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Howard Andrew Jones

When not helping run his small family farm or spending time with his amazing wife and children, Howard can be found hunched over his laptop or notebook, mumbling about flashing swords and doom-haunted towers. He has worked variously as a TV cameraman, a book editor, a recycling consultant, and a college writing instructor. He was instrumental in the rebirth of interest in Harold Lamb’s historical fiction, and has assembled and edited 8 collections of Lamb’s work for the University of Nebraska Press. His stories of Dabir and Asim have appeared in a variety of publications over the last ten years, and led to his invitation to join the editorial staff of Black Gate magazine in 2004, where he has served as Managing Editor ever since. He blogs regularly at the Black Gate web site (www.blackgate.com) and maintains a web outpost of his own.

 

The Desert of Souls

The glittering tradition of sword-and-sorcery sweeps into the sands of ancient Arabia with the heart-stopping speed of a whirling dervish in this thrilling debut novel from new talent Howard Andrew Jones

In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the tablet may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the tablet is stolen from his care, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East.

Stopping the thieves—a cunning Greek spy and a fire wizard of the Magi—requires a desperate journey into the desert, but first Dabir and Asim must find the lost ruins of Ubar and contend with a mythic, sorcerous being that has traded wisdom for the souls of men since the dawn of time.  But against all these hazards there is one more that may be too great even for Dabir to overcome...

Beyond The Book - Howard Andrew Jones: The Desert of Souls

Lee : How long have you been writing?

Howard:Since before I could write! I used to draw pictures as a little kid and ask my mom to write out what was happening in the drawings. I wasn't much of an artist, so eventually I just fell to working with the words.

Lee : What do you love most about being a writer?

Howard: I was born with the drive to tell stories, but until recently I had to fit it in around the edges of my life, and since I was a responsible adult with a day job and children, this meant in the early morning or late at night, when I was fairly tired or pressed for time. Now that it seems possible I could do this for a living, I'm writing during the day, and with much of my time. It feels glorious. I have to wonder sometimes if it's all real. I finally have the job I've been working toward for decades. I have so many tales I've been wanting to write, and now I might be able to get to them!

Lee : Why did you choose to write this book? What attracted you to this genre?

Howard : I love adventure stories that take me to strange and exciting places at the side of interesting characters. And I like stories about heroes, who often get short shrift these days. I think we need heroes in our fiction, people who will stand up and do the right thing even when the odds are against them and no one is looking.

Lee : Will there be more books connected to this one? Whose story is next?

Howard : Oh yes. I'm finishing up another adventure of Dabir and Asim titled The Bones of the Old Ones, which should be available about a year from now, and I'm outlining others. Asim has many tales left to spin.

Lee : What's your writing process? Do you have a set routine?

Howard : During the rough draft phase I aim for drafting a minimum of 2000 words a day. I try to rise early, around 5:00, before the rest of the family is up, and get close to 1000 words before the day starts for them. For some reason that makes it simpler to advance further once breakfast is over and I have the house to myself once more.

Lee : Do your main characters, Dabir and Asim, have any characteristics that are similar to your own?

Howard : I certainly wish I was as smart as Dabir. A lot of the solutions he cooks up on the spur of the moment have taken me weeks to develop. I am addicted to learning things, the same way he is. As for similarities between me and Asim, I did take a fencing class once, but I'm no swordsman. Both of my characters place a lot of importance on friendship and loyalty, and that's something I prize myself.

Lee : Do you flesh out all your secondary characters before you start the writing process or do they sort of take life as you write?

Howard : Both. Sometimes I flesh out a secondary character who ends up very different than I first expected, and sometimes they are exactly as I had envisioned. Jaffar, master to Dabir and Asim, ended up just as I planned from the start. Sabirah turned out a lot more complex, for which I am thankful.

Lee : Have any of your secondary characters ever surprised you by doing something you weren't expecting?

Howard :Certainly. In The Desert of Souls, the poet Hamil just kept inserting himself into the events, even though I hadn't originally budgeted him with much of a part to play. I let him stay, and ended up growing quite fond of him.

Lee : What was the best or most fun part about writing this story? The not-so-great part?

Howard : Maybe I'm in the minority, but I love the planning stage and the editing stage the best. The actual writing can sometimes be a chore. I love to have the draft down on the page so I can tinker. That said, there are few moments while writing that are so pleasurable as the creation of a scene that flows pretty well the first time you try it. Jotting down dialogue that's working feels an awful lot like taking dictation from the muses.

Lee : This story would be so cool as a movie. Any possibility of that?

Howard : I can hope! If you know any producers who might like to film an Arabian swashbuckler, please send them my book.

Lee : How much time do you generally spend on research before you start writing or do you do the research as you write?

Howard : I've spent years reading about the ancient middle-east, which has given me a decent enough grounding that I can usually research new elements as I go. That said, before I started working on the next Dabir and Asim novel, I planned on delving into unfamiliar areas, so I did some preliminary reading as I put the outline together.

Lee : What can readers expect from you next?

Howard : They can certainly expect at least one more Dabir and Asim novel. In an ideal world I would like to be spinning their yarns for years to come. In addition to that, I have some secondary world fantasy series I would like to write, and some other characters who are dying to tell their stories. I hope to get to them sooner or later as well.

Lee : How may fans contact you?

Howard : I can often be found posting at Black Gate magazine's web site, at www.blackgate.com. I maintain a web outpost over at howardandrewjones.com, and visitors can post questions there, or e-mail me via the contact information on my About page. I do my best to answer all reasonable e-mail queries.