I was sound asleep when the concept for my first paranormal comedy novel, The Substitute, flooded my mind. The dream image of the storyline jarred me wide awake, and I trotted immediately to my computer to begin fleshing out the main character. Miss Havana would be beautiful, conniving, resourceful, wicked beyond comprehension, hypocritical to the max, and blonde. As a substitute teacher, her public life would be above reproach, but her private life as a party girl, drug dealer, and extortionist would be something else entirely. She would be the character readers love to hate, but even more, she would be the woman who could bring the devil down.
I was giddy with anticipation when, in the wee hours of the morning, I wrote the opening paragraph from the Devil’s point of view (POV): “My patience wears thin for the blight known as Miss Havana. Those who mock me, the magnificent Lucifer, are inevitably rewarded with everlasting pain, and she is on extremely thin ice, assuming that phrase can be applied in my home. If she doesn’t rein in her insolent nature soon, she’ll learn the hard way I can be her worst nightmare.” The chapters flew by as Miss Havana took on a life of her own, and I completed the novel in only two months. Solstice Publishing accepted the novel in record time after the editor disclosed she read late into the evening because she could not put the book down.
Following The Substitute, Miss Havana became the lead character in three sequel paranormal comedy novels: Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, The Training Bra, and The Trophy Wife. All are hilarious in a racy sort of way, and all have received many five-star reviews. In each of them, Miss Havana retains the evil and quirky characteristics that draw readers to her.
I believe each story also became more complex as I tried to insert more meaning into the text. The Substitute was written for only one purpose—to make people laugh. Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! added a new wrinkle—a social statement as Miss Havana pursued her mistaken belief that she is “the Angel of Death”. After a few wood shed meetings with God, Miss Havana continued her comical pursuit of evil in The Training Bra by challenging the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And in the fourth novel, The Trophy Wife, the storyline remains hilarious, but includes an entire inferred undercurrent, a totally opposite storyline, something like that done in “Animal Farm”.
Later in The Substitute, here’s a sample of Miss Havana’s disdain for Lucifer, not just because she hates him, but because she wants to replace him:
Stopping in mid-sentence, she turned toward me, and uttered a throaty growl. “And how, exactly, do I refer to you? Lucifer? Beelzebub? Vermin? Lord of Lies? Lord of the Flies? Mr. Winky?”
Myself! She is so damned! I’ve smoked others for far less impertinence, but suddenly realized the cavern had fallen deathly silent awaiting my answer. I considered the situation briefly before deciding to let the show go on. After all, we had yet to see the ending. A collective sigh of relief emanated from the evil spirits circling above and echoed through the cavern when I grinned back. No doubt, they wanted to see how Miss Havana’s judgment session ended as well.
Therefore, through a forced smile I uttered a retort, “Father Wally…just call me that,” knowing full well that priest abused her daily from her sixth birthday until she ran away from the orphanage. She tempted me again with a glare of hatred, sending chills of pleasure up my spine and causing my mouth to salivate.
As she broke her glare, she snapped viciously. “Fine then, Alice it is.”
Later in The Substitute, Miss Havana is called on to substitute for the Devil (thus the title). That places her in a position to mete out punishment, and so she does:
Word spreads quickly in a place such as this, where gossip is encouraged but truth is not. Gossip here is no different than anywhere else. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. By the time the next judgment session begins, the gallery is packed with bloodthirsty monstrosities awaiting the fate of the shadow creature that had the gumption to cover me with flour, or perhaps, lacked the intelligence to control itself.
I pull the flaming white-hot paddle from my bag and casually stroll to the rear of the creature, which by its nature is now fully visible, and rasp out for all to hear. “This hurts me more than it does you, but neither Lucifer nor I will tolerate any act of disobedience, disloyalty, or disrespect toward me. Assume the position!”
I almost hate to do it because the creature is already trying desperately to shed tears, but I must…and I do. The paddle’s familiar whistle echoes through the cavern. In unison, the entire gallery erupts with one word when it lands squarely on the butt of the gigantic creature. “Whack!” A deafening roar that is both ear-splitting and soothing at the same time.
Miss Havana’s world, whether in the flesh as a surface dweller “above” or in raw spirit form “below”, is full of surprises and comedy. Her view of heaven and hell are new and fresh, but I can assure my readers–they will love it.
Thanks for reading,
James L. Hatch