Missed me? Well, I missed you, dear reader. Been itching to get back to this blog all week, but circumstances prevented it until now. Oh, yes–my family’s trip from Texas to North Carolina for the holidays was H-E-double-hockey-sticks, but we finally made it safely.
Speaking of HELL…
I had the pleasure of interviewing James L. Hatch, author of The Substitute,where Lucifer meets his match in a high school substitute teacher. James has written several books, but since we’re discussing HELL, I thought this one was highly appropriate. Plus, James is one of our wonderful authors for The Day The Sun Stopped Shining Blog Tour, which begins tomorrow.
1. My, goodness. Who does your covers? They are stunning. Do you tell your designers what you want or just see what they come up with on their own?
James: There’s an interesting mixture of creativity—some mine and some others. The cover for The Final Experiment was created entirely by the publisher, xoxopublishing.com. The covers for The Judge and Infinity Quest were collaborative produced between xoxopublishing.com and me, whereas I worked with a local studio to create the cover for The Empress of Tridon (an image of my daughter’s face is superimposed atop a Hubble Space Telescope image) and Aftermath Horizon (I took the mountain picture from Mt. Rainier, and the studio later used Photoshop to add crater images from the Nevada Test Site web page). Solstice Publishing was entirely responsible for the covers for The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! Likewise, Eternal Press created the cover for Kill Zone with no input from me. The amount of my involvement has been driven entirely by the creativity of the assigned artist, and the publisher’s willingness to accept input from me. Xoxopublishing.com was very flexible when their artist was a little overwhelmed, so I helped where I could. To my surprise, my favorite covers (The Substitute and Kill Zone) were developed by publisher artists with little to no input from me. In both cases, the artists read the book, and then used their own impressions of the text to create the cover.
Dicey: Wow. That seems like an involved process. And it works, especially for The Substitute. I made sure to link to each book. I’ll be happy to update this post with the link for Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! when it’s released.
2. With seven novels and one short story, which one did you enjoy writing most and why?
James: Without question, the most enjoyable to write was The Substitute. I had completed my Sci-Fi trilogy and my contemporary fiction works, and wanted to make a change in genre. The concept for Miss Havana, a stunning substitute teacher who everyone loved to hate, struck me in a dream, and I immediately got out of bed and started writing. It was a case of the main character (Miss Havana) taking over the author in quite a literal sense. I laughed almost the entire time I wrote that book – for about two months. Solstice accepted the novel in less than 24 hours from the time I pitched it (the editor wrote that she could not put it down). The only purpose for The Substitute is to make people laugh; however, all the biblical references in it are real. What struck me funny, while Miss Havana outwitted Lucifer and her daughter, Lilith, was the wild interpretations I could give to the biblical references. I tried to be accurate relative to the twenty-seven indicators pointing to the rise of the Antichrist, but every “rule” has a humorous (and a bit twisted) implementation.
While The Substitute is definitely my favorite, Aftermath Horizon runs a close second. Aftermath Horizon intertwines two love stories with a load of adventure. Instead of focusing on the doomsday scenario that kills almost everyone on earth, the novel concentrates on the recovery about 180 years after the end times. The heroine is a sixteen-year-old girl who is brave, honorable and quick on the uptake. Her adventures take her into a world of unbelievable peril, where every scrape with death brings her and her mate closer together. I loved the irony of writing about a time gone by, while presenting one potential future for the human race.
Dicey: Your concepts are intriguing, indeed. I can see why these are your faves.
3. In a recent blog post, you wrote: “In The Substitute, Miss Havana proved more conniving and evil than Lucifer, and eventually caused him great pain. People like it when the devil is defeated; it was easy to get laughs at Lucifer’s expense.” Which one is the real villain in your story? Miss Havana or Lucifer, and which one was more interesting to write? Why?
James: An excellent question! The answer to the villain question is “neither.” The real villain is the daughter of Lucifer and Miss Havana, Lilith. The daughter inherits the evil nature of both Miss Havana and the devil, making her twice as caustic as her parents. As to which was the most interesting to write, that would be Miss Havana. I loved her complex, two-faced nature and the fact that no one could guess what she’d do next. Her quirky nature means no one will guess the end of the novel, even within a couple of paragraphs from the conclusion.
Dicey: Hope I didn’t force you to reveal a spoiler about the daughter. 😉 Then again, I guess that’s not the big secret since no one will guess the end even right up to the conclusion. I like surprises…in literature, that is.
4. In that same blog post, you wrote: “On acceptance of the manuscript, the Solstice Publishing editor offered, ‘I found it to be a humorous, gory, graphic, moral and ultimately satisfying tale.’ That is exactly what I intended.” How did you insert morality into the story without losing the humor, gory, and graphic nature of the book?
The quote is in reference to the sequel novel to The Substitute, called Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! The book is written like a saw tooth, with sharp teeth of humor between each horrifying social issue I addressed. To add humor, Miss Havana’s spirit haunts a beautiful advice columnist known as “Miss Jackie.” Of course, no one in their right mind would take the advice Miss Havana dispenses, but her multiple stints offering advice is a great opportunity for humor. As advice columnist, Miss Havana is guided by two basic tenets. First, that ‘everyone is entitled to her opinion’, and second, that she reached the point in life where everything was a lie; therefore, she is able to discern the truth. When her spirit is not destroying Miss Jackie’s career, it occupies various felons, and she exacts retribution from almost everyone she stumbles into. She makes a great assassin as she comes to see herself as “The Angel of Death.” As in the case of The Substitute, no one will guess the end of Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! That ending is the most poignant I’ve written, so much so that one reviewer stated, “And what an ending…! I won’t give it away but if it doesn’t give you at least one sniffle, in the midst of all that dark laughter, then you’ve got Lucifer’s sensitivity.”
Thanks for having me on your blog, Dicey. Your questions are by far the most insightful I’ve addressed. Your readers can find more about me and my books at http://cookinwithmisshavana.blogspot.com/, where I will also be posting inputs from other “The Day the Sun Stopped Shining” blog tour authors. There are also free books and a cool contest there.
Dicey: With “Sharp teeth of humor” and “Lucifer’s sensitivity”, I can see you have a way with words that is both witty and entertaining. Thank YOU for taking the time to answer my questions with such depth. I’m glad you found them insightful. Your passion for your books showed through. It’s been my pleasure. I’ll stop by your blog to check out the contests and other author features.
Merry Christmas to all!