Jonathan Howard 2012

 
 
Jonathan Howard is the author of the Johannes Cabal books.  Sadly, for the moment, only the first (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer) and the second (Johannes Cabal the Detective) are available in the U.S.  However, the third book, Johannes Cabal the Fear Institute, can be imported from the U.K. if you're desperate (which I am). 
 
 
 

 

 

Drew & Sara

The airship in Detective is described, quite in detail, as not being a dirigible.  There’s even a diagram of what it looks like, in all of its not-dirigible-ness.  So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how miffed were you when the cover of Detective features quite a large dirigible?

Jonathan

 Yes. Well. It’s all the more galling because I love that cover, but that damnable dirigible is like having a Dalek visible in the background of “The Last Supper.” It’s very cool and everything, but it just shouldn’t be there. The cover was locked surprisingly early in the process. The text wasn’t up to the final draft, and I was still bouncing ideas back and forth with Graham Bleathman, the artist who drew the aeroship and entomopter pictures. When I was sent the cover art, I remember saying with what I can now see was wide-eyed optimism, “This is work in progress, right? The airship will be replaced with the aeroship when that art’s done?” my editor replied with a non-specific answer that paraphrased to, “Weeelllll...”

 

I can’t hate the cover, because it is very nice indeed, but that airship means I can’t unreservedly love it. So I think I was about a 7.2 on the miffed scale.

 

 

 

 Drew & Sara

  What’s even more important than never getting involved in a land war in Asia?

 

 

Jonathan

 Never bet the Devil your head. I can’t understand why there isn’t far more public awareness of this. If I could be serious just for a moment (looks at figurative camera), Satanocephaloludomania... just say no, kids.

 

 

Salva Nos

 

Drew & Sara

When I was reading the back half of Detective, I had Midlake’s ‘Acts of Man’ on repeat on my stereo, just because it seemed to fit with the book so well.  Are there any particular pieces of music or song that get heavy repetition while you write?

 

 

Jonathan

 Not so much Detective, but I had Salva Nos by the Medieval Bӕbes on heavy rotation while writing Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. There’s no pattern to what I listen to, apart from I tend to avoid things with English lyrics as I end up focusing more on singing along than writing, which isn’t really ideal.

 

 

 Drew & Sara

Johannes Cabal is a deliciously nasty character, but always seems to stop shy of out-and-out villainy.  Have you ever had any ideas that you had to discard out of fear of making the audience completely hate him?

Jonathan

The thing is, he’s not evil exactly. He’s certainly no sadist. Whatever he does, he does for good rational reasons, even if it flies in the face of the law, common mores, or politeness. The only time I can think of him doing something that was not very much in proportion to the stimulus is how he deals with Dennis and Denzil in Necromancer, and even then, they did try to rob him at knife point. Plus, he had an ulterior motive in needing some hirelings without going through the hassle of actually hiring anyone. So, to return to the question, no. As far as I can recall, I’ve never had to scrap any ideas that were too extreme.

 

 

 

Drew & Sara 

 

  What single fictional character would Cabal least like facing off against?

 

Jonathan

 I think Cabal would hate to face Sherlock Holmes for at least two reasons. Firstly, Holmes is a dangerous intellect and a man of action when need be. Cabal would recognize him as a real threat, and one that is not at all easy to remove. Cabal has enough complications in his life without a determined nemesis like that. Secondly, as is mentioned in a couple of the stories, Cabal read the Holmesian “Canon” in his youth and enjoyed the stories greatly. He still reads some of the stories now and then, making them about the only fiction that he will give time to. The necessity of destroying a mind like Holmes’ would distress Cabal immoderately. He’d much rather not do that.

 

 

 

Drew & Sara 

Steampunk has become the latest fad in publishing and the Detective could certainly be grouped in with some of the great steampunk works.  The covers of the books trend that way, but do you see the stories as part of that genre or as something else entirely?

