Sunday, January 10, 2016

ROCCO interviews Melodie Johnson Howe!


  • Welcome Melodie! Tell us a little about your background

  Hi ROCCO!  I was Born in Los Angeles, I dreamed of becoming a great writer. Then Hollywood discovered me. At twenty-one I did a screen test for Universal Studios. Never having acted professionally, I somehow managed to land a seven-year contract. In that same month I married Bones Howe, record producer and bachelor father of three small children. At twenty-one you can do anything. I’m still married. The children have children. And I’m a writer!

  • Tell us a bit about your Diane Poole series. Where did that idea come from ?

 I was asked to write a short story for the Sisters in Crime Anthology.   I knew that I wanted to write about Hollywood, which I hadn’t done to any  great extent in the Claire Conrad/Maggie Hill books, The Mother Shadow and Beauty Dies. I also knew I wanted an actress to be the narrator.   I thought it would be more interesting if she was older, alone, and had to go back to acting to earn a living. So I gave her a recently dead husband. And her age would give a very particular female perspective to the story.  Voila!  Diana Poole was created.   A character in a short story should be done with just few deft brushstrokes.  As I continued to write the short stories and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine continued to publish them, I realized that Diana would also make a great protagonist in a novel.  The Diana Poole I thought I knew in the short stories paled against the large canvas of a novel.  I had to create a more complex past for her. So I gave her not only a dead husband, but also a dead mother that she had never made peace with.  Even in Hollywood it all comes down to family.


  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I get to know my characters while writing my book.  Characters need action to develop. My characters always surprise me.  My villain suddenly doesn’t want to be the villain.  A minor character decides she wants to be a major character.  The more I move ahead in the book the more I understand where my characters are going.  Writing is all forward motion. 

  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I’ve always been a seat of my pants writer. Alas, I’m a slow writer, which drives my publisher and my readers crazy.  With the next book I’m going to try an outline and see if it speeds up the process.


·        Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

 Raymond Chandler once said that he hoped the reader would still enjoy his book if he didn't know how it ended.  I think what Chandler was saying is that even in our genre character is more important than “who did it”.  I just finished reading a book where the plot was more inventive and complicated than any of the characters.  I enjoyed the book, but I would have loved it if the protagonist had been just as inventive and complicated.  I have a confession to make.  Years ago when I first started reading the Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin books I would relish them right up to the point of Wolfe’s dénouement.  And then I’d get bored.  What I loved was the relationship between Nero and Archie.

  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

 I love writing. Of course what you love never comes easy.  Fear of rejection is the biggest challenge I face.  Or maybe just plain fear.    My love for what I do also inspires me. It’s a gift to have talent. To be a writer.  It's important not to toss that gift away.

·        Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

When I wrote The Mother Shadow I could not get an agent.  I was in New York with my husband. He was busy. I wasn’t. So I called up an agent who rejected the book but also seemed to really like it. I got her assistant.  I convinced the assistant to have lunch with me. She did. After a lot of talking she took the book!  It was nominated for an Edgar.

  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

 My new Diana Poole novel, Hold A Scorpion is due out the fall of 2016.   So I’ll be working on the next one.  Trying that outline I was talking about.


What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing

 I try to write everyday.  How many hours I put in depends on how deeply I am into the novel.  The deeper the more hours.

  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

 My advice to an aspiring writer is keep your head down. Don’t look up to see what other writers are doing.  You work is the only important thing.

·        What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

 The craziest thing I’ve ever done? You mean besides marrying a man with three children when I was twenty-one? Or talking an agent who rejected my novel into taking it back?   Or getting out of show biz?  I am crazy. Thank God.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

I wish they would read my book before they interview me.


·        Where can we learn more about you and your books?

You can learn more about my books and my Hollywood life if you go to my web site 

Melodie Johnson Howe Author page on Facebook. 

 Or you can follow me on Twitter at @MelodieJHowe


 Just for Fun:

Night or Day?   Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Dog.

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Steak

Favorite Drink?  Pinot Noir

Favorite Book?   So many, so many

Favorite TV Series?  PBS Mystery

Favorite Movie?  So many, so many

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Winston Churchill. When he was alive of course. In todays world?   I’m fine being me.
















1 comment:

  1. First, let me congratulate you on your family,Melodie! We have had some very successful step-families within our family and I applaud each one.Parenting is a hard job at best!
    I suddenly find myself with a top-heavy tbr list,with yours near the very top.I wish you continued success in every part of your life.