Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pro-File: Barry Hoffman BLIND VENGEANCE

1. Tell us about your current novel/collection.

BLIND VENGEANCE is the 5th book in a series I began with my first novel HUNGRY EYES. The series follows Shara Farris who faced sexual abuse as a child and in HUNGRY EYES gets her revenge (ten years later, when in her twenties). It was written as a stand-alone novel but my agent at the time suggested I write a sequel for publishers he was pitching the novel to. According to him a series would be a great selling point. It was no simple chore as in HUNGRY EYES Shara is a serial killer (the antagonist). Fortunately, I didn't kill her off in HUNGRY EYES. In the sequel EYES OF PREY I had to turn Shara into the protagonist. She became a bounty hunter. From my research many serial killers don't get their thrill with the kill, but from the hunt. Killing is mainly a means for the killer to avoid capture. When Shara becomes a bounty hunter she retains the thrill of the hunt without having to kill. And while a bounty hunter she also takes on some cases where she is more of a private investigator. As the series progressed additional characters were introduced, some who became Shara's "family" though she wasn't related to any of them. There is also a supernatural forest that comes into play in the second book. It is a living entity that interacts with Shara and others within her sphere of influence. The forest is neither benign nor evil. As a newly created sentient entity it is studying humans like Shara. From book to book it evolves from a child to a teenager in BLIND VENGEANCE. It can and does heal a character in the series, but any good it does always come with a price. In BLIND VENGEANCE for the first time the forest projects a human manifestation so it can interact with humans outside of the forest. The plot of BLIND VENGEANCE revolves around the kidnapping of Renee. Shara is her guardian and Renee has become more important with each book in the series. A psychopath mistakenly kidnaps Renee thinking she is the daughter of Shara's partner (in bounty hunting) Lamar Briggs. Renee is aware she has been mistakenly kidnapped, but must act like Briggs's daughter or be killed. Shara must find Renee before the kidnapper tires of holding her captive.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I'm currently working on a novel that revolves around the human sex trade. It's a sequel to an as yet unpublished novel BLOOD SACRIFICE. The protagonist of BLOOD SACRICE is a homicide detective who was the first openly lesbian graduate of the Philadelphia Police Academy (based loosely on a male who was the first openly gay graduate). In DOUBLE TAKE Detective Thea Hughes believes there is more that meets the eye to a teen runaway who kills another runaway in an altercation. Eyewitnesses all corroborate her story of self-defense but Thea believe the girl was set up to be killed. Shadow, the killer, is involved an the human sex trade, something the reader learns as the novel progresses.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

For me the greatest pleasure is creating believable characters. While the plots of my books are important it is the characters that bring the novel to life. What I really get off on is writing a character who is initially a secondary--even a minor--character who as the novel progresses screams out to me for a larger part. I call this my "wildcard" character and I have one in almost every novel I've written. When I hear the call from that character I listen and that character often plays a pivotal role in the novel. In one novel I've written I enjoyed writing about a secondary character so much that in a sequel that character becomes the main character and the main character from the first book becomes a secondary character in the sequel. There is no greater pleasure than creating a world of your own and that's what I do with each of my novels. I don't even consider it work. It's my passion. In a way a novelist is allowed to play God. There are times I've killed off characters. I never do it for shock value or as a cheap trick. My characters become so ingrained within me that to kill one off is no easy chore. I still kick myself for killing off the antagonist in my second novel BORN BAD. I liked the Shanicha character so much that I wrote a prequel with Shanicha as the main character.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

I don't write "the next big thing" which is what mass market publishers are looking for. I wrote a YA trilogy but it doesn't deal with vampires nor is it a dystopian novel. I find that mass market publishers are looking mainly at the bottom line. I write about what interests me without any thought as to whether a mass market publisher would be interested in what I've conjured up. I also don't like to be confined to any one genre something mass market publisher push so a book can find its place in chain bookstores. My novels are genre-bending. In most of my novels there are elements of suspense, a procedural mystery, a thriller, horror and the supernatural. HUNGRY EYES was categorized as a horror novel which is inaccurate. Yes, it has horrific elements but it is much more that that. The greatest influence in my writing was Richard Matheson. He also never stuck to one genre but wrote was interested him. He was also a minimalist as am I. When I describe a car it's a car. I might give a make or model and a color, but that's about it. I don't spent a lot of time or pages describing an apartment where a crime might take place or the clothes my characters wear. It's getting into my characters minds and motivations that I'm interested in, not what they wear, drive or where they live. My not being easy to categorize has made it difficult for me to be published my mass market publishers.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Make a home again for mid-list authors. This swinging for the fence and looking for the next big thing doesn't mean you're going to publish quality novels.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see
in print again?

I think Edgar Allan Poe's mysteries have been largely relegated into the background due to his phenomenal horror stories. But Poe is considered the father of the modern detective and merits more attention. I also think Richard Matheson's mysteries have been ignored at the expense of his horror novels (I AM LEGEND) his Twilight Zone fantasies and his other genre books like THE SHRINKING MAN. He wrote a number of mysteries that are exceptional. He also wrote five westerns that all but die-hard Matheson fans don't know exist.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget
that moment.

I sold HUNGRY EYES to Leisure Books. I was initially thrilled. It's every author's dream to be published. I'd written dozens upon dozens of short stories (which were published) and had even written an aborted novel (unpublished). But when you hear your novel is going to be published it's a phenomenal feeling. Things, though, went downhill from there. The book was labeled "horror" by the publisher, though I didn't see it as a horror novel. Then I got a look at the cover art and had no idea whatsoever what it was (it was a look from atop of a cellar--not even in the book). I thought the purpose of the cover art of a novel was to draw someone browsing through dozens of books towards your novel. With HUNGRY EYES no one would have a clue what the book was about by looking at the cover. And, once published I was told the publisher had no PR department. The book would have to swim or sink on its own. I did local signings but didn't have the money to hire my own publicist. Still, I was a published novelist and just saying those words to myself is an unimaginable feeling.

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