“Howard has an unmatched talent for blending high-octane action with gut-punching emotion. His taut writing will make your heart race, break it into a million pieces, and then put it back together again . . ."
— Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100 series
Thanks for stopping by the site. I’m the author of NIGHT SPEED, as well as the ROOTLESS trilogy, and though I was born and raised in the UK, I now live in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. I spend a lot of my time writing but to take a break from the stories in my head, I like to head out on adventures in my camper van, the Blue Elephant. I take my mountain bike, my guitar, some good coffee, and head up to into the hills with my wife and any friends we can convince to come along for the ride. So right now I’m most likely either staring in dismay at a computer screen, typing furiously with a smile on my face, or exploring the great outdoors. Click on the pics below for my BIO, FAQ, and PRESS KITS, and feel free to connect with me via email or social media.
Chris Howard was awarded a Publishers Weekly "Flying Start" in Fall 2012, following the release of his debut novel, ROOTLESS (Scholastic Press), which has been published in seven different languages to date. The follow-up, THE RIFT, came out on ARBOR DAY, April 25, 2014, and the final book of this fantastical sci-fi trilogy will be out in early 2016, followed by a brand new story, NIGHT SPEED (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) which is out on May 3rd, 2016. Before he wrote stories, he wrote songs, studied natural resources management, worked for the National Park Service, and spent eight years leading wilderness adventure trips for high school students. He was born and raised in the UK, but now lives in Denver, CO, with his wife. They enjoy mountains, music, and mugs of good coffee.
Chris is represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, as well as Lucy Stille at APA for film/TV rights, and Taryn Fagerness for print rights outside the US.
Click here for a short bio and high-res author image.
Click here for a full bio and a different high-res author image.
Click here for high-res Night Speed cover art and synopsis.
Click here for high-res Rootless cover art and synopsis.
Click here for high-res The Rift cover art and synopsis.
Where are you from?
I grew up in a small town north of London. I now live in Denver, CO, and have been residing in the States for about half my life.
What are some of your favorite books?
I'm a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy, and love everything the man's written. I'm also a big fan of the Beats - Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady. I love Bob Dylan and Mark Twain. There's a sort of old-timey, wild-west feel to a lot of the books that I love to get lost in. But I also love books set in the future, and books about ideas: authors like Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, Neal Stephenson. My dad was an English teacher and is a great lover of the classics. He always encouraged me to read, and together we spent a lot of time discussing Shakespeare and Dickens, George Eliot and Jane Austen, Dylan Thomas and John Donne. Also J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When I discovered that by making the main character of ROOTLESS seventeen-years-old I had in fact written a Young Adult book, I started to read other books that fall under that heading. I've since been blown away by the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, as well as by books such as Marcelo In The Real World, The Scorpio Races, Where Things Come Back, Red Rising, An Ember In The Ashes, and many, many others.
What are some of your influences?
I'm influenced by all the books I've ever loved, and I'm also influenced by films. I see every part of my book in my head before I write it, almost as if it's playing on a movie screen. I really love the visual works of Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone, and the Wachowskis, and I connect with the story-telling and all-around awesomeness of Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan, Spielberg, Scorsese, John Ford, and Rian Johnson. My favorite all-time movie, though, is probably a tie between the original Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw them both at a young age, and they've really stayed with me. Actually, saying they stayed with me is an understatement... you should see my halloween costumes from the last few years!
In addition to books and films, I'm very influenced by all the different music I love. Some of the artists that influence me while writing would be, in no particular order: Bob Dylan, the Band, the Beastie Boys ("I give thanks for this world as a place to learn, and for this human body that I'm glad to have earned"... yeah, I miss MCA, too!), Lee Perry, Lana Del Rey, the Stone Roses, Four Tet, Jimi Hendrix, Burning Spear, M.I.A., and Aphex Twin.
