the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with author Howard Andrew Jones

Posted on: December 24, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to interview author Howard Andrew Jones, whose forthcoming fantasy book, For The Killing of Kings, will be available in February from St. Martin’s press.  The first in an epic, adventure-filled trilogy, For The Killing of Kings involves a fragile peace, forgeries, conspiracies, and a near unstoppable invading force.  Brace yourself for a fantastic and action packed February!

Howard Andrew Jones has written a series of Arabian historical fantasies, and a number of Pathfinder novels. He was the managing editor for Black Gate Magazine, has posted a ton of blog posts about the art and struggle of creating fiction and editing, and among other editing projects is currently the Executive Editor of Perilous Worlds. Howard was kind enough to chat with me about the new fantasy series, editing, his family farm, gaming, and more. To learn more about Howard and his work, head over to his website, HowardAndrewJones.com.

 

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your forthcoming novel For the Killing of Kings! What can you tell us about this book’s journey from idea to finished novel?

 

Howard Andrew Jones: Thanks! This one has been with me for a looong time in some form or other. The primary characters starred in an unpublished novel twenty years ago, and while I set that book aside, the characters stayed with me. I’ve been working on the first two books off and on for the last four years, in between other projects. My previous novels have been inter-related, but weren’t as closely connected, and it took me a little time to figure out how to assemble a trilogy. It also required a couple of drafts to get to a longer length a lot of modern readers seem to prefer and keep the swift pacing I like.

 

LRR: Who was your favorite character to write?

 

HAJ: Honestly, I loved writing all of these characters. The swordswoman and enchantress Elenai, the novel’s principal protagonist, is an awful lot of fun because of her drive and curiosity, and I get a particular charge out of the brilliant, precise, and slightly peculiar Varama. She adds more than her body weight to any scene where she appears. Two of my initial inspirations were Corwin and Benedict of Amber because I always wanted to see more of both on the page. After more than two decades in my head, the two characters who started out as homages to them are their own people, but I had a blast writing the charming, deadly warrior and the tactical genius.

LRR: This is the beginning of a trilogy. Do you have the entire thing planned out, or will you just write and see where the story goes?

HAJ: I planned it out pretty carefully… but had to keep adjusting and throwing things out and reinventing as I went. The best laid plans, right? In general I keep to the big details once I have my concept, but I tweak things as I go. Right now, the second book is done and just needs a few tweaks, and I’m hard at work turning book three’s loose outline into a detailed one.

 

LRR:  You did a reading from For the Killing of Kings at World Fantasy Convention, how was the reading? How was the con?

 

HAJ: I really enjoyed the convention. I’ve been to enough of them at this point that I understand why Black Gate’s John O’Neill once described conventions as being like reunions. You spend time with people you really like and have a lot in common with that you don’t get to visit very often. Maybe a con is even better than most reunions, because you get to meet new people and strike up new friendships.

 

I had a blast at the reading, and the excerpt had people laughing and smiling and even gasping a little during the exciting parts. At some point over the last few years I got comfortable in front of crowds. Maybe it’s a benefit of having taught for a few years. It used to be terrifying to step in front of a room full of students at the start of the semester, but after a little while being the main focus of attention stopped rattling me.

 

LRR:  Much of the praise for For The Killing of Kings includes compliments to your world building.  What tips do you have for how to do world building right? What should authors avoid?

 

HAJ: I like to go to interesting places and see interesting things, so I try to imagine a world that has both. I also imagine characters who have likes and dislikes. For instance, I created characters who like different artists and foods and works of literature. One has a favorite poet and often quotes her. I thought about how the cities were designed and how they might have grown, customs that had risen based on historical events and people, and societal codes. It’s not as though I went all out and wrote down all their laws, but I spent a lot of time honing certain concepts that loom large, like the oath that’s the cornerstone of the elite warrior-champions of the realm. That and some of their ceremonies had to sound worthy of having stood the test of time.

 

As far as things to avoid, I personally dislike stopping the story to provide nothing but background information. If there’s a scene where a discussion of background information is ESSENTIAL, then I try to make it revealing of character and entertaining as well. All of the background doesn’t have to be explained in one dollop, it can be added in gradually, organically. And I truly despise halting the action to introduce a character and their backstory. It can be a lot more entertaining wondering about a character’s origins and learning a little every now and then by the way others react to them.

LRR: You accidentally became an expert on the work of Harold Lamb. How did that happen, and what came of it?

 

HAJ: I began as a fan. Harold Lamb had written a series of swashbuckling adventure stories in the pulp historical magazines of the 1920s and ‘30s and they were way ahead of their time. They were crammed with action and adventure in exotic locales and featured shrewd and daring heroes. But a whole slew of them hadn’t been reprinted. At first I assumed that the ones that hadn’t been collected weren’t any good – that they’d be like deep album cuts that were weak or simply filler. As I tracked them down I was astonished at their quality and couldn’t believe they were so hard to find. Slowly, with the help of friends, family, and colleagues, I found them all. And because a lot of them were in old magazines that were literally flaking apart, I scanned the pages to preserve the tales.

