I have gotten to know Ryan over the last couple of years, both as an author and as a friend. Ryan is a talented fantasy writer. Justine described The Steel Discord in her review, as “The Steel Discord is quite a unique and absorbing story of political machinations, betrayal, and fighting against the tide of fate.” and “I knew as soon as I cracked open this book I was going to fall in love with the characters Howse has crafted and given voice to. Always a fan of the odd couple trope, I was thrilled to see the author perfectly embody this with Zarachius Skie and Kyran D’Allaire, the ‘lanky Arcanist and the large brawler’, through tons of love and brotherly banter.”
If you are looking for some interesting fantasy, look no further than Ryan.
About the Author
Ryan Howse is the author of The Steel Discord, The Alchemy Dirge, and Red in Tooth and Claw. He lives in Regina, Canada, with his wife, children, and cats.
We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!
My books are more interesting than I am.
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?
I’m a bit of a sponge, in that I take inspiration from everywhere. Life—both personal and societal–books, games, everything. It all comes out somewhere.
One major interest, though, comes from an interest in how our brains trick us. I want to be clear—I don’t do big Twilight Zone Plot Twists over this idea. For me, it’s the smaller reality of it. We misremember things. We ignore important facts because they aren’t immediately relevant.
We see what we expect to see; what we’re primed to see. Memories and
interpretations are always fallible. We persist, sometimes because of and sometimes in spite of that.
The protagonist of The Steel Discord, my magitech train heist, has been trained to see symbolism behind everything, and believes it aids him. Whether it does or not is almost immaterial, because he’s looking for his mentor who taught him that and also believes it.
While not as drastic, one of the protagonists in The Alchemy Dirge has used an arcane object called a psychometry to seal away a specific traumatic memory.
And my newest book, Red in Tooth and Claw, has dual unreliable narrators. One believes in the supernatural, one doesn’t. I tried very hard to make certain both alternatives seemed plausible.
What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?
Self-publishing is fast. Is the book done? Put it out.
I absolutely hate self-promotion, though. They’re good books. I just don’t know how to tell people they’re worth it.
What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone? How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!
I usually get most of my work done in the evening, after the kids are in bed. My zone usually involves some ambient music or something I’ve heard enough before to not be distracted by.
What do you think makes a good story?
Lots of things can make a great story. There’s no single answer. Character and plot are the two most common answers, I suspect, but there’s no master list saying All Great Books Must Have This.
There are books I love where the characterization is an afterthought; I have
recommended Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani numerous times and aside from a brief prologue of a woman finding a thesis, there are no characters (minus the writer of the thesis.)
Some of my favorite Catherynne Valente novels have no plot. What they have is voice, and setting, and prose.
But there are great books where voice takes a backseat, too. Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun gives Severian a much more restrained voice, to contrast with the strange far-future Urth he lives upon.
I think the great books know exactly where to focus on, and what the chaff is for their particular tale.
When did you first learn that language had power?
I used to teach English as an Additional Language in South Korea. Living there opened up my mind (and, I think, made me a better person overall) in a lot of ways, but this question reminds me of a very specific incident—not my first time I knew language had power, but an integral one.
Very early on, perhaps my first week, I was shopping for groceries. A young lady asked me if some of the food I’d picked was delicious. Not thinking, I said, “You bet.”
She had no context for the idiom. She only heard ‘you.’ Which was clearly not my intent, but was nonetheless my failure.
Make sure you’re aware of language, not just from your end, but that of the recipient, as well.
Are you a reader, and if so, which book inspired you?
Matthew Stover’s criminally underrated Blade of Tyshalle is one of my favorite books. I was getting quite burnt out on fantasy at the time—I had no internet, and no one to give good recommendations to me. What I did read felt very repetitive. That book broke me out of a reading slump hard, and even better–I’ve never had a hard time finding good books since.
Do you have a set writing schedule?
I usually try for an hour midafternoon on weekends and a couple of hours in the evening after my children are asleep.
Do current events affect your writing, or do you try and keep life and your stories separate?
As I said earlier, I’m a sponge. Things will find their way into fiction one way or another. I don’t think I’d ever consciously take a major current event and attempt to fictionalize it. I’ll leave that to others.
But some of the smaller, more overlooked things can, in the right circumstances, help flesh out a setting or a character. I put a small reference to asset forfeiture—not called that, of course—into The Alchemy Dirge.
If you could have dinner with any three figures from fiction, who would they be and why?
I feel like a lot of my choices here would likely end in murder, or at least identity theft, so picking three who would be unlikely to harm me:
William of Baskerville, from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose
T’Passe, the Cainist philosopher from Matthew Stover’s Acts of Caine sequence.
All smart folk I could glean a lot from, and while there’s some crossover in their areas of study, there’s enough variety between them to get a strong, fascinating conversation going.
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