Friday, March 18, 2011

Temptation Tidbits (Easter Eggs) in The Temptation of John Haynes

Here are some facts about my new novel The Temptation of John Haynes:

The novel was originally completed in 2006. It was actually written after The Cassandra Cookbook (2004) and before All About Marilyn (2007). So if you’re one of the handful of people who own all my books and you’re shelving titles in the order that they’re written, and not the order they published, it’s Isis, The Cassandra Cookbook, The Temptation of John Haynes then All About Marilyn.

Temptation was vehemently rejected by literary agents and small publishers when I submitted queries for it in late 2006. Many hated the premise. I mean REALLY HATED THE PREMISE. And many more felt it wouldn’t sell. I was told by the pros it didn’t grab them, I used too many big words in my
sentences, I used too many adjectives and it wasn’t right for a commercial audience. If only my Dell Inspiron 2500 hadn’t died I’d share some of the more venomous e-mails I got during Temptation’s query process. I never felt a book get so much hate from publishing professionals in my life!

In the face of so many rejections, my original plan was to self-publish Temptation after The Cassandra Cookbook with a 2009 release date. Unfortunately, I had to scrap those plans because I hadn’t finished editing the manuscript. Because I had cover designs and page layouts ready for All About Marilyn, it was moved up in the queue and published first.

The original manuscript for The Temptation of John Haynes was over 121,000 words and 400 pages. Over five years, 30,000 words and two chapters were trimmed from that first draft to tighten the book to its published 93,300 word length.

The world had changed so much since 2006 I had to re-write certain details in the story during final revisions of the book in 2010. AOL had gone out of business, so that was omitted and replaced with plain ol’ Microsoft Outlook. While VCRs are no longer manufactured, but I kept them in the story because some people like myself still use em’ as clocks (And to watch the occasional program NOT on DVD like Static Shock). And Plasma TVs are no longer considered top-of-the-line, but I kept that in the story cause I was lazy.

Temptation is written in a revolving-first-person perspective. I went back to my traditional no-nonsense style of storytelling which is short on details and long on action for this book.

John Haynes is the main character from my failed first novel, The Changing Soul I wrote back in the mid 90’s. And he’s been around since 1990. The Temptation of John Haynes is actually my sixth attempt to write a story with John Haynes.

In old John Haynes stories like The Changing Soul, John was a contemporary African-American fiction character. I moved him over to the fantasy genre because he was on the shelf and I didn’t want to spend time creating a new character. Yep, Shawn was lazy. And the first five JH stories do suck that hard.

The Temptation of John Haynes ties in heavily to events in Isis. It’s not a direct sequel, but is linked to events in that book.

Temptation makes a reference to an event in The Cassandra Cookbook as well. In a chapter featuring e-mails during his job hunt, John is one of the candidates considered for a position at ITC Foods Product Management positions. This is ambiguous, hinting either that events transpiring in Temptation happen before The Cassandra Cookbook, or that ITC still hasn’t found that right person to manage their Frozen Foods Division.

The cross-referencing of other titles I published was inspired by a business approach 1970’s-1980’s Marvel Comics editor Jim Shooter used to sell struggling titles at the time. Shooter used to have best-selling comic book characters like Spider-Man or The Avengers mention events transpiring in another heroes’ series like the X-men or Daredevil in their comics. This was done with the hope that readers would have the incentive to buy other titles, especially poor sellers like X-men and Daredevil at the time. Along with the new writers like Chris Claremont and Frank Miller putting a new perspective on the stories of weaker characters back then, cross-referencing sold a lot of comic books and pushed a lot of weaker midlist titles and characters to the forefront of Marvel Comics.

As it stands now, there’s sort of a “universe” between Isis and John Haynes where stories stand alone but are somewhat connected by a continuity of events. Will Isis make an appearance in the future? Will John make an appearance in an Isis story? Will there be a John Haynes sequel? I’m thinking about it.

that’s more powerful than the President.
The Morris Market is an amalgamation of the Kraft store and Food Emporium, a supermarket where I had my first job.
The Marshmallow Cookies and Chocolate Snaps mentioned in the chapter where John is shopping at

the Morris Market were actual products made in the late 70’s to the 1990’s by Nabisco. And they were GREAT.