 

Jonathan

It’s odd about the steampunk thing. I rather backed into it simply because it fits my own interests in so many ways. I remember back in the ‘eighties when K.W. Jeter first identified “steampunk” as a genre, I experienced a thrill of recognition that this was something I enjoyed that had previously been nameless. Indeed, I had a very abortive shot at writing a sequel to The War of the Worlds in about 1985 that never got past the planning stage, but which would have been regarded as steampunk if it had ever been published. I may have another go at that one of these days.

 

Of the Cabal novels, yes, Detective is certainly the most steampunk example, but I wouldn’t say Cabal in really a steampunk character by and large. There are many, many influences at play – the electrical pentacle that Cabal has constructed for him, for example, is a straight reference to William Hope Hodgson’s wonderful Carnacki the Ghost Finderso Cabal’s world is an amalgam of all sorts of things and doesn’t fit into any particular niche except the very broad church of fantasy.

 

 

 

Drew & Sara

What, in your opinion, is the best video game or video game franchise out there these days?  Also, do you see Johannes Cabal on the screen either as a film or video game protagonist?

 

Jonathan

Portal

Oh, that’s a tricky one. I’m always very impressed by Valve’s Half-Life/Portal continuity, both for their gameplay and storytelling. I think they are absolutely right that, since they have the luxury of deciding their own schedules without a publisher breathing down their neck, to take as long as they feel is necessary to get their games right. I’m also a sucker for MMO’s and have far too many of them on the go. There a Pathfinder MMO in development that I’m very interested to see. I play the tabletop RPG it’s based upon, and it’s a fascinating gameworld with some very nice game mechanics. It will be interesting to see how much of that can be captured in an MMO.

 

I personally think a film of Johannes Cabal the Necromancer would work very well, and I’m not just saying that for monetary reasons. I have a fairly visual imagination, and it looks pretty good on my in-brain home cinema. As for Johannes Cabal: The Game, I can only imagine that as an adventure game of some sort. It’s a shame those are so out of fashion these days, but they’re having a small renaissance on portable consoles and in the “casual” market so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility. I’d want to design and write it, though. I love working on adventure games.

 

 

 Drew & Sara

 Katya’s World looks like it’s going to be terribly interesting.  How different was it writing hard sci-fi after spending so long with the more magical world of Johannes?

 

Jonathan

 

It came quite easily, actually. I was very heavily into hard SF when I was at school, and read piles of what we’d now call “Young Adult” SF but which used to be called “Juvenile,” a technically accurate title but one that carried a pejorative sting even then. I read American authors like Robert Heinlein and Lester del Rey, and British ones like John Christopher and Hugh Walters. I found myself being fascinated by the actual science of the stories, such as the minutia of Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel which spends a chapter or so with the protagonist repairing and refurbishing an old spacesuit that he wins in a competition, and the explanations of escape velocity, slingshot trajectories, and orbital mechanics in Walters’ U.N.E.X.A. novels.

 

The impetus to write the Russalka books came from wandering through the children’s and YA section of a bookshop a few years ago and noticing that, although fantasy was very well served, there was precious little hard science fiction. It bothered me. I hated the idea that there seemed to be so little of the kind of fiction that excited and enthused me as a boy. I ended up writing the thing entirely on spec – this was before the publication of Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, before I even had an agent – but I just felt I needed to write it.

 

 

Drew & Sara 

 Circuses have had a couple of good years lately.  Water for Elephants, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, and The Night Circus have all centered on circuses.  What is your favorite circus attraction?

 

Jonathan

 I like clowns. I honestly do. That so many people suffer from or claim to suffer from coulrophobia is rather depressing. My daughter says she doesn’t like clowns, but we went to a little traveling circus last year and she loved the clown. The fact that it was a female clown who had the whole “Harley Quinn” sort of persona going on certainly helped.

 

 

 

Drew & Sara 

 You’ve had three paranormal novels out and one hard sci-fi on the way.  Are there any other genres you want to play in? 

 

 

Jonathan

Oh, I’ll muck around in anything interesting. I read horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime, adventure, and thrizllers, and I’m happy writing in any of those areas. I keep playing around with ideas for writing an historical horror or detective story. There are such good historical writers around, though, I can’t help feeling that anything I did wouldn’t feel very authentic in comparison.

 

 

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