Big thank you Axel for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂
LF: How did the idea of Furr come about?
AH: It had started as a short story idea, about a guy coming home to his mountain town after a falling out with his family. There are a lot of elements that carried over into the second half of FURR – the grandfather, the childhood best friend/love interest, the obnoxious “husband” trying to undermine the family… At one point I rewrote that story and it took on some werewolf undertones, which was an interesting development to me.
That story sat unfinished for a few years before I was approached to contribute to an Urban Fantasy novella project, where Cornucopia Press was putting together a box set of Canadian writers including Charles de Lint. It had taken three years for me to finish my first novel, Hot Sinatra, and I only had a few months to put something together for this project. I had been researching Gothic fiction for my genre column and for genre courses I had been teaching, and the previously mentioned story had a lot of those elements built-in. At the same time, I had been doing a lot of short story writing and working up ideas for darker noir style crime novels. I decided to marry the two ideas and see if I could start in a decidedly Noir setting and atmosphere, taking a “devolving mind” style of psychological thriller, and spinning it towards Urban Fantasy by using modern fiction mechanics and end up in a classic Gothic mode by the end. Along the way, it picked up a lot of personal elements from my childhood in B.C. mountain towns, and some of my own family history, infused with Celtic mythology and my own pop culture and literary obsessions. After it had appeared in the Cornucopia box set, it was picked up by the wonderful Tyche Books, and expanded to novel length, for a full release.
LF: You are very honest with your writing, you aren’t afraid to touch difficult subjects. Depression, drugs, sex. Why is it so important to you, to get these messages across?
AH: I don’t think you can write anything interesting, let alone lasting or resonant, without touching on basic human fears and instincts. I also believe that if you’re going to create something so expansive and detailed and make it feel real, it has to be honest and it has to reflect what you believe and hope for. If you can’t put yourself into the work, you’re likely just rehashing the same old tropes and stereotypes. I’m not saying I never fall back into those well-worn tropes, but I hope I do it less often by trying to keep myself invested in the narrative.
It also seems increasingly important to me, especially in the increasingly judgemental and overbearing culture we find ourselves in, to counteract all of the wrong-headed mob mentality out there by dramatizing the morals and social consciousness we personally find important. Depression is not a bad day, it’s a terrible thing that affects almost everyone. Drugs become a necessary crutch for a lot of those people. Sex is a wonderful thing, when it’s a choice between two people who care for each other, but it’s also used as a weapon by the wrong person. I hope that what comes across in the book is that the people aren’t perfect. We make mistakes, we miss clues, we fail, and sometimes we let down the people we care for – not because we’re callous, or cruel – but because we all make mistakes. In the end, the characters in the story still do the right thing. The members of this weird family fight with their own flaws and their own past mistakes, but they keep trying to be better and they keep trying to take care of each other.
LF: You’ve written a few different books, in several different genres. Could you tell us about them?
My first book, Hot Sinatra, is a hardboiled detective caper. It’s very funny, with a lot of action and a lot of romance, and a lot of feeling. It’s a (mostly) light-hearted homage to Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett, if there could be such a thing, though I like to think it’s also an 80’s-style action-romance-comedy, like Romancing the Stone, or Indiana Jones. It was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada, and then promptly disappeared from most radar. Despite that, following Hot Sinatra, I wrote a lot of short fiction, including a series of stories about characters from that book.
Furr was my second novel, which we’ve already covered, but it’s a dark crime novel that becomes a Gothic Urban Fantasy with werewolf strippers, evil magicians, and family issues.
Last year, my third novel Con Morte (With Death) was released by Coffin Hop Press. It was supposed to be a straight-up dark crime book, but after Furr, it morphed into a psychological examination of an emotionally-detached hitman who is slowly unravelling, haunted by the ghosts of his past while he tries to redeem himself by saving the one person he has any sort of personal connection with – his teenage barista.
My next book, which should be out this fall, is Demon Days, which is the first in a series that spins off from Furr. The first book in the Wolf and Devil series follows Jules Fallon, the aforementioned werewolf stripper (who also happens to be a witch steeped in Celtic tradition) and her new boyfriend, Devil Deville, a charming genius drug dealer who has a few mystical secrets of his own. This first book, in classic Axel Howerton style, delves into their domestic problems and the trials and tribulations of a new relationship, while they try to fight off a demon invasion from another dimension.
LF: What are you currently working on?
AH: The next few Wolf and Devil books, which are also from Tyche Books. I want to explore as many myths and monsters as I can, while exploring the overarching mythology that I’ve built to take Jules and Devil from their meeting at the end of Furr to their integral parts in the end of the world. In fact, Furr is being relaunched with new cover art along with the announcement of Demon Days in a few weeks. Stay tuned to www.tychebooks.com and www.axelhow.com for more on that!
I’m also working on a couple of sequels to Hot Sinatra, and a few other projects, including a satirical/mythological take on the old west history of western Canada and a vaguely steampunk post-apocalyptic tale that bridges WW1 and Kashmir in the year 2525.
LF: Anything else you would like to add?
AH: Keep reading! Buy more books! Any books!
And thank you so much for taking the time to ask me these questions about my work. It has been a pleasure. If you’re interested in my work, you can find me at www.axelhow.com or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @AxelHow