Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Paranormal Comedy Author Discusses His Book "The Substitute" and His

Scribal Love Welcomes James L. Hatch

James L. Hatch is an author in search of a genre. He writes Sci-Fi, Contemporary Fiction and Paranormal Comedy, and has published titles with xoxopublishing.com and Solstice Publishing.

What is the name of your latest book?  And how did you come up with the title?

James: First, thanks for interviewing me today, Clare. It’s a real pleasure to be here. My latest novel is The Substitute (http://www.solsticepublishing.com), a paranormal comedy. The title actually came to me before the story did, which is true of all my novels. At some point I have a germ of inspiration for a story and I usually get the title at the same time. In the case of The Substitute, the title came in a dream, and the idea for the story woke me giggling. I’ve read the book many times, and still laugh at that outrageous story. 

What is The Substitute about?  What genre is it?

I classify the novel as “Paranormal Comedy”, which is kind of an oxymoron. The Substitute tells the story of an ambitious substitute teacher, Miss Havana, who is beautiful beyond measure yet evil to the core. 

She lives a double life with gusto, as if to prove the wicked work harder to reach hell than the righteous do to reach heaven. At some point, she is murdered three times in one evening, but none of her killers realize the others have already done so. Everyone involved in her death also dies violently, but comically. 

They are all brought before Lucifer in a gaggle, where he takes an interest in Miss Havana, at first for her beauty, but later for her evil nature. She becomes his understudy before trying a power grab. Their daughter, Lilith, steps in to usurp them both. It is a hilarious romp through the life, death, purgatory and hell with lots of scheming, unlikely partnerships and intrigue, but salted with humor that will keep the reader laughing.   

Who are the main characters and why did you choose them?

The three main characters are Lucifer, Miss Havana and Lilith, their daughter. There are also a few supporting characters who play big roles, especially the shadow creature known as “Waldo” (because he’s so hard to find), and the Ben Stein-looking bureaucrat who runs things in purgatory. Characters are like cats, they choose their owners, not the other way around. I did not set out to define the characters in The Substitute; they just seemed to crop up just when I needed them. Clearly, I write by the seat of my pants...at least most of the time.

What is the coolest or best part about your book?  Do you have any Favorite scenes, world-building or the like?

Okay, this is a tough question. The whole novel is a hoot, but I do have two favorite parts. The first is when Miss Havana is murdered three times in one night without any of the killers knowing the others had already done the deed. That chapter required careful planning because everything had to fit together tightly, even though there were many characters involved in their own personal assassination plots. 

The chapter also had to be both outrageous and drop-dead funny, no pun intended. My second favorite part is the end. I won’t share that here, but I can say no one will see it coming, and it isn’t revealed until the last two sentences in the book.

Do you have a favorite character in the book?  If so, why?

James: Oh, yes—Miss Havana, hands down. Although I’m loath to admit it, I admire her spunk. She also has redeeming qualities, but they don’t really show up until the second novel of the comedy trilogy called, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! However, even with redeeming qualities, she is a pretty wicked individual. I treated her like a work in progress, in life, in death and beyond. She approaches everything from a self-serving point of view (POV), but gradually begins to see things in broader terms. Her ability to see situations in terms of herself ONLY is part of her charm…and definitely part of the reason the book is so funny. 

Miss Havana was also the favorite of the Book Wenches, who gave the novel a five-star review at http://www.bookwenches.com/september10reviews.htm#636925762.

Is this book part of a series?  If so, what can we expect in future books?  

Yes, it is. I have submitted the second novel to Solstice Publishing, but haven’t heard back from them yet. In my humble opinion, the second novel is even funnier than the first. It is also more socially redeeming. I am just beginning to get my thoughts together for the third novel in the series, but all I have at this time are overall concepts and the title: The Training Bra. All novels in the trilogy are all Paranormal Comedies.

