Today, in the Forum, I have the immense pleasure of introducing Howard Hopkins, an author and friend of many years. His sage advice has saved more than one of my books from plot disasters. But, more importantly, his stories have kept me enthralled. Howard writes in several genres that I'll be sure to ask him about.
Tim Greaton: You have been publishing under different name in Europe for years. Could you tell us a little about that?
Howard Hopkins: My penname is Lance Howard, my first and middle names reversed. I use that name for a specific type of Western I write for Black Horse Westerns, more traditional stuff, though I do push the boundaries quite a bit. They recently accepted my 33rd, Twilight Trail.
Tim Greaton: We’d love to know more about you and your interests outside of writing?
Howard Hopkins: My biggest hobby was/is comic books and old pulp heroes such as Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger. I’ve been lucky enough to turn those hobbies into writing and editing anthologies for Moonstone Books recently (my comic book THREESOME, written with NY Times bestselling author Nancy Holder will be out soon. With it I realized a life-long dream of creating my own super heroine called The Veil.) I have always been into music, singing, playing mandolin, guitar, keyboards, alto sax, and used to have a couple of groups that went to play at nursing homes and such. I also love investigating paranormal stuff.
Tim Greaton: You write in a number of different genres and for different age groups. Did that come naturally to you, or was there a difficult adjustment at first?
Howard Hopkins: It came perfectly naturally. I like to say, “I read to escape…I write to help others escape.” And everything I write, from horror to westerns to comic books and graphic novels to my children’s horror series. The Nightmare Club is geared to helping my readers escape for a little while. The world is filled with far too many worries and fears—I do my best to take them away from that, if only for a short period.
Tim Greaton: Having read a number of your novels, I can attest to your amazing ability. What advice would you give to other writers who are just starting out?
Howard Hopkins: Learn your craft. Read everything in every genre you can stomach, then read some more. Pay no attention to what your mom or bff says about your writing—get honest opinions, but not too many so you don’t drive yourself crazy. And in the end, follow your gut. Writing is very subjective in many ways, so have faith in your talent and story, and your ability to tell that story. It’s likely to be a long hard road, so try not to let discouragement crush you.
Tim Greaton: Has the age of the internet notably changed the way that you interact with your fans and the way that you market your books?
Howard Hopkins: Totally. I don’t have “fans” anymore. I have friends who read my work now. They tell me what they think instantly on Facebook (/howardhopkins) or Twitter (@yingko2), and that is fantastic for a writer. It also allows authors to find folks who enjoy the type of material they write much easier. Imagine sending a hundred letters out by postal mail? The cost, the time consumed stuffing envelopes. A single post on Twitter does that for you now. And allows instant feedback. It’s helped even the field, too, between big NY publishers and small Indie publishers. Authors have a chance, now.
Tim Greaton: Do you research for your settings and characters, and if so what is that process like?
Howard Hopkins: Oh, yes. I do the major research I know I will need before writing, but I don’t do a lot of detail stuff until after I have written the first draft. Things always come up because my characters often refuse to go where I want them to go, instead running off on their own excursions. So unexpected research points crop up during the actual writing.
Tim Greaton: What have been your biggest time challenges over the years?
Howard Hopkins: Plot has always been my biggest challenge. It never comes easy, and, perhaps, that’s a good thing.
Tim Greaton: Would you say that the writing lifestyle gets easier as you mature in your career?
Howard Hopkins: No, not at all. As a perfectionist I feel the need to keep challenging myself. There were many things I was ignorant of when I first started writing—and believe me, ignorance indeed can be bliss! It has gotten harder. Ideas tend to slow from the runaway train of notions you get when you first start out putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. You become more particular of which ones you want to develop, too.
Tim Greaton: What is the title of your latest book, and could you tell us a little about the story?
Howard Hopkins: My latest are The Chloe Files series and The Nightmare Club series (a horror series for kids 8-12+) As for The Chloe Files, the tragic events that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts set free an Evil that escaped the Witch Trials and cursed the small seaside town of New Salem, Maine. That Evil now claims its due and the dark secrets long buried are rising to the surface. The war has begun. And exotic dancer, demon-ass kicker Chloe Everson is the front line between Hell on Earth and Salvation. Chloe is a strong independent woman who is just as likely to save the hero as need one to save her. She’s been through some pretty bad things in her life, and now must face even worse from beyond the veil. She’s had to do a lot to just survive, lost her parents at a young age and had her twin sister taken away by some mysterious agency. It’s a bit of The X-Files meets Burlesque meets Buffy. There’s also a 600-year-old monkey named Bob—and Chloe hates monkeys, so you can imagine how THAT goes over. One thing I will say about this series, and for The Nightmare Club as well, they are meant to be FUN. An escape. So much escape that the moment you open the book something inside might just reach out and grab you—by the throat! But don’t worry, Chloe will save you.
Tim Greaton: When you’re writing a frightening scene, do you experience the same fear as your characters?
Howard Hopkins: I live through every freaking harrowing minute of it! I feel every emotion, every nuance of their terror. Writing characters is a highly emotional experience for me. Because, after all, they become real. Chloe certainly has. She writes stuff in her journal and I merely transcribe it, now, which isn’t always easy with her penmanship (note to Chloe: PLEASE buy a laptop and stop doing things the old fashioned way! Sorry, had to get that out of my system…) I firmly believe that if you can’t feel your characters, your readers won’t be able to feel them, either. And that goes for the evil ones, too. I recently wrote a novel where I had to get into the head of Jack the Ripper. It left me extremely depressed and enervated.
Tim Greaton: Are you planning a sequel or are there other books available in this series?
Howard Hopkins: I’m planning a LOT of sequels, and in fact the second entry, Sliver of Darkness, is already available in Kindle, Nook and dead tree. There are a ton of strange and haunting mysteries in Chloe’s life that need to be solved—primarily the riddle of her sister’s disappearance and why the little girl’s ghost is coming back now to haunt Chloe. Which, in New Salem, does NOT mean her sister is dead. Nothing dead in New Salem stays buried for long, anyway!
Tim Greaton: Just for fun, if you could tame the most frightful supernatural figure in the world and parade it across the United States, what would it be and what would your presentation be like?
Howard Hopkins: Thank goodness you didn’t say “Politician” or I’d never be able to answer this question. I would choose the Devil himself. What could be better than shackling up ol’ Horn Head and dragging him by his smoking ass across the countryside and showing people they have nothing to fear? He’s like the Bumble in Rudolph—no teeth, Ma! I’d make sure he wore pink, too.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly purchase your books.
My own website is: http://www.howardhopkins.com/
My Dark Bits Blog: http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com/
To purchase The Chloe Files #1 on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WLCRYK
Tim Greaton: Thanks so much for taking the time to spend with us today. I know that our readers appreciate it, and I am excited to have more people learn about you and your work.
Howard Hopkins: Thanks you for the opportunity to appear on your blog. I really enjoyed it.