Saturday, March 10, 2012

Houston, We Don't Have a Problem -- Catching Up with Lee Houston Jr.

I was interested in Lee Houston Jr.'s work long before I read a single word of it. And it was all because of an image. His book, Hugh Monn, from Pro Se Productions, sported the most amazing cover image I'd seen all year. It did just what a strong cover is supposed to: IT SOLD THE BOOK AND TOLD ME WHAT IT WAS ABOUT.

Imagine my joy then in learning the words matched up and the book was as good as my expectations.

So being not only a Pro Se "fellow" with him, but also a fan of his work, I was thrilled when Lee could spare some time to sit in the hot seat. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest work is PROJECT: ALPHA, a superhero novel scheduled for release this May from Pro Se Press. For the Pulp Obscura project, I have contributed a story to the upcoming NEW ADVENTURES OF THE EAGLE anthology, and am scheduled to write for a couple of more Pulp Obscura anthologies that I am not at liberty to discuss at this time. I am also at work on the next HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE book when I'm not working as the Editor-In-Chief of The Free Choice E-zine at www.thefreechoice.info.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

For sure, somehow the hero always manages to win against the villain in the end, the "little guy" is always protected, and I try to give the readers the best stories I can tell in the process. Otherwise, I'm not consciously aware of any subtexts, if that's what you're asking. I'm sure there have been times when I've taken a position on some social issue by disguising it within the trappings of a story, but that's open to audience interpretation. I do tend to find myself writing within the genres I like as a reader: science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and (super) heroic adventures.

What would be your dream project?

I wouldn't mind collaborating with any of my fellow writers on a project, if not on an actual crossover between one of my characters and theirs. There's also every writer's dream of their creations making it to either television and/or the movies. I'd be lying if I said that thought hasn't crossed my mind a couple of (million) times. But for decades, I've longed to write for DC Comics, although I have absolutely no idea what I would do for them in light of their recent, post-Flashpoint reboot.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

"Y-239", a short story that appeared in the first of Pro Se's Peculiar Adventures magazine. My objective was to make the Captain a total cipher, so it would be up to the reader to decide the exact nature of the relationship between that character and the female science officer. Unfortunately, I wasn't skilled enough to pull that off.

I try to create the best writing I can on every assignment, but you have to let go of a project sometime. Otherwise, you'd still be working on a story well past its deadline.

What inspires you to write?

Books have been a part of my life since my earliest memories of my parents reading to me when I was kid. As I grew older, there were the books in the local children's libraries, and of course all the elementary schoolbooks before I discovered comic books with Action Comics #434. But the first straight text (no interior images) book I ever read on my own was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. If I wasn't on a writing career path before then, I certainly have been on that journey ever since.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Definitely Burroughs, Robert B. Parker, Gardner Fox, Walter B. Gibson, Dennis O'Neil, Elliot S. Maggin, and Cary Bates would be at the top of the list, although every time I think about this, I always forget someone along the way because I've read and liked so much over the years. Yet one thing you have to remember is that while the good authors set wonderful examples to follow, you can also learn from a bad writer what not to do. But while everyone's candidates for both categories are subjective, I'm sure those in the latter group would not like the notoriety.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I'll have to say at most it's six of one and half a dozen of another. Technology has certainly made any writer's task somewhat easier with computers, word processing programs, and online sites to help speed research along. A lot of companies conduct business via the Internet while Print On Demand and digital e-books have changed the publishing world within the last few years. On the other hand, it is a human intelligence and emotions at work creating the stories and that will never change no matter how far technology advances.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Amongst all the other ideas that I hope one day come to light, I would like to assure my fans that someday I do intend to collect and finish WYLDE WORLD, the Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired serial I started within Peculiar Adventures, but PROJECT: ALPHA, HUGH MONN, and other commitments keep putting that on the back burner right now.

For more info about Lee's work, visit www.thefreechoice.info.