May 30 2016 1:00pm

Q&A with John Hart, Author of Redemption Road

Read this exclusive Q&A with John Hart—the only author to win consecutive Edgar Awards for “Best Novel”about his newest novel, Redemption Road, what he's been doing during the five years between books, and his advice to aspiring writers. Then, make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Redemption Road!

It’s been five years since your last novel, Iron House, was published. Obviously, you were writing Redemption Road, but what else have you been doing since then?

You’re right—the writing of Redemption Road was a big part of my life, but only a part. Since Iron House came out five years ago, I’ve purchased a farm and moved my family to Virginia. We live just outside of Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia makes its proud residence. Much of my time has been taken up improving the property: putting in bridges, docks, new roads. I also built some horse farm infrastructure—barns and paddocks, etc.—and an office where I write. If I’m not with my family or at the computer, I’m usually on the tractor.

Tell us what it’s like win the Edgar Award for “Best Novel”? How does it feel to be the only author in history to win the the award for two consecutive novels?

Winning the Edgar was awesome. Doing it twice in a row was unreal. I’ve always wanted to accomplish something unequivocal, and I think those wins qualify. Writing can be a tough business—especially when a writer ends up five years between novels—but on restless nights, I remind myself of those Edgars. It helps me get back to sleep.

What was the hardest part about writing Redemption Road?

Finding the person whose story I was supposed to tell. I wrote 300 pages of the wrong novel before I finally figured out who should have been the main character all along. So, what was the hardest thing about writing Redemption Road? Recognizing that mistake and finding the will to start over. 

In your opinion, how does Redemption Road compare to your other books?

I find it hard to make those comparisons. How could I choose one child over another? That said, if love were born of blood and sweat and sacrifice, then Redemption Road would be my favorite: a problem child, yes, but raised right and making her daddy proud. 

Has your own experience as a defense attorney influenced any of your books?

What I learned in my time before the bar is that there are no criminal masterminds, not truly, not in the real lives most of us live. In that world, criminals do bad things for reasons that are base and selfish and shortsighted, with no real concern for consequence. Seeing that every day for so long taught me more than I ever hoped to know about motivation, stupidity, and the destructive ripples that move outward from criminal acts. Small towns are a tapestry, and they can unravel pretty fast if the wrong thread is cut. That’s common ground for all my books: that broken thread and the hell that follows. 

What can you tell us about the setting for Redemption Road?

I write of the South, always the South. For me, that means small towns and forgotten corners, the fields and streams and the abandoned places. There’s such history in the south: lost wars and racism, the long divide between haves and the have-nots. Memory runs deep in the South, as does the connection to family, history, and place. For a writer, that’s rich soil. 

Are there are any real-life criminal cases that you feel influenced Redemption Road?

Yes, the BTK Killer, because it is inconceivable to me that a pillar of the community could torture and kill so many women and still be embraced by the town in which he lived. My fascination is not about the darkness, but the blindness. How could so many ignore the signs? They had to be there. 

If you were still a defense attorney and had to defend of the characters from your book, who would you choose and why?

Tough question. I love them all. That said, I would choose to defend Channing. Why? Because she’s young and innocent and already damaged to the point she’s almost beyond repair, and because a single, small mistake should not dictate the rest of her life. Besides, she’s tough and selfless and ready to take the heat for what she did. The story, of course, is deeper than that. We all have frailties; we can all break. Beyond that, Channing is not much older than my own daughters. Maybe that’s my weakness.

What do you want fans to think after finishing this book?

That they’ll read the next John Hart book, no questions asked. That’s about faith and the unspoken contract, the conviction that if I’m given a reader’s trust I won’t abuse it. 

We heard through the grapevine (aka your Facebook) that your next book will be a sequel—your first ever—to The Last Child. Any juicy information you can share about it?

Oh, yes. This book is different. Parts take place in the 1850s, parts during The Great Depression, and parts in modern times. Where The Last Child hinted at the mystic, the new book embraces it: slavery, voodoo, a deep and secret swamp where strange things happen. Yeah, I’m having a good time with this one.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Ignore the doubters. The world is full of them, and they’ll say, “You can’t do it,” because they never did. Whatever dream those unhappy people abandoned, don’t let that failure steal your success. Instead, seek out the good friends, the cheerleaders. They are worth their weight in gold.

What’s your favorite line from Redemption Road and why?

“Is that reason enough?” she asked; and Beckett nodded because it was, and because, looking at her face, he knew for a fact that he’d never seen anything so fragile, so determined, or so goddamn, terrible beautiful.

I love this line because Elizabeth is, perhaps, the most complex character I’ve ever created, and because this line captures her so perfectly: “…so fragile, so determined, or so goddamn, terrible beautiful.” Who wouldn’t want to know a woman like that? Who wouldn’t want to know her story?

Describe Redemption Road in five words!

Best one I ever wrote.

