Today we welcome Dr. James L. Hatch, author of The Final Experiment, Kill Zone, Aftermath Horizon, The Judge, Infinity Quest, The Empress of Tridon, The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! Welcome James!
Thank you Menagerie Authors, it’s good of you to have me as your guest.
You’re thorough! Lots of titles. So, we’ll start by asking a few questions. Where are you from?
Sometimes a simple question can generate a complex answer. This is one of those. For someone who has lived in one place all their life, the answer is a slam-dunk, but moss never grew under my feet. Until I retired a third time, the longest I stayed in one place was seven years. The down side is that you never have any real friends, people you’ve known for years that can help you in a bind. The up side is you learn to deal with whatever confronts you on your own. As I traveled the U.S. and the world, I have visited Thule, Greenland, the Australian Great Barrier Reef and dozens of countries in between. I have worked in many villages and towns from Alaska to Texas, and Washington State to Maryland. I traveled until I tired of traveling, and then settled down in central Texas. I still get out three or four times a year, but life is so good here it’s getting harder to leave.
I guess you were right. When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing on 9/12/01. Yes, that’s the day after the Twin Towers fell and about 3,000 people were murdered. I was angry and writing helped. For the next five years, I poured my soul into a novel called Kill Zone, expressing my rage at religious fanaticism and the futility of terrorism. Of course, the book was so full of anger no one wanted to read it. It dripped with venom. So I spent the next five years re-writing it, toning it down. In the process, two additional stories spun off. One was “The Final Experiment”, the other Aftermath Horizon (both at xoxopublishing.com). After the nth re-write, Kill Zone was accepted by Eternal Press, and will be published in November, 2011. In the process of working out my grief and anger, I became fascinated with trying to write correctly, just to see if I could. My Sci-Fi trilogy (The Judge, Infinity Quest and The Empress of Tridon) was published by xoxopublishing.com. After that, I tried paranormal comedy, and now have two novels with Solstice Publishing (The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!). I find it interesting my writing has gone from deadly serious to side-splitting funny. Writing was therapeutic; I needed to do it.
Writing is therapeutic for us. It keeps us sane. Are your books realistic?
I love this question because I’m a fiction writer—I lie for a living. So yes, I try to deceive people into believing the books are real. In each of my books, I include realistic “grounding”, links to known or accepted fact/dogma that make the tale seem true. Kill Zone is my most Michael Crichton-like novel. It’s loaded with science fact and near-fact, so much so that one reader asked if the majority of the novel was real or fiction. Aftermath Horizon is next, another contemporary fiction (my personal favorite). That novel not only has considerable science fact built in, but also considerable religious reference. I enjoy including religious overtones, especially those that make people think. For example, Aftermath Horizon reveals the reason Adam and Eve’s children found mates, when, if Adam and Eve were first and second, there shouldn’t have been any. My Sci-Fi trilogy is a mixture of science fact/fiction, and religious fact/fiction. The three novels were a joy to write, and became more complex as I moved toward conclusion. The Judge is a cool story from beginning to end, but in Infinity Quest, I tried to trick the reader (and did). By the time I got to The Empress of Tridon, I had considerable practice at deception. The ending is impossible to guess. I can honestly say nothing in The Substitute is realistic, except the way rotten people act. That one was written for laughs only, is quite successful at it and has many five-star reviews. The sequel, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! is also a paranormal comedy, but has a dark side as well. In it, I tried to mix comedy with a serious social message. It was designed to lead the reader on a ride as coarse as a saw blade, with horror intermixed with laugh-out-loud scenes. Yes, it was fun to write, and will be published in August, 2011. I am currently working on the sequel to Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, a novel called, The Training Bra. Like The Substitute, I expect that one will be just for laughs alone.
What is the hardest scene you have had to write (published or not)? Why?
Another great question. I am a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t plan formally, I just write. Usually, I dream my plots, and write the ensuing novel rather quickly. My dreams are in color, detailed and I have a good dream memory. However, in one case, I resorted to planning on paper. The scene was so complex and difficult I could not make it come together until I locked myself out of my car at the Temple city dump during a thunderstorm. I found shelter in a small city office away from most of the dump smells, borrowed a pen and paper and waited for my wife to rescue me. That hour was one of my most productive because, in that time, I was able to plan how three killers would murder Miss Havana (with good reason) all in one night, and none would know others had already killed her. I also needed to have all the killers and accomplices die violently/comically, most of them in the same night, so that everyone involved in her death arrived in the devil’s domain in a gaggle. I’m sure, to this day, the employee in that tiny office has no idea why I spent the hour snickering when most soaking wet people in that situation would have been fuming.
What is your favorite character you’ve written (published or not)? Why?
