I recently visited with C.N. Howard, the author of two newly released novels, Blood Totems and Wrath of Angels. Both novels are just the beginning of two exciting series and I’m certain we can expect great things from this incredibly talented author.
Tricia: Hello and thank you so much for stopping by to tell us about your novels. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself?
C.N.: I usually just tell people I was born on Friday the 13th and that explains it all… hehe, but I suppose you probably want just a bit more. Seriously, I work at the local university library as a media cataloger creating records for the world database and the Library of Congress. I actually work in 27 languages, but it doesn’t mean I’m fluent, I can just figure out what it says. Basically, if it looks like scribbles on the page or the container, it’s mine to deal with. Beyond my steady paycheck, I own my own creative consulting company on the side. I do conventions, special events, write and direct interactive murder mysteries for corporate parties, stuff like that. I also do artwork that I’ve actually shown in galleries and sold. If you’re looking for something more personal, well, I wish I had a dog, but I don’t at the moment.
T: Wow. It’s sounds like you have a lot on your plate. When did you begin writing and how has your craft evolved over the years?
C: I’ve been writing stories since I could pick up a fat crayon. I would draw stories, tell stories, sing, dance, whatever it took to entertain the masses (meaning my folks and grandparents…LOL). I started getting paid for it in junior high when I was writing my classmates’ English papers for them. I had a sliding scale for an A down to a C grade. Wouldn’t want the teacher to catch on. Well, she did, duh, but I didn’t get into trouble. I got a pat on the back for my entertaining stories and essays and for being so enterprising (though I did have to stop). My classmates, who paid me to do it, ended up feeling the hurt academically speaking. Ouch. By high school, I was actually writing for television and local indie movie companies and hanging out with the likes of Harlan Ellison and Stephen King in my sci-fi clubs. Back then I was too young to really appreciate who I was with. I did eventually get a Masters in Creative Writing and almost got my doctorate, but they cancelled the program before I finished and I couldn’t afford to go somewhere else. Black Mountain poet Ed Dorn was my thesis advisor. That was pretty cool. Over the years, I’ve workshopped with Roger Zelazny, Tony Hillerman, Frederick Pohl, Ed Bryant and a few others. I think they were all instrumental in helping me build my confidence in terms of developing my own style. I ended up working in Vancouver for a bit. I was only 1 of 3 women registered in the U.S. writing guilds who wrote action/drama, so I was kind of a unique commodity back then. Then I got sick (as in stress heartattack sick) and things went south and I had to settle down a bit. So I quit the script and fan biz and have basically just focused on my novels, short stories, and poetry since then.
T: It looks like all that hard work has paid off. Congratulations on your new releases. Now, you have two very different novels being launched. If you had to choose a favorite genre, what would that be? Why?
C: Sci-fi or light horror spills out of my head fairly easily, so I’ll go for that comfort zone. I’m not genre driven though. It’s more about the story. But working in speculative fiction sub-genres, you can do just about anything you want. The universe, time, and physics can be literally ‘anything goes.’ I don’t write space operas or military stuff and to be honest, I don’t read or watch sappy Hallmark stories or romances (with rare exceptions like Pride and Prejudice or Run the Wild Fields). I like the near future, the ‘could happen any day’ sort of feeling that you get when you read early Crichton stuff like Andromeda Strain, Westworld, and Jurassic Park. I guess I like the earthbound future stories. And I like reading, writing, and watching scary stories that play on the psyche and didn’t rely on gore for the fear factor. I think that’s why I was hooked on TV shows like the Hitchcock Hour or Twilight Zone when I was growing up. I was a ravenous reader as a kid but maybe even more a TV viewer. That’s not to say that I wasn’t influenced by a ton of great literature too. My book interests were always geared towards action/adventure [i.e. Alexander Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson], steampunk before it was called steampunk [i.e. Jules Verne, Frank Baum], and sly humor [i.e.Twain, Thurber]. I think I was swayed into the sci-fi realm when my folks bought me my first science fiction book, Double Star by Heinlein for a birthday present. It was macho, violent, and darkly twisted. To this day, the part where he chops up the Martian still bothers me. Up to then, I’d been sheltered from violence in books because my dad inherited the contents from the old one-room schoolhouse that used to sit on the corner of my grandfather’s farm outside of Mulvane, Kansas (where I was born). So I had all these 19th and 20 century books to read, old books in cloth covers, slightly moth or mouse-eaten over the years. They had that funky smell of old books, you know. My parents never denied my brothers and I books. We always had books, books about everything surrounding us like a comfortable blanket. They instilled a love of reading in us from an early age and I remember some of the best summer days were days mom took us to the library. In fact, that’s where I came across one of my favorite books of all time, Christopher Syn by Russell Thorndike and William Buchannan. Years later, I went back and bought the book from the library. I was the only one who had ever checked it out, so they let me buy it. LOL But I was pretty picky about what I read. I read the classics, but I also dove into dark fantasy like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy and even the Lloyd Alexander works like the Prydain series and Kestral trilogy. I began to crave angsty epics, where the hero suffers in some way or another. “Luke, come to the dark side of the Force.” LOL Yeah, that was me. Anyway, it’s hard to really say I love one specific genre. It’s always been about the story more than anything with me.
