Author interview 150 – S.D. Howarth


Steve (David) Howarth

England

Age 47

S.D. Howarth is a British fantasy author, living in Yorkshire with his wife, children, and cats. IT Manager by day, by night an attic writer.

This is a story about the crew of Spires warship Tryphon, sweeping the acidic seas one last time for pirates and join the invasion fleet in burning out the swamp-hovel of Freeport where they lurk.

Navigator Edouard van Reiver is glad to have a companionable posting with fellow naval academy exile Deputy Sunjammer Gabriel Dagmar. Both men endure a private war against tedium and shipboard politics. Coxswain Grimm is the man holding the lower-decks together. Lady Carla has endured years of escorting her sickening father on diplomatic missions to rebuild their principality. This may be their last, when their courier is attacked at night and leaves them to drift while it burns.

No good deed goes unpunished. When Van Reiver bucks superstition to rescue Carla, he sets into motion events that will shake the world. Her arrival aboard leaves questions to answer questions. Within hours, Tryphon sails into a fog-bound world to become trapped and assailed on all sides by a savage new foe with powerful magicians. Heading to his watch Dagmar is blasted unconscious by one of several magical assaults which tear their defences apart, injure Van Reiver and Grimm, and decimate the crew. A healed Van Reiver attempts to clear the deck and rescue trapped crewmen. He barely escapes with his life as Tryphon is swarmed and burns as they kill two enemy mages. Grimm escapes an assassin when following Captain Bullsen’s orders to scuttle Tryphon.

Van Reiver and Grimm flee with three boats, along with Carla, her father, Doctor Bullsen and Dagmar. Another mage with archers attacks them, destroying one boat, while Van Reiver and Grimm are injured. Dagmar casts a terrifying spell to kill the caster and uses his sunjammer crystal to send them into the blinding safety of fog and darkness.

They escape one enemy to meet the immense fury of acidic oceans as the weather worsens, and the badly injured die. Van Reiver survives an arrow removal as Dagmar and Grimm arrange the crew and a temporary mast. Van Reiver awakens for a course fix and resume command, he discovers they are near forbidden waters by Tuvala, the sea elf isle. With rations depleted, the elderly doctor and several wounded die before a mutiny is quelled. As the storm rages, they encounter a rogue wave. Dagmar attempts to climb it and collapses, as one boat sinks with many crewmen. With Van Reiver unconscious, Grimm surfs along the crest and crosses the eye of the storm. Dagmar uses his scrying ability as they drift and finds land near and an elven offer of help. Upon arrival, he is stunned and everyone captured.

Waking up Dagmar finds everyone healed bar Carla’s father, murdered before arrival. Meeting with elven leaders, they make an offer – fulfil an ancient prophecy and a ship will be gifted. They also confirm the Aztexa are the unknown attackers – and a foe in common. Dagmar and Van Reiver agree and form an uneasy alliance with elven Commander Mathyss. A driven man looking for his sister. While Carla grieves, she volunteers as their healer as the elves re-equip them.

They head inland to investigate the loss of communication with a small overland population and missing scout parties. Finding nothing, they reach a bay. Dagmar scries ahead in alien flora and fauna and finds the mutilated remains of the scouts and a wrecked village. Two giant cyclopta and a bi-headed bear in a cave appear the culprits. Somehow Dagmar is assailed in his spirit form and injured.

Mathyss survives the bear ambush at the cave and after a short and nasty fight it is killed. Inside, Mathyss finds his sister had become a meal. Carla deals with the injured in the cave entrance as the two cyclopta head in. Mathyss sends Van Reiver, Grimm and a small party to distract the male and leads the main force of seamen and elven scouts. The female is vanquished in a hard fight with many casualties. The male blocks the cave where Dagmar and Carla shelter and smashes through Van Reiver and Grimm. Mathyss rushes to stop the male before being crippled. With brutal vindictiveness it hunts every elf out as Van Reiver injures the male’s ankle as Grimm pounds the feet. Dagmar blasts the cave clear and Carla drags him to the badly going battle. The sunjammer finishes the male off and collapses. Van Reiver is attacked by the main mutineer and flung into the sea. The man flees the seamen and attacks Carla. Slightly injured, she fends him off and discovers he was the murderer of her father. She hunts him down and knifes him, before joining Van Reiver and Grimm among the dead and wounded in a hard-earned victory.

Romelia:   WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT WAY YOUR BOOK HAS CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST DRAFT?

S.D. Howarth:   The Tryphon Odyssey was split, when I first looked into traditional publishing in late 2017. The novel is about 60% of the original content, the rest will form the bulk of book 3 and obviously split around book 2.

Romelia:   WHAT PERSPECTIVES OR BELIEFS HAVE YOU CHALLENGED WITH THIS WORK?

S.D. Howarth:   Where do duty, trust and loyalty stand when survival is key? Trust and loyalty are the two concepts I considered. Trust in the information provided to Tryphon’s crew by survivors and allies. Loyalty in would the crew stick to the core characters, or chose their own fate when duty is an impossibility.

Romelia:   WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR YOUR BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   It was a combination of tripping on painkillers for a week after injuring my ankle before laying a laminate floor (bad idea) and needing a distraction. The second factor was having a vague concept of ‘what if’ if I mixed early cultures from Civilization with something akin to World of Warcraft. Throw in the odd movie reference, like Pulp Fiction, Serenity, Master and Commander, Clash of the Titans and Dog Soldiers, it ended somewhere different, and I hope, plausible.