Plays, poems, and paintings are often inspirational, too. A play called the Pitmen Painters was a big influence on my writing, as was the poem the Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot, and the works of E.E. Cummings.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first book when I was about twelve years old. It was called Reality Rides and was all about these people who hop between different dimensions. The main character was a fighter pilot who rode a Harley Davidson. I can still see it all in my head! But then I quit writing stories for a while. I wrote songs. Hundreds and hundreds of them. I actually think it was really good practice for writing prose, because in a song you try to make every single word count, and you focus on feeling and sound, as well as rhythm and meaning. I started writing fiction again in 2008, after a life-changing conversation I had with my amazing sister-in-law, Emilee. Basically, I came up with an idea for a story and I decided I had to write it. Once I started, I couldn't stop. It was like this explosion, a release to no longer be tied to the structure of a song, and I enjoyed heading off into what was, for me, uncharted territory.
Where do you get your ideas from?
They pop into my head, often as a “What If??” sort of idea, and then I keep asking “what if?” as I develop the initial story idea. As quickly as possible I try to get to a character from the story idea (or vice versa) because the people in the story interest me the most, and I like for them to drive the plot, rather than the other way around. I also find that creating limits helps fuel my creativity: the more I confine things (for example: temporally in NIGHT SPEED, or environmentally in ROOTLESS) the more me and my characters have boundaries to push against, things to strive for, changes to be sought… conflict to resolve, basically, both internally and externally. I should also mention I come up with tons and tons of ideas but most of them get thrown away or seem to simmer on a back burner in my brain unless the spark really catches.
What made you decide to write Young Adult books?
I actually didn't initially set out to write a "young adult" book, or an "old adult" book, or anything along those lines. I made the main character of ROOTLESS seventeen, and so it became a story about a young man on a journey into adulthood, a boy who has to learn how to become a man. But aren't we always on that sort of journey? Aren't we always growing and discovering new things? I'm a believer in trying to do something that people will connect to, whether they're seventeen or seventy-two. I think art should transcend any genre or box people try to label it with. Therefore, while I'm incredibly proud to be a part of the Young Adult world, it's really just another label, like science fiction, or fantasy. Labels can be useful for the reader, but when I'm writing it's not really something I think about much.
So you write about trees (ROOTLESS and drugs (NIGHT SPEED)… are you some sort of crazy hippy?!
Those are just labels, and as soon as you define yourself that way, you're totally limited, man!
Okay, so you are a tree-hugging hippy! In that case, do you have a favorite tree?
Ponderosa Pine. At about 2 PM on a summer's day, the sun-baked sap smells like cream soda. They also are beautiful, and fire-dependent, and tend to grow at a pretty perfect elevation, in my opinion.
What about a favorite drug, then?
Tetra. AKA Tempo. It's fictional. Read about it in my novel NIGHT SPEED :)
How come you're not Australian?
I grew up in the UK, spent some time Down Under, and I've been in the States ever since. A lot of people think I sound Australian when I talk (though Australians never think that). I love Australia. It's a beautiful place. But my accent has been formed by my many travels. I'm a citizen of the world, I guess.
Where do you write? And when?
Anytime, anywhere, really. I like quiet, though. No music. No people talking. And I often write using the treadmill desk I built. I fire it up and start walking while I work... my brain seems to think better when I move, though my legs do get tired after a long day :) I like to speed up the treadmill when writing fast-paced action scenes... in the case of NIGHT SPEED I had to crank it way, way up!
Will you read my book or part of my book?
First of all, I'm flattered that people have asked me this. However, I'm really bad at critiquing other people's work.
Any advice on writing?
I think the best advice for a creative process such as writing is to find the process that works for you... I believe it's different for everyone, and you'll get nowhere trying to follow someone else's set of rules. Of course I have my own process (though it changes) and based on the process that works (sometimes!) for me (and assuming you still want my advice after all these caveats!) I would say...
Write what you love to write about and think about. Write the story that would blow you away and make your heart swell as your brain explodes. Write what's in your heart. Write about what makes you scared, the things you know in your bones, but more importantly the things YOU DON'T KNOW but want to learn about. Have fun with it. Go wild. Do something different. Combine all the crazy things you're passionate about and try to set them on fire with your words. Above all, write the book that no other person on the planet could have written but you.
