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
Wow! Number 5 hit home. Great interview!
yes, lots of interesting personal details about the story and the writer 📚☕️😀
Honey Ko wasn’t intended to be about Susanna and me, but the more I wrote the more I realized how cathartic writing about her was for me. Similarly to John, while writing HK, I was constantly thinking “what if” Susanna had lived.
I think it’s for the best…
you & John r in a great company:) for example, almost 90% of heroes of Tolstoy r the real people he personally knew or had relationships with (some r relatives, too). Similar with Dostoevsky, and other authors. I believe the emotional vibe is more true when it’s personal
Obviously, I need to learn Russian! 😂😂
Thank you, Will.
You’re welcome! Best wishes on great success 🙂
Wonderful Victoria. Thank you for conducting and sharing the interview.
thank you! yes, it was a great read and cool answers/person 🙂 ✌️
My pleasure Victoria. You are fabulous 🥰
Thank you for reading.
Thank you, Victoria for the interview. Your questions were terrific and I enjoyed the time. The post looks outstanding, too.
Thank you 😊, it was fun 🤩! I hope you like James & Sam in this post… they look 👀 hot 😉
I thought they were hot as well. I think you nailed both of them. 😁
Haha 😛 great!!
I followed John through most (if not all of) his tour for Eternal Road. And still I’m learning a little more. Great interview, John and Victoria.
Thank you, Staci. 😊
Thank you 😊💜☕️
This was a great interview. The graphics are really intriguing. I love the personal glimpses into your story. Thanks for the nod, too.
I’m enjoying the story, Craig.
Brilliant interview! Great job! 🙂
👋📖💜 thank you!
My pleasure, dear Victoria!
Thank you, Maria.
All for you, dear John! Looking forward to your book for children! 😏😊
Next life maybe. Thanks, Maria.
No problem, dear John! 🙂
What an incredible interview! Thank you, Victoria. I loved John’s personal stories and his life glimpses. Bravo, John!
100% 💜👋 & thank you!
Thank you, Gwen. Great to see you here.
Fantastic interview, Victoria. I learned some new tidbits of information about our friend, John.
Thank you, Jill. Yes, Victoria pulled information out of me.
Thank you, Jill… and me too 🙂 Its always quite fascinating to get to know the author or what’s really “hiding” behind his heroes, prose.
Great interview and I can’t wait to read some of these books!
👋☀️💜 thank you!
Thank you. I appreciate the visit and nice words.
Well deserved. I put in a request yesterday for the library to order your book. You’re about to be catalogued at the Fulton County Public Library.
That is so amazing. Thank you. Would that be Fulton County, GA, IN, or KY? 😁
Ah. I used to live in Indiana. Was in and out several times. Last time was South Bend area. (Granger)
Our library is about an hour south of S. Bend/Granger area…Straight down US 31.
I’ve been through that area. My daughter lives in Nashville which is south of Indy.
Next time you’re in the area, stop by the library in Rochester and I’ll give you the nickel tour. You can also check on how your book is fairing.
Thank you so much.😁
I was supposed to be there in June but COVID killed that trip. Maybe in the summer.
This interview showed us a different side of John Howell. How amazing to learn that you patterned Sam after a girl you knew. Life is such a strange journey that I don’t see any reason the afterlife wouldn’t be just as strange, as you depict in this story, John. Fantastic interview! Thank you for hosting, Victoria!
Thank you, Jan. Victoria is a great host. 😁
Thank you & agreed with you! 💜👋☀️
Wonderful interview, John! It’s nice to get to know you in more depth! I was especially touched by your story of your childhood friend that evolved into the characters in Eternal Road. And I’m impressed by your dedication to your daily writing time and your plans for future books. I want to be YOU when I grow up!! 🙂 Thank you, Victoria, for featuring John here today! Great post! 🙂
Thank you for the visit,Marcia. Especially since you are on a break. I appreciate you. 😊
Back atcha, John, and I couldn’t resist checking it out. I love interviews! 🙂
Thank you 😊 & yes, dreaming to write 1000 a day every day, too! Hopefully, soon… 🤔😂
Two points 1. Bringing to light a long lost friendship! 2. One of the top five movies in my life “Ghost”! Thank you RNB and John W. Howell!
Thank you K!! 👋☀️ I love Ghost too, especially Patrick Swayze … 💃💃💃well, I’m a girl after all 😉.
Ah, I loved him in every movie 🎥😛
What a truly marvelous interview with John. Your questions ended up bringing out exceptional answers. Hugs to you both.
Thank you, Teagan.
Thank you, K. Great comments.
Great questions and John did a terrific job with the replies!
Thank you, GP. So great you came by.
Great interview! It made me even love your book more now, and gave me emotional goosebumps, knowing that there really was a lost love and your dad’s eaerly loss mixed in it. I can’t wait to read more and can see your love of history mixed into the story, which I was a fan of in school too. Definitely your best book to date.
Good advice to write first then do everything else. I’ve been doing social media and all the other work first and putting writing last. I may switch that up. I’m wil you about promoting too. Ick!
Thank you, Denise. I think you should switch it up then you won’t be exhausted when you start writing.
This is one hell of an interview.
And a children’s book featuring the girls, huh? I think it would be amazing.
As for your Iron Man-like rituals, John . . not to mention the sequel to Eternal Road . . great work and keep on doing what you do.
And RNB, once again, SPOT ON interview!
Thank you, Pilgrim. I would like to do it but need to find an illustrator. Photos won’t cut it.
True. I hope this comes together because it would be so much fun.
I think it would be fun too.
Great interview, John. I think a children’s book with Lucy and Twiggy would be fabulous. Enjoyed hearing the story behind Eternal Road. And I’m impressed by your 1000 words per day discipline.
Thank you, Joan. I’ve been doing the 1000 a day since 2012. It really helps me stay on point. I do stop at 1000 no matter. I know to continue only produces crap.
It was great getting to know the reasons behind the story John and it sounds like a fascinating read. Thank you, Victoria, for hosting!
Hey Victoria! I read and reviewed your other book, So Absurd it Must Be True. We met on Fiverr, and since then I have come to really enjoy what you are writing. Let me know if you want me to share this new book with my friends at Columbia, Harvard, and MIT. Can’t wait to read it. Best, Joe Potesta
PS – you can find me on Instagram as @joeismycaptain
Hey Joseph, thank you! Yes it was long time ago 🙂 I’ll add you on IG! I have book 2 in “Absurd” series 😁😉
And yes, would be great if you could share John’s book 📖👍☕️
What a great interview. Loved it.
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