Monday, April 18, 2011

Author Interview: Jerry Hanel

I recently posted my review of Jerry Hanel's book, Death Has A Name, a story I found to be quite enjoyable and unique. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Hanel, and here's what he had to say.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Jerry Hanel. I've been writing for many years, but this is my first published work. I spend most of my days writing computer programs for a local engineering firm. However, at night I put on my writer's hat and spin the world into chaos just so that I can bring in a hero to save the day.

I live in Oklahoma, but I enjoy long walks on the beaches of Nova Scotia, Canada. I also love candle-lit... Oh, wait. Those are the answers for a different type of interview. Sorry.

2. You mentioned that you've been writing for several years. When did you start?

About twelve years ago. I wrote a "compelling" short story in the eighth grade about a hiker trapped in an arctic cave with a bobcat. I know... I know... bobcats are not native to either the North or South Pole. But I was eight. Give me a break. My teacher wanted me to do more with writing, but I was reluctant. I was already a 'nerd'. No need to be a book-nerd. Those were even lower on the food chain.

I didn't do much more with writing until I was in college. Even though I was studying Computer Science, I would go home and write short-stories to pass the time and entertain myself. I was too broke to afford things like gaming consoles, and the idea of creating a new universe still really did excite me. Fast-forward to today, and I am a computer programmer by day, and a writer by night, just like the 'good old days'.

3. How did you come up with the plot for Death Has A Name?

I started the original story off by having a rough-and-tough detective having to solve a bizzare murder where the Angel of Death was having a hard time killing one particular victim because God had other ideas for him. In a fit of rage, the Angel actually beheaded the man in a locked vehicle, causing a conundrum for the detective to solve: Who could do such a brutal murder and not leave one single clue behind? That was, originally, the only "paranormal" part of the plot. The rest was supposed to be grounded in the modern world as a murder mystery that the detective had to solve.

But as I came to write an "explanation" scene with this weird paranormal guy named Brodie Wade, I realized that I liked Brodie. Alot. He was odd and quirky. Like me. I liked the character so much that I went back to the beginning and rewrote the stoy with him as the main character. I think it was time well spent because I'm very happy with the way it all turned out.

4. What inspired you to write it?

Truthfully, my father. I know, it sounds odd that I would write a book about the Angel of Death regarding my dad. My dad is the kindest man I've ever known. But bear with me. You see, my father is a long-haul truck driver. In the original concept of the book, the guy that was so hard to kill was a truck driver. I guess, in my mind, I viewed that character as my father, knowing all of the things that he's gone through and survived. From truck accidents to a tractor running over his legs, to a bulldozer incident (he's fine, now, by the way). God definately had something much bigger for him.

5. Did you have any specific goals when writing Death Has A Name? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

The main theme of Death Has a Name is "What is 'normal'?" Brodie has to fight to maintain even the basics of sanity. He's constantly riding a line that is between quirky and insane. In our own lives, we have our own lines that we ride. Some of us ride the line between geeky and normal. That would be me. Other people ride the line between bossy and normal. You get the idea. We all are riding our own personal lines, but when we come to view the world through someone else's eyes we can redefine 'normal' and see people for who they are, not for what they do or don't do in life.

At least, that was my goal. If you'll give Brodie a chance to be quirky and see past that, a whole new person comes into view. Once we get past this first layer of humanity, the next book will look a bit deeper into the next layer, Love. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

6. Tell us about Brodie Wade. I found him to be one of the more unique and interesting characters I've come across in a long time. Where did he come from? What inspired his creation?

Well, he was originally a bit-character. You know, the guy who comes onto the scene, describes how something so odd could actually happen, and then walks off the scene, writing in his clipboard, or "I gotta get this phone call. Excuse me." You know the drill. But he was so compelling. A guy that can see things that no one is supposed to see.

