6 March 2011

James Hatch talks about The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!

Writing the oxymoron.

About seven months ago I completed a contemporary fiction novel called Aftermath Horizon, a novel that grew out of a short story called “The Final Experiment”. As is the case each time I reach such a point, a period of about six weeks followed in which I didn’t write at all. Instead, I used the intervening time to promote novels I had completed. I blogged, like I’m doing now, I kept up with the thousands of emails I receive through the twenty or so writer’s groups I belong to, and I considered what to write next.

At that time, I had published a Sci-Fi trilogy and two contemporary fiction titles with http://xoxopublishing.com/ , one of which was a short story, but did not want to be locked into any particular genre. I was drifting and beginning to wonder if I’d ever be inspired again when one night I woke up with a start…giggling. The idea came in a flash—a novel where the genre itself was an oxymoron—a paranormal comedy! Still snickering, I immediately jumped out of bed and began making notes on the dream.

Now, don’t go making fun of dreams. I keep a flashlight and note pad handy at all times for such things, a carry-over from my college days when I learned I could solve really hard math problems while sleeping. I dream in color, dialog, numbers and computer code, depending on what’s needed at the time. This is common. Predators, including house cats, dream about hunting, and the brains of all higher animals mull over survival skills during sleep. People too. Only anteaters don’t dream, the animal with the largest brain for the animal’s physical size. In the case of the anteater, researchers speculate its brain is large enough to process all necessary thought in real time—after all, how much processing in necessary to eat an ant? Clearly, my brain is too small…so I dream.

Not only was the “oxymoron genre” an intriguing concept, but the premise of the dream was downright hilarious—a substitute teacher, who herself would be a paradox, who eventually substitutes for the devil. Once the seed was planted, the ideas came so fast and furious I did not return to bed, but started writing immediately. The story literally fell off my fingers, and I laughed like someone reading a really funny book for the first time. By morning I was lightheaded from laughter, but I knew I had the material I needed for my next novel, The Substitute.

It is amazing how inspiration works, how it drives a writer. I wrote nonstop for two months, the fastest I’ve ever completed a novel, but when I finished The Substitute, I knew it wasn’t over. The characters were simply too quirky, outrageous and devious to let go. The spirit of Miss Havana, the main character, was truly evil, but her disdain for Lucifer was even greater, so she was driven to perform a single selfless act of redemption, at least to a point. And that’s where Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! begins, a book so full of contradictions it is difficult to put them into words.

Imagine, if you will, a spirit loaded with evil trying to fit into “probation” in heaven. As one might expect, Miss Havana doesn’t adapt well, refuses to take part in the twelve step program, and tries to take the easy way out by flirting with God, even asking while batting her eyes suggestively, “Is there a Mrs. God?” She is truly corrupt!

I try to evoke emotion in all my novels, although not shamelessly, and that was especially true in Aftermath Horizon, a novel with a compelling social message as well as an action-packed, adventurous love story. The Substitute, on the other hand, was written to evoke laughter alone and has almost no social value. Nevertheless, it got a five-star review at http://www.bookwenches.com/september10reviews.htm#636925762, which confirms laughter counts for something.
James, I do have to interupt here, :-) but laughter is an essential ingredient to good health. Norman Cousins wrote the book Anatomy of Illness recovering from a death defying illness by watching all the fun creating programmes he could lay his hands on while recuperarting.  But please continue, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog.
In the sequel, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, I tried to ratchet up the emotional content a little, and aimed for a saw tooth emotional ride. In one moment, the reader will laugh out loud, in the next, he/she will suppress tears because the novel addresses some of the most horrid social issues of our time. That was touchy. I had to approach the issues in a way that would make the reader feel vindicated Miss Havana’s spirit turned vigilante, kind of like “Dexter” on steroids, but funny. I tried to maintain the up and down flow of emotion to the last sentence, which is where the title to the third paranormal comedy in the trilogy becomes obvious, The Training Bra.

So that’s a little of what went through my mind as I wrote The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! A blurb for both novels follows, but please note that Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! is not yet available for purchase. That novel has been submitted to Solstice Publishing, but I have not been notified of its acceptance.

The Substitute Blurb: Miss Havana’s public persona was far from the truth because, in her capacity as substitute teacher, the small community where she lived knew her as the breathtakingly beautiful young woman who demanded every student learn, but in her private life, ostensibly caring for aging parents in Chicago, she raced through the lives of powerful men, leaving a wake of destruction…and a deep desire for revenge. Little did she realize her conflicted life would end in a chaotic death at an early age, and to eternal conflict with the devil. Clever and witty, the reader will not guess the conclusion of the novel until the final paragraph. 

Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! Blurb: Having performed a single selfless act, Miss Havana finds herself on probation in heaven, but unable to conform to the rigid requirements there. After many missteps, she discovers she still retains the powers she had as The Queen of Darkness, plus the title, and realizes she’s on probation as much to keep her from joining forces with her daughter, The Princess of Darkness, as anything else. The Brazilian, a large black man with a dreadlocks beard who waxes regularly, is her “guide”, but she ignores him and his advice completely, to her peril, until he’s taken off her case. She is left guideless in a foreign environment, and eventually begins consorting with evil spirits from her former realm, especially Waldo, a shadow creature so named because he’s so darn hard to find. She acquires a copy of “The Angels Guide to Earth”, comes to believe she is the Angel of Death, and returns to the surface as an advice columnist and assassin. She wreaks considerable havoc before God intervenes for a final showdown...which, as it turns out, isn’t as final as most would hope.

I will definitely let everyone know when Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! is available for purchase, and strongly encourage anyone who needs a good laugh to go to http://www.solsticepublishing.com/ to pick up a copy of The Substitute. You will not be disappointed.

Thank you, Sherry, for having me here! It’s always fun. And thank you readers for visiting. Please leave a comment, and Miss Havana will get back to you!
James L. Hatch


Don't miss the opportunity for more from James Hatch on Tuesday 8th  


Sarah J. McNeal said...

I know what you mean about drawing inspiration from dreams, James. I don't have a flashlight because I don't have to worry about disturbing anyone but the dog but I do keep a pencil and notebook beside the bed to jot down dreams that inspire a story idea.
Great blog.

Delaney Diamond said...

James, I, too, keep a notepad nearby. I don't get inspiration while dreaming, but rather as I awake from sleep in the morning. That's when I often get the ideas that knock down the previous day's writer's block and ideas for new scenes or dialogue. Instead of a flashlight, I have a lamp on my nightstand.

Your books sound hilarious, and I happen to love to laugh.

Great post!

Grace Elliot said...

Lovely post James, best of luck keeping Miss Havanna in check!

James L. Hatch said...

Thank you girls for your comments. I hope you will all enter my contest for a chance to win a copy of "The Substitute". Just point out any error in the blog and send it to either jhatch6@hot.rr.com or misshavana@hot.rr.com with Miss Havana in the subject. I'll notify the winner this coming Monday.


Pommawolf said...

Great Blog. I loved books that make me laugh. Both you books are now on my wishlist. Thank you for chuckles *S*

Just a reader

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Pommawolf! Thank you for the wishlist! What could be better than that. And yes, "The Substitute" and "Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!" will keep you laughing!