John Hazen is the author behind the book Dear Dad. He took time to answer the new set of Ten +1 Questions that I have put together. So without more comment please check out John’s answers to the questions.
Question 1: When did you realize first wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember when I didn’t want to write novels, but it was always one of those things I “never got around to do”. I put forward a couple of efforts earlier in my life but they never went anywhere. Every time I did it all seemed so daunting and overwhelming, but it still didn’t dampen my dream of writing a book, someday. It wasn’t until I got myself my first laptop that I started to get serious about it and began to put my ideas down and fashion them into stories. The result is that I’ve now written four novels, one of which I self-published (Dear Dad) and two that have been published by a small independent publisher, Black Rose Writing (Fava and Journey of an American Son).
Question 2: How did your friends/family take the loss of your time as you wrote the book?
Most of my writing is done on the train back and forth from work or early in the morning hours so there hasn’t been a lot of lost time away from friends and family.
Question 3: What inspired you to write Dear Dad?
I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and have especially been fascinated by the Civil War. Many people at the time viewed the Civil War as a just war that needed to be fought. Juxtaposed with this is the fact that I grew up in the Vietnam War era with the nightly televised antiwar protest images being pumped into my brain. I thought it would make for a great novel to somehow contrast the two wars (with a nod being given to World War II in the process), but I’m a novelist and I didn’t want it to come off as a dry history lesson. That’s when it occurred to me that what better way to compare the wars than to have to same person participate in both wars?
Question 4: During the initial writing process where did you get the idea for the book and its characters?
When I get an initial idea for a book, I can’t say that there is very much in the way of specifics. I have a general concept of what the book is about (e.g., comparing two very dissimilar wars or what would happen if a person who lost someone on 9/11 was suddenly able to extract ultimate revenge), where I ultimately want to end up and perhaps the lead characters but beyond that, the rest comes to me as I write. I have great admiration for those authors who can outline their books ahead of time. Me, I make it up as I go along. I always tell people that some of my favorite characters are minor characters that I originally introduce to help move the plot along but then as I’m writing they grow in importance and become pivotal characters in the book. In Dear Dad, Doc and Jon were that way. I just love the way these characters develop before my very eyes.
Question 5: Who were some of the authors that inspired you as a child growing up and their books?
Would it be going back a little too far to cite Virginia Lee Burton who wrote Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel as a profound influence? It’s the first book I recall reading. Seriously, my favorite all-time book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read it first in either Junior High or High School and I’ve re-read it a number of times since then. In high school and for years afterward I would latch onto an author and read everything I could by him or her one after the other. I did that with John Steinbeck, James Mitchener and Robert Ludlum. As you can see, my tastes are rather eclectic.
Question 6: What was the feeling like when you saw the first completed version of your book?
It was quite a rush, I must say; quite a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I must say that even now I look back at my books and say to myself: ‘Wow, I did that?’
Question 7: Do you continue to write and in what genre?
Oh yes, I’m still writing. I write in the suspense/thriller genre. All my books have some sort of historical component but I like to have some sort of twist. Dear Dad, for example, has a time travel component to it. Presently, I’m working on revamping the first novel I ever wrote but was never released. It’s called Aceldama and has a fantasy aspect to it, asking the question: What if someone were to stumble across one of the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas to betray Christ?
Question 8: Who do you imagine being the people reading your book?
I’m hoping that Dear Dad has an appeal to a broad spectrum of people. I could see history buffs liking it. I could see the time travel crowd having an interest. I can the family-values set taking a look at it because of the father-son bond you mention in your review. Most importantly (and I want this to apply to all my books), I see people being attracted to the book because they just plain like to read a good story.
Question 9: Any good suggestions for those who want to try writing their own book?
Perseverance. You can’t let yourself be overwhelmed at the outset but construct it as you would if you’re building a house. Just like you wouldn’t start doing your interior decorating until you got the structure and plumbing and electrical in place, neither should you rush the building of your story. Don’t get ahead of yourself but put the book together bit by bit and scene by scene. You also need to have a thick skin and accept constructive criticism gracefully. In Dear Dad, for example, an early draft had a whole family that one of my readers said really did not add much to the story and in fact distracted the reader from the main plotline. I really liked the family and I miss those kids, but I had to agree and they were expunged from the final version of the book. Lastly there’s an old writer adage that I think writers should always keep in mind: ‘Show, don’t tell’. The example I remember is instead of saying ‘Ted was filthy rich’ say ‘Ted glanced at his Rolex’. It gets the same point across but in a more descriptive way that helps the reader paint a picture in his mind
Question 10: When not writing how does you like to spend your time?
I just like spending time with my wife of 35 years, my best friend, Lynn. We love to travel and play tennis but more likely than not we’ll just enjoy each other’s company doing about anything.
The + 1 Question
If you had any one place in the world you could travel to for a book tour, where would that place be, and why?
I’d love to retrace the trip my grandfather made in 1920 when he was sent on a business trip from Boston to Calcutta, India. He wrote a diary of that trip which I subsequently used as the setting into which I wrote my most recent novel, Journey of an American Son (how’s that for a shameless plug for one of my other books?) As you can imagine, a trip that today would take less than a day at that time took months as he took a train across Canada, then steamers to Tokyo, Singapore and ultimately Calcutta. Along the way he also rode on rickshaws, dinghies and Model Ts. After he concluded his business, he got back on trains and steamers but headed west to go through the Suez Canal up through Europe and then across the Atlantic back to Boston. Now that would be a book tour!
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