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Howard turns passion into full-time job

For many self-published authors, the passion to put words on a page ends up being a hobby they do when everyday life frees up a few minutes here and there to do so.

But for Ernie Howard, a 1995 BCHS grad, he has seen enough success as an author to be able to turn his hobby into a full-time job, something that occurred within the last 18 months.

And, while it can be stressful, he said he couldn’t be happier.

“My interest in writing started with my mother because she was a writer, too,” he said. “I remember her on a typewriter pumping out pages at the kitchen table. She didn’t do much with it but she did sell a screenplay once that sadly got shelved.”

As a kid, he started writing short stories based on “Star Wars” and from there, as he matured, so did his writing.

“So many people get down on themselves when they first start writing because they don’t finish anything,” Howard said. “The stop and start thing is just par for the course. You have to get through that and then you finally finish something.”

His stop-and-start moment came when he finished his first novel, “The Light Through the Water,” which he completed several years ago while living in San Diego. He said he attempted to get an agent early and submitted his work to publishing houses. After that didn’t work out, he found that self-publishing, which has come a long way thanks to Amazon and other companies that offer print-on-demand services, was the way to go. He said the biggest advantage is that unless you’re a top-name author who signs a big bonus to write a book, as an independent writer one gets to keep a higher percentage of the royalties and they own the rights to all their work.

“I know it’s not very sexy but the reason I write is not only because I love it but I want to make money as well,” Howard said. “I do my own marketing. Basically, anything that needs to be done, it’s up to me. I have people who help me edit but I do most of my own covers. One of the bad trade-offs of being an independent writer is that it’s all on you. So, if you put in a minimum wage effort, you’ll get a minimum wage result. It’s a full-time job.”

Howard said he’s drawn to fiction writing because he’s always had a vivid imagination. It also allows him to be creative while non-fiction writing he feels binds his hands.

In addition to the eight novels he’s written, Howard has put out novelettes, which are shorter stories as part of a series, including “Night Portals.” To date, he’s written more than 30 novelettes. He’s also written under the pen name of A.L. Bryne. Those books, part of the “Witch Corner” series, fall under the category of paranormal romance and has proven to be his most successful series.

“Inspiration for my books comes from a variety of sources,” he said. “There are a ton of characters in these books, and I’m not naming any names, that are based off of real people.”

As for his process of writing, he said, “I admit, I’m a weirdo – I write everything longhand on a yellow, legal notepad. I do a rough draft and fill in the blanks from there. That gives me my first crappy, crappy, crappy draft. I then put it on the computer and do a quick edit. My wife, Sonja, is my first reader and then I will send it to an editor.”

He has spent a fair amount of money on formatting software for his books, which has sped up the printing process.

“My first book took me three years, but now, I’ve gotten it down to a science and it takes about four months to complete,” he said, noting that prior to the last 18 months he had jobs in construction, which impacted his writing schedule. “I always have a few things on the burner that I’m working on. I try and get at least a few hours in each day writing. I love writing but sometimes it’s hard.”

Despite the success he’s had, when Howard goes on Amazon, types in his name and up pops some of his work, is it still exciting?

“That’s pretty awesome,” he said. “I’ve been an avid reader all my life and have had my author heroes. So, one of the greatest feelings is when someone asks you to sign your book and they tell you how much they liked it or ask how can they find your other work. That’s amazing to me and I think, ‘You really want to read my stuff?’ That’s a great feeling.”

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