T: I’m a huge fan of speculative fiction too. Let’s talk about Wrath of Angels first. Can you tell us about it?
C: A post apocalyptic epic of perseverance, faith and destiny, the story follows four men who are mistaken for earthbound angels after a nuclear holocaust and are forced to save a town from becoming ground zero to an evil gang-controlled Empire. It incorporates all the things you might expect in an apocalyptic sci-fi; some basic lay science, isolation, struggles to just survive, religious zealots, mutants, bandits, cannibals, social chaos, and some monsters, both physical and mental. There’s an underlying examination, through character introspection, of how people cope with the aftermath of overwhelming tragedy.
T: That’s a fascinating premise. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book. I understand Wrath of Angels is part of a trilogy. What can we expect from the next two books?
C: Well, in the first book, I raise the question of one of the men, Lloyd, being something more than what he appears to be. He’s got some inexplicable psychic abilities and an undeniable aura. Throughout the story, his friends continually question these things and his seemingly immortal constitution (surviving things that would generally kill other men). He denies that it’s anything more than just his will to live and coincidence, but he and his best friend Carlos (whom he calls his brother) both know there’s something more to this. Both rely on each other emotionally and physically to stay alive and have developed a unique (but platonic) bond. In book two, Carlos goes missing while on a fishing trip to Alaska and Lloyd has to go in search of him. He meets up with his other two ‘brothers’ from the first book and then gains three more new companions on the journey. The quest takes the men from Washington (state) to Alaska, to what’s left of California, to Peru, along the Amazon to Iquitos, back to Montana, Utah, and ends in Denver, Colorado. Along the way, they fight slavers, arms dealers, gang members, necro-nympho bad girls, Amazon tribesmen and witchdoctors, anacondas, volcanoes, twisters, more gang members and the terrifying Nomads (the cannibalistic mutants in book 1). In book 3, the 7 “Archangels” as they are now called, rebuild the city, take on family life while fighting new mutants from the East Coast who have the ability of mind control. Adding to the tension, Lloyd has to deal with a doomsday vision of the future which roots itself in his own family. All the questions and unanswered mysteries from the first two books are tied up and explained and we finally get to find out who and what Lloyd and the others really are.
: Let’s take a peek at the book trailer…
T: Let’s talk about your other new release for a moment. Can you tell us about Blood Totems?
C: Tagline: A Cheyenne shapeshifter and his brother, a spirit caller, fight crime in unusual ways. Case summary for this book: A ritual killing in Vancouver gets Ben Eagle Plume and his brother Ezekiel Storm on the case. Things heat up when Zeke is singled out by the local white supremacy group and then finds himself the next victim of a bloody Incan cult. When Zeke suddenly ends up missing, Ben has to use his unusual gifts to find his brother before it’s too late.
T: What sets Blood Totems apart from other detective novels? What makes the series unique?
C: Most shapeshifters are considered demonic in literature and oral traditions, but in this case, Ben is a Native American shapeshifter who uses his abilities to help solve cases. The stories are mostly focused on solving the crime and less about Ben’s shapeshifting, but built into the story is a lot of native tradition, mythologies, and spirituality. The angst factor in the series is his baby brother, Zeke (23). He has two parts to his ‘mission statement.’ One, he is the guardian of his brother’s human spirit, his human side, when Ben’s morphed into an animal. Without Zeke reminding him of his humanity, Ben could easily be lost to the animal mind and instincts. His second purpose is to communicate with the Spirit World and be prepared for approaching evil. He’s the bait that brings the evil to Ben’s doorstep. Basically, his goal is to just stay alive. Though he spends a lot of time in the ‘ouch zone,’ you learn that his ‘gift’ is a strong sense of survival and faith (having been pulled out of the seminary when he’s finally called to supernatural duty).
