Meet David Howden – An Author!

I am excited to bring you this interview! David is quite the Renaissance man! Not only does he write, he is also one heck of an illustrator. As a treat, I’ve included a few of his drawings he shared with me. These come from his books.

Originally, David began as someone who drew. As he explained it, he would illustrate battle scenes to add to his social studies homework. As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you I would have not only looked forward to grading his work, but I would feel compelled to give him a few bonus points for effort.

He came to writing almost by accident. While waiting for his daughter to finish a book club at a local library, David decided to write a story for his daughter. How cool is that? And, how many people do you know can boast of knowing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Holmes is one of my go-to detectives, so I was not only intrigued, but in awe.

Here is my interview with David. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?

I’ve always been a visual storyteller with my drawings, ever since I was at school, where I would illustrate my history homework with famous scenes. However, I didn’t combine my writing and illustrating until much later.

My daughter, Katelyn, had joined a local library book club, and while waiting for it to finish each month, I decided to write her a story. Over the next few years, I wrote The Tooth Bearer, followed by The Tooth Bearer and the Masked Crown. My daughter contributed some drawings as well, so it became a joint effort, which was lovely.

My family encouraged me to publish it after reading it, and so I did and I find I love it. Writing and drawing is fantastic fun. We all have a story to tell somewhere.

As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?

That’s a good question. I remember that when I was in my English class at school, I discovered exactly what the teacher was looking for. He liked doom and gloom, and as long as I wrote in the required style, I achieved top marks. That makes me laugh now, but it didn’t matter what I wrote back then at school, as long as it had doom and gloom. It worked for him and for me. That experience taught me to find my audience and write about what they will like.

I think that if you are writing for children, then don’t write down at them. The books may be bought by adults, but the children are the major critics, those and the young at heart. I also recognize that many of the parents will read books to their children at bedtime, so I’ve included a few things in my stories that they’ll relate to, and will hopefully bring a smile to them, too.

I hope that my style of writing fits the bill for my readers. Not overly cluttered, but embellished with a descriptive style that paints a picture of the place.

What genre do you write, and why?

I like to write for children and the young at heart. Maybe one day, I’ll try my hand at another style, but for now, I’m happy sitting where I am.

If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?

I enjoyed reading The Dragonlance series of fantasy books back in the nineties, but I would also veer towards the cartoon strip, The Far Side, by Gary Larson along with Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. Looking back, the idea of a little boy and his stuffed tiger getting up to many adventures must have influenced my own stories of a young girl and her tooth fairy trying to save the fairy realm.

What authors do you read regularly? Why?

Might sound daft, but I recently read Mel Blanc’s book, That’s not all, folks. Best book I’ve read in ages! He had a wonderful life, met loads of great people, and enjoyed what he did, making people happy, which is what we should all strive to do. Currently, I’m reading my latest book (still in the editing stage) to my ten-year-old daughter at bedtime. She is my fiercest critic!

If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?

This one got me thinking. I would love to have had dinner with my grandma, as an author, because she would have enjoyed my books, and she is probably one of the few people I haven’t had the chance to tell. F. Scott Fitzgerald would be on my list because he wrote and wrote, before achieving any success.

The same could be said for the jazz cornetist, Bix Beiderbecke, whose family received all his albums, but never played them. It would be great to have dinner with him too, as I’ve always been a fan. I love jazz music of all types, and have collected a huge amount of albums over the years from the early groups led by King Oliver, to the music of today. When it comes to different styles, I am quite eclectic. I used to play lead trombone in a big band and in a small combo group back in the 90s and early 2000s. If you are getting married, then that is a cheap way to hire a big band to play. They played havoc with my first dance, though. Taking a solo is hard enough as it is without nipping off the stage to dance! 

Another dinner guest would be Gyles Brandreth, because I find him to be such a clever person who can talk on any subject going without sounding overly clever.

The writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would be my final guest. He provided two new cameras for the young girls, Frances and Elsie, to take more pictures of fairies at Cottingley, because he truly believed in them being real. Like his wife, he believed in the spiritual world, yet this was a man who created the detective, Sherlock Holmes. A detective that worked on hard facts, not fiction. I understand he lost his son during the war, and there was a major pandemic taking place at the time, so I can see why he wanted to see something magical in the world after so much grief. I would have loved to talk to him about it. I based the roots of the Cottingley event in my stories, but from the fairies’ point of view. How would they perceive the children taking pictures?

