I can’t tell you how many times my friends have said, on completing one of my paranormal comedies, “Jim, you are sick and twisted.” No, that’s not it. I prefer to consider the humor in those books “inspired.”
I have shared in the past that the concept for The Substitute came to me in a dream – a very funny dream. I woke laughing, and immediately sprinted to my computer to begin writing the story down. That story has no overarching social message – I wrote it for humor and humor alone. People enjoy it. The book has many five-star reviews, and even better, many readers have told me they laughed all the way through. That is the point.
Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, the second novel in the comedy series, does have many social messages, but I tried to deal with the serious subject matter it contains in a humorous way. The primary motivation for writing that novel was the plight of the “Juarez Women.” So many have been killed and the perpetrators have not been caught. The sex trade was right up there, as well as domestic abuse toward women … and serial killers. Without getting too preachy, I wanted to see if I could remind people those are real problems, but in a way that would hold their interest.
I added humor to Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! by allowing Miss Havana to become an advice columnist, and she offers pearls of wisdom between each bloody outing as “The Angel of Death.” Of course, she’s not really The Angel of Death … that’s just an incorrect assumption on her part that gets her in hot water with God. I know, I know, it sounds odd, but I think it worked. The book has consistently received five-star reviews. No one has told me they laughed all the way through it, but there is plenty of humor along the way to offset the violent retributions Miss Havana rains down on those in her cross hairs. I also added a tender ending that will make the most hardened reader shed a tear.
That brings us to The Training Bra, the third novel in the series. Again, the comedy was inspired, but this time by a youtube video. But first, let me explain the unusual name. The title, The Training Bra, has little to do with the novel, but everything to do with the symbolism of a young girl’s transition to womanhood. In this case, Miss Havana’s spirit has been parked (and restrained) in the mind of an innocent eleven-year-old girl. Miss Havana is able to make her presence known a few times during the girl’s development, but finally breaks out when the girl reaches eighteen. It isn’t your normal “coming of age” thing – more like going to hell, since that’s where Miss Havana is from.
Now, about the inspiration. We all know youtube.com has tons of videos showing questionably normal people doing stupid things, and it was one of those that left my eyes watering as I laughed so hard I could barely catch my breath. A young man wanted to see what it was like to feel the buzz of his dog’s shock collar, so he put it on. Knowing the amount of shock was directly related to the loudness of the dog’s bark, the kid timidly began with a mild clap of his hands. He screamed and grabbed his neck, but recovered quickly. The rest of the video showed him gradually making more noise to see how much he could take. At the end he fell to the floor clutching the collar and screaming obscenities. Now, THAT’S inspiration!
So, the dog collar became central to The Training Bra story, and everything else was written around it. Like The Substitute, the story has no social value except to make people laugh. And it will. Frankly, I believe it is the best of the three Miss Havana books so far. It has a complex plot (although you might not guess that based on the concept for the book) and a powerful surprise ending. People who read it will love it. Although the book is still in the edit cycle at Solstice Publishing, it has been reviewed once in draft form – it was given a solid five-star rating.
Well, that’s it. For those of you who have read any of the books discussed above, I’d like to say two things. First, thank you! Books are hard to write. Humor is hard to write. That people buy the book and enjoy it makes all the effort worthwhile. Second, just for the record, I’d like to say … I am neither sick nor twisted.
Thank you for reading!
James L. Hatch