We chatted with John W. Howell about his new novel Eternal Road: The final stop, the transformation of the heroes, and the meaning behind historical and supernatural elements.
1. What is the significance of the book’s title Eternal Road?
The title came to me one day while I was writing one of the scenes. Eternal Road is the avenue to one’s selected spot to spend eternity. The road is well-traveled and can take a soul to several locations. It runs through an unlimited number of time periods, so choosing where to spend eternity is almost endless. The significance is that the induvial soul once validated as worthy, can select the road’s final stop. The control of eternal life is in the believer’s hands and not an arbitrary decision made by an all-powerful being. If universally accepted, I think this approach would go a long way in making more people want an eternal life of happiness and doublethink how to get there.
2. The book alternates between two distinct voices or characters: James and Sam. How did it happen? Was one voice more challenging or more enjoyable to write than the other?
The two characters were born in my mind to be inseparable friends and eventual lovers. I never question that the story would be about anyone else. Sure, there are other characters, but Sam and James are front and center as the two protagonists. I didn’t have a lot of trouble writing each character since they were so close; they pretty much knew each other’s thoughts and feelings. All I had to do was maintain an honest depiction of what each was thinking, feeling, and saying. Sam and James drove the story. I was just there to record it.
3. You did a marvelous job of weaving historical facts and supernatural elements into the novel’s reality, in all its complexity. Can you tell us what influenced this union: historical and mystical? And why did you pick these particular historical events?
When I was ten, my dad passed away. I had a great deal of trouble trying to justify his loss with my young religious beliefs. It gave me great comfort to imagine visiting my dad in many historical times and places. So, I guess I invented for myself the metaphysical and historical mash-up. In college minored in history and have always been interested in it so picking the places was pretty easy. I chose those places where I had the most interest in growing up.
4. Paranormal and supernatural is experiencing a critical and creative revival lately. To what do you attribute this? What draws you to the genre as a writer and reader?
I think people turn to otherworldly things when times get tough. It is an easy way to rid one’s mind of the realities of the day. When faced with a paranormal or supernatural horror or event, it is easy to dismiss it as just fiction. I haven’t read much of the genre but enjoy writing about characters that are no longer with us.
5. How did the writing of this novel change you? Or perhaps, what most surprised you in the writing of it?
The story has its genesis with a friendship I had with a little girl on my block. We were fast friends in grade school, and then her family moved away. We kept in touch and even saw each other a few times. We met for dinner one evening while on Christmas break from college, and she told me she was getting married. That pretty much ended the relationship. I went my way, and then the next thing I knew, she had died at 30 years of age. I had always held out hope that we could get together again. Writing about Sam and James in Eternal Road brought all this back, and I finally realized that I was writing about this girl and myself all along. The surprise for me was the realization that I continued to have feelings for her even today. I think the change in me is that I now feel sadness when I think of what could have been.
6. What do you most admire about writing (in general)? What do you hate the most?
Let me handle the hate first. Like most, I hate promotion. I’m not one to toot my own horn, so I’m a bit understated when it comes to selling my books. Now that we have eaten the cold Brussel sprouts, let’s get on to the savory course. I love every aspect of writing, from developing the plot to putting the words together to tell the story. I most love when I write those two words on my manuscript: “bite me.” No, I’m kidding. The two words are “The End.”
7. Do you have a favorite book in the paranormal/supernatural genre? If not, maybe a movie?
I loved the movie, Ghost. It had mystery, romance, humor, good looking lead characters, and Whoopie Goldberg at her finest. I have not read much in the genre.
8. If you weren’t writing thrillers, which other genres would you like to try? Something similar to Eternal Road, or completely new?
I think I want to continue in the Eternal Road vein for at least another book. After that, I think I would like to write a good ole Western novel. There is something about the American West that is very intriguing. I think I would like it to be in the period after the 1860s when migration opened up the west.
9. What are you working on next? Do you have a dream project you have left to tackle or a writing goal yet to achieve?
I do want to write something for kids. I’m not too sure of what it could be, but each Thursday, I chronicle the activities of my two dogs, Lucy, a boxer, and Twiggy, a French bulldog. Some have said their antics would make a good children’s book. I have been thinking about that and would love to do it. I am currently working on the next book in the Eternal Road series.
10. What are your writing rituals?
My rituals are straightforward. If I’m working on a manuscript for publication, I write 1000 words a day, no more, no less even if I’m on a roll. I find that 1000 words are about all I can do without becoming brain dead. I do this 1000 words before anything else. No honey do’s, no blog posts, no other activity until writing the 1000 words. I used to write to music, but now it doesn’t matter. I can write anytime, anywhere, so I don’t need privacy or a special place.
12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice was to write every day even if you don’t feel like doing it. I took that advice and have been so pleased to be able to follow through with it.
13. I always like to ask authors what they’re reading and loving now. What books have captured your attention lately, or are books you’re looking forward to?
Kurt Vonnegut wrote the books that most captured my imagination. His work was not attention-grabbing in and of itself, but the very way he put words onto the paper thrilled and amazed me. He had rough drawings in his books and reoccurring characters and made the business of being an author look like so much fun. Currently, I am reading nothing, but Indie published books. I have been so pleased with Sophia Von X and So Absurd it Must be True. You know the author of those… 🤔
I also liked Gazebo by Guy Portman. He writes dark comedy, and I must say he does it well. I am currently reading The Voyage of the Lanternfish by C.S.Boyack, who is a speculative fiction writer. 😀 His books are always enjoyable. Finally, Gwen Plano who I co-wrote The Contract with has a new book titled The Culmination which I’m looking forward to reading. ☕️📚
Where to find and follow him:
Author’s Blog – Fiction Favorites, on WordPress: Click to read
Twitter: click to follow on Twitter
Where to buy John’s books:
Amazon Author’s page: click to check the books (US store)
Amazon page: UK store
What are you waiting for? Grab a great read! ☕️📚💕🕺
Next post – Georges Bataille: possible and impossible