 

You can probably predict what happened from there. I ended up with the most complete collection of Harold Lamb texts around, and I was probably the only person who had them as e-texts. I’d also become a book editor by then. Admittedly, I was an editor of technical books, but I still knew the publishing process and how to talk to fellow editors. When I saw that the University of Nebraska Press was reprinting the historical fiction of Robert E. Howard (who had been a big fan of Harold Lamb) I approached them about reprinting Harold Lamb’s works, and they put me in charge of assembling and editing eight large collections. I had the right skills at the right time, with the right (and rather obscure) knowledge base.

 

LRR: You do quite a bit of editing as well. Black Gate Magazine, Tales From the Magician’s Skull, and a brand new imprint! How has editing changed (if at all) since you got involved with that aspect of publishing?

 

HAJ: I don’t think editing itself has changed much in the years I’ve been doing it, but I’d like to think I’ve changed, or that at least my editing’s gotten better. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. Certainly I believe I’m better at communicating with authors than I was when I started, and I definitely know I’m better at figuring out how stories tick.

 

Editing is a bit of a strange craft in that if you’re really good at it, all that you’ve done is invisible. Usually the only time you notice editing is if there’s a problem. I don’t necessarily mean misplaced commas or typos, although that’s one kind of mistake. These days I’m not really doing that kind of editing, but developmental work, and when you make a mistake that way a story doesn’t resolve right, or there’s a big plot hole, or the villain isn’t well motivated. That kind of thing.

 

LRR:  When you’re not writing, reading, or editing, somehow you also find time for board games. I was obsessed with Ticket to Ride for a while. What are some of your favorite board games?

 

HAJ: I’ve never played Ticket to Ride, but I’ve logged a lot of plays of Iron Dragon and Martian Rails, which are both railroad building games. My wife is a genius at both, and almost always beats me.

 

My favorite board games are wargames. We seem to be living in a golden age of boardgames, but what even some boardgame players don’t know is that we’re living in a golden age of solitaire wargames. There are scads of them, and I’ve played and reviewed more than my fair share. I generally prefer a game where a counter represents a single soldier, or a single plane rather than, say, an entire division, and while I’m a big ancient history buff, there are more games that fit that description set in World War II, which is probably why all of my current favorites are from that era.

 

Lock ‘n Load Tactical is actually a system with a whole series of games in different times (both World War II and more modern conflicts) sharing the same ruleset, and I love the tactical detail and swift play. I’m not really an air warfare guy, but B-17 Leader is incredibly immersive. Once you’re set up, you really start to feel like you’re in charge of the Allied Air command during World War II, trying to take down the German Luftwaffe, U-Boat pens, V-2 rocket sites, and so on. You’re not really commanding individual units, but it feels like you, personally, are making the tough choices.

 

Lastly, there’s Ambush! and its expansions and sister game (Battle Hymn). And while this one dates from the ‘80s, I only recently acquired a used copy. It has a role-playing element in that your soldiers can improve in a variety of abilities if you get them alive through separate and challenging missions. The stories that develop over the course of play are exciting and memorable. And this may surprise you, but I’m a sucker for a good story.

 

LRR:  Tell me about your small farm! eggs? goats?  animals doing funny and annoying things?

 

HAJ: We own three horses, fourteen chickens, two barn cats and two husky/shepherd mixes. The chickens are pretty easy keepers, except that, since they’re delicious, everything wants to eat them. Coyotes, raccoons, foxes, stray dogs, hawks… you name it. Until last year we had a great rooster who was wonderful at protecting the chickens. We’ve had several roosters over the years, and they’re usually pretty useless, but Big Red actually kept an eye on the hens and herded them back to the barn whenever he saw predators. We’re not sure what killed him, but all but one of the hens got back to the barn safely, so his sacrifice wasn’t in vain.

 

With more than a dozen chickens, most days we have at least a half dozen eggs. Fresh eggs are so much better than store bought eggs I hope I never have to go back to buying them from the grocery.

 

We haven’t had time to ride the horses much lately, but there are still stalls to muck and fences to repair, because the biggest one, Trigger (a Tennessee Walker who’s 16 hands high), likes to lean against the top rail to get the grass on the other side. No matter how sturdy the fence, you put 1500 pounds of horse against that wood and it’s eventually going to break.

 

Despite being the source of most of my fence damage, Trigger’s my favorite, because he’s the most friendly and interested in humans. He’s even got a sense of humor. One day I was out in the pasture repairing the fence when Trigger wandered over to say hello. I patted him a little, turned away to lift a hammer and get back to work, and he bent over, snagged the bag of nails, and trotted off. The moment I shouted his name he dropped the bag and looked back at me before heading away.

 

LRR:  Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

 

HAJ: I blog at least once a week over at my website, www.howardandrewjones.com. I maintain a Twitter account @howardandrewjon but I keep forgetting to use it, and I’m frequently on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/howard.andrew.jones.1

 

I love to discuss writing, books, history, gaming – pretty much the stuff we’ve talked about here!

 

LRR: Thanks Howard!

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3 Responses to "Interview with author Howard Andrew Jones"

Great Q&A! Looking forward to reading this one.

Liked by 1 person

[…] Red Reviewer was kind enough to interview me about my upcoming books, and you can find the link right here. And if you’re unfamiliar with her site, you ought to look around because it’s loaded […]

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Great interview, Red! I’m looking forward to picking up Howard’s new book now that it’s on my radar…

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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