Once upon a time, there was a guy from Texas who had an interesting blog. He offered a series of ‘10 things not to do’ on a variety of subjects. I would often laugh at the one or two rules of his I had broken. Other days, he shared episodes of a serial story, or the antics of the recuse dogs he shared his home with. On still other days, he would join us in an attempt to satisfy Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Of course, I’m talking about John W. Howell. In a few minutes, he’s going to join David and me, and Skippy to talk about his latest novel—The Last Ride. For the record, I think we met Linda’s challenge.
“Your prompt for #JusJoJan the 14th and Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: ‘once upon a time.’ Start your post with ‘Once upon a time,’ then write whatever comes to you, whether it be fact or fiction. Have fun!”
If we were having a beer, fiction would be in the air, as well as a series of facts from our special guest.
“Did you guys see the car that just pulled into the lower lot?”
“No Skippy, what is it?”
“It’s some kind of antique. There must be a car show in the area. The guy’s probably coming in to ask directions.”
“Skippy, that is a mint nineteen fifty-six Oldsmobile, and the ‘guy’ is John Howell. He’s coming here to meet us.”
“How do you know that Dan?”
“I invited him.”
“Is he bringing us more bourbon?”
“You’re an idiot. John Howell doesn’t actually make bourbon. He’s coming to talk about his new book.”
“Oh, that’s right, he’s an author. I think I read his last book, and you know, I think there was an old car in that story.”
“It’s good to see the Oldsmobile parked out there, John. I’m sure remember David, but I don’t think you’ve met Skippy.”
“It’s a pleasure, Mr. Howell. I was telling Dan that I read your last book with the car, and we love your bourbon.”
“It is a pleasure meeting you, Skippy. I have read about you for so long I think I already know you. I hope you enjoyed the book. I’m complimented that you call it my bourbon. Back in time when Dan and I were very young. Wait, I mean when Dan was younger. Back then, I made a suggestion about a brand of bourbon, and Dan, the nice guy that he is, put my name on it. I have been getting calls to deliver it ever since.”
“Will you be drinking that bourbon today, Mr. Howell?”
“Hang on Skippy. It seems John has developed a taste for VooDoo Ranger.”
“VooDoo Ranger is the kind of ale that requires sitting down and not too much mental activity, Dan. Since I need to be clear-headed to explain my book, I think I would like to join David in a glass of bourbon. I take mine in a rocks glass but hold the rocks.”
“You want cherries in that?”
“You can give my cherries to David, Skippy.”
“Thanks for the cherries, John. It’s good you want to be clear headed, because I’m confused. I read that you weren’t planning to write a sequel to ‘The Eternal Road’ and yet, that’s exactly what ‘The Final Drive’ is. We’re you sipping the VooDoo Ranger the day you started writing?”
“Ha ha ha. Yeah it would appear that I might have a built in excuse with VooDoo Ranger. The truth is I was not going to do a sequel, but then some writing friends, mainly Mae Clair, started encouraging me to write a sequel. It appears that most felt I had left the two characters Sam and James in an unfinished condition. I dragged my feet as long as I could when finally Sam and James themselves got on my back. I sat with computer in lap and while trying to write a memoire these two kept at it until I surrendered.”
“Characters can be demanding, and I can see how Mae could be convincing. Did you have any issues with events that had happened in the first book coming back to bite you?”
“This is a good question, Dan. In thinking things through, I can say all the situations in the first book were pretty much things going on with Sam and James. The other characters for the most part were historical entities and I benefitted from doing some extensive research on them. So, even though there was potential for a slip up, the research served me very well. Long story short, I don’t feel anything in the first book came back to bite me. At least nothing I know about.”
“Building off that, John. This story has the – let’ avoid spoilers here – a new guy involved in driving the movement through history. Are the places you visit in this book driven by that character out of convenience, or is there another reason for these location choices?”
“This is good bourbon, thanks Skippy. As to your question, David, I would say Lucifer has chosen the most horrendous places to send our heroes. He wants to break them and get one to sign up for his program. Each place there is a choice of saving people from death or honoring the concept of preserving the time continuum. If there is a tear in the continuum, then whoever commits that sin is pretty much toast. Lucifer hopes one of them makes a mistake. The only reason he is torturing our heroes is in hope that he can stick to God by grabbing a soul that has already earned a place in paradise.”
“It’s not just the characters that have to worry about the timeline, is it John? You seem conscious of the need for the reader to keep that in mind. You do it very well. I always like it when an author asks a question that I want to ask or brings out a detail that I’m beginning to wonder about. Are you just naturally good at that, or do you work at that timing?”