I'll also tell you that I FOCUS ON STORY (and the characters who drive it!!) first and foremost. The who, the what, the where, the when, and the why! Don't forget the WHY! The actual writing of the story is a separate thing and is also a lot of hard work, so I try to write and revise for story and character BEFORE I get focused on the rhythm and metaphors and voice and all that other fun stuff. You don't have to outline it all ahead of time (at least I don't), but it often seems a good idea to know roughly where you're ultimately heading. Be open for that to change, though!
Lastly, after you've written the story and taken a break from it, go back and edit your work until you can take it no further on your own. Then find people who connect with it, people who might even help you with it. This might take years. Or it might never happen. Don't let the number of people who "like" your work define the level of your success. This will seriously detract from the adventure! But also remember that there are some pretty far-out things that a ton of people connect with. So don't be afraid to be "out there". Bland is boring, I think.
Praise for Night Speed
“Howard has an unmatched talent for blending high-octane action with gut-punching emotion. His taut writing will make your heart race, break it into a million pieces, and then put it back together again, doing what great books are meant to do — change the way we see the world . . . and how we see each other.”
- Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100 series
“Every page of NIGHT SPEED made me say, ‘Wow!’ Tighten up that seatbelt, kids, because Chris Howard has his foot on the pedal and doesn’t let up, from page one to the end. This is superpower made real, made consequential, with characters you care about and a story that is pure adrenaline. An absolute must-read.”
- Michael Grant, New York Times bestselling author of the Gone series
Praise for Rootless
"There’s a brilliant madness to this deadly postapocalyptic world, filled with complex characters, shifting loyalties, and layers of mystery... it’s also a nonstop adventure, with wild concepts and an almost hypnotic quality to Banyan’s terse, weather-beaten narration. Lines like “I knew it was a day of endings, one way or another” and “One good thing about a world made of stone and steel, that world can’t burn for long” bring this unforgettable setting to life."
- Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Howard has a gift for the phantasmagoric image: the killing Surge that is this future’s ocean, the bark Banyan finds growing on a homeless man, the swarm of locusts descending for the kill, and more."
- Kirkus Reviews
"In his ambitious debut, Howard constructs a crumbling, brutal, ignorant, mystical, and barren world, and he gets his environmental message across clearly as he sets up the next book of Banyan’s continuing adventures."
"Themes of loss, redemption, and sacrifice are explored, along with some big questions about science and family and love. Banyan is a strong character with believable motivation and behavior. There's a lot of violence and misery, but also a surprisingly sweet romance between him and the almost suicidally daring pirate Alpha. Supporting characters are well done. Fans of the Mad Max movies, The Hunger Games, and other blood-pounding, life-or-death adventures will find much to like here, and will look forward to further installments."
- School Library Journal
"Imagine a combination of Patrick Ness, Nancy Farmer, and Paolo Bacigalupi. Now, crank it up a couple more notches and you have Chris Howard. The story lets you catch your breath as a joke, nothing more, and I can't wait for the next one."
- Forever Young Adult
"ROOTLESS is one intoxicating, crazy thrill ride... a book that sinks its hooks into your brain and won't let go."
- Young Adult Books Central
"Mesmerizing. Howard emerges as a compelling new voice... I loved that I could feel the dust and the desperation. I also loved that every corner of this world feels fully realized... A story that dares the reader to examine whether the ends ever justify the means."
- CJ Redwine, author of Defiance and The Shadow Queen
"Strikingly original with breathtaking plot twists, ROOTLESS will haunt you long after you've read the last page."
- Jeff Hirsch, bestselling author of the Eleventh Plague
The Rootless Trilogy
Rootless (Book One)
Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates beautiful forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree, they were destroyed more than a century ago, his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken...
Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo, a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts, the locusts that now feed on human flesh.
But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
The Rift (Book Two)
Banyan was once a tree builder, creating scrap-metal forests for rich clients in a barren burned-out world. Now he's traded his scaffolds for lookouts, his tools for guns. On a stolen boat, surrounded by a mutinous crew, Banyan has escaped from Promise Island with the last living trees on earth, and he's desperate to smuggle them to safety.
