Q1. Tejaswi, it’s wonderful to have you with us for this Q&A. Please tell us about your humble beginnings as an author.
Hi Nisar, it’s an absolute pleasure being here! I started writing when I was in school, but those pieces ended up being mere scribblings. While in college, I interned with a couple of websites as a reporter but given my love for horror which goes back to when I was 5, I started my own horror blog where I reviewed horror movies in 2014. I switched to writing stories and wrote the first chapter of The Psychopath, The Cannibal, The Loverin January 2015.
The first chapter, which was written in 2015, stood the test of time and I chose not to disturb it when I proceeded with writing the rest of the book between 2017/18 and 2020 (80% of it was written in 2020). I wanted my debut to be close to my heart and it is there, right there. There is a major 90s vibe which I am addicted to, and I wanted to make sure it outlined my book. Also, all the major settings and characters have been heavily inspired by places and people I have known as well as the back of my hand. The product, of course, is fictional. But the spirit of the story is very real.
Q3. Which writers have influenced your storytelling the most? And what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Though I know that most book bloggers would boo me for saying this, but it is how it is. My storytelling has been inspired more by filmmakers than by authors, the only reason for this being exposure. I had exposure to a lot of visual horror since my childhood, but I never got the chance to read a horror novel until I was a teenager. I am most inspired by Alexandre Aja, Takashi Miike, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Marshall, Pascal Laugier, and Park Hoon-Jung. That being said, I read a lot of authors, and having been reading them for a long time, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, and Sidney Sheldon are at the top.
My advice to aspiring authors – ‘Write whatever you want, and you will eventually find an audience.’
Q4. You one of the recipients of the 2021 HWA Diversity Grant. Can you tell us more about this scholarship and how it has helped your growth as a horror writer?
The HWA Diversity Grant is a scholarship that helps underrepresented horror voices gain footing in the industry. I am glad that HWA recognized my passion and also deemed my work good enough to make a dent in the industry. Apart from the monetary benefits, it has helped me get into the thick of the web of horror writers from across the globe. And man, there is a LOT to learn from them!
Q5. What are your hobbies besides reading and writing? And what are you currently working on?
I write only in the evenings since I have a day job. I currently head sales for India’s first cannabis company, and being a very effort intensive space, it takes up a lot of my time.
I am currently working on a crime-thriller and a psychological horror manuscript, both of which are in their final stages. I am also working on a couple of other concepts which I am thinking to start ironing out soon.
Lee Allen Howard is a technical writer in the software industry. As per his website, he writes dark fiction: horror, LGBTQ horror, supernatural crime, dark crime, and psychological thrillers, and technical manuals. He is also the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press, publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.
Q1. Lee, it’s wonderful to have you with us! Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing process.
Great to be here. I write and edit dark fiction. I used to say I write horror but, over the years, I’ve written more than this, although horror is my first love and primary genre. I also write dark crime, supernatural crime, and psychological thrillers. All dark genres; thus, dark fiction.
I used to write sporadically—only when inspiration struck. Years would pass between writing sprints during which I produced a short story or a novel. This year I’m on a mission to solidify a workable process that lends itself to continual productivity. I’ve partitioned my process into seven segments:
This takes me from the initial spark of a story idea through its development by brainstorming, plotting, and then outlining (something I consider crucial), to the drafting stage, which many people consider to be the only part of “writing.” (The writing process, or at least my writing process, consists of more stages than typing words into a manuscript file.) Very few writers sell first drafts—they suck. It’s actually the process of editing that turns a lump of coal into a diamond. So far, editing for me has been self-editing. The ultimate step is to release your literary gems to the world and promote them and yourself through marketing.
I don’t know where my love of horror came from because no one in my family shares my interest. But I was a precocious reader.
Every few weeks, Teacher would pass out a newsprint flyer—a four-page catalog of books for young readers. I would pore over every title on those pages and count the pocket change I’d saved to buy at least one book. One of those books was Norman Bridwell’s How to Care for Your Monster. It was a scary yet funny guide to caring for your pet—if your pet happened to be Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, Dracula, or the Mummy. That’s the book that turned me on to horror.
As soon as I learned to print letters and form sentences in second grade, I started writing horror stories in pencil on tablet paper. My second-grade teacher passed on 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 didn’t find its way into my pocket!
What really confirmed my love of horror were two books I read back in the 1970s when I was about twelve years old. Thomas Tryon’s The Other absolutely electrified me. It was so horrifying and thrilling to my adolescent mind that I wanted to read more and write stories like it. The other book was James Herbert’s The Rats. Since reading those novels and many others, I’ve been trying to terrify and thrill my readers.
Q3. How do you find a balance between your day job and your writing?
I earned a bachelor’s in English, opting for writing courses over literature. By the time I graduated, I realized I couldn’t make a living writing short stories and poetry. (Although I had some poems and stories published by that point, I hadn’t sold any writing for actual money.) Instead, I directed my writing education into a career in technical writing. I’ve been employed in the software industry my entire working life.
I also earned a master’s degree in genre fiction writing from Seton Hill University. Death Perception was my thesis novel.
