Last month, the writing world was shocked to learn of the passing of one of our own. Author Howard Hopkins had passed away leaving behind him a legacy that is sure to grow and grow.
In an effort to celebrate his life, I have dedicated my blog this week to Howard. While I never met him, I spoke with him on numerous occasions and will miss him as a writer and a friend.
Rust Zacht (Rest Softly) Howard.
The below is an interview that Howard did as a result of his participation in a writers promotional group we were part of. The teaser train, and it is my honor to be able to share his words with you.
Author Howard Hopkins
BIO: Howard Hopkins is the author of the paranormal horror series The Chloe Files, and The Nightmare Club paranormal horror series for children, as well as numerous stand alone horror novels and over 30 westerns under a pen name. He edits for Moonstone Books and writes licensed characters such as The Avenger, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger and Sherlock Holmes, along with comic books and graphic novels. His books are being translated into Italian and audio, and he created the heroine The Veil, who will debut shortly in a special edition comic book co-written with New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Holder. His novel The Lone Ranger: Vendetta will see print in March. He hails from a small seaside town in Maine, where his neighbors constantly wonder whether he is still alive in his office…
Welcome, Howard! Thanks for being here today.
Q: What is your genre as Howard Hopkins? Why did you choose it?
HH: Thanks for having me, Ashley! I actually write in a number of genres, primarily horror/paranormal, westerns, and children’s paranormal/horror, as well as graphic novels and comic books, pulp. I like genres with a sense of wonder, discovery and spookiness. I blend a lot of the eerie into my westerns. I also like genres that let me escape, and through writing, help others escape, life’s everyday worries and stresses.
Q: How many books have you published? Are they traditionally published, self-published, or a combination?
HH: I’m closing in on around 60 books, I think. Many are traditionally published, some small press, ebook publishers and now a few self-published.
Q: How did you get started writing western books under the name Lance Howard? How different is the experience of writing westerns versus writing horror novels?
HH: A friend was writing westerns for a hardcover publisher at the time I was writing mostly horror. He suggested I try the company because they had a suspense/mystery line that wasn’t far from what I was writing—so I did. And upon submitting this mystery, called Dancing with Death, the editor told me it was a good book—but unfortunately they had just decided to cancel their mystery line! I’ve never been one for perfect timing! But, thick-headed, I decided to try a western, since that line had survived the cuts. And they bought my first book. That was 34 books ago! They sold the rights to paperback companies, too, so it basically doubled everything I wrote for them, and now they are bringing some of my westerns, starting with Vengeance Pass, to ebook formats. The mystery, Dancing with Death, I rewrote years later into one of my westerns called The Deadly Doves, so it didn’t go to waste.
As far as differences in the two genres, well, they are really not as far apart as some might think. Both involve characters pitted against overwhelming threats—whether it be demons or dust storms—and ghost stories were a staple around western campfires. Stories come down to characters and how those characters handle whatever adversity they encounter…and both genres shine when with that. My westerns have had vampires, Jack the Ripper, ghosts, etc. and my horror has had skeleton gunfighters returned from the grave for revenge.
Q: Do you sell copies of your novels, or other works, directly from your website?
Q: How much time do you spend on Twitter each week? Do you have a Facebook Fan Page?
HH: Way more than I should! Hours, literally. But there are such awesome folks there, writers and readers. I have met some of the nicest, most helpful people. It’s addictive. Yes, my FB fanpage is: www.facebook.com/howardhopkinsauthor
Q: Do you blog? How often? Strictly professional or a blend of all things?
HH: Yes, and very often, 4-12 times a week. It is a blend of all things, very eclectic. News updates, opinion, few reviews, life articles, horror, westerns, comic books…
Q: Do you have a motto or favorite quote you turn to on tough writing days?
HH: “I read to escape…I write to help others escape…” My own quote. When my writing day is absolutely sucking, I always try to remember who I am writing for—those people out there who need to get away from their problems, even if it’s only for an hour or two.
Q: Have you outsourced editing, cover design, formatting, web design, marketing, etc?
HH: Editing, yes. I work as an editor for Moonstone Books, and luckily they have other editors who do a wonderful job on some of my stuff. I design my own covers for self-published stuff, format myself, web site myself (which I am NOT good at and hate), market myself. On the traditionally published stuff the company takes care of all that, except marketing, which I participate in.
Q: Do you work with a writing group?
HH: No, never have. I’m sure there are some great groups out there, but if I talk about my book at all…I lose interest in writing it. And as educated as opinions are, they still come down to a certain subjectivity. If you go see a popular movie some will love it, some will hate it, all with tell you what’s wrong and right with it, and those will all be different in many ways. So I work with a couple people I trust, instead, and work on things there’s a consensus on.
Q: When you did you first decide to self-publish? How much time did it take to get from an idea to an ebook on Amazon?