: Blood Totems has a wonderful book trailer too. Let’s have a look…
T: What do you have planned for the Eagle Plume Detective Series?
C: I have some more emotional and intense dramas ready, but I also have some comedic adventures for the duo. I love doing the comedy and I think it will compliment the series by showing the guys in something other than intense situations. Of course, there’re still lots of action scenes within the comedy, but I think I’ve managed a good balance. So far I’ve already got 14 of these stories outlined.
T: Fourteen? Holy cow, that’s amazing. Are you working on any projects unrelated to your newly released novels, or do these series keep you pretty busy?
C: You’re talking to the eclectic Queen, hehe. And one with no life other than work and writing. I mean, when people tell me to “get a life,” I say okay and then sit down and create one. LOL But to answer your question, yes, I do have some other projects that’s I’m working on. I have a novel called Higher Ground (my thesis novel which I’m still editing to death) about a powerful and selfish man who finds himself suddenly poisoned by a rare form of curare. The only antidote is found in the Amazon forest, the same forest he was willing to obliterate for his own corporate profit. It’s a story about the examination of one’s life and how it affects everyone and everything around it. It’s a story of a man forced to face his demons and his weaknesses. There’s a little bit of supernatural in it. Okay, then I have a fun book: Zombie a’ pock ‘o lips and other twisted tales. It’s a short story anthology of comedic zombie stories and horror tales. Then there’s my traditional fantasy, Immortality’s Shadow. In a mythical land called Alderyle, its people protect a group of near-immortals who are the children of the Guardians, those who first ruled Alderyle. When one of these ‘children’ finds himself an outcast and in mortal danger, he’s befriended by a band of princes who recognize that this young man may define the future of their kingdoms and holds the key to the survival of Alderyle itself. It’s got a bunch of fun characters and all the elements you’d find in a fantasy: dragons, people who live like invisible bugs in a field, merpeople, giants, small shadow-people, strange wizards, talking animals, fairies, and lots of magic. There’s even a love story woven into it. It’s about 800 pages so far, so I’m probably having too much fun writing it. Perhaps the most non-characteristic novel I’m working on is my Western. I loved reading Max Brand books as a kid, so I kind of felt like I needed to try my hand in that genre as well. Lots of historical research though. With Westerns, you’re dealing with the past, not the future (unless you’re Michael Crichton writing Westworld…hehe). Under Another Sun, teams up a shy-unassuming Aubrey Spence with his best friend, an Indian man with a white man’s education. An obsessed and crazed group of vigilantes mistakenly blame Aubrey’s grandfather for the massacre that killed their families during the Civil War. Aubrey becomes the pawn in this struggle for justice. His flight and fight to survive this lethal bunch is the juxt of the story. Lastly, I’m writing a pulp fiction mystery satire called A Queer Case of Murder with detective Kodiak Knudsen (heir of the local nut factory King Knudsen’s Knutts), his sidekick a quirky gay lawyer who advertises on TV as Crazy Larry the Legal Faerie, transgendered prostitutes, mobsters, mariachis, you name it. Nothing is sacred and everything is made fun of. Then I’m also working on more poetry for the second volume of Said and Unsaid and some more short stories. I keep busy. LOL Who needs sleep anyway?
T: Well, with everything you have going on, I don’t think you’ll be catching up on sleep any time soon. What events to do have planned to promote your novels?
C: I am deeply honored and appreciative to my university who’s throwing an author reception and pre-launch book signing for me on Sept. 28th from 7-9. http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/friends/activities.htm And the next night, I’ll be doing the national book launch of the novels at Barbed Wire Books in Longmont, CO. Also 7-9. http://www.barbedwirebooks.net/ I’m hoping to be able to do some sales and book signings at the upcoming MileHiCon 44 (sharing the table with some other authors). And I got word last week that I may be doing a signing December 14th at the Barnes and Noble in Boulder, CO as part of a fundraising event. That’s still pending, but I’m crossing my fingers.
: Again, thank you so much for stopping by. I wish you all the best with your novels. I know my readers are anxious to find out more about your books. Where can my readers go to learn more about your work?