My current practice is to get up early, have breakfast and coffee (black), then read for an hour, usually about writing craft. Then I write (which means spending time on one of my seven writing phases, not just drafting) for an hour or ninety minutes. Then I log in to work (I’ve worked remotely from home for the past fifteen years). Shave, shower, and dine out, then spend up to two hours at my personal laptop for more fiction writing. Four to six hours on both Saturdays and Sundays. I track my writing progress through an iPhone app called WordKeeper, which you can read about on my website.
I hope to retire from corporate work within three years and segue into full-time fiction writing. Finally, my childhood dream will have come true.
Q4. What would you say are your Top 5 Reads of All Time?
Not all of these are horror books. But the novels that have formed me and which I reread from time to time include Thomas Tryon’s The Other, James Herbert’s The Rats, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
Favorite writers over the years include Patrick McGrath (especially The Asylum), Ramsey Campbell (Nazareth Hill), and Stephen King (early books).
Q5. Self-publish or go the traditional publication route – what would your advice be for aspiring authors?
It’s always been my dream to be traditionally published. But the stigma against self-publishing is easing. I’ve spent most of the past forty-five years trying to get traditionally published with little luck. Rejection has contributed significantly to depression and seasons of unproductivity. In 2012 I started self-publishing and met with some success.
Writers should strive for getting their work traditionally published. But don’t waste years (yes, years) of your life waiting for publishers to get back to you about works you’ve submitted like I did. If you choose to self-publish, make sure you get your work beta-read, professionally edited, and formatted for publication. Hire a decent cover artist. I’m also an editor and have experience with publishing tools because of my day job. If you don’t, hire these jobs out. And don’t expect to get rich quick.
My novels include The Sixth Seed (dark paranormal), Death Perception (supernatural crime), The Adamson Family (YA gothic), and The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath (psychological thriller/horror). Short story collections include Night Monsters, Desperate Spirits, and Severed Relations. The stories from these brief collections are included with many others in Perpetual Nightmares.
Q1. Greg, it’s wonderful to have you with us for this Q&A. Please tell us about your humble beginnings as an author.
Thanks Nisar. Writing and storytelling has always been a part of me. As a child I used to write and illustrate my own comic books (very poorly I’ll grant you :P) but comic books were one of the first mediums I discovered that inspired me to craft my own tales. Drawing and writing have always gone hand in hand for me and for many years I focused on creating art and honing my skills. It was in high school that I dabbled more with writing. Later I went to university to study journalism and after graduating I became a newspaper reporter and was in that line of work for about 10 years until 2008. I picked up writing again and wanted to become a crime/mystery author but I found that a lot of my writing had a very dark bent or ventured into supernatural territory. I enjoyed reading the genre and so I decided that horror fiction was more my style. In 2009 I joined the now Australasian Horror Writers Association and in 2011 I had my first publication with the vampire story Precious Blood. Towards the end of that year I wrote and had published two novellas, Torment and The Noctuary. Both novellas received positive feedback and my humble beginnings have only continued from there. I’ve now had dozens of short stories published and as of writing this have three novels, four novellas and four short story collections to my name.
Q2. Looking at your Facebook Page and website Dark Artisan, you are an avid horror illustrator. Were you an artist before you became an author? And how do you manage these 2 fields which require so much hard work and time?
As I said for me the writing and drawing went hand in hand, but yes I was probably an artist before I was a writer. Ironically I find that creating art is less labour intensive. In 2012 I was very fortunate enough to be invited to illustrate a non-fiction graphic novel called Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times by late author Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton. This was a massive project that took me about a year to complete. It eventually went on to win a Bram Stoker Award in 2013. These days I create book cover art for authors and publishing houses as well as my own books. Occasionally I am asked to create internal illustrations. All in all I create horror art because I love doing it. It’s fun. Recently I’ve had a major life change which has meant that writing has taken a back seat to art. But if anything creating art keeps the horror fire burning.
Q3. Which, in your point of view, are the 3 best book covers you have ever designed?
Hmm. This is like asking which child is your favourite J but if I had to choose they would be:
Q4. Authors across all genres who have influenced your storytelling the most?
Val McDermid, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson, King, Ligotti, Lovecraft, and I could go on and on…
Q5. Creative people/works outside the writing world which have inspired your work?
I love horror films and there are countless directors who I admire – John Carpenter, Mike Flanagan, Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher. The art of Dave McKean was a major influence on my own artistic exploits.
Q6. I recently bought a copy of Hollow House (read my review here) because I loved the description and book trailer. Could you tell us more about it?
Thank you! I hope you enjoyed it. Hollow House is my first novel and it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in 2016. The idea for this story came from my days as a journalist when I visited a suburban street to cover the suspected murder of a man. While the manner of the man’s death was not in the end, suspicious, the events of the day stayed with me. The smell of death, the interactions with the residents of the street. All of these things inspired me to write Hollow House. I wanted to write a unique haunted house story, one that was about all the people around the haunted house. I wanted to examine all their existing fears and sins and have the haunted house exploit them. I’m very proud of the end result.
The Last Night of October is actually a re-release of my 2013 novella. It had been out of print for a number of years and I wanted to give it a facelift. The novella is a straight up Halloween fright-fest. Probably my most recent new writing is Bleak Precision, a chapbook which has been nominated for an Australian Shadows Award. Currently though I am in the process of writing two projects simultaneously: a female-led occult thriller called “Scorned” and a horror police procedural called “The Lowest Deep”. I have more ideas brewing but I’ll just be focusing on those projects for the time being.