A Point of Pride: Interview with Lee Allen Howard
Lee Allen Howard’s dark fiction spans the genres of horror, LGBTQ+ horror, supernatural crime, psychological thrillers, and dark mystery. He’s written six novels—The Sixth Seed, Death Perception, The Adamson Family, The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath, The Covenant Sacrifice, The Prosperity Society—and a collection of early short stories, Perpetual Nightmares.
Howard earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He’s been a professional writer in the software industry since 1985. As a fiction editor, Howard is the founder and editor at Dark Cloud Press, publisher of the horror and dark crime anthologies Thou Shalt Not… and Tales of Blood and Squalor. He resides in western New York with a lot of books.
What inspired you to start writing?
I don’t rightly know where my love of horror came from. Definitely not from my parents. Perhaps it was in third grade when I ordered Norman Bridwell’s humorous horror manual, How to Care for Your Monster (1970). About that same time, I wrote a story for a class assignment. My teacher passed it on to the elementary school principal. He was the president of the local Lions Club, of which my father was also a member. At their next meeting, Principal Sprunger fined my father a dime because the pastor’s son wrote such a shocking story full of skeletons, witches, and blood! Maybe the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows that I ran home from school to watch every day inspired me. I only know I’ve always loved dark fiction and wanted to write it.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
Horror thrilled me: stood my hair on end, raced my heart, electrified my mind. Horror hooked me on literary adrenaline. I remember reading the collection Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1944) and loving the macabre and morbid tales. But devouring Thomas Tryon’s The Other (1971) and James Herbert’s The Rats (1974) as an adolescent turned me on to writing those kinds of stories.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
I didn’t when I first started writing as a schoolboy, but, for the past few years, I’ve been producing more gay fiction. I create gay protagonists who are just as damaged and desperate as my straight characters. Most of the time, I want to portray them as vanquishing their inner demons so they can achieve their story goals—or die trying. In dealing with their problems, they sometimes encounter society’s or other characters’ judgment about their orientation. When such judgment stems from the religious community, my characters win by being true to themselves. I’ve got a horror/gay romance novel I’m seeking to place, along with two novellas.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
I’ve learned that horror touches all people—regardless of race, gender, or orientation. Nobody gets a pass in life. When I finally came out in 2005, I thought I would at last be happy. Instead, I encountered a new set of issues that I’m exploring through my gay fictional characters.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I still like reading books from the 1970s and 80s, but some of the sexism and homophobia tarnishes otherwise good stories. From the 90s to the present, the genre has become more inclusive, and that’s a good thing. Now, I’m hoping to read even more variety in body horror like Eric LaRocca’s Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke (2021). And with mounting political polarization, more stories that deal with sociological issues.
How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
As I said in answer to the previous question, we’ve been making progress. I’d welcome even more diversity with LGBTQ+ characters who come from non-Western backgrounds.
Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
Daniel Sauli as “Jeffrey” in the film You Belong to Me (2007). “Eli” in Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In (2008). Megan Fox as “Jennifer” in Jennifer’s Body (2009). Sarah Paulson as “Lana Winters” in American Horror Story: Asylum (2012).
Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
Although not all wrote/write LGBTQ-themed horror, some favorite writers include Thomas Tryon, Douglas Clegg, Clive Barker, Eric LaRocca, Eric Raglin, Poppy Z. Brite, and Jeanette Winterson.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Beyond writing an iron-clad story, REVISE: 1) Brush up on your revision and self-editing skills. 2) Use beta readers. 3) Find a decent editor to ensure your prose shines. Then you can be confident sending your work out.
And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
You can’t please everyone, so stop trying. Don’t let critics, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community, get to you. Write first for yourself—what’s important to you from your own experience. Glitter is lovely… especially when it sprinkles a blood slick. Let those rainbow-colored chips fall where they may in your brand of horror. Remain true to yourself and write what inspires you. Somewhere out there are readers who will connect. Write for them.