I'm not sure who the inspiration of Brodie is in real life. I guess, a mixture of all of the best parts of so many of my friends and family. Phil, the detective, is more like me. Caring and honest, and analytical to a fault. I guess Brodie is the damaged part of each one of us. He's been abused and abandoned so many times in his life that although this odd thing happens to him and he hates it, it's all he knows. It is his 'normal'.

7. Did you encounter any cases of writer's block while working on Death Has A Name? How did you get through it?

More than I care to admit. And the only thing I can think of that helped me in the writing was time. I would put down that story and walk away, and go work on some other idea or theme. I have about six stories brewing currently. And as a new idea would come to me about the story, I would return to it, and I would be able to write so much more than if I'd sat and forced my way through.

8. What do you feel sets Death Has A Name apart from others of the same genre?

Death Has a Name is odd in its own right. As a murder-mystery, it has the paranormal aspect of the theme of The Truth. So, it's not really a murder-mystery. But it is, at the core. There is a bad-guy, a set of clues that we see all the way through, a final confrontation, and the big reveal. It's just a murder-mystery with a huge twist.

As a paranormal book, it doesn't contain vampires, warewolves, demons or witches. Those are the mainstay for the current trend in paranormal books. But, in my opinion, those topics have been overdone and are really starting to drive me nuts. There is so much more in the unexplainable world that if we just focus on those, we're missing a bigger picture.

What about guys that can walk through walls? Or gals that can change forms into inanimate objects? Or people that connect with some unknown Fourth Dimension (* smiles at Kevin *). You get the idea? You used technology and a bit of magic to explain it, but what if you leave it unexplained and still acknowledge such odd things can exist? If you can do that, then you open yourself up to so much more than just the four staples of the current paranormal world, and can have so many more wild adventures.

9. Are there any characters in Death Has A Name that you directly relate to?

While I can relate to the "wounded" side of Brodie, I'm alot like Phil. I'm sometimes overly analytical. So much so that I may come off as cold and heartless to some people. Not that I don't like people, but I'm a very black-and-white person. I love everyone, I really do. But I know that there is an answer to every question, and sometimes you just have to look at the evidence from a new angle to find that answer. That's what The Truth is all about. It's too bad that Phil can't see that realm, or he'd be the world's greatest detective. He'd also be nuts, like Brodie, but that's another story.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links or other websites you'd like to share?

Yep. I'm on facebook and twitter. I mainly stay with facebook lately. It's just easier to stay connected to people that way. If anyone wants to connect with me there, feel free to do so. I do my best to respond to everyone.

11. What is most important piece of advice you can give to the other up-and-coming authors out there?

For those wanting to self-publish, advertising and marketing become the biggest hurdles. You can write the world's greatest book, but if no one knows it's there, they won't read it. Guys like us don't have multi-million-dollar book agencies pushing our work for us, so we have to find ways to let people know we exist without being slimy used-car salesmen in the process. It's a tough balancing act.

The best advice I can give is this: Be real, and just spend time connecting with each person, one at a time. Don't worry about big sales and huge numbers. Those will come in time if the work is sincere. The more you focus on the numbers instead of the fans, the more slimy you become, so just relax and enjoy the time you get to connect with so many people that you would have never met otherwise. They really are nice people.

12. Do you have any new writing projects currently in the works?

Yep. Several. My next book, which is falling dreadfully behind schedule, is the sequal to Death Has a Name. It's called Thaloc Has a Body. Brodie is back on the case, and may even find a love interest, if he can save his friend from Thaloc's evil plan. But that's probably more than I should have said to begin with.

I have two other books in the works unrelated to Brodie. Both are paranormal in nature and are related to each other, but not "sequels" per-se. They are independent stories with a common plot device that connects them across time and space. But again, I've probably said too much. Look for the character Harrison Kass in an e-book coming soon. =)

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Best of luck to you in the future!

Thanks for having me, and I wish you the best of luck!

Death Has A Name on
Death Has A Name at Smashwords
Death Has A Name at Barnes & Noble
Death Has A Name at the Reader Store

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