But powerful enemies are in pursuit, seeking to claim the trees for themselves. To reach a safe haven, Banyan will need the help of the pirate girl he loves, Alpha, his broken friend, Crow, and his troubled sister, Zee. Only together can they cross the mysterious molten wasteland of THE RIFT. And when Banyan discovers a new threat to Alpha's life, he fears he'll lose not only the trees they sacrificed so much to find, but the girl who inspires him and gives him hope.
Howard's "gift for the phantasmagoric" (Kirkus) is on full display in this thrilling second book of the Rootless trilogy.
The Reckoning (Book Three)
Coming in early 2016. Much more info soon! I've been working on this third and final book of the trilogy for a long, long time, and can't wait to share it with readers. In my own humble opinion it is... beyond epic!
Only those young enough can survive the pulse-pounding rush of tetra, a dangerous new drug that fuels a nine-minute burst of superhuman strength and speed. Tetra is addictive. It’s hard on the body and hard to control. But Alana West has been trained to use the drug so she can pursue the young criminals who abuse its power—criminals like the breakneck who nearly killed her kid brother.
On tetra, Alana is unstoppable. The rush makes her an explosive blur as she surges through New York City, battling to bring down breaknecks before they leave more people dead or injured in their wake. But with the clock ticking down to her eighteenth birthday, Alana will soon be too old for the rush… then just one more dose will prove deadly.
Supported only by her strong and steady handler, Tucker, Alana goes undercover, infiltrating an elite gang of breaknecks to locate their source of the drug and end the supply. But when Alana gets trapped on the wrong side of the law, she learns the breaknecks are not quite what they seem—especially Ethan, the artistic boy whose bottomless brown eyes seem to see the truth inside her. And with her own dependency on tetra increasing, Alana must decide where her loyalties lie before the rush ends. Forever.
If you're in Denver, CO, the wonderful folks at THE TATTERED COVER often have signed copies of my books for sale. And if you’re in Boulder, CO, then check for signed copies at the BOULDER BOOK STORE. You can also contact me if you'd like to send me something to be signed and returned to you.
I highly recommend you buy local from your awesome nearby INDIE BOOKSELLER, but you can of course also purchase my books from AMAZON or BARNES and NOBLE. Just follow the links below... I thank you for reading!
Bookstore events, book fairs, school and library visits, writing workshops... I like to get out on the road and meet people so I hope to see you out and about in the real world sometime. Click on the pics below to learn about scheduled upcoming EVENTS and for more info on my SCHOOL & LIBRARY visits.
“Chris Howard’s visit to our school was a major highlight of the fall term! He has a wonderful ability to connect with and inspire young people, and his discussion of the creative process offered true depth and practicality as well as sheer fun.” - Susan Lilley, Maher Chair in English, Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, Florida
I'll be at the wonderful Tattered Cover Book Store (the Colfax Store, in Denver) on May 5th for a big, big NIGHT SPEED book launch... more details to come, but plan on it. Gonna be something special!
I'll also be at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in April.
Check back soon for more 2016 dates.
School & Library Visits
I have four interactive presentations suitable for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers and I've worked with teenagers in a leadership setting for more than ten years. For inquiries about in-person school and library visits, send me an email. I'm also available for Skype and FaceTime visits with any group of readers who've read one or more of my books.
“The Adventure of Fiction Writing”
30-minute presentation, or all-day interactive writing workshop
(Grades 7 through 12)
Chris talks about how starting out on a story is like setting off on a quest: you don’t need to know how it’s going to end, but you need to know what you hope to achieve! Bring your characters to life by imagining them on the adventure with you; treat obstacles as part of the journey; grow stronger through challenges; and have fun along the way. For all-day workshops, Chris works with students to visualize their own work as an adventure, and helps them create goals and a story structure that sets them up for success.
