Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Interview with Kristen Howe

Today with talking to aspiring writer Kristen Howe.

Welcome, Kristen! Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kristen Howe. I'm 33, almost 34, a former Jersey Girl who lives in Northern Ohio for the past 10 years, currently 5 years in the Cleveland area. I'm unemployed and currently work as a substitute secretary for my local school system. I also volunteer at my local hospital once a week too.

I understand you've got a lot on your plate. What are the names and genres of your manuscripts?

I'm currently working on five Nano/Julnowrimo mss at the moment. One of them I hope to pitch to agents this spring. Venom, Specimen and Double Exposure are my three eco-thrillers. The 24-Hour Chain Reaction is part psychological thriller/police procedural. Web of Deceit is romantic suspense.

That's a lot of writing! What are your stories about?

The 24-Hour Chain Reaction is about Detective Sierra Bledsoe, a SVU Detective from Dayton PD, who chases a speeder all across Southern Ohio, she finds out who the speeder is, and the ensuing events happen all in one day.

Venom is about a twisted poacher, who targets zoologists at a symposium in Key West, he is looking for a new kind of anti-venom; and it's up to Dr. Kylie Marx, a zoologist/herpetologist, to stop him in his tracks, which leads back to her past.

Double Exposure is about Dr. Alexa Phelps, a marine biologist and freelance photographer, who discovers a political scandal on the shores of Catalina Island, when it hits close to home dealing with potential politicians and eco-terrorists, with their regional outbreaks as ocean life dies.

Specimen is about Dr. Ursula Slater, a conchologist/zoologist, who learns that poachers are after a rare shell specimen on New Shoreham, Block Island, Rhode Island, and has to go scuba diving to beat them to the punch.

Web of Deceit is about Officer Melinda Herron from the Riverhead PD in Long Island, New York, who uncovers the truth on why someone wants her dead. She's also emotionally blackmailed and recruited by Internal Affairs to go undercover and ends up both in a love triangle and a world of hurt.

How did the ideas of the stories come to you?

Before I decided to go to Nano, I had dreamt of the ideas first. Recurring dreams. If it worked for Stephanie Meyer, why not me? Nonetheless, I never got stuck with Writer's Block. All of my ideas came from my dreams. The 24-Hour Chain Reaction stemmed from "24", the failed Fox TV show "Drive", and real life police chases you see in the news--high octane power in one powerful day. It reminded me of Sandra Brown's "Chill Factor", with the same timeline.

I've got the idea to do eco-thrillers, from a Writer's Digest Magazine article about eco-thrillers making a comeback. Other than Nicholas Evans books, there haven't been many out there. Plus, all of my eco-thrillers are set in island locations, which is "outside the box" to set a storyline. Not many stories have been set there. For Key West, there's Stella Cameron's Key West. That's it. For Catalina, there's "Swimming to Catalina" by Stuart Woods. You might see a brief mention or have a brief scene, if any books set in California, but not the entire book. You won't see books in Block Island. But you might see some in Hawaii. You get the picture, right?

As for Web of Deceit, this happened last spring, around this time to try a new genre. I've read a bunch of romantic suspense books over the past two years from Lisa Gardner to Karen Rose to set how it's set up.

Are any of your manuscripts complete or still works in progress?

All of them are still works in progress.

What are your word count goals, and how far along are you at this point?

The 24-Hour Chain Reaction is still undergoing its final editing round. Venom is almost completed, and will be done in a few weeks--just have to finish finalizing my chapters, write 1-2 new final chapters, and rework/tweak the rest. Specimen is at its 2nd editing round. Double Exposure is at its second to last. Web of Deceit is at its first, since I've just started it for Nanoedmo. Yes, I do have a word count goal for all of them to be around 90-110 K. I need to cut 5K for Specimen. 20 K for Web of Deceit, since it's partially done, 22 K (than 42 K) for The 24-Hour Chain Reaction, 50 K for Venom, 93 K for Double Exposure. That's what happens when you overwrite, during Nano.

What's your next step – are you self publishing, querying for an agent, etc.?

I hope to pitch Venom this spring. That's my next step to query agents. The others won't be for awhile.

That's understandable. Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

It's a bit of both. I have a beta reader for Venom and just gained crit partners for Web of Deceit. I mainly do self-editing on my own. I've been a member of a few crit groups/forums for a few years. They're free and online.

Your poems have been published. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Sure. I am taking a break from poetry for awhile, I've been writing poetry for a few years. I write various poetry forms and topics, real or fictionalized. I've been published in some markets online and some in print. Other than copies, I've been paid a few dollars for my published poems. It's harder to get into those paying markets.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing. I tend to overwrite and have problems with show vs tell, tenses, tightening the flow. That's when crit partners/beta readers come in handy.

Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

Don't give up. Read out loud. Have a fresh pair of eyes.

Sound advice. Do you have an idea of your book’s cover art?

Yep. I don't have any pictures, but I have ideas that I've discussed with fellow Twitter friend and writer, Shannon Delany, last year.

For 24-Hour Chain Reaction, I have a tilting hourglass, with the small car from the chase slammed into the base. The title would fill white space above the hourglass and down along the right side of it. Words horizontal but stacked or a stopwatch being attached to the car's bumper as its squealing away. We'll see part of the car like viewer's overhead and disappear off to the right (either top or bottom corner--let your bloggers decide.

For Venom, there would be a photo of the swamp in the Everglades and at the bottom the title dropped into it, with one or two snakes slither out of the swamp, through the letters and towards the reader.

For Double Exposure, a photo of Catalina with a photograph of two spills with the "E" electric and in a different color than the rest of the title.

For Web of Deceit, it'll be simple with a spider web, a spider and a NYPD badge (perhaps RPD) in the middle of the web. The title would be in black and silver.

For Specimen, I've thought of a scuba diver in the Atlantic Ocean with shells forming the word, and a spear through blue-green letters.

Who are your inspirations?

Hmm. I would have to say, for the thriller angle, it would have to be Iris Johansen and Erica Spinder. Mary Higgins Clark got me hooked onto mysteries, and then onto cozies, suspense/thrillers. For romantic suspense, Karen Rose and Lisa Jackson. I've been recently hooked on them for a few years, before I decided to write my own.

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Special thanks goes out to my mom for believing in me and helping me fix my errors. I would also like to thank all of my Twitter friends. They all support me. And to my crit partners/beta readers, thanks for going for the ride.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I have two blogs:
I'm also at Twitter as @Kristen_Howe.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us, Kristen, and I wish you lots of luck in your publishing journey!


Gina said...

Wow, that is quite a few stories to have to keep in one's must have a vivid imagination indeed! Wonderful advice for other aspiring authors...the reading out loud portion will not only help develop your "mind's voice" but also your presence for future public speaking instances you may encounter (ahem, like when you are published!). Good luck on your publishing aspirations! (Thanks for another interesting interview, Dorothy!)

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Thanks, Gina. That's a good point about public speaking - I never thought of that. Cool!