“Dan, I wish I was a natural at anything, but unfortunately I have to work to produce what I do. When I’m writing, I approach the story like I’m the reader. Most of my stuff is first person present tense so things come to light in real time. Sometimes I am surprised with what comes up. If so, I make a note to answer what is a question in my mind. On The Last Drive I kept the present tense but had to move to third person since there are four characters all interacting. The same thing happened though. Because it is present tense things came up that I had to find answers for myself and also knew the reader would have the same question.”
“Can I ask about the car? Is there a particular reason you chose that car given all the cars that have been on the road since then?”
“Sure Skippy. That Oldsmobile is exactly like the one I used to wash and wax when I was in high school. It belonged to a neighbor, and he wanted it washed weekly and waxed once a month. I almost think now he was being very kind by supplying me with a chance to earn money. His car just seemed like the perfect vehicle for these stories. By the way. The wash was seventy-five cents, and the wax was four dollars. He would tip me twenty-five cents on the wash and a dollar on the wax. A great neighbor.”
“That wouldn’t pay for a glass of your own bourbon today.”
“Dan is buying today, Skippy, but I think we could all use another round. And don’t forget John’s cherries for my glass.”
“I remember, David. I’ll be right back.”
“John, did you have any trouble writing for Lucifer? I mean as far as antagonists go, he’s setting the bar pretty high.”
“Back in my Connecticut days I did community theater. One role I had was Jigger Kragen in the play Carousel. He was the nastiest character around. While writing for Lucifer I asked myself the question, “What would Jigger do?” Sure enough the answer came quickly. I wanted Lucifer to be sophisticated and a compelling character. He had to be able to talk with folks and sound somewhat convincing and not scare everyone off. So I made him as humanistic as I could while keeping a sinister air about him. In direct answer to the question I did not have trouble writing him since I had Jigger as my muse.”
“Does it concern you that you can write well on behalf of the devil?”
“Ha ha ha. I think the Producer is a little more concerned about that than me, David. With any evil character a writer has to be able to see beyond the facade and get deeper into how that character thinks. Lucifer was kicked out of heaven and has been seething about that for eons. Of course, he is too prideful to go hat in hand to ask forgiveness, so he creates mayhem on creatures he knows God cares for. Once the motivation is captured writing the character is a rounding out process. I don’t know how Lucifer feels about my characterizations of him and don’t really want to find out.”
“Do you guys want anything to eat?”
“You guys are too good to me. I just love pizza loaded with Italian sausage, onions and green pepper.”
“Sigh, I hate that expression. John, the situations you put your characters in required a great deal of research. Did you fall into any rabbit holes? You know, lose a few hours of writing time learning more about the war in France or life in a concentration camp than you really needed to know.”
“I did fall into a number of rabbit holes while researching. It is so easy to do. I had to do research for every stop. I got lost in Super Bowl I statistics like the price of a ticket and attendance. World War I was so vast I almost didn’t move on. Researching the 94th Aero Squadron took hours just to find out where they were based.The Roman games and the setting took time. The Titanic was the biggest rabbit hole of all. There were so many stories and since I decided to have the characters walk around the ship, so many details about the various decks and salons. Auschwitz and Hiroshima research took on a sadness as the magnitude of the loss of human life came into focus. Auschwitz in particular was chilling in the factory like precision people were murdered. The gold fields and the Transcontinental railroad were a delight to learn about. Yes, very time consuming this research thingy.”
“Do you enjoy research?”
“I really enjoy research and am so thankful for the internet. Every time I do research, I learn a whole bunch of things new.”
“Well, it looks like our pizza is here, and it appears Skippy got the order correct.”
“I don’t make as many mistakes as I used to, David.”
“John, is there anything you want to add about the book before we dig into this pie?”
“I want to thank you all for your interest and to let you know the pizza and drinks are on me. It was fun being here and Dan, tell Cheryl hello for me. Don’t look perplexed, Skippy, it was a pleasure meeting you.”
“No problem, Mr. Howell.”
Note: Our daughter and I will be attending the Woodworking Show today, so I might be late getting to some of your comments. I will catch up when I return home. By the way, John and I wrote this post SoC style by passing bits of conversation back and forth. No editing and, as Linda prefers, not a lot of thought. One more thing, if you’d like to read the blurb, you’ll find it below the gallery.
(all open in new window)
John’s Fiction Favorites blog
In the sequel to Eternal Road – The final stop, Sam and James are reunited to look for two souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.
The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey take the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.
This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.
Like it? Then go buy the book!