"Building Character: Using Fiction to Explore Your Own Hero's Journey"
All-day workshop or multi-day curriculum
(High School Students)
Being a teenager can be a confusing time of life: dealing with questions of identity and a myriad of external influences. Chris draws on his eight years of experience leading wilderness trips for teens, as well as his experiences as an author, and encourages students to use the power of myth to create their own internal compass. By identifying recurring themes and archetypes in religious stories, legends, classic literature and contemporary fiction, students will learn to view their own life as a journey, and recognize the tools they possess as well as the obstacles that stand in their way.
“Story Engine: Predicaments, Protagonists, Plot, Purpose & Propulsion”
All-day interactive art workshop
(Grades 7 through 12)
Chris helps focus students on developing characters and conflicts to create the bones of a story. Tools learned will help students find a powerful enough purpose behind what they’re writing that they’ll often feel the story is writing itself. Chris explores how internal conflict can drive external conflict, and thus propel a plot to its climax.
“Recycled Art: How We Transform Ourselves Through Creativity”
All-day interactive art workshop
(Grades 7 through 12)
Chris builds stories from scraps of experiences and inspiration, just as the tree builders of his novel ROOTLESS use salvaged junk to create their beautiful forests. In this workshop, Chris encourages students to think about how their creativity transforms the world around them, and they spend the day using salvaged recycled materials to build trees or other new works of art together. Project examples include metal trees designed to collect rainwater in areas of drought, and permanent art installations for school grounds.
Teacher & Librarian Testimonials
“Chris Howard, author of Rootless, would be a wonderful author guest for any library or school. He has a way with the teens. They trust him and engage. When I hosted him at Highlands Ranch Library, it was the first teen author event we'd had in ages. One of the mother's came into the library the next day saying that Chris had changed her daughter's life. The young woman who is shy and keeps to herself, talked with Chris and he listened. She likes to write and he offered encouragement. The girl went home so happy and ready to write the mom literally broke down into tears. She said authors like Chris Howard are so important to young writers. She is right. Engaging teenagers is difficult, but Chris is so genuine, kind and knowledgeable, he pulls them into the world of books and writing. I recommend him highly all the time to other libraries and to school teachers.“
- Lisa Casper, Program Liaison, Highlands Ranch Library
“Chris Howard’s visit to our school was a major highlight of the fall term! He has a wonderful ability to connect with and inspire young people, and his discussion of the creative process offered true depth and practicality as well as sheer fun. His flexibility and marvelous instinct for working with groups showed as he effortlessly made the transition from high school to middle school audiences—and back again! We look forward to having Chris back for a longer school residency. It’s wonderful when a talented writer can bring such excitement and substance into the classroom. He’s a natural!”
- Susan Lilley, Maher Chair in English, Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, Florida
“Chris Howard's visit about his book Rootless has been the programming highlight at the Bear Valley Branch Library so far this year. The community enthusiastically anticipated his visit and demonstrated their excitement by filling the meeting room well before his arrival. At our branch, less than one third of the teens attending the visit had read the book in advance. However, Chris Howard inspired attendees not only to read his novel, but also to find ways to bring positive changes to their existing environment and in their own lives. Indeed, after the visit one teen applied to be a Outdoor Lab (CO) summer intern, and was accepted into the program! Prior to his visit, Chris Howard was exceptionally easy to work with. His laid back demeanor and lack of demands made scheduling and promotion a breeze. I certainly hope to host repeat events as his next novels are published, and community feedback indicates these would be as well received as the first.”
- Kristin Grabarek Roper, Denver Public Library
“Chris's visit to our school was phenomenal. Even before he arrived here, he was keeping our students' best interests in minds by working with me to design sessions that would be meaningful for everyone involved. Chris was approachable and the students enjoyed asking questions and learning from his experiences. His creative writing workshop was stellar and many students remarked that Chris's tips and exercises had helped them work through some issues they'd had with their own writing.”
- Jolene Gutiérrez, M.L.S. Denver Academy Librarian
“Chris Howard’s entertaining and inspirational visit about his book “Rootless” has been a real highlight of the teen programs we’ve offered at the newly opened Sam Gary Branch Library. Chris Howard oozes modesty and charm, and does a fabulous job of connecting with his audience. The teens who attended either already loved the book, or left the visit eager to begin. With his easy going manner and extreme talent, I would highly recommend Chris Howard’s presentation to any library or school."
