Author Interview: John Hazen of Black Rose Writing
Earlier this year, we reviewed Dear Dad by John Hazen. John has published multiple books in several genres. Today, we get to chat with him and pick his brains about his writing.
JMR- Hi John, tell us about yourself. Where do you live? What do you do for fun? What does the perfect day look like?
JWH – Thank you, Jeanie, for having me on today. It’s great for authors to have a forum like this to chat with other authors about our writing. After growing up in Massachusetts and then living most of my adult life in New York/New Jersey, I now live with my wife, Lynn, in Florida. I’m retired, so my time is by and large my own. For me a perfect day involves walking down the streets of Paris with my wife, Lynn. But, given that isn’t happening anytime soon, my perfect day is to get up and play some tennis before the sun gets too hot, followed by a dip in the pool, and then I’d sit down and do some writing and reading for a while. We’d throw a couple steaks on the barbecue and split a bottle of champagne. In pre-COVID-19 days, I’d top it off by heading out in the evening to play my clarinet in a local community band. Not a bad day, I’d say.
JMR- Sounds like a great day to me! I love that you play the clarinet!
JMR- I love to meet other history lovers! You have written quite a few books, each very different from the other, but each has a bit of history in it. Do you have a favorite historical era? What and why?
JWH – I’ve had a love of history going back to when I was a kid. I’m such a historical nerd that I like to exercise to historical documentaries, which my wife finds a bit weird. I’ve plowed my way through World War I and The World at War documentaries and am now ready to begin Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Anyway, I love incorporating historical events and eras into my writing. I guess would have a tie for my favorite era. I’ve always been fascinated by both The Civil War and World War II. My time-travel book Dear Dad, compares a “popular” war, The Civil War, with an “unpopular” one, The Vietnam War. The interesting thing was that I felt I could write the part about The Civil War with a minimum of research because I had a pretty substantial knowledge base regarding that era. However, I needed to do a lot of reading to familiarize myself with The Vietnam War, the war that raged when I was growing up. Even though it was such a part of my life, I just never focused on it. When I released the book, I was somewhat nervous as to whether I accurately captured the modern conflict. I was afraid of being caught out. I was therefore greatly relieved when one of the early reviews I got for the book read in part: “As a Vietnam Veteran, I particularly related to this story.”
JMR- Who would you compare your writing style to? Do you have a favorite author, someone whose work you admire?
JWH – My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, but since Harper Lee wrote only the one book (I don’t count the recent Go Set a Watchman) she doesn’t have the body of work to qualify as my favorite author. I would therefore have to say that John Steinbeck is my all-time favorite. His ability to capture the plight of the common man, of the downtrodden, but at the same time address global issues and injustices speaks to me. In terms of my writing style, I think of myself as a good storyteller and a creator of real characters that many people can identify with. But my style is one I would describe as a rather straightforward without a lot of symbolism or hidden meanings or other embellishments. In thinking about it, I guess my approach is a lot like James Michener. He wrote well-researched sagas that were steeped in the history. I read a number of his books some years ago and they obviously had an impact on me.
JMR- Do you have a favorite historic character? What is it about them that you admire?
JWH – I guess my number one favorite historic character would be Abraham Lincoln, for all the obvious reasons. Every time I read something new about him, I become newly impressed. I think what I mostly like about him was that he was not only a great man, but he was also a good man. He had toughness but he also had compassion and empathy. He had the ability to constantly learn and then adapt based on what he learned. The trouble is, he’s such a towering figure that I’ve been too intimidated to incorporate him into one of my books. Perhaps someday. Three historical figures have thus far made their ways into my books. Two of them, I greatly admire; the other fascinates me but I can’t really say I admire him. In Dear Dad, General U.S. Grant plays a key role. Like Lincoln, Grant rose from humble beginnings to achieve greatness when it was most needed of him. The second historic figure to make an appearance is Mahatma Gandhi who plays a brief but instrumental role in Journey of an American Son. Like Lincoln, Gandhi was a great man who was also a good man. He stood up to an empire and never backed down. Now, the third historical figure who plays a key role in one of my books, Aceldama, is Judas Iscariot. He’s definitely not someone to be admired, but he is a fascinating character whose actions speak for themselves but whose motives have been lost to history.
JMR- Very interesting choices from very different eras. I like how you're not afraid of choosing controversial figures. Judas is probably not on many people's lists, but he is, I agree, a fascinating man whose actions had a monumental impact on his and our world.
JMR- Are you a traveler? Have you visited the places you write about? Did you visit Shiloh, the site of your time travel in Dear Dad? How about India?
JWH – My wife and I do like to travel. As I mentioned, Paris is one of our favorite places. We’ve visited a number of European countries. We’ve been to Mexico and Canada and the Caribbean. I have been to a number of Civil War battlefields, including Shiloh, which I feature in my book, Dear Dad. You ask about India, which was the destination in Journey of an American Son. I never have been there but my writing was based on a first-hand source. I was going through boxes and I came across a journal my grandfather had kept during a trip he made there in 1920. He was a biochemist and was sent by his company, a New England textile firm, from Boston to Calcutta, India, to investigate problems they were having with the jute (used to make burlap bags among other things) that grew in the Calcutta region. As you can imagine, making a trip like this in 1920 was quite involved. You didn’t just jump on a plane but had to take trains, steamships and even rickshaws to get to the final destination. Along the way he encountered geisha girls, lepers and a silent film starlet. Well, as I was reading through his diary, it occurred to me that this would make a terrific setting for a book.