Read an excerpt from Redemption Road here!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Redemption Road by John Hart!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

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SIGNED Redemption Road Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 30, 2016. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET June 13, 2016. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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John Hart is the author of Redemption Road, and of four New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child and Iron House. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller's Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His novels have been translated into thirty languages and can be found in over seventy countries. A former defense attorney and stockbroker, John spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia, where he writes full-time.

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Joyce Benzing
1. zsteelie
Haven't read any John Hart yet, but he sounds like an interesting author!
Barbara Khan
2. leftyonkey
I have been told by several sources that I will enjoy his books. I'd love to win to give them a try. Thanks!!
4. John Geraci
Back-to-back Edgars. Impressive. But his advice for writers was wonderful. And spot on!
Sally Schmidt
5. bigcootie
Great inteview. Can't wait to read this, glad it's finally out.
Al Munns
6. Soccerpap
I am so glad Mr. Hart was asked about his favorite line. I had him sign his first four books with My favorite line from each--and he chose the line I chose from REDEMPTION ROAD as my favorite also.
How cool is that??!!
Janice Santillo
7. themommazie
I'm hooked. Now I really want to read this book!
Darlene Slocum
8. darandsam
This sounds like a book that will keep readers glued to the pages. Looking forward to reading it.
Susan Pertierra
9. orchidlady01
I would love to read the novel John Hart says is the "Best one I ever wrote."
10. keeslerg
John Hart is one of my favorite authors.
Richard P. Fohrenbach,Sr.
12. RicardoBach
Would enjoy reading his work. Is it at all noir?
Faye Gates
13. ClickClick
I loved Iron Horse. I just know this will be just as good, or better.
Kim Akers
14. kakers
I absolutely loved Iron House and just finished The Last Child. I never think of books in terms of whether or not it would make a good movie, but The Last Child did that for me. The characters were so deep and fascinating; I would love to see them on the big screen. I don't think much would have to be changed because the book is just so visual. Redemption Road is in my TBR pile on the dining room table just waiting for me to finish my current book. I need to hurry because it's a library book, and I know there are others waiting to read it!
Karl Stenger
15. Stenger
Have heard/read great things about this book.
Sally Kohlenberg
16. SallyK
really good author-I enjoy his books
pearl berger
17. beach
A fantastic author and a captivating novel.
Michael Carter
23. rubydog
Good interview!
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks ---
Esther Whatley
26. ewhatley
I haven't read this author yet and have heard nothing but great reviews about this book. Would love to win a copy.
Lana Hood
27. ManitobaPearl
Thank you for the opportunity. Sounds very interesting.
Joanne Mielczarski
28. jtmswim
Sounds like a good read by a great author.
29. SallyW
I became a fan after reading Iron House, then I read his other novels. Been waiting a long time for this one.
Sharon Shumway
31. Shellen
Sounds terrific. Can't wait to read the best book Hart wrote to date.
33. bonbon
I have been hearing a lot about this book and look forward to reading it!
Michelle Caniglia
35. Caniglia
John Hart is such an amazing writer !! The only problem I have with his books is finding a way not to devour them. If I win I will force myself just to walk by and look at it, for as long as I can, knowing it's a gem, until it screams so loud that I crack it open. Once that happens, well it's all over and nothing will be able to keep me from flying through it. And then I will anxiously await his next treasure ~
Joy Isley
37. JOYE
Interesting information about the author.
I read Iron House and really enjoyed it. This book sounds equally as good.
Brad Bonds
39. rbonds008
I'm not familiar with this author so I'd like to win the book.
Barbara Lima
40. barblima
I read the excerpt, I still am not sure what it's about, but it is intriguing.
41. ricbhel bart
nice--count me in!
Christina Sparks
45. cowboylover4me
Would like to add this to my book collection.
vicki wurgler
47. bison61
love to win the -best one I ever wrote!
Sandy Klocinski
48. attea2d
Haven't read any of John Hart's books but this does sound intriguing. I'd love to win and find out. Thanks for the chance
49. jpl123456
I hear good things about JOHN HART. Like to read the book.
Kelly Rodriguez
52. krodriguez630
Book sounds so interesting! I can't wait to devour it.
Janis Milford
53. calgaryjan
New author to me, and the book sounds wonderful.
Sheila Cohen
54. sheilaco
Sounds like a great read. I would love to win the book.
57. Kiddo33
I loved your book "Lost child". I would like to read "Redemption Road".
Linda Peters
63. linnett
Haven't read any of his work, but this sounds like a good one for summer reading, thanks
Jerry Marquardt
65. versatileer
I would love to thank you so much for featuring the Redemption Road by Crime HQ by John Hart Giveaway. I can't wait to read the book and I thank you for giving us all the chance to win.
Philip Lawrence
68. Pooch
Sounds like one I would like to read!
Jaime Cummings
69. remembering.lucy
Great interview. This author is interesting! Will definitley check him out!
71. Emily L
Sounds like an interesting read!
Kimberly Dull
72. kimdulina
I'd love to check this new book out! I'd never heard of Mr. Hart before today; he sounds like a very talented author.
Deb Philippon
74. DebP
I enjoyed the Q&A. It looks like an interesting book.
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