“About the Author: A graduate of Oberlin College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, MORGAN HOWELL is a full-time writer who lives in upstate New York.” That’s my complete biography as it appears in Queen of the Orcs and The Shadowed Path.
Quite a few readers have figured out that Morgan Howell is a pen name and Morgan is a guy named Will Hubbell. For those of you who didn’t, you’re in good company. My editor at Random House was a woman, and when she first read my manuscript, she thought Morgan was a woman also. I took it as a compliment.
I studied art at Oberlin College. When I graduated three wars ago, the powers-that-be thought my credentials made me perfect for the infantry. I spent almost five years under arms, first as an enlisted man and then as an officer. Although military experience is useful for a fantasy writer, I don’t see war as a glorious enterprise, so I never portray it that way. I’m not a pacifist, just a realist.
After leaving the army, I studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Afterward, I pursued a career in the visual arts. I first worked in public television as an artist and photographer. Then I designed publications for a college. After that, I followed the money and went into advertising. By the time I rose to senior management, I was thoroughly sick of the business. By then, my wife and I were parents, and our toddler’s books fascinated me. I decided to create picture books, and to have total artistic control, I had to write the stories as well as illustrate them.
Becoming a children’s author can be torturously slow. For years, I devoted myself to writing and illustration, stay-at-home parenting, home renovation, freelancing, and collecting rejection slips. Over that time, I became enthralled by the written word. I began writing chapter books, and that eventually led to writing novels for adults.
After my first picture book was published, the second novel I wrote was accepted for publication. That book was a tale about time travel called Cretaceous Sea. Its sequel, Sea of Time was also published. By the time Queen of the Orcs came out, I had written and illustrated three children’s picture books—Pumpkin Jack, Apples Here!, and Snow Day Dance. Both the picture books and the science fiction novels were published under my actual name.
I decided to write fantasy under a pen name for a variety of reasons, but primarily to distinguish it from my children’s writing. My children’s books are lyrical; my novels are much darker. My switch from writing science fiction to writing fantasy didn’t seem all that drastic. Both involve creating new worlds, even if the premises of those worlds are different. Also — when you get down to it — Star Trek’s Heisenberg compensators are as unscientific as magic mirrors.
An author gets a feel for his or her readership, and I’ve come to believe that many of the people who would enjoy my character-driven stories refuse to read science fiction. I delight in creating unusual settings and situations to challenge my protagonists. That setting can be a thirty-first century slum, as in Sea of Time, an orc clan hall, as in Clan Daughter, or a faerie dell as in Candle in the Storm. The situations can be equally unusual: A human woman falls in love with an orc. A man becomes addicted to reliving the memories of the dead. A young girl feels tainted by her human blood.
On a more personal note, I first met my wife, Carol, in high school art class, although we didn’t marry until years later. Carol became one of the first teachers at Rochester’s School of the Arts, where she eventually headed the dance department. We have two sons, both artists. Nathaniel is a computer animator and Justin is an aspiring graphic novelist. For years, our family also included a cat named Morgan.