Feb 27 2018 1:00pm

Q&A with John Hart, Author of The Hush

John Hart is a New York Times bestselling author who holds the distinction of being the only person to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively; his other accolades include the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. Hart’s books have been translated into 30 languages and are available in more than 70 countries with more than two million copies currently in print. His newest, The Hush (available February 27, 2018), is a sequel to 2009’s The Last Child. Booklist awarded the title a starred review and credited the author’s success to “a rare ability to combine the most propulsive of popular fiction with beguilingly rich characters.”

Recently, Mr. Hart graciously took the time to consider questions on topics such as revisiting beloved characters, writing beyond genre convention, and defying industry expectations of producing a book per year; he also teased what comes next.

What inspired you to revisit beloved characters from The Last Child nearly ten years later, and how do you see this story working as a standalone while also continuing their saga? 

When I first wrote Johnny and Jack, I loved them for their friendship and steadfastness, their willingness to walk through fire, one for the other. Mixed with that courage and resolve was the kind of clear-eyed wonder we often lose as adults. Not that they were perfect—far from it—but Johnny, at thirteen, still believed in magic. Consider that sense of wonder, then try to remember the last time you felt anything like it. Successfully building such a child into the core of an adult-themed thriller is one of the great victories of my career. The book worked because of those boys. It’s only natural that I’d want to see what kind of men they’d become. Were they jaded? Still friends? Did Johnny still believe in magic?

Read an excerpt from The Hush!

Johnny and Jack’s friendship is at the heart of the narrative. How does each character help to reveal facets of the other, and in what ways does their shared history compensate for their outward differences?

Their friendship is a story of contradiction, actually. Johnny is the strongest yet still filled with that sense of wonder. Jack is weaker but pragmatic. And they both desire such different things. Jack wants success defined by order and logic and law, while Johnny still walks the wild places of Raven County in search of something that has eluded him since childhood. Jack sees the risks inherent in his friend’s choices—not just the obvious ones based on such utter aloneness but the risks that run deeper and are hidden. Something dangerous moves in the swamp, and Jack’s fear for Johnny is an important thread that runs throughout the novel, the kind of tension that underlays the broader plot points of the novel. These young men know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and accept them because they must. In the end, they are two sides of the same coin.

Check out Jenny Maloney's review of The Hush!

Here, we find that Johnny has achieved a level of fame despite his desire for privacy. How does this element inform the plot, and in what ways is it meant to be reflective of our real world societal landscape?

For starters, we deify fame far too much in this country. It’s fine, yes, but only fine. For Johnny, it’s an unacceptable burden. He’d rather live alone on six thousand acres, even if most of it is swamp. That sense of isolation and aloneness is pivotal to the things that drive Johnny. They underlie his connection to the past and the land and the secrets of the land. 

Despite the industry’s need to categorize, your books defy classification. What do you personally set out to accomplish with your storytelling, and how has transcending genre allowed for a greater creative breadth?

When I began this career, I never set out to write mysteries or thrillers or to transcend any kind of genre. Frankly, I didn’t know enough about the rules of genre, or even the expectations. I wanted to tell a story, and all I had was the first scene, the bones of a character. Having no outline allows me to follow the story wherever it goes, and I’m constantly surprised by the characters, the twists, the three a.m. flash of incandescence. It’s like the sculptor who frees his creation from a block of stone. The shape was already there—he just had to find it. I think story works the same way. 

Take a visual tour of The Hush with GIFnotes!

You don’t subscribe to the typical book-a-year standard. In what ways does your output benefit from its extended gestation period, and how do you weigh that against the expectation of maintaining a continual presence?

Yes, there is pressure in the industry to produce a book a year—it helps in obvious ways: visibility, predictability. Like me, though, my publisher would rather have “the right book,” even if it takes a bit longer. I get frustrated, of course. I have writer friends who write more quickly, and I do love to hold those new books in my hand. Perhaps I’m not as bright as some or as focused. What I’ve learned, though, is that when I rush the process to meet a mandatory, daily word count, I invariably waste time editing those pages down. In the end, all I can do is write the best book possible.

Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?

Book seven is a standalone thriller set in Charlotte, N.C., during the final months of the Vietnam War. It may be the best I’ve ever done.


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John Hart is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, The Last Child, Iron House, and Redemption Road. The only author in history to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel consecutively, 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 more than seventy countries.

John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.

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