Howard Odentz: Little Killers A to Z Author Discusses Success
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Today, I am excited to share with you a success story interview with author and playwright Howard Odentz.
My questions are in bold, Howard’s follow in plain text.
About Howard Odentz
Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a life-long resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.
The mysterious has always played a major role in Howard’s writing. He is endlessly fascinated by the psychological aspects of those who are thrown into thrilling or otherworldly circumstances.
He has penned eight titles including the newly released shorts BONES and SNOW, as well as the young adult and emerging adult zombie trilogy DEAD (a LOT), WICKED DEAD, and DEAD END, the disturbing jaunt BLOODY BLOODY APPLE, the psychological thriller WHAT WE KILL, and a wildly creepy collection of twenty-six short stories about murderous children called LITTLE KILLERS A to Z.
Recently, Little Killers was released as an audiobook voiced by seasoned actor Ken Kamlet. Bloody Bloody Apple and What We Kill are also available on Audible.
Can you tell us about Little Killers?
Little Killers A to Z is a collection of twenty-six short stories about children who kill. Some of the stories are terrifying, some are humorous, and some may cause you never to drive by a playground again.
When I wrote the collection, it was somewhat of an exercise for me. It gave me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles twenty-six times over while trying out new styles with some wildly diverse characters. One of the stories, K is for Kieren who Fights in a Ring, was nominated for an Epic Award. Many of the others will eventually be turned into longer works.
In short, I’m definitely not done with my little killers just yet. They’re too much fun.
Little Killers A to Z was inspired by Edward Gorey’s illustrated alphabet Amphigorey which depicts twenty-six ways in which children die. I know it sounds morbid, but Amphigorey is filled with dark humor. I would like to think that within my collection you’ll find some of that same humor, starting with my rhyming table of contents.
Howard Odentz on Writing
How did you get started as a writer?
I worked in corporate America as a writer for many years. It wasn’t long into my stint as a director of communications for a Fortune 500 company that my superiors found that I was also very creative; therefore, they allowed me to branch out into speech writing, music videos and more.
I also wrote two full-length musicals while still in my position. They both were produced several times around the country. However, what I really wanted to do was write a novel. It took me a long time to just sit down and ‘do it’.
I honestly wasn’t sure that I could.
It turns out I was wrong.
What does a typical day look like?
Don’t laugh, but my day is largely dictated by the demands of my 20-pound Australian terrier, Darwin. Whether by his design or mine, we are both extremely scheduled. Therefore, I am walking him daily at 7 am while still in a sleepy fog. After he is walked and fed, I get until 11 am to make my bed, pay my bills—which is an obsessive habit that I do every morning—shower, and write for two hours. By that time Darwin is ready for his second walk.
After a gallon of coffee and a bite of lunch, I ratchet down a notch and answer e-mails, return calls, and more. I usually look over my writing at some point in the afternoon to make sure I didn’t completely go in the wrong direction. Then it’s time for Darwin’s 4 pm walk.
Dinner is always at 6 pm
Darwin walks again at 7 pm then plays fetch for twenty minutes until he passes out, right in time for me to binge watch whatever is on my current list.
For some reason, I always shoot to be in bed for 11 pm, but it never quite works out that way.
Then I repeat.
What is one thing you have learned from writing successfully?
For me, success is a state of mind. Anyone can be successful in the moment. As a writer, I feel I’m successful finishing a chapter, or a whole book, or having a publisher purchase the rights to that book. I feel I’m successful when I get a great review or am asked to do a reading or a speaking engagement.
However, I’m always aware that my success is fleeting and is only as good as the work I put into it keeping it afloat.
It’s very easy to have a rough day where I can’t put a sentence to paper. Days like that I have to be careful to tell myself that I’m still a success.
In other words, stinking thinking doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. Telling myself I’m successful helps to keep my success going.
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
Absolutely! I should have written my first novel in my twenties. I went through many years telling myself that I couldn’t possibly be successful (see the answer above). It wasn’t until I completely allowed myself to sit down and write, regardless of what came out of my fingers that I was able to do what I wanted.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
I know that this sounds like a cliché but just do it. No amount of wishing, dreaming, hoping or praying is going to create your vision for you. Developing something, whether it’s a business, a novel, or achieving a goal is all about physically doing it while telling yourself that you, in fact, can do it.
Professionally what are you most proud of?
I’m glad you qualified this question with ‘professionally’ because I’m most proud of creating an awesome world with the love of my life and sharing that world together for the better part of thirty years.
Professionally, I think any writer should be proud of a completed work. For me, I’m proud that people continue to read my work and want more.
Looking back on your career, is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
I should have known this starting out, but being an author is never about writing one piece. It’s about writing dozens. I suppose that never occurred to me when I was trying to break into fiction. I thought I would write one book and I’d be set.
That’s now how it works.
What advice do you have for writers starting out?
I have a million bits of advice to give new writers, but it all boils down to a few important things: Be true to yourself in your writing. Never write for others—write for yourself.
Never compromise what you think is a good piece of work because others say it’s not saleable.
Never, ever, ever give up. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a portfolio of writing. Be in it for the long haul even if, at the end of the day, your mother is the only person who ever reads your stuff.
When you are old and gray, you want to look at your body of work and say, “I did that. I was here and I created all of that.”
You won’t be able to say that if you quit.
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
I always have multiple projects simmering at the same time. I’m currently working on a novel that I’m excited about because it basically takes place in my own backyard. In addition, I’ve already started developing a collection of short stories that will be a companion piece to my first collection, Little Killers A to Z.
Also, I have two holiday-themed novellas out there that I want to combine into a book with several more that aren’t yet written.
In short, I never want my plate to be empty. I’m always thinking about the next project in the pipeline, or the next three.
What does your social media strategy look like, any tips?
This is an interesting question. I came of age before social media was even a catch-phrase, but I’ve tried to keep up with the times. I have a website, as well as two areas on FaceBook where people can reach out to me.
In addition, I have a marketing team through my publisher, as well as a private publicist that helps me stay involved with other social media communications platforms like Twitter.
Where can people find you online?
How import is fitness to your success?
For me, mental fitness is the most important thing. I do walk about five miles a day because the dog demands it. However, meditation is what keeps me motivated.
There are so many different modalities, but I’ve found simple mindfulness meditation to be the most helpful.
I probably stop what I’m doing two or three times a day to ground myself for ten minutes.
I find this practice mentally nourishing and essential for continued motivation.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew about you?
This question made me laugh. I know I’m considered a horror author, but that’s only my daytime persona. I don’t live in a scary mansion or own a black cat. I don’t pray to the horned-footed god or lick toads when no one is looking.
Sure, I wear black a lot, but that’s only because black is slimming and trendy and I can use all the help I can get.
In short, I’m not creepy.
I’m not creepy.
Okay, my writing fingers are creepy. That’s all.
Z Nation or The Walking Dead?
I’m definitely a Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead fan. I read the comics up until I felt the story crossed a line by killing a beloved character (no spoilers), but still, watch both shows.
Z Nation was a guilty pleasure for a while, but I gave it up after a couple of seasons. I think the story took a weird turn that was a bridge-too-far for me. That being said, I sometimes wish I could take some of the characters from Z Nation and drop them into Kirkman’s world of The Walking Dead.
Now that would be fun.
Thank you, Howard, for a great interview!
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