- Kelly Wright, Denver Public Library
Rootless Study Guide
The following is an awesome Study Guide for my first book, Rootless, prepared by a wonderful teacher who said I could share it. If you'd like to share a study guide you've prepared for any of my other books, then please let me know.
Study Guide for Rootless - recommended for students, book clubs & all curious minds:
1) Banyan's trees are in high-demand - why do you think the elite of this future world would pay for Banyan's metal forests? What purpose do his sculptures serve?
2) What do you think is symbolic about Banyan's name? What about other characters such as Alpha, Crow and Frost? Fo you think the names help shape the characters?
3) On page 22 Banyan receives a photo of trees. What type of trees do you think they are? What are you basing your guess off?
4) Where do you think the photo might have come from, and what could it mean?
5) On page 33 we find that Zee has problems with her lungs, even though she is one of the elite. Why might this be true?
6) Zee seems to know that Banyan is going to come for her. Why do you think she is so certain of this?
7) What might the numbers on the leaves of the tattoo be for?
8) In chapter 6 they talk about Zion. What is Zion? Have you ever heard the term used before, and if so what do you know about it?
9) Zee believes in Zion, while Banyan does not. Why might they have differing opinions?
10) What do you think Zee means when she says, “I want to get my mother back.”? (Chapter 10)
11) Describe the setting of the story?
12) Sketch a design of a tree made from scrap/trash. Explain what materials you would use in your sculpture.
1) In chapter 16 they talk about bootlegging. What do you associate bootlegging with? What are they bootlegging in Rootless?
2) Why do you think the author chose to end part one where he did? How was it a good place to transition into part two?
3) Why would there be a statue of Zee’s mother? What might be so special about her? What may have caused her to end up in the place she is now?
4) How is the “Ark” an appropriate name for Harvest’s vehicle? How is it also inappropriate?
5) As Banyan entered the Ark what were your feelings? Was he making the correct decision? Explain.
6) Why might Banyan be so attracted to Alpha that he would risk his life for her? Think of reasons other than her physical appearance.
1) Why does Sal float so well when Banyan sinks?
2) In chapter 34 do you agree with Banyan’s decision to leave the photograph of Zee behind? Explain your reasoning.
3) Why do you think the author killed off Hina just as she was beginning to remember information that would be useful to Banyan?
4) Describe how GenTech's corn is able to grow despite the harsh conditions described in the book?
1) Do you think the "trash island" that Banyan reaches could form in a lake or ocean? Do you think anything similar already exists?
2) Were you surprised to find out Zee is alive? Explain.
3) Were there any early clues that led you to believe Hina and Zee were related to Banyan, or was this a complete surprise to you? Explain.
4) What kind of trees do you believe are mentioned on page 265? What context clues led you to your conclusion?
Chapters 50-End of Book
1) Do you think the Creator truly believes she is doing good? If so, how could she feel this way? If not, then why does she continue her work? Do you think she can be justified in what she is trying to achieve?
2) Should Banyan have shaken hands with Frost? Is it okay to be dishonest/deceitful for a greater cause?
3) Do you see Banyan's alliance with Frost as a similar compromise to the one the Creator has made with GenTech? Or how do you think it's different?
4) Do you think Banyan should have told Zee his plan and trusted her? Explain.
5) Why might Banyan feel so attached to a sister he barely knows?
6) How does Banyan's decision to build a tree in the middle of the stand reflect the beginning of the book and Frost's plans for the forest he originally asked Banyan to build?
7) Do you agree with what Banyan decides to do in the final three chapters? What do you think he is sacrificing, and to what end? Were you surprised by the decisions he made?
8) If you lived in this society who would you fit in with? Explain.
9) Why do you think the author chose the title Rootless?
10) What are some of the loose ends you would like to see addressed in Book 2?
11) Create a list of questions for the author.