What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?

I am both when I write. I start with a jotter pad and a pen, and outline the general storyline, but then as the months go by, it’s as if various characters wander up and chat to me, adding ideas to the story as they go.

When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?

I love reading but as I work full time as a book restorer and binder, and then writing and illustrating when home, I read the back of the cereal box at breakfast. I’ve been collecting books on fairies to learn more of the lore, and the events at Cottingley over the years and enjoy reading them. I found a copy of The Princess Mary’s Gift Book, which inspired the two girls’ pictures of fairies at the time.

Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In terms of writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)

I have never been a confident person, but looking back on what I have done, I have achieved the goals that I set for myself. I taught myself bass clef for the big band, as I’d previously been taught treble clef for the brass band that I played in.

I built a Kit Car out of an old 2CV in the early 90s as well and had fun competing in it. Sadly, I had to sell that because of costs, but it is still out there with my name on the bulkhead in the engine bay.

Now I write and illustrate middle-grade books. As yet, the writing has worked, but marketing is the hardest hurdle for the self-published author. I heard one writer say it’s like having your favorite goldfish in a bowl, releasing them into the ocean, and expecting everyone to find them.

What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?

That is hard to answer, as we are all still learning. I read a lot of magazines about how to write, and I have learned so much from people since starting this endeavor. Social media forums are a great help, but not everyone is correct, so sometimes go with your gut, because you know yourself the best. Everyone out there is a critic and what one person likes, another will not. You need tough skin to be a writer and illustrator. You may not always be selling books, but if you hadn’t written them, then you could never sell them. So pat yourself on the back and give yourself a break. Yeah, I know. That’s easier said than done!

How do you handle a negative critique?

What, you mean some people won’t like my books?

Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?

I have never written romance, and the female population thanks me for it!

How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?

If you are trying to create a world and allow the reader to see it through your eyes, then it is very important. You don’t want the reader to become bogged down in details though. You’re not writing a travel guide to your realm, at least not yet. I based one of the lead characters on my daughter and wanted to convey her mannerisms, hopes and fears.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?

I based myself as the dad: bumbling and stubbing his toe with the best of them.

Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?

I love all of my characters, from my daughter, naturally, who becomes the Tooth Bearer, to Tilly, the Tooth Fairy, who is still learning about life with her eyes wide shut, and more concerned about being a tooth fairy than her physical appearance. Her bossy aunt, Pippa, who is quite happy to give people a piece of her mind, and the two gremlins, Sharpclaw and Lenny, are basically based on typical London, east end, shady hired help. Then you have the pompous gnome artist, Tiberius Smart, flamboyant in his looks, but would happily leave you stranded if it would save his skin.

Tell us about your most recent book.

From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?

The first book in the series (The Tooth Bearer) was a simple story of a young girl becoming a Tooth Bearer and trying to find her way home from the fairy realm after accidentally becoming transported there.

When I wrote the next book (The Tooth Bearer and the Masked Crown) I wanted to expand on the realm and feature more of The Darkness of Disbelief, the entity that now threatens the fairy realm which was created by humans who stopped believing in fairies after discovering the Cottingley hoax. I have always loved the story of the two girls taking pictures of fairies, and how it got out of control. In some respects, it was the adults that perpetuated the idea by wanting to see more.

That so many people believed in them at the time and still do now fascinates me. I wanted to see what would happen if the fairies had lived there, but left when it started getting out of hand, leaving the girls to make up the cardboard figures and carry on with the pictures alone.

How had those events affected the future of the fairy realm and what was it like now?

The Tooth Bearer and the Masked Crown title comes from me wanting to place teeth terms into the book. However, it also refers to the missing fairy king who disappeared fighting the Darkness of Disbelief.

My favorite character would be my daughter, of course, but I love Tilly, the tooth fairy who just doesn’t care what people think of her, and her aunt Pippa, who does care!

My least favorite would be . . . no, I don’t have one. Some characters that I created in the initial write up never made the page. But who knows? They may at a later date?

I loved writing about the villains in the story and created a gnome Pirate called Christopher Crowe, and his ship, The Raven. I have brought them back for my next book because I love the character and his crew, and who doesn’t like pirates?

Author Links:

Book Links:

David Howden and Character
A David Howden Fairy
A David Howden Fairy
A David Howden Fairy
A David Howden Pirate

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