And yeah, I mentioned Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies and Chocolate Snaps because I want someone at Kraft Phillip Morris to bring em’ back into production along with Royal Lunch Milk Crackers and Crown pilot Cookies.
WGMS is inspired by Black-Owned WBLS-FM in New York City. WBLS and WLIB are the last two black-owned radio stations in New York City and I’m hoping they stay that way.

The movie “SWIRL” Halle Berry stars in Temptation is inspired by her controversial work in Monster’s Ball. And yeah, John’s disgust towards “SWIRL” mirrors my feelings towards Monster’s Ball. And yeah, I’d tell Halle Berry that to her face.

The Character of John Haynes is actually based on me. The name John Haynes is a play on Shawn James. If you didn’t know it, Shawn is just John in Irish. There are characters based on myself in all of my books with the exception of Isis.
John’s apartment #3C is a reference to the apartment number I used to live at when I was a kid. I try to reference this apartment number in most of my books whenever I can. I also try to reference the address of that old building number 3430, but so far it’s only been referenced in All About Marilyn.
The character of Lucifer was inspired by actor Keith David, DC Comics Character Darkseid, and The Emperor from Star Wars. Whenever I write Lucifer, I hear Keith David’s voice. I always felt Keith’s deep baritone voice would be a perfect fit for a cerebral villain like Lucifer who was a master strategist of psychology and world politics.
The character of E’steem was inspired by actress Salli Richardson and the Arthurian villain Morgan Le Fey. Whenever I write E’steem she sounds like Salli Richardson. I always felt Salli’s sultry voice and articulate speaking manner were perfect for portraying an intelligent sophisticated demoness with political aspirations. Moreover, she often plays her characters with such depth and humanity; that really inspired me to write a more complex human character.
The Gargoyles on the balcony in The Morris Phillips Penthouse are a sly reference to Disney’s Gargoyles. Disney’s Gargoyles was the first place I heard Keith and Salli’s voice work. And since both Lucifer and E’steem are inspired by actors Keith David and Salli Richardson I wanted to put a nod to that show in the book.

The demon character of Brent Morrison is inspired by actor Rene Abujernois. I felt his voice was perfect for a butt-kissing toadie with a dignified manner in Lucifer’s Legion.
The demon character Carol was inspired by actress Phlycia Rashad. Rashad has a cool sophistication that I feel would make her perfect for an old school business executive.
Lucifer’s Legion of corporate employees and the Lords of Hell are inspired by DC Comics Darkseid’s Elite.
The “Corporate Hell” of demons working at Morris Phillips is a tongue-in cheek joke making reference to how the cut-throat the workplace is.
The “Tempting Fate” featurette in the back of the book almost didn’t make it to final copy because it wasn’t costing out. I struggled throughout December of 2010 and made myself crazy trying to condense all my reasons for writing the story into five pages and keep the book on budget. Thankfully things worked out. Self-Publishing on a shoestring means I have to design the entire book so it falls under a certain price point. $15.00 is the threshold for what people will pay for a paperback at retail and I couldn’t afford to add any extra pages. The more pages a publisher adds over 400 the harder it is to turn a profit minus printing costs and retailer discounts. This book has one of the slimmest profit margins I’ve ever seen, but it meant a lot for me to get it to readers.

The cover used on The Temptation of John Haynes was not the one I wanted to use. First I wanted to commission a cover and spent $400 for an artist to draw a cover. It sucked
Then I designed a cover using my concept art with a black background. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t print at Lightning Source due to some 300% density issue on the black. So I did some research and came up with a custom Midnight Navy background that was close to black.
I hope these tidbits will give readers an incentive to pick up the book. I’m also hoping that it doesn’t spoil it too much for those who haven’t read it.


John Haynes said...

Hi Shawn,
When fiction becomes reality, while googling myself (why not) or at least my name, your book pops up! I am a massage therapist living in vt. Thanks for the scare, but happy to know the book is fiction. I haven't read your work but am intrigued.
John Haynes

Shawn James said...

Hey John,
The name of the character is a coincidence.

Give the book a try, you might lie it.