HH: I started out publishing my own magazine and chapbooks back in the early ‘80s, so I guess you could say I always have done some degree of self-publishing along with traditional publishing. I was lucky enough to have a number of back catalog novels that had been out with other publishers that I had rights reversions on, so was able to take some of them to Kindle & Nook. So not long. They are all professionally edited, so after that it is mostly a matter of doing the cover artwork and getting them up, which Amazon and Barnes have made very quick.
Q: Have you published any of your work for free? Why or why not?
HH: I have put a short story or two on my blog, and initially a raw version of the first Chloe Files was a blook experiment (most of it). But otherwise, no. I recently am trying an Amazon Select western, which you can make free for a few days, just as an experiment. Otherwise, I am not sure about free book writing. Pro writers sell their work, just like pro cupcake makers sell their work. I think writers have to look at themselves as pros the moment they finish their story or novel, and proceed accordingly. On the other hand, cupcake makers give out samples, so maybe writers should as well to build author brand. And it depends on how an author views their book too, either strictly as a business/vocation or as something they want to do to just to entertain readers. Depends on the person, and on individual marketing strategy. Whatever works best for the individual.
Q: What tips or advice would you offer to writers who are about to join the self-published community?
HH: Get a professional editor and listen to him/her. Make sure you have a professional cover—not a fits-all cover provided by a service. If you are going to be professional and compete in a professional arena, then it is imperative you become a professional and present the best work you can do, in the best package you can put it in. I’m not saying spend a ton of money, but you need to put your ego or insecurity aside and make sure your product is the best you can make it. Learn your craft, and keep honing it. Writers NEVER stop learning and improving. Take constructive criticism. This is a tough business and even Stephen King gets trashed sometimes, so develop a thick skin for negative people and bad reviews. Above all—have faith in your talent and in yourself. YOU can do it.
Q: Is there another writer (or two) in the Twitterverse that you would recommend newbies follow?
HH: Oh, God, I am afraid to answer that because there are so many excellent authors out there I’d be afraid of forgetting someone. ANY of the Teaser Train authors are shining examples of great writing and professionalism, so follow them all.
Q: What is coming up for you in the next few months?
HH: I have a number of Westerns coming out—Blood Creek, Johnny Dead (both just out) followed by Guns of the Past, Ladigan and Palomita. I also have a huge YA/paranormal/horror series debuting, which I can’t name right at the moment. I have a couple hardcover westerns on their way out, A Sherlock Holmes anthology on which I am editor and for which wrote a story coming in Jan (Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook), a Honey West anthology, more work with The Avenger and The Green Hornet and a brand new Lone Ranger novel coming in March I am very excited about. I have a comic book written with NY Times bestseller Nancy Holder coming very soon, which introduces my original heroine The Veil and my retooled pulp heroine The Golden Amazon called Threesome, plus other stuff. It’s going to be a busy year!
Q: Do you have (or are planning to make) any audio books?
HH: Actually I have two coming. One is a novella in a paperback and audio book anthology based on the old radio show Nightbeat coming from Radio Archives. There will also be an audio book version of my huge horror novel Night Demons—unfortunately that one will be in Italian, so I won’t understand a word of it!
Q: Have you done a blog tour? Any advice or cautions?
HH: No, that’s something I have never done. I’m not really sure how!
Q: Do you create an outline before beginning a new book?
HH: Usually a very very loose outline. I have tried both seat of the pants writing, and outlining, and I prefer at least a little idea of where I am going. But my outline for a western might be Chapter 1: Hero rides into town, rescues bargirl from being killed. I have the story in my head, so only need little reminders of what goes where.
Q: Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
HH: Rarely. My brain has limited hard drive space!
Q: Do you use specialty software?
HH: No, except for PSP for covers.
Q: Tell us about some of the hurdles you’ve cleared on the path to becoming an author. Did you have any idea at the start what the process really entailed?
HH: It is ALL hurdles. I had an idea when I started, but really NO idea. It has been far harder than I ever thought anything could be. I have sold to companies I thought would be big breaks, only to have them go out of business before my stuff was published. I have been ripped off by agents and publishers. I once sold four novels to an ebook company (and a big one at the time), only to get a note a week later the publisher had decided to close. This can be a very discouraging, frustrating business. It’s trial by fire. If you come through it, you know you really wanted to be a writer, because no one else but somebody with the passion to write would endure it. That said, the rewards are fantastic when they come, not necessarily in monetary terms. When a little kid writes to you and says he or she loved your book—THAT makes all the toil worth it.
Q: What is the best comment/compliment you have received about your work?
HH: “Wow, this didn’t make me throw up.” Kidding. Sorta.
Q: Let’s flip things around for a moment. As a reader, what factors do you consider when deciding whether or not to purchase a book?
HH: Smooth writing, spooky stuff, or stuff with a sense of wonder and escapism.
Q: Thank you, Howard, for sharing your publishing experiences with us. We wish you continued success, and hope you’ll come back and share updates with us in the summer!
HH: Thank you!