Interview with Paul Howarth On Writing | More2Read Interviews
 

Interview with Paul Howarth On Writing

Photo credit: Sarah Howarth


Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family. In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.



Interview with Paul Howarth

Lou Pendergrast
Great to have a chat with you today.


Paul Howarth

Thanks so much for having me!


Lou Pendergrast

Only Killers and Thieves, what was the seed and inspiration behind this book?

 

Paul Howarth

I’m British-Australian, but was largely ignorant about Australia’s settlement history and the role Britain played, so was reading about the frontier period for my own interest at first, and became intrigued by this alternative Wild West that played out against the stunning Australian landscape but which remains comparatively unknown, both at home and overseas, and is still relatively under-explored in fiction or film. I was also seeing a lot of relevance in that history to the world today, not just in Australia but in the USA and Europe too. Then as I began to try to write about the period I came across information about the infamous Queensland Native Police – and that was the spark that really set this novel in motion.


Lou Pendergrast

Are you working on something now?

What is to be published next?

 

Paul Howarth

I’m working on another novel, but it’s still early days.


LP

What do you hope to achieve with your writings and writing life?

 

Paul Howarth

Firstly, I’m always hoping to entertain the reader. I’m looking to pull you in and keep you turning the pages and wanting to get back to the book when you’re away. If at the same time I can provoke interest or discussion, make you feel something, experience something, for good or bad, then so much the better. I’m trying to write books that I would want to read, and hope that others will too.


LP

When, where, and with what do you write?

 

Paul Howarth

At home, in a shed/office in the garden, which at least gets me out of the house! I always use a keyboard (laptop), but do make notes freehand, and I’m fairly regimented in my work days. I try to treat it like a job basically. Some days come easier than others, but nothing will happen if you’re not in the chair. Having said that, thinking time is also essential. I’m always mulling over my books away from the desk, coming up with new plotlines, or even sounding out dialogue in my head. The trick then is to remember it all, or find a notebook before it’s gone.


LP

What essential advice would you give to the writer trying to write their first novel?

 

Paul Howarth

Don’t give up. Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. Accept that it’s difficult, that it may take a while, that you will probably have to re-write many, many times. But don’t be too hard on yourself either. Every chapter is a milestone, every draft a marathon. Also, at that early stage, I think it’s helpful to try and insulate yourself from “the market”, particularly online. Try to write with a sense of freedom, as if the book will never be read.


LP

Story mechanics, do you outline a plot? Any advice on outlines?

 

Paul Howarth

I outline a little bit. I like to have the shape of the thing clear in my head, even if it’s just the key beats in each part, for example. I find it helpful to know what I’m heading for, even if I don’t know for certain how the book will end. It’s about finding a balance: too much outlining can be restrictive, but not enough and I risk floundering in the dark. My advice, if you do outline, would be to revisit your outline many times, as you go along – you will flush out new ideas that way, and won’t feel so wedded to whatever you wrote at the start, back when you probably didn’t know your novel as well as you do now.


LP

Who are the your most memorable characters from fiction?

What are the significant characteristics of them?

 

Paul Howarth

Anyone who moves me, repulses me, interests me. I’m always fascinated by the bad guys for some reason, the likes of Anton Chigurh, Judge Holden, Hannibal Lector, Jack Torrence, for example – the more complex the better. My heart broke for Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Offred in the Handmaid’s Tale, and Stoner, in John Williams’s classic. It’s quite something for an author to bring a character to life so memorably that you feel for them as if they were real. That is always the aim.


LP

Which authors and books inspired and taught you to write and why?

 

Paul Howarth

I’m not sure I can answer that in a general sense – there are so many! But for Only Killers and Thieves in particular I’d say authors like Cormac McCarthy, JM Coetzee, Richard Flanagan, Philipp Meyer, Joseph Conrad…to name a few. 



LP

Many thanks for your precious time 

Paul Howarth

You’re welcome, thanks for having me.




 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 11 January 2019