They hang over my desk and inspire me to keep writing. So I looked for something thematic to carry across all five covers - there are actually two things, a hand or hands and the amulet. I wanted some really eye-catching, unique artwork to go with the novels and was happy to find an illustrator who could execute on my crazy ideas.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I'm definitely going to cheat here and count series as books.

GRRM's Game of Thrones - my favorite part of the books, and the element I would most hope to learn from, is that by book 2 or 3, GRRM could have stripped out the indicators of who was speaking. Any of the main characters, just pick a page, read a sentence, and you'll know who's speaking. Of course they're a wonderful series to curl up with and read for the ninth time, but his ability to use dialogue so clearly amazes me.

Heinlein's The Past through Tomorrow. I wish I had been around when these stories were first published, to look forward to the next one. The way he outlines an entire future so clearly, using snapshots of all sorts of people, is amazing. And of course it ends with Methuselah's Children.

The Ugly American - I travel overseas enough that I need to re-read this occasionally, even though I hope Americans have improved in the last 60 years. Sometimes I wonder. If I could mandate every American read one book, it would be this, and then To Kill a Mockingbird. (Which I didn't include here, because when I read the book now I see the movie in my mind.)

Haldeman's Forever War - I'm a sucker for time dilation. If I ever finish the Timelost Saga, I want to move on to a SF series where time dilation will play a major role.

Kurtz' Deryni series - I love how she bounces around 200 years of history, filling in the "past" and "future" with such fantastic characters.
What do you read for pleasure?
I primarily read fantasy, science fiction, and history. There's a bookstore in a converted farm near my in-laws - I love wandering the aisles, randomly picking an area of history I don't know much about, and grabbing a likely book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle App on my iPad.
Describe your desk
A mess. It's a hutch with two printers, a globe, and a very elaborate feathered hat on top. Above that is a frame with all five cover images from the Timelost saga. There's paper everywhere and a sign with one of the Despicable Me minions saying "Keep Calm and Gather your minions."
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania. Not sure the location had that much impact - but as an only child in a family that moved every few years, I spent a lot of time reading. By chance I had an amazing teacher in high school in a class called Advanced Comp and Speech, and I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten her name. But she started me writing and challenging me to do better.
When did you first start writing?
I started with assigned work in high school - fiction assigned by a great teacher. But I really started after college - after graduation I bought an oil painting of an abandoned castle, alone on an island in the middle of the sea. I would stare at that painting for hours, wondering who had lived there, did the waters rise before or after they lived there, on and on. I had to get those thoughts out of my head and it turned from a short story to a pretty bad novel which I abandoned. (The story grew and evolved over time without any direction, which did not help.)
What's the story behind your latest book?
I had the first idea at a concert in the mid 1990s - an outdoor, all day concert where you wandered around, ate food - blues I think. Not sure why the amulet was born at a blues festival but there you are. When I got home, Elmer Gantry was lying on my bed, and Sinclair became Clarnis. It took nearly 20 years from start to finish, but there was a long "meeting my future wife, starting a family" break in the middle. I find writing very therapeutic - as my author "image" suggests, the negativity we all have mostly drains into my work. As my kids got older, I wasn't more negative, but I had more reasons to drain those negative emotions out in a productive way. So over multiple drafts the book got darker and darker.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't see the point of spending more time trying to cultivate an agent relationship than writing my book. Perhaps once I have a few books published I'll feel differently.
What are you working on next?
The Tornado of Souls was originally the first half of a longer book. About ten years ago I decided it would be two books and the second half went on the back burner - but now it's front and center again. It's called The Ashes of their Dreams and continues the tale of the Clarnis family and the Timelost, picking up a few years later. And I promise it won't take another 20 years!
Who are your favorite authors?
Robert Heinlein, Katherine Kurtz, Isaac Asimov, John Irving, GRRM.
Published 2014-11-20.
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Books by This Author

The Tornado of Souls
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 90,880. Language: English. Published: November 20, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
Jalin Clarnis sets out for war against the Margrave demon wearing a mysterious amulet that his dead mother left him. Each time he uses the amulet, Jalin wakes further from the family and history he knows. He does terrible things in order to survive, trying to find his way through a constantly changing landscape. Jalin must find a way to defeat the Margrave before it destroys everything he loves.