Friday, February 28, 2014

Featured Author: Dennis Hart

I am happy to have Dennis Hart back to A Blue Million Books today, to talk about his new novel, Gulf Boulevard, a humorous mystery, published by The Permanent Press. I’ve known Dennis since our days of reviewing each other’s work on an online writer’s site. (Fun fact: there are lines in both Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction and Gulf Boulevard that refer to each other.) I loved his work then, and I love it now. I’m thrilled that he has been published, and I’m excited to share his latest book with you.

About the book:

Every night, Jason Najarian dreams of a secluded tropical island where he fantasizes about living the good life as a hermit. No more rat-race. No more people. When a long-odds occurrence compels him to buy a lottery ticket, the resultant $63 million jackpot sets in motion a series of events that allows him to depart snowy Boston forever and begin living out his dream in comfort and style. But as Jason soon discovers, not even financial security can rid a man of life's little annoyances.

Having settled in to his new gulf-front home on Sand Key, a barrier island off the west coast of Florida with turquoise water, gentle breezes, and spectacular sunsets, Jason quickly learns that his idyllic life of solitude will require more effort than he anticipated. From the opposite end of the island comes a rotund and frustratingly nosy neighbor, Salvatore Scalise, who turns out to be a contract killer and a marked man. The unlikely friendship between the two leads to a madcap caper involving an unbearably clingy ex-wife seeking a share of Jason's windfall, an expletive spewing parrot, a revenge-seeking mafia family, two mysterious men dressed in black, and a gorgeous young woman called Running Bush who catches Jason's eye.

If Jason hopes to escape unharmed with the woman of his dreams, he must determine how to safely extract Sal from his life. But in this hilarious tale of misplaced intentions and mistaken identity, no one is quite who they seem.

Just a taste of Gulf Boulevard:

My name is Jason Najarian. I live on a barrier island off the west coast of Florida, under lazy palm trees and salt-laden air. Warm breezes sway my hammock. Dolphins play in turquoise water just beyond my reach. Sandpipers dance along the shoreline. There's not a person in sight. I live here until I wake up each morning just north of Boston. This is why Ambien is my best friend as well as my travel agent.

Interview with Dennis Hart

Dennis, tell us about your work.

My current work, Gulf Boulevard, is a mystery with a lot of humor, because we could all use more laughter in our lives. It tells the story, in first person, of Jason, a burned-out accountant, who moves to a barrier island on the gulf side of Florida in an attempt to live the life of a hermit. But he soon meets his neighbor Sal, a hitman in hiding, and that’s where the trouble begins. There is a lot of Jason in me. I know if I was a hermit on a secluded beach, I’d write a bestseller.

Tell us about Jason Najarian.

Jason is a twenty-eight-year-old burned-out accountant. He hates his job, the cold New England weather, and his cheating ex-wife. So when head meets pillow, he escapes to a place where the palms trees sway, the sun shines bright, and the water is warm. He wishes for this, but as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.  

How much is Jason like you?

We travel along similar paths of the mind and spirit.

So basically, Jason’s a younger you. Got it. What would he say about you?

He’s an idiot. Get me another writer.

What is Jason's best quality?

His sense of humor.

What's his worst quality?

Assuming tomatoes can be used as weapons.

It may not be much of a stretch of imagination, but let’s pretend Jason has decided to kill you for...putting him through all that you put him through... How would he do it?

He’d fix me up with his ex-wife, Megan O’Mally.

Ooh, a slow, painful death. I like it. Who would play Running Bush in the Gulf Boulevard movie?

Selma Hayek.

Where do you get your plot ideas?

I collect different personalities from real-life test dummies, meld it with easy to describe environments, and then let my characters make something happen.
Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Ever won anything?

Yes and yes.

Hmm...a writer who's a man of few words. How many M&M's do you consume in an average day?


In the book, Jason hates it when people ask, "Is it cold enough for ya?" So, I have to ask...Is it cold enough for ya? (I’m smiling a cheesy grin.)

I’m rolling my eyes.

Let's pretend The Permanent Press will send you on a book tour and you get to pick the cities. Where would you go?

Louisville of course. After that, I’d Google the cities that laugh the most and go there.

When you're a best seller, what will you do with your riches?

Before I answer that, I need to take my dream weaver Ambien. Once in a dream state I suppose I’d do something unusual like quit my day job and move to an island. 

Not unlike Jason. Do you consider yourself an author yet?

No. You must write a book and have the masses like it before you can even entertain the thought of adding author as your occupation.

