October 14, 2011

Author Interview: JAMES HAGERTY

Today it is my pleasure to welcome James Hagerty, author of the short story collection Voices from the Tomb and the soon to be released Tainted Glass, to Psychotic State Book Reviews to discuss isolation, inspiration, artistic endeavors and M&Ms!

Hi James! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews! I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and my readers.

JH:  Hello Lori and thanks for your interest. I am pleased to talk about my newest mega-novel (411 pages).

You have a new book coming out soon - - Tainted Glass. What can you share with us about this story?

JH:  It’s a love story of two gay leather men who get together 40 years later, catalyzed by the murder of a bishop in a casino. It so happens the bishop was once a motorcycle-riding top man--before an epiphany and a physical tragedy turned him into a priest--they’d both interacted with. It’s also a ménage a trois involving the main character’s former wife, a Native American named Dove of Dawn. Her psychic talents help solve the mysterious, deeply Freudian, murder.

What was the most difficult part of writing Tainted Glass?

JH:  Balancing grit reality and psychic phenomena from the Beyond. And a celestial, passed-over (to the other side) drag queen. Making that credible. Also presenting the leather lifestyle in such a way as to whet the curiosity, even enlist the sympathy, of a wider straight audience. Making it relevant and credible to them. I want Tainted Glass to strike a universal chord.

The overriding theme in your works - - Tainted Glass, Nut Grass, Voices from the Tomb - - seems to be existentialism. How do you deal with writing about isolation, loneliness and the darker side of human nature?

JH:  Or alienation. Those are projections of important components of myself. Therefore, themes I’m especially qualified to write about. Abnormal psychology appeals to me I suppose in the way it did to Jean Genet, Faulkner and Steinbeck, if I may place myself in such exalted company. I want my writing to be a metaphor of the human condition—even though from a darker side.

Which of your works is your favorite?

JH:  Nut Grass, Voices from the Tomb and Cathedral Crimes (a prequel to Glass) were training grounds for achieving the more mature and fully realized opus magnus. Therefore I have to say Tainted Glass.

What inspires you in your writing?

JH:  A desire to create visual edifices out of words. Similar to painting a picture or building a sculpture from ground up. Most importantly, it’s a desire to connect with the human race, albeit from the back door. I think it’s what the Cosmos wants me to do.

How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JH:  A long time, off and on for more than 30 years. Joining the Army, its regimented tedium and lack of creative outlets, helped me learn what I really wanted to do. I thank God for steering me away from teaching school, which I wasn’t cut out temperamentally to do. The poor students were spared.

Do you have any particular quirks or necessities while writing that you’d like to share?

JH:  Delving into the subconscious and the Beyond. I have a need to intermesh religion and sexuality, particularly deviant sexuality. They share a related aesthetic. The black of priestly robes and the outfit of a leather man. Risky territory I admit yet which I seem driven to explore. I’m compelled to find out how our lives here impact and mean over there. That makes me a sort of theologian.

How about your work area - - do you have a dedicated space or do you write whenever and wherever the mood hits you?

JH:  A combination computer and bedroom with a fabulous view of desert mountains. I prefer getting up at 4 a.m. to be rewarded by a resplendent dawn. That may have something to do with my character, Dove of Dawn. An extraordinary woman.

When you aren’t writing, what authors do you enjoy reading?

JH:  Currently, murder mysteries to see how the authors do it. That helps with plotting. I also like reading about comparative religion and philosophy. Anything to do with metaphysics or ontology, the nature of reality. Or the study of aesthetics. Even, believe it or not, spirituality.

You are also a talented sculptor. When did you begin sculpting?

JH:  I needed a site for scattering three cardboard boxes of family ashes. So I created rust-iron totems or “anthropomorphisms” to properly honor my forebears.

What led you to make art from auto parts and farm implements?

JH:  Tractor parts, plows, disks, gears, etc., lying about on the family arm. They interested me more than farming. I saw their aesthetic rather than their functional qualities.

Writing - - and sculpting - - can be a lonely pursuit. How do you handle the solitude?

JH:  I’m geared that way. True, I often write about loneliness. More specifically, alienation. I’ve experienced a lot of it. I try to see its positive and formative aspects. At the same time, I aspire to connect with like-minded and I should say, aware, even spiritually inclined readers. I’d have made a great guru in some Himalayan cave.

For some random questions . . . plain or peanut M&Ms?

JH:  Peanut. I love peanuts and peanut butter.

Scary books or scary movies?

JH:  Not particularly. I generate enough of that on my own.

Halloween or Christmas?

JH:  Hard to say. They are opposite faces of the same card. Just like I equate priests and leather men.

Hemingway or Steinbeck?

JH:  Again a hard choice. If you asked about Hemingway or Faulkner, I’d say Faulkner. More introspective.

And finally, what one word would best describe Tainted Glass?

JH:  Tantalizing.

Thank you so much, James, for stopping by and answering my questions. I enjoyed chatting with you and wish you the best of luck with Tainted Glass!

JH:  My pleasure entirely. I hope you’ll enjoy Voices from the Tomb as an overture to the major work it foreshadows.

For more information on James Hagerty's sculpture, please visit his website

Readers, stay tuned for my review of Voices from the Tomb to be posted here next week!

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