Blair Howard - Whodunits, Police Procedurals, Realism, Fast-Paced Nonstop Action
Blair Howard is a retired journalist turned novelist. He's the author of more than 40 novels including the international best-selling Harry Starke series of crime stories, the Lt. Kate Gazzara series, and the Harry Starke Genesis series. He's also the author of the Peacemaker series of international thrillers and five Civil War/Western novels. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his Lt. Kate Gazzara series.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Lt. Kate Gazzara Series is about.
The series follows the life and times of Detective Kate Gazzara from when she was promoted from Sergeant to Lieutenant to Captain, a period of about 10 years. The stories are stand-alone police procedural novels.
What are you working on right now? Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Having just finished, Feathers, Book 13 in the series, I’m not working on anything for a couple of weeks. Then I plan to start work on Harry Starke, Book 17… I think. I have a Facebook group where readers can ask questions and interact with me. I must admit, I don’t spend as much time there as I should but I do plan to do better in the coming year.
Kate works in a world dominated by men. How does that affect her character?
Kate was in her early 30s when I spun her off from the Harry Starke series. She’s now in her early forties. Being a successful cop in a world dominated by men has turned her into a tough, self-sufficient lady… and something of a loner. While she doesn’t take any shit from anyone, including her chief, she is vulnerable, and she has a conscience. She doesn’t trust men, at work or romantically. Her choices in men are… let’s just say she could do better.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Hah, I’m a professional photographer, I used to play golf – no time for that these days - and I’m a fairly good woodworker. In fact, I’ve written four woodworking books and I made 23 items of furniture for my home, including the dining table, a Morris Chair, a Welsh dresser and a plantation desk.
You are a retired journalist. How does your experience as a journalist influence your writing?
I don’t think it has. They are totally different professions. Creative writing is an art. In my case, the story is the product of the imagination. Journalism is a craft. I was a photojournalist. I photographed and described the story as I found it; no imagination was involved.
Which of characters in this series is your personal favorite, and why?
I honestly don’t have a favorite, though I must admit I feel more comfortable writing about Harry Starke. I enjoy writing about Kate, but being a male makes it difficult for me to get inside her head. And, because I write in the 1st person, that’s what I have to do. I have to think the way my character thinks. It’s difficult for a man to think – and talk - like a forty-two-year-old female.
Readers say your books are really fast-paced. How do you pull this off?
I try to tell the story without a lot of “fluff” or filler. I don’t write pages and pages of background or description. I try to give the reader just enough details to fire up the imagination and build a picture of their own. Seems to work. I also put a hook at the end of each chapter: that keeps them turning the pages. Most of my readers say they know my characters and some even regard them as friends. That’s quite flattering.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
They always take off in unknown directions. Many times, a story will take on a life of its own and take me to places I’ve never been before. Often I don’t know how a story will end until I get to the final two or three chapters. I get to solve the mystery as I write. It’s more fun that way.
Do you plot out your stories before you start writing, or does some of it just "happen" along the way?
I don’t “plot” though I do sketch out a rough outline, but I rarely stick to it, which is why I struggle over the last half dozen chapters. As I said, I like the story to drag me along for the ride.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
All of my series books, with the exception of The Peacemaker series, are written in the 1st person. So, after deciding what it is I want to do, I always write the first chapter in the 3rd person. The first chapter is always about the crime around which the story will be written.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
No habits. I just sit down each day and do it. I try to write 2,500 words a day. On a good day I can do that in about three hours; on a bad day it will take me six. When I am writing I write seven days a week until I’m finished. The first draft of a typical novel of 72,000 words will usually take me between 25 and 30 days to complete.