JMR- How amazing to have your grandfather's journal. What a great story.
JMR- I love the use of time travel in a novel to showcase the past and use it as an opportunity to slip in a history lesson. Why did you choose time travel? Do you think we will ever be able to achieve real time travel and if so, would you do it?
JWH – I’ve always thought of time-travel as a fascinating concept. My first introduction to time travel must have been Sherman & Peabody’s Wayback Machine on the Rock & Bullwinkle Show. I have my suspicions that this show didn’t provide the most factually accurate portrayal of history, but it was enough to prime the pump for me and I haven’t turned back since. I hadn’t really contemplated being a writer of time travel but then Dear Dad came along. As I mentioned previously, I wanted to compare two wars that were separated by a century and the best way to do it was through time travel. I’m now working on a new book that incorporates time travel as well. Many people can think back to a regrettable decision they made or an action they took that changed the direction of their lives. This book asks the question: If you could go back in time to alter that decision or action, would you? The book is called The Correction and is scheduled to be released in June 2021. Do I think time travel is possible? I’d like to think that humans are capable of achieving anything, so yes, I believe it may be possible. Would I do it? I honestly don’t know. It’s easy to say you’d do anything in the abstract but when it becomes real, who knows?
JMR- I'd have to let others experience time travel before I'd give it a go. I'm a bit of a chicken. I love the concept of time travel and it's really interesting to see all the variations, including The Wayback Machine, that author and creators come up with.
JMR- Several of your books have a female protagonist, why did you choose a female MC to tell your stories?
JWH – To tell you the truth, I’ve often wondered that myself. There’s something about a strong woman character that I’ve often found very appealing. I especially like those characters who gain strength and confidence as the story proceeds. My Francine Vega Investigative Thriller Series (Fava, Zyklon, and Beyond Revelations, which is to be released this December) is an illustration. The main character, Francine Vega, is a NYC TV reporter. When the reader first meets her in Fava, she is a talented but green journalist who steadily grows as investigates and reports stories with national and even international consequence. In Journey of an American Son, Catherine starts off as almost a secondary character, overshadowed by her husband and other characters in the book. By the end of the book, however, she has taken over as the protagonist, the central character, and she is a strong one at that. I thought a character like this would be especially effective given the time period, the 1920s, when many women were expected to take back seats to the men in their lives.
JMR- Tell us about your books, Fava and Zyklon? Where do you get your plot ideas? Cool titles by the way!
As I mentioned, Fava and Zyklon are the first two books in my Francine Vega Investigative Thriller Series. I’ve always had great respect for the profession of journalism. A free press is vital in a thriving democracy. I also wanted to write a book that touched on controversial issues of our day. So, when I started thinking about the first book, Fava, I knew it had to be about a journalist and I wanted her to uncover a big story, a career-making story. But what? Around the time I was thinking about writing Fava, there was much in the news about anti-Muslim sentiment being expressed throughout the country so I thought that would be a good angle. Then I remembered reading about what are known as the Five Pillars of Islam which are belief in God and in Mohammed as God’s messenger, the obligation to pray five times a day, giving to charity, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and lastly, making the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca at least once during a person’s lifetime. Fava involves the reporter’s stumbling across an insane plot to destroy one of those pillars and thus bring down the religion of Islam. Francine Vega then teams up with an FBI Agent to thwart this plan. I was especially proud when this book was named by BestThrillers.com as one of the 18 Best All-time FBI Thrillers (https://bestthrillers.com/the-best-fbi-thrillers/ ) alongside the likes of James Patterson, David Baldacci and Lee Child. When I wrote Fava, I had no intention of writing a series but when I thought about it, the characters were just too good to let them fade into oblivion. Francine had a bunch more stories left in her. The plot for Zyklon emanated from another one of my historical passions: World War 2. The title, as you may guess, comes from the poisonous gas, Zyklon B, used by the Nazis at the death camps. I wanted a story that shows how that terrible chapter in the world’s history can still influence today’s current events, in this case a Presidential election. I ask the question as to how much responsibility do the children bear for the sins of the father.
JMR- Do you have more books planned? What’s next?
JWH – I’m looking to be pretty busy, especially for a retired guy. I’m doing some promotions for my existing books. I have a new thriller, Beyond Revelations, coming out this December. This book, the third in the Fava/Francine Vega Investigative Thriller series, brings Francine out of her comfort zone as she has to travel from New York City to small-town New England to hunt for a friend who has gone missing. Her inquiries lead her to believe that the disappearance is tied to Beyond Revelations, which on the surface is a reclusive religious order preparing its flock for the Second Coming but may in fact be a cult with much more sinister intentions. I did something different in this book. It not only is the third in the series but I also bring in the town (Fairbrook) and the main character (John Foster) from Dear Dad. Then in June, I have a new book The Correction, which I describe above, coming out. I’ve also got a few ideas floating around in my head for the fourth book in the Fava series that I hope to begin fleshing out soon.
JMR- Tell us how to find and follow you on social media and the web. (please list any social media links and website info)
JWH – My Amazon Author Page
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
JWH – Well, you didn’t ask if I like piña coladas (no) or getting caught in the rain (it’s okay) or if I’m into yoga (never tried it) but other than that, I think you covered it. I thank you for this opportunity and I wish the best to you and your followers.
JMR- Thank you John for visiting with us here today. Readers I have included links to John's books on all the book covers. Be sure to check them out. And click on the book cover below to read my review of Dear Dad.
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