Book: A Second, Less Capable Head: And Other Rogue Stories
Author: James Hanna
Publication date: 5-7-16
Publishing Company: Sand Hill Review Press
About the Book:
A Tea Party Activist discovers that he is growing another head. A playboy befriends a fickle female only six inches tall. A lonely librarian answers a matrimonial ad from a demonic farmer. Darkness abounds in James Hanna’s cryptic stories. In these nineteen piercing tales, Hanna skewers the human comedy and makes reading dangerous again.
Tell us about your latest book.
A Second, Less Capable Head is a collection of nineteen stories. The stories are written in several genres including science fantasy. The criminal element figures strongly because I spent twenty years as a prison counselor and another fourteen as a probation officer in a domestic violence and stalking unit. Most of the stories have been published in journals that favor stories “written in blood” over tales that are politically correct. Journals such as Red Savina Review, The Literary Review, and Crack the Spine .
Who are your favorite writers?
James Joyce would head the list. I’ve found many of his stylistic techniques valuable in developing my own work. My favorites would also include Chaucer, Milton, Homer, Shakespeare, and Melville. I guess that makes me a bit on an anachronism.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Get involved with other writers. Join a critique group. Solicit advice and select carefully from that advice. Set up a writing schedule and stick to it. And decide what you are prepared to give up in order to write.
As the former fiction editor at Sand Hill Review, what are your views on the current state of American Letters? What kind of writing do you see too often? What type of writing would you like to see cross your desk more often?
I think the publishing industry is basically broken. At least, where the large publishing houses are concerned. Writers like Faulkner, Joyce, and Melville would probably not be published today—not by the major publishing houses. Their work would be considered too textured, too layered, and too demanding of the reader. But there’s hope to be found the independent and subsidy publishers. And there is hope to be found in Internet marketing. The face of publishing is changing so rapidly that writers are no longer at the mercy of our cultural gatekeepers. Of course, writers must learn to promote themselves. Otherwise, they will become the equivalent of a musician playing outside a subway station. No matter how brilliantly a street musician plays, ninety-nine people out of a hundred will walk past him without a second thought.
What kind of writing do I see too often? Writing that is derivative, clichéd, and in serious need of revision. Many writers submit their manuscripts far too soon. This is the kiss of death with most literary journals. Too many editors are acquisition editors. As such, they are not inclined to help a writer prune his manuscript. They don’t have to—there are too many polished manuscripts to pick from.
What kind of writing would I like to see more often? Writing with a strong sense of presence. Writing that is fearless. Writing that compels the reader to keep reading. I see too little of that.
As a follow-up to the above, do you see independent presses and literary journals (as opposed to those sponsored by colleges and universities) carrying the torch of American Letters into the twenty-first century, or has the sheer number of presses and journals transformed American Letters into a Tower of Babel?
I don’t think the problem is too many presses. The problem, as I see it, is the public’s short attention span. As writers, we are in competition with Internet spam, pseudo celebrities, and a culture of instant gratification. We are wooing a public that celebrates icons while its real heroes go unsung. And I think we may be also be hamstrung by university presses. Much of what is published in the university presses has a sameness about it—as though the same writer wrote each story. Overall, these presses seem like fraternities with closed memberships.
Do I think the proverbial torch has been passed to independent publishers? Yes, and I have an example. A while back, I submitted a novelette, Call Me Pomeroy, to several university presses. It’s a highly irreverent, somewhat profane tale about a street musician who joins the Occupy Oakland Movement of 2011. He does not join for political reasons but because he wants to get on television and become instantly famous. I received strong complements from some university presses, but none of them wanted to publish it. I think if a university press had published it, somebody’s job would have been on the line. But Empty Sink, an online journal unencumbered by politics, picked up the piece. Empty Sink published Call Me Pomeroy in its inaugural issue and deemed it the Editor’s Choice. Empty Sink also requested and serialized additional Pomeroy stories. Eventually, the novelette turned into a book that was published by Sand Hill Review Press.
Have you written other books?
A Second, Less Capable Head is my third book. The Siege, my debut novel, depicts a hostage standoff in a penal facility. It’s a nuanced book in which it is impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Call Me Pomeroy, my second book, is about a narcissist with a mission. Both novels were fostered by my career in criminal justice.
Where can readers purchase your books?
My novels are available on Amazon. The Siege and Call Me Pomeroy are available as paperbacks and ebooks. A Second, Less Capable Head is available as an ebook. The print copy will be released in August.
Do your family and friends support you in your writing career?
Only to a degree. Writers will not find much support from family and friends. Most will not read his books or, if they do read them, may like them for the wrong reasons. A writer’s validation, if his work is good, will come from strangers with fiercely inquiring minds.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I play a whole lot of tennis.