I have also written a Sci-Fi trilogy (The Judge, Infinity Quest and The Empress of Tridon) available from xoxopublishing.com, and a Contemporary Fiction novel called Aftermath Horizon from the same publisher. I am currently working on two Contemporary Fiction novels that will be complete before the year is out. Like it says in the introduction, I’m still trying to find my genre.

If not, are you considering expanding it?

I believe Miss Havana has the potential for many additional novels, however, the question is really one of endurance. I tend to want to move on to new material after each trilogy, so I don’t know if I will write more with her as the main character or not. I have many novels I’d like to try, but little time to write them.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Honestly, no. As I mentioned above, the second novel in the series is complete, and frankly, it is both funnier and more emotional than the first. The Substitute is like the comedian that comes on before the main act, and its just fine as it is. Overall, through all the humor, the series is written to portray a gradual awakening of goodness, and each book ends on a high note that cannot be second-guessed. The Training Bra has the potential to rip your heart out, but in a good way.    

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes. A lot. I didn’t know I could write humor. When I began writing The Substitute, it was like a dam broke. I wrote furiously for two months, the fastest I have ever produced a 76,500-word novel. Not only that, but I laughed until I was lightheaded many times during the process. Writing the book wasn’t a chore, but an uplifting experience that made me feel good every day. I didn’t know that was possible.  

Do you have a publisher?  And if so, why did you choose them?

Actually I have two, and am targeting the third this year. Xoxopublishing.com was kind enough to accept my first five titles. I found them on-line when they first got started. Solstice Publishing accepted The Substitute in one day, and I am currently preparing two novels for Museitup Publishing. I met both Solstice Publishing and Museitup Publishing during the Museitup Writers Conference last October. That was a fantastic free conference, where serious writers can learn scads about writing AND meet some really great publishers.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Probably Dean Koontz. I really enjoyed his first person presentation style in Odd Thomas, and have emulated that style in all my books. Everything I have written has been in first person, although I avoid head-hopping by separating characters into their own chapters. The Contemporary Fiction novels I am working now might be different. Those could end up with a third person limited POV, just to comfortably add more descriptive language.

What books are you reading now?  

I just finished Dan Brown’s The Missing Symbol, although my own Sci-Fi and Contemporary Fiction is more like Douglas Preston’s Blasphemy.

What current writing projects are you working on?

I am revising the first novel I wrote many years ago, the only one that hasn’t been published. That novel is called Kill Zone. It is extremely long and covers too much ground. I intend to spend the next few months separating it into two novels. 

Do you write full time?  If not, do you hope to do so one day?

I am one of the lucky ones. I am retired. I write full time. I do not depend on income from writing, or I’d probably starve.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Very clearly, in fact I blogged about that very thing on Toni Sweeney’s blog on 1/7/11 at http://www.tonivsweeney.com/Blog/Entries/2011/1/7_What_If.html. In that blog, I unequivocally credit 9/11 with causing my transformation. In all my works, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! included, some vestige of that outrage comes through. The possible exception might be The Substitute, which was written for humor alone and doesn’t have an underlying social theme.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes. They call it “showing” vs. “telling”. I love to tell stories, but have some trouble showing the story. It’s something I work on constantly. I also lapse into passive voice now and then. Thank God for good editors.

Do you have any advice for other writers seeking to get published for the first time?

The turning point for me was when Sassy Sipe (RonnaGage@yahoogroups.com) offered some advice: join some writer’s groups; read their files section. That really got me started. I am a member of about twenty writer’s groups now, which means I must handle about 25,000 emails a month. On the up side, the files sections of those groups provided the guidance I needed to understand the difference between “showing” and “telling”, as well as some fundamental issues relative to grammar and punctuation. I still have a lot to learn, but I can say to any new writer he/she must learn the fundamentals before any editor will take them seriously.

Thank you again for having me here today, Clare. Your questions were insightful and I enjoyed answering every one!


James L. Hatch

Thanks James for Dropping by!  You can find James on the Web at:





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