First time author reflects on a year of milestones
2016 is looking to be a good year for Greg Howard.
Last month he married his partner of 15 years in a ceremony near his childhood home in South Carolina. That partner—now husband—graduated with a teaching degree from Lipscomb University earlier this spring.
Howard signed a contract with Simon & Schuster to publish a Young Adult novel he drafted in just five weeks last year. And this past August saw the publication of Blood Divine, his very first novel, one that took much more than five weeks to birth.
He will appear at Barnes & Noble on October 26 to sign copies of Blood Divine from 6:30-8pm.
“I actually started writing this book about five years ago,” he said. “I had written over the years and never finished anything and I had this idea based on an event that really happened when I was a kid at this deserted plantation, kind of a ghost story, and it starts the book. And I’ve always wanted to build a book around that story and that’s where the whole idea came from.”
Blood Divine is a paranormal thriller that brings to mind Stephen King, one of Howard’s influences, and it includes what he’s labeled: male-male romantic elements. “The main character is gay,” he said, “and there’s a gay storyline but it’s not the main plot of the book.”
An official description from the publisher, Wilde City Press: After a decade suppressing the dark power inside him, Cooper Causey becomes a pawn in an ancient war between two supernatural races. In order to save his childhood friend, the only man he’s ever loved, Cooper must face the demons of his past and embrace the darkness inside him.
“I’d always been fascinated with vampire stories and witches” Howard said, “I was told by one of my mentors, ‘if you’re gonna do that, it’s been done so much – witches and vampires – you gotta find a fresh way to do it’ so that got me to thinking. I grew up in a very conservative religious home in South Carolina and so I figured out a way to bring in biblical mythology to the origin of vampires and married those two things together. It created a new story, a new origin story for vampires and witches which became very exciting as I did more biblical research.”
Howard spent many years in Nashville—the first time author, who celebrated a fiftieth birthday this year, runs the boutique record label Green Hills Records—and found the recent confluence of life changes propelled him to try his hand at writing fiction.
“I’ve been in the music business for about 25 years,” he said, “and have always had this passion that I never followed and just got inspired by a friend who was following her dream as a writer five years ago and it kind of woke me up. So I started working on it, started learning. I went to workshops. I went to conferences. I started getting up at 4 o’clock every morning to write before I went to work. I just did what I had to do to get it done.”
He admits it was at times taxing on his relationship, though his partner with his own full-time job while in school kept him occupied on weekends when Howard “became a hermit” utilizing any free time toward the novel and its revisions. “It was hard because he would work all day and come home and have school work and he’d be down there doing school work until 2am and then I’d get up at 4am and he’d be sleeping and I’d get to work (on the book).”
“It all kind of culminated this year,” he said, “just the way it worked, with him finishing his classes, he’s a student teacher now, and me finishing and getting the book published, as well as me turning fifty and us getting married all happened this year so that’s why I dedicated this book to him.”
The novel has received positive reviews. Kirkus Reviews, one of the nations major book review magazines, called Blood Divine “an exciting, romantic tale anchored in a great sense of place.” Sinfully MM Book Reviews, a blog that regularly covers gay male romance stories, labeled it “Underworld meets Gone With the Wind… kept me completely engrossed from start to finish.”
And the next book, that YA gay romance that Simon & Schuster plans to publish?
“It’s also set in the south,” Howard said. “the town where I went to high school. It’s about an out and proud choir nerd who has to enlist the help of his straight football player jock nemesis because their parents are dating and they want to break them up. And of course the football jock is not as straight as he thought he was. It’s comedy, it’s funny, it’s lighthearted, it’s completely different from Blood Divine.”
Social Intercourse is on the calendar for release in spring 2018.
Greg Howard’s Top 5 Things to Do in Nashville
1. Favorite Walking Spot: Radnor Lake. "You have your paved road, your trails, and your body of water. What more could you ask for?"
2. Favorite Extracurricular Activity: Nashville In Harmony. "There’s something special about 140 people coming together once a week just to sing. It forces you to be completely present and in the moment."
3. Favorite Music Venue: The Jazz Cave at Nashville Jazz Workshop. "Too many people are unaware that we have a world-class jazz club right here in Nashville!"
4. Favorite Lunch Spot: Green Hills Grille. "Consistent quality and service, just like the original."
5. Favorite Movie Theater: Belcourt Theater. "The newly renovated space is so beautiful and comfortable, but it didn’t lose it’s vintage charm."
Photo: Greg Howard (right) with Chuck Long on the set of the NewsChannel5+ TV show Out & About Today