Romelia:   HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK’S IDEAL READER?

S.D. Howarth:   Someone who likes adventure yarns with either a historical fiction, or straight-up interest in fantasy willing to give it a chance.

Romelia:   HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   Far more than needed, some was a refresher with my university books in history, archaeology, and medieval ship structures. More was in historical novels of every period, or events and people who seemed interesting and medieval society and battle tactics. Other things were with geography, mythology or developing a world and social structure in my head, and key events for the backstory. Some are pertinent to this book, others would be relevant in future works or side projects. The rest was learning how to write, and develop an idea of what to do to turn the scribbles in a manuscript book into something resembling a viable novel.

Romelia:   HOW IMPORTANT WAS PROFESSIONAL EDITING TO YOUR BOOK’S DEVELOPMENT?

S.D. Howarth:   Fairly critical in all fairness. Beta readers can give great and honest feedback, but if you send it out and receive (eventual) rejection emails from agents you need someone to tell you exactly what may be wrong, and what can be improved, cut, or developed. Then it’s on you.

Romelia:   WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE, AND WHY?

S.D. Howarth:   The opening chapter. There have been half a dozen versions and they all split opinion. In the end I binned four, gave the editor two and he picked the one closest to the original draft. The other may become a short at some point.

Romelia:   WHAT CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOK ARE MOST SIMILAR TO YOU OR TO PEOPLE YOU KNOW?

S.D. Howarth:   Van Reiver will have some traits, it is hard to distance yourself totally. My favorite one won’t be around until book three with the split and he is comparable to the Warcraft character I had the most fun with. Other crew have traits I sponged up at work by overhearing lunchtime conversations and dealing with IT gripes. I realized Tryphon’s crew were too smart to be plausible…

Romelia:   HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   The original rough draft a few months. The main story outline beyond this trilogy was spread over several years, written around Warcraft raiding and children. Actually deciding to turn scribbles into a book started in 2015 when I dinged 40, with the real editing and structural work from 2017 onwards. Most of last year was a write off, with the day job, but that allowed a partial re-edit on a few chapters.

Romelia:   HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR YOUR BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   It was originally ‘Flight from The Tryphon’, but I trimmed it to keep it simple and throw a nod to Greek myth.

Romelia:   WOULD YOU AND YOUR MAIN CHARACTER GET ALONG?

S.D. Howarth:   Probably – if our frustrations at life didn’t spill over.

Romelia:   IF YOU COULD MEET YOUR CHARACTERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

S.D. Howarth:   Any job vacancies going?

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE? ARE YOU MORE OF A PLOTTER OR A PANTSER?

S.D. Howarth:   Pantser, but at some point, some plotting is needed to tidy up structure, POV, or story (Learned the hard way. 

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR WRITING SPACE TO HELP YOU STAY FOCUSED?

S.D. Howarth:   It varies. Sometimes quiet, sometimes music, or something on in the background to watch. I’m crammed in the loft, so pens, books and setup is all around if needed. Time and mood are the more critical aspects.

Romelia:   IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A SPIN-OFF ABOUT A SIDE CHARACTER, WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?

S.D. Howarth:   He isn’t mentioned by name, but the principal pirate Tryphon is hunting is an interesting character and possibly not all there. He also wants revenge on the folk who killed him.

Romelia:   IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ANOTHER POPULAR AUTHOR, WHOM WOULD YOU CHOOSE?

S.D. Howarth:   Living, Michael Marshall Smith. Dead, Sir Terry Pratchett.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   I try and keep a few hours free late at night on weekdays for writing. Productivity might not be much, but if you chip away long enough you get somewhere or feel like you are getting somewhere. I sometimes read at lunch for research purposes.

Romelia:   HAVE YOU EVER TRAVELED AS RESEARCH FOR YOUR BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   Only to historic sites, but I’d be going there away.

Romelia:   WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WRITING SNACK OR DRINK?

S.D. Howarth:   Coffee probably. It is hard to eat fudge as a diabetic.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?

S.D. Howarth:   I’ve only completed one. I bought a sword.

Romelia:   WHAT RISKS HAVE YOU TAKEN WITH YOUR WRITING THAT HAVE PAID OFF?

S.D. Howarth:   Starting it would be the key one. Want to and doing are very different concepts. Splitting the book would be the main one, as the ending was very dark and it condensed some of the head-hopping. The final one would be doing my own cover design. With my IT skills and some experience of DTP some twenty years ago, it was feasible and critically saved money.

Romelia:   WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF AND WHAT DID YOU FIND?

S.D. Howarth:   Err, why would I do that?

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR KRYPTONITE AS A WRITER?

S.D. Howarth:   The day job (IT Manager). It can lack conduciveness to the writing process, particularly if out of hours working is needed. Spending more time on the computer can be a hazard to health, or to motivation.

Romelia:   TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

S.D. Howarth:   I originally planned to go into the navy, the recruiter seemed amused when I mentioned a supposed family link to Fletcher Christian. That was plan A and didn’t happen…

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

S.D. Howarth:   That’d be very boring… Like many people (if lucky) the day job pays the bills, but shows what you can do if you stick at something – as I hated computers and viewed them as a necessary evil and gateway to gaming. What I hate about the world is how we seemed to have stepped back a hundred years and basic concepts like equality, justice and responsibility are still being discriminated against. We should be better, particularly in England and it is embarrassing.

Website:- www.worldofsanctuary.co.uk

Facebook:- facebook.com/sd.howarth.79

Twitter:- twitter.com/Angry_Cumbrian

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