Welcome to EH Howard, (Pen name of Eric Tomlinson.)
Where are you from and where do you live now? Born and raised in Manchester in England. As possibly the oldest geek in captivity, my work has taken me to many places in Europe and the USA, but currently I split my time between Cheshire and Wales. I’d love to one day escape to a Greek Island, but at the moment life keeps me around the UK.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write about dragons, swords and magic. My heroes wander castles, caves and deserts. Therefore it would be considered ‘high fantasy’, but I hate the term. I do love to write short stories when I give myself the chance. At the end of each writing cycle, I try to enter a couple of short / flash fiction competitions to sharpen my style. My style is definitely high speed, rather than the turgid flow of most fantasy.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In my first Amara book I created a side character, Stella. She was a ‘foil’ for the main character to play off and to add contrast. It was my editor who started to cheer every time she appeared. As the writing progressed her part in the story grew. In book two, she is still a secondary character as the mother of the hero, but still a fabulous creation. When I asked John (my editor) what was great about her, his first reaction was ‘She has great boobs and no morals.’ I’m pretty certain I’d never dwelt on her figure, but he had an unshakeable image in his head. Actually, I think she has morals, they just don’t always align to what might be expected.
I enjoyed writing her because she is a ‘force of nature’ she doesn’t have to engage in the self- examination of the main character.
Are your characters based on real people? I guess a lot of my characters are either me or my wife. Not always identifiable by the gender. I once wrote a parody of fantasy fiction where I based all of the characters on friends and acquaintances. I did wonder if anybody would identify themselves, but as it never reached first base in the publishing cycle I guess I’ll never know. The heroes were a dark haired male barbarian and a blonde, efficient female warrior. Yep, me and her again!
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? At school I hated when the teacher asked us to identify and discuss the themes in a story. Only when I started writing many years later did I see how this worked. The Amara stories scream a couple of my ‘truths’: Gender, race and orientation are no measure of a person’s worth. I have a lot of female friends and my soapbox is the increase in reverse sexism prevalent in certain circles.
My other theme is that relationships aren’t just about sex. It’s awful that most children will now view porn before they have a clue what a relationship is about.
Why is a theme important? For me, it helps in the creation and editing. Sometimes I write entire sections and then delete them because they don’t fit with the central theme of the story. I believe it helps me to stay focused on where I am taking my main characters.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? E-Book is the most normal format for my writing. They are available in paperback. I’ve considered other formats, but at the moment, I don’t want to distract from finishing the “Shudalandia Series.” Once the final book is out, I will take a little time to promote and increase the reach through alternative formats.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? My editor, John Hudspith, is my Higher Power. If he says cut, I cut, if he says more, I write more. I get a story as far as I can and then let John take it to the next level. He has been known to throw out the whole thing. The reason for a story, for me, is to entertain, not lecture. I might have a theme, but it mustn’t clog up the story telling process. People read to escape and that has to be the primary objective. I might know where I am going, but my editor will get me to rephrase, explain more, or simply cut out, to shape the final product. The reader has to immerse and stay immersed, not be jogged out of the fantasy by a jarring sequence.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Typically it takes me two years to take a book through to finished standard. I’ve seen self-published authors who bang out a book a month; typos and inconsistencies abound, but they then have the cheek to claim as a self-published author they can’t afford to pay for editing.
I mix with a group of indie authors who take more pride in their output than any trad publishing house achieves these days.
Do you read work by self-published authors? I read anything that works for me. I rarely consider how the work has been published. I do get seriously annoyed when I pay a high price for an ebook from the trad world and it is full of errors a spell checker would have fixed. I don’t think trad publishers have caught on to ebook publishing.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Although tempting, I’d never respond to a review comment. A person buys, they read and occasionally comment. There’s one comment on the Amara books that states, they consider themselves the wrong age, wrong gender and wrong nature for the book, they don’t read the genre and they don’t like sex in books. At this point, I’d consider them unqualified to comment, but they went on to give a one star review. I wanted to rant and rave, but what the heck. All five star reviews appears silly anyway.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? If I haven’t read the author before I will scan the reviews. If I dislike a book by an author I usually like, I go back and see if I am the only one, or if others are having difficulty with it.
What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? Authors are usually readers. As long as they have genuinely read the book, why shouldn’t they comment. I’m more concerned when a book is launched and immediately acquires a couple of hundred five star reviews. That smacks of collusion, or simply buying reviews.
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