You’re always changing the rules. You have a book published by a traditional publisher. A book with your name on it is in bookstores. You’re an author, buddy. Get used to it. Who is your favorite author? I mean besides me.

Besides you, a distant second is Nelson DeMille, followed by Grisham, Hiaasen, Crichton, Flynn, Child, Brown, Lehane, and McCarthy, just to name a few.

Why green M&Ms? Why not red, orange, green, or blue?

Because if you blindly pick out a handful of just green M&M’s from a 64 ounce bag of assorted colors and then go play the lottery, you will win. That’s why.

Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction quiz: what line in the book refers to Gulf Boulevard?

Easy. Page 156—“A buddy of mine once told me he got lucky with green M&M’s.” If that’s not it, I want it to be.

Correct. But that was a trick question. There are actually two lines. Ha! What are you reading right now?

This interview.

Cheater! You know what I mean. What book are you reading now?

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham.   

Kindle or paperback?

MAC Pro.

Cheater, cheater. I have my mean face on now. Plain or peanut?

Duh! Plain.

Boat or truck?

Both thank you.

Okay, I’m officially changing your name to Cheater. Paper or plastic, Cheater?

I use paper . . . Sal uses plastic.

You did what very few authors ever accomplish--you got an agent and a publishing deal. Tell us about your road to publication, and do you have any advice for newbies?

My first bit of advice is to find an agent that drinks heavily. No matter what I send her, she loves it. Then have your agent find a desperate publisher and if he/she also drinks heavily, all the better. Then sell all your hard work for a pittance and pretend you like it. My advice for emerging authors is to perfect your craft and then move in with Stephen King.

Where did you get the idea for the expletive spewing parrot in Gulf Boulevard?

That fell out of the nowhere. Originally the parrot was going to stay within Jason’s imagination, but then I watched Scarface and thought . . . why not?

I’ve read most of the reviews for Gulf Boulevard, and they are quite favorable. However, one reviewer really made me mad. What would you say to a reviewer who complained about your portrayal of Florida summers?

I’d say, “I went to Disney World for a week back in 1986. So there.” Actually I vacationed on Don Pedro Island off the coast of Englewood for many years and ended up buying a condo there. 

What would you say to a reviewer who said Phyllis the real-estate agent wasn't believable?

I’d say, welcome to the world of fiction. But a wealthy and retired woman I met, who was a real estate agent for the barrier islands, was the inspiration for Phyllis. I remember her sharp tongue and endless wit.

How did you obtain your setting details?

Every detail from Gulf Boulevard comes from my actual experience in Florida.

How do you feel about reviews?

Humor is subjective. Constructive criticism is priceless. People who abuse the power should be killed.

I'm going to add that to my list of favorite quotes. Besides Jason, who was your favorite character to write?

Sal Santini, the mafia hitman in hiding.

What was your favorite scene to write?

When Jason spikes his phone in the sand and screams, “Freedom!” prompting Sal to say— well . . . you have to read the book to find out.

Do you laugh at your own dialogue?

Only when I hear Megan talk.

You've also written a memoir and an action/detective story. Do you like writing humor or action better?

That’s a tie. I’ll let the reader decide. If the Gulf Boulevard series sells better than the Harrison Gamble series, I’ll get the message.

I’m betting they’ll both sell equally well, and I’ll be able to say “I knew Dennis Hart when...”

Excerpt from Gulf Boulevard

Ah, New England weather.

It is the time of year when most people verbalize their contempt for the elements.

“It’s too friggin’ cold.”

“What happened to global warming?”
Or my favorite: “Is it cold enough for ya?” Who answers no to that inquiry?
Six months from now, when winter is a distant memory, those same amateur meteorologists will ask: “Is it hot enough for ya?”
Who answers no to that inquiry? Me.
I’d rather be toasting my buns on a tropical sugar-white sand beach, under the fronds of a palm tree, surrounded by the scent of multihued flora seducing my senses, than trudging through knee-deep powder with air so cold it shrink-wraps my testicles.
I despise winter so much that my final wish clearly states the following: Cremate me; urn me; carry me to a warm, deserted shoreline; buy a beach chair and position it facing the setting sun; gently pour me out on the seat and leave me alone.
Go away.
Screw off.
I will disperse of myself when the first sea breeze embraces me.

About the author:

Dennis Hart lives in Massachusetts where he dreams of winning the lottery someday and moving to a secluded tropical island...without hitmen. Gulf Boulevard is his first published novel. He is currently working on the sequel to Gulf Boulevard, titled Gulf Boulevard: Postcards from the World.

Connect with Dennis:
Website | Facebook | Facebook author page | Goodreads

Buy the book: