Friday, February 22, 2019

Blair Howard (Pro) and Jesse McKinnell (Newcomer)

A tactical nuclear weapon has gone missing somewhere in the Middle East and is thought to have been smuggled into the United States by a small group of Iranian terrorists intent on chaos and destruction. The target? Unknown, but the FBI’s local director is convinced that it’s the Sequoya nuclear plant and that the clock is ticking. Convinced that the threat is real and that his only link to the terrorists is Harry Starke’s nemesis, Shady Tree, he turns to Harry for help. But Harry has demons of his own to deal with, and the hunt for Tree quickly turns into a race against time. Apocalypse is the 13th standalone novel in a series of hard-boiled thrillers. If you like tough-as-nails heroes and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Blair Howard’s latest gritty, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Blair Howard is author of more than 40 books and many magazine, newspaper, and web articles. For seven “long and dreadful years,” he ran the Golf Travel channel for the New York Times company. His work has appeared in, among others, Delta’s Sky Magazine, PHOTOgraphic magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Walking Magazine, Petersen’s Hunting Magazine, The Boston Herald, The Detroit Free-Press, and The Anchorage Times.

Jonathan Lowe) How did you began writing? 

Blair Howard) I was a journalist for a great many years, eight of them for the new York Times company, but I’ve always wanted to write fiction but never could find enough time. I made several starts – short stories, one of which became my sixth Harry Starke Novel, Family Matters – but it wasn’t until 2015 that I began writing fiction in earnest. Harry Starke Book 1 was completed in September that year.

JL) What is the takeaway to Apocalypse, and the inspiration for it? 

BH) Apocalypse is a thriller rather than a crime/mystery novel, and it’s the latest book in the Harry Starke series having been published only six weeks six weeks ago. It’s the result of a half dozen or so comments in reviews that stated that, “Harry Starke is no Jack Reacher.” Of course he’s not; he never was meant to be. He’s a detective, and a damn good one, or so his fans tell me across more than 6,000 four and five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I never take negative reviews personally – you either like the stories or you don’t - but those comments started my juices flowing. “If you want Jack Reacher,” I thought, “I can do that,” and I did, and quite successfully too judging by the reviews: 115 so far at 4.8-star average on Amazon alone; even more on Goodreads.

JL) Why Indie and not a major publisher? Creative control?

BH) Over a period of twenty years, I had three different traditional publishers for 24 of my books. After each initial book launch, they promptly forgot about them and they ceased to sell. Now, as an Indie, I sell more books in month than I did in two years with a traditional publisher. I write the books, employ a professional editor, book cover designer, audio narrator (Tom Lennon) and I do my own marketing. Since I went Indie, I’ve sold almost 200,000 copies of my books (ebooks and paperbacks), including more than 6,500 audio books. I think I’m doing fine on my own.

JL) Any thoughts on the writing and marketing process?

BH) I do all of my own marketing and promoting. In fact, I spend almost as much time marketing as I do writing. I’m like the “My Pillow Guy” for my books.

JL) Anecdotes about fans of Harry?

BH) Anecdotes? I don’t know. What amazes me most is that so many of Harry’s fans think he’s a real person. Now that’s a complement any writer would be proud to receive. I know I am.

JL) What's next for you?

BH) I’ll continue to write Harry Starke novels, and of course I’ll continue to add to the spinoff series, The Lt. Kate Gazzara Novels. One day, I may even try my hand at SciFi, or even a spy thriller. Who knows? I do know that I’ll continue to write until I am no longer physically able, and I hope Tom Lennon will continue to narrate the Harry Starke audio books. He is the audio Harry Starke; he does a great job.

JL) Agreed. Thanks.
JESSE McKINNELL grew up in Massachusetts but has lived peacefully in Maine for many years. On July 4, 2015, he had a dream about a dentist with a passion for writing sitcoms. Somehow, DEAD CATS and Other Reflections on Parenthood was the result. It is his first novel.     

Jonathan Lowe) In 2020, who in the world would you most like to become POTUS, and why? 

Jesse McKinnell) Oh man, I’ll settle for anyone reasonable. I can’t wait for the day when my phone isn’t blaring constant updates at me about whatever vaguely racist, misspelled tweets were unleashed on the world at 2 in the morning. I think I may have reached outrage saturation. I’m really quite concerned about the toll that humanity is taking on the environment, so I hope the next President will understand that there are a number of steps the government needs to take in order to reverse the path that we have set ourselves on. But as to an actual name that’s tough. I think it’s probably time we gave a woman a try, men don’t seem to be especially good at the job. But not Oprah. I’ve become so disillusioned and cynical about people in positions of power that it’s hard for me to pine for someone.

Q) Kittens are cute, but become sociopaths. Some babies do too. What is your thought on the fact that most pets in American eat healthier than kids?  

A) My dog does not eat healthier than my kid. First my dog eats poop: her own, squirrels, other dogs, whatever. And second even the grain free, organic feed I buy her costs $10 and lasts over a month. There’s no way something so cheap can be very good for her. I just want to be clear on that in case you were trying to impugn my parenting skills. I have never let my kid eat poop. She got into the dog food once, but whatever. I was raised on complete garbage as a kid – Oreos, Hot Pockets. Side note: have you ever had a cheeseburger Hot Pocket, the ketchup and mustard was inside, oh man. So under appreciated! Lipton Noodle Packs, Frozen Pizza, etc. Now that I’m in charge, my family eats mostly vegetarian, mostly organic, mostly bought from our local co-op (yeah, I’m that guy). I’ve seen a shift in consciousness with friends in my generation where they are much more aware of what they put on their plates and their kids’ plates. Places like McDonalds are a testament to some of the socio-economic issues we have in this country that drive people to the lowest cost option, but I do feel like there is a greater emphasis on good food now than when I was a kid. It just needs to be prioritized and made accessible to everybody.

Q) Couple of the cool quotes by Kurt Cobain were “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not,” and “the duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” What about him is so compelling to you?

A) Cobain is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. I still remember where I was when I found out he had died. I was in a school cafeteria, and a whole section of the room just deflated. It wasn’t just boys. I think there are certain celebrities in our culture who people decide embody their belief system and they wear their fandom of that person as a character trait of themselves.  It can be shorthand for filling out a personality. When one of these cultural touchstones kills himself, people are set adrift for a time. I’m certainly as guilty of this as anyone. I’m a grown man who still wears band t-shirts, as some sort of subconscious advance to people I meet about who I am and what they should expect from me if they choose to engage me in conversation. I’m not sure how much the angst that Cobain represented has festered. I wish it had festered but I fear that it has either metastasized into an angry tumor or been placated by the endless distractions that bombard us every day. I don’t know. The older I get the more confused I become by people. 

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