Hands down, Miss Havana. She is wicked and funny, and even has her own advice column. The concept for the character came to me in a dream. She is beautiful (so much so that her entire face is never shown on the book covers), smart and conniving. The devil is attracted to her because of her beauty and evil nature…and because she is so apt at striking back at those who harmed her. She is a substitute teacher while alive, but becomes the substitute for the devil after she attracts him with her wile. The war of the sexes follows, all in great fun. In Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, our heroine, having performed one selfless act that saved the world, nets a space in heaven’s probation. There she fancies herself “The Angel of Death.” She sets about righting wrongs on the surface, only to come face-to-face with God. On being scolded, she bats her eyes suggestively and asks if there is a Mrs. God, but her flirting falls flat. God deals with her in a most unexpected way. The character is wacky but charming, someone you love and hate at the same time. I love her complex nature, and the situations she puts herself in. Overall, she takes readers on a wild and comical ride through life, death, hell, purgatory and heaven. And through it all she remains…uniquely Miss Havana.
What animal do you think makes the best pet and why?
I have a cat. In fact, I’ve had a cat as far back as I can remember. Once, I even had two cats. I like them because they are independent and fussy. They also make great fodder for stories. In my current WIP, the cat takes on the spirit of Lilith, the ultra-wicked daughter of Miss Havana and Lucifer. As you might expect, Lucifer is assigned to the dog. The dog and cat watch over Miss Havana’s developing spirit when she is banned to the body of an eleven-year-old girl (The Training Bra). Lucifer doesn’t know the cat is his daughter (the bane of his existence). He just thinks the cat is inherently evil. Don’t look for anything socially redeeming in the book because you won’t find it. Laughter is the only goal.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Okay, this might gross you out, but the strangest was a water buffalo penis. I know, I know. They are a delicacy in some parts of China, and I’m also aware that many starving people would probably enjoy having one right now; however, I left about three feet of it on the serving plate. Just couldn’t stuff another gelatinous spoonful in my mouth. Next was probably the Japanese pub food—the small pile of fish Jell-O with a raw egg topper. Come to think of it, the eels hopping around on the grill in Korea weren’t too good either, nor were the animal entrails that followed.
What is one thing scientists should invent?
A red box for books. Think about it. We have POD. Why not POD in a red box? Something like that could increase sales. Maybe I could sell more than one book a week if they put a red book box outside every sex toy store in the country? Another good invention would be a garbage disposal that doesn’t break three minutes before the first guest arrives for your biggest party of the year.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning. Early morning. Very early. Sometimes so early most people think it’s still night. That’s the problem with not being able to sleep well, especially when I’m in the middle of a novel. I just want to write when the ideas are fresh. Sleep is optional. Besides, the moment my wife wakes up, it’s all over. That’s when the chores and nagging to do them begins. I mean, who cares if the vacuuming doesn’t get done. Dust bunnies aren’t dangerous. Ditto on washing the car. It’ll just get dirty again. And don’t get me started on that brown patch of rock we call our front yard. It looked like that long before I moved here, and I see no reason to fight nature over its appearance now.
Do you like thunderstorms?
Yes! So much so that I became a weatherman. No, really. My Ph.D. is in meteorology. I’ve followed weather all my life, even live in it. But here’s a surprise. I’ve never made a forecast. I’m one of those guys who designs the software and displays weather people use. Also some of the models. I love graphics and advances in computer systems—I am a true first-order technocrat. My wife wonders why I need the fastest computer available when all I do is write. I tell her it’s in the genes. I can’t help myself.
If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?
World peace. A cure for cancer. An end to hunger. Oh, wait, those were my answers for the Miss America contest, just in case Miss Havana wanted to compete. For me, I would probably wish for the ability to wish for anything. Then I’d spend a month or so thinking about it. In all probability the “wish warranty” would expire before I made up my mind. At least, that’s how it generally works.
You seem to like Miss Havana a lot. Can you tell us a little about The Substitute?
The novel offers a hilarious romp through the final days of Miss Havana’s life, her trials in purgatory, and her afterlife with Lucifer. Witty and spicy, it leaves readers in tears of laughter. In The Substitute, Miss Havana’s public persona is far from the truth because, in her capacity as substitute teacher, the small community where she lived knows her as the breathtakingly beautiful young woman who demands every student learn, but in her private life, ostensibly caring for aging parents in Chicago, she races through the lives of powerful men, leaving a wake of destruction…and a deep desire for revenge. Little does she realize her conflicted life will end in a chaotic death at an early age, and to eternal conflict with the devil. The surprise ending will leave the reader stunned and gasping for more. In the sequel, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, she becomes an advice columnist by day and assassin by night. Miss Havana’s spirit wrongly considers itself the Angel of Death, but is eventually brought to task by God.
Do you have any final words for our readers?
I’d just like to thank them all for stopping by, and invite them to leave a comment. I’d also like to thank you for having me here. It’s been fun.
We’re glad to have you! Now do you want to know more about James L. Hatch? Here you go!
Although his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. are in Chemistry and Meteorology, James
worked as a scientist and system/software engineer before retiring a third time, then
turned to writing. Extensive travel, from Thule, Greenland to Australia’s Great Barrier reef – and to dozens of countries in between – provide the real-life experiences he incorporates into everything he writes.
James enjoys boating, kayaking, skiing, traveling, hiking, tending nine grandchildren
(no more than two at a time), and ballroom dancing, but his first love is writing, and all other activities are molded around it. He has completed seven novels and one short story, and intends to continue writing in the Sci-Fi and Paranormal Comedy genres. He has contracts with xoxopublishing.com, Solstice Publishing and Eternal Press.