Talking War & Love with Roxanne D. Howard
One of my goals with this series is to interview veterans who encompass a wide range of writing genres and formats, even if they don’t fit pre-conceptions of who “veterans” or “writers” or “veteran/writers” may be. To that end, I invited Roxanne D. Howard to talk about writing in the romance genre, and how her service in the Regular Army and the Utah Army National Guard might influence how she goes about storytelling.
Q: First, please share a brief bio encapsulating your military experience, as well as touching on your writing credits.
A: I served in the Utah Army National Guard and Regular Army from 1998–2003. I had BCT down in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany. I worked in executive administration in the Colonel’s office, and greatly enjoyed my time in the Army. I used my GI Bill to get a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Columbia College, and I now have the following novels published with Loose Id and Boroughs Publishing: At the Heart of the Stone, Chicks Dig the Accent, The Costa Mesa Series (a three-book set), and my newest release, Sonnet Coupled.
Q: You are a romance writer and a veteran. The two may seem, at first, to have little in common. Can you talk a bit about occupying both identities, and how they interact with each other?
A: For me, it seems like you can’t have one without the other. My writing is the product of my military experience. Obviously not the romantic aspect, but in adventures/experiences, and personality traits of the characters and certain nuances I observed from battle buddies. I don’t think I would write the way I do without my military background. It also helps me to be true to the characters; I have an unspoken rule when I write heroes and heroines that they have to be someone I’d want to befriend, and they should have some sort of moral code that everyone can relate to.
One thing I loved about the military was the Army core values and what it taught me about being an honest and good person. I think now, more than ever, we need that in romance literature; heroes and heroines you can root for, who have their own sense of purpose and goals. In everyday life, I’m quite normal and just an active mom who also happens to be a veteran. I am something of a prepper and I like to [keep] my military skills up to date, and in other instances, I sit down and transpose all my experiences into my novels as a romance author. I would say one shapes the other.
Q: As a female in the military, I’m aware of the conversation regarding being taken as seriously as the male members of the military. Are you ever worried whether being known as a romance writer could affect people’s perceptions of you as a veteran, and vice versa? How do you work with it? (Full disclosure: I think it’s kickass…but I have struggled being comfortable with sharing that I’m a romance author to my veteran community, even though I love the genre. Guess the secret will be out soon!)
A: You know, at first, I didn’t tell a soul when my first novel came out in 2016. I felt proud of what I wrote, but at the same time in an almost duplicitous sense I was slightly ashamed, as though somehow writing romance made me a bad person. That simply isn’t true. It’s taken a while for me to realize that a. writing a book is hard work and getting legitimately published is even harder work, and b. writing romance is even harder than normal fiction because it requires a realistic, continual bird’s eye view into a relationship, and that’s a hell of a thing to pull off. If you take into account that most romance novelists write book after book, that’s even more impressive. I did wrestle with the Walk of Shame inner demons before, but to add to your disclosure, the fact is being a romance author is kick ass. After being in the military, to explore the dynamics of personal relationships in a healthy, sex positive way through novelization is pretty dang cool. These days I proudly say, “I write romance novels” when someone asks what I do for a living (after telling them I’m a Vet, of course).
Q: What are some of the common narratives concerning veterans that you’ve seen in the news/entertainment media? Do they coincide with your own themes? If you could choose to expand the range/variety of veteran stories, what themes/aspects would you choose and why?
A: You see and read a lot about how down-and-out some veterans are after horrible experiences no one should ever have to go through, and it breaks my heart. But what I would really like is more of a positive outtake and spotlight on those who overcame adversity and turned their obstacles into stepping stones. What about the paraplegic who’s taking the helm in Para-Olympic games, or the Vet who’s volunteering at the homeless shelter on a constant basis? I would love to see a reality show about veterans who have been through hell and back but are making a difference. Many veteran friends of mine are positive, wonderful people who have a strong resolve despite setbacks. And that’s the power of the human spirit.
Q: What are your favorite aspects of military life to write about, and why?
A: I enjoy the tactical bits, but fundamentally, I like writing about the true grit beneath a person’s surface. In my current new release, Sonnet Coupled, Griffith Parker is freshly honorably discharged from the Marines, and throughout the novel you learn that he had a harsh upbringing, and the military changed him dramatically, giving him the power to believe in himself. So many interesting people join the military from all walks of life, and what I love beneath the RPGs, MREs and M16s is to explore that; how did they come to be in such an interesting occupation, and what drives them? I also enjoy writing about the traveling. The military gives soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen the opportunity to explore the world, and that changes lives.
Q: Who are some fellow military/veteran writers you might recommend? What makes you recommend them?
A: Kayelle Allen — not only is she a terrific writer, but her blogging is great and she always posts very informative and helpful articles for other writers, whether you’re just starting out or professional.
Q: What advice would you give to veterans who are interested in writing their own stories?
A: Don’t put it off. Do it. Self-doubt can kill creativity, so if you know you’ve got it in you to write the novel of your life, get chairborne, outline your work, and get cracking. Writing is like a push-up. Only you can get yourself there, and it’s about how hard you want it. So get in the front leading rest position and knock those words out. Believe in yourself!
Q: Anything to add?
A: Thank you for the opportunity to interview! I really enjoyed it. Be sure to connect with me on social media, and check out my latest New Adult interracial release, Sonnet Coupled. Hooah!
Thanks to Roxanne for stopping by. If you’re interested in learning more about her, or picking up a copy of her novel, Sonnet Coupled, you can check it out on: