Sunday, 6 March 2016

Author Interview of The Siege

Author Interview of The Siege: A Psychological Thriller by James Hanna

Book:  The Siege
Author: James Hanna
Registration number: JH121214
Publication date: 2-27-14
Publishing company: Sand Hill Review Press

About the book

On November 23, 2000, one hundred inmates hold twelve guards hostage in the laundry dorm of The Indiana Penal Farm. Emergency squads are massed along the fence, awaiting the order to attack, while sharpshooters are perched like crows on top of the administration building. Tom Hemmings, a dorm counselor, has been conscripted to defuse the standoff. But the inmates are divided into rival gangs, the guards into feuding unions. And the prison administration has sparked the standoff by forcing cut-rate services upon the facility. As he enters the prison, Tom's heart starts to hammer. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad? And how will this nightmare end?

1. What inspired you to write the book?

I wrote The Siege to dramatize the plight of anyone working in the prison industry.  Mismanagement, danger, and contracts with cutthroat privateers are a big part of the problem.  Another problem is that the employee unions are generally too ineffectual to represent the line staff.  Either they are in bed with management or so busy vilifying one another that they have lost sight of their true mission.  I also wrote it as a metaphor for America today.  Like the bureaucrats in The Siege, our politicians seem to have prioritize mercantilism over humanity.  Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”  In America today, I feel we are close to the defeat of the American Revolution. 

2. When did you realize that you wanted to write a book?

When I was in my early twenties roaming Australia.  I read a lot of books by campfire, which inspired me to write.  Eventually, I rented a bungalow on the Tasman coast and began my writing career.

3. Who helped you in writing this book?

My publisher with Sand Hill Review Press, Tory Hartmann, was a huge help.  She guided me through three drafts of the novel in which I cut excessive verbiage and honed my characters.  I also got help from my critique group and Elise Miller, a writer whose book, A Time to Cast Away Stones, was also published by Sand Hill Review Press.

4. How is your book going to inspire the reader?

The book does not have an inspirational message.  I think messages diminish novels by turning them into rhetoric.  I want the reader to experience the situation for himself.  I want his to smell the tear gas, see the dead bodies, and feel the frustration of an insular prison bureaucracy.  And then I’d like him to come to his own conclusions.

5. Why did you choose the psychological thriller formula?

The Siege is not a formulized novel.  It’s dynamic lies in the tangled psychological interactions of its characters.  I prefer books that are character-driven over books that are plot-based.  I think they touch the reader on a much deeper level.

6. How do you find time to write and which part of the day do you find best for writing?

I wrote The Siege in spurts over a ten year period.  I wrote mostly on the weekends because my job as a probation officer in a domestic violence unit took a lot out of me.  In many ways, I stole time to write while fighting sleep deprivation.  But the book needed to be written—the characters converged on me like riled-up strangers demanding to be heard.  I’m now retired from criminal justice and have the luxury of writing every day.  I generally write in the morning and market in the afternoon.

7. Which books have inspired you the most in the journey of writing this book?

That’s hard to say since I’ve read so many.  The ones that come to mind at this moment are Johnny Got His Gun, Drift, Lone Survivor, and Atonement.  These books capture the disconnect between war and the polemics of war, which is a theme in The Siege.  I also like The Blood Meridian for its bleak sensuality. 

8. What is the best advice you would give for writers who are trying to write a book?

It’s important to realize that there is no substitute for hard work—not even talent.  Thousands of talented people try to write books but get derailed.  I would urge writers who are serious about completing a book to set up a writing schedule.  This will mean giving up something they enjoy.  I would also urge them to get meaningful feedback.  This is more likely to come from strangers than from family and friends.  And once the book is completed, they will need to learn the dynamics of marketing.  Otherwise, they will become the equivalent of a musician playing outside of a subway station.  No matter how brilliantly the musician plays, ninety-nine people out of a hundred will walk past him without a second thought.  

9. What are your hobbies?

Tennis and reading.   I would urge all writers to have a hobby.  Something that helps them re-energize.

10. What can we expect from you in the future?

Call Me Pomeroy, my second novel, will soon be in its third edition.  This is a book about the misadventures of a street musician who joins Occupy Oakland and its spinoffs movements in England and France.  He does not join for political reasons but to get on television, attract an agent, and land a million dollar recording contract.  Some of the book was serialized in Empty Sink Publishing, an online journal that likes the quirky stuff.  I’m now hoping to bring Pomeroy to a larger audience. 

About the Author

James Hanna wandered Australia for seven years before settling on a career in criminal justice. He spent twenty years as a counselor in the Indiana Department of Corrections and fourteen years as a probation officer in San Francisco where he was assigned to a domestic
violence and stalking unit. James' stories have appeared in many journals and have received three Pushcart nominations. The Siege is his first published novel.

Author Website: James Hanna

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