Interview with Author Mark Howen

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed author Mark Howen about his writing and his recently released book, Requiem For The Rooster, a well-crafted, taut, and fast-paced thriller that dig deeper into environmental issues. (Read the review here.)

Having survived numerous self-imposed geographic transplants, my roots reach far, yet— for the most part—are still intact. Yes, I am a multi-generational Coloradan, but I would have to claim more a simple Westerner. My wife and I ended up raising our family in the state of Washington. Here we will most likely put in our remaining time on this wondrous blue ball called planet Earth.

What I do for a living has never truly complimented that which I was attempting to do for a life. As a result, a battle of wills would culminate, and needs would usually claim victory over dreams. It is a common ailment found in the pursuit of all art. Yet, I have never stopped searching.

This is my latest endeavor in writing a complete novel. To say it is “art” will be up to the opinion of the reader. However, the act of creation—in anything—is the essence of all art. What the end result happens to be is purely a personal experience. For me, it was an incredible journey into my mind and soul. I have learned enough to move forward confidently despite the flaws. You might say that it’s a history of where I was when I wrote this. I am simply a student of writing; a student of art; and a student of life.

Do you find writing therapeutic?

Definitely. Often, during the creative process of molding a story—asking and answering the questions at hand—I satisfy my own personal issues. When I hit a wall or am unsatisfied with the process, I take a hike in the woods and climb a mountain, which usually gets me back on track.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I mentioned I enjoyed hiking. That is where the seed of my research begins while sifting through the Rolodex of my brain’s storage unit. The Internet becomes my next tool for digging up information. While writing my first book, I found it extremely helpful when exploring the archives of various newspapers outside my own state of Washington. Most of the time, my research involves getting the geographical elements in sync with the time I am writing, along with the jargon and style for an era. Research continues throughout my writing as it is inevitable that new things come up as situations unfold.

Whats the most difficult thing about writing a novel?/How many hours a day do you write?

These two questions have to be answered as one. I am up at three in the morning to get to my job, which sometimes requires more than the usual eight hours. I come home tired from the physicality of my labor and commute, leaving me little time for creativeness before needing to get to bed. My golden hours are those early mornings when I do not have to go to my job. That is the reality of someone like myself, and so finding enough of the right time to write becomes my biggest challenge.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both, depending on the circumstances. I’m a list kind of guy who relishes striking off tasks as they’re accomplished. The bigger the job, the greater the satisfaction, and energized exhaustion is the grade I wish to accomplish. It’s similar to climbing a mountain. On the other hand, publishing and editing tend to be the most exhausting and only feel satisfying when you are holding the finished product in your hands.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I’ve been told, and I believe it’s true, that we can’t be anything but original. Most stories are fundamentally the same, but how you tell them makes it yours. There is always that little urge or need to satisfy the reader’s wants, but being true to yourself is also necessary. Otherwise, what gratification does the writer receive? I suppose the argument would be money and notoriety. Both are justifiable because, yes, the reader will spend the money on what they want over what they’re unsure of. The bottom line is to strike a balance between the two somehow. But of course, unless you are simply plagiarizing, you’ll still be an original.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I suppose so if you are writing textbooks or instruction manuals. Anything else I feel would be questionable. Even writing ad copy requires the author to tap into the emotions of the public they wish to target. This is why writing is so therapeutic. It requires you to look into the mirror of humanity and yourself.

Whats more important: characters or plot?

I lean more toward characters over plot. Yes, a coherent storyline is important, but if the characters are flat no one will care. But, if the characters are compelling and relatable, the story- line can wander and even leave you with more questions. I grew up watching a lot of television and movies—more than reading, I’m afraid—and the characters captivated my interest the most. I’d often not know what the story was about, or some obvious pieces would be missing in the plot, but it didn’t matter. Consider “The Big Sleep:” Bogart and Bacall sparring with all their wit and charm of dialog, yet the plot has holes, and nobody cares.

What inspired the premise of your book?

“REQUIEM FOR THE ROOSTER” is the next chapter in the lives of the Worthy family. The events of that first story, “THE INHERENT DANGERS OF DIGGING UP THE FAMILY TREE,” concluded with many questions and peoples lives left in the balance. I wanted to know what happened next, so I figured someone else might, too. So, after Mason returns and attempts to heal from his ordeal, the events happening in his world become more intense and important to him. He sees the injustices surrounding him more clearly and wants to do something about it. But, again, things happen, and his family faces the future alone. For me, the events of our own reality have angered me, and I vented through my story.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope readers will grasp the idea that family serves as our measuring stick for how we treat others. If we treat our own with little respect and love, we will treat those around us the same or worse. How, then, can a child grow in harmony with the rest? How, too, can a country grow in harmony when it treats its citizens with disrespect, fear, distrust, and hate? Promises made should be kept.

Whats next for you?

I’m presently working on what might be called the prequel to my first two books. But then, I left my last book open for another. I also have a possible play lurking in the attic of my mind. We’ll have to see about that one.


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