Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Author Interview- Homeowner With A Gun by Samuel Hawley

**I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review*
4/5 Stars
Synopsis per Goodreads:
It's the middle of the night. You’re awakened by a noise. Someone is in your house. What do you do?

When it happens at 148 Maple Drive, homeowner Jeff Shaw gets his gun and goes downstairs to investigate while his wife calls 9-1-1. It’s their home, after all. Jeff has to protect it. He finds two men in the kitchen and shoots them both. Dead.

The incident puts great strain on Jeff and his family. He wants to believe they just need to get on with their lives and everything will return to normal. But it’s not that easy. The dead intruders belonged to a gang, ANG, “Ain’t No Game,” that now wants revenge. And one of the gang, an ex-con who goes by the name I-Man, knows more about the break-in than he’s letting on.

It starts with a threatening phone call. Then it gets worse. The police, unable to protect the Shaws, suggest they move away for a while. But Jeff isn't going to be intimidated from his house. Homeowner With a Gun takes the reader on a suspense-filled thrill ride as this everyman fights to save himself and his family, while something a detective said plays in the back of his mind: Maybe the intruders broke into the wrong house. Happens all the time. You wouldn’t believe how often...

 My thoughts on this book:
This book, was beautifully written, good visuals, character buildups.  A little bit stereotypical as far as the African American community goes, but it works.  I can't see that I think the main character is the smartest tool in the box for the choices that he has made, but at the same time, if something like that happened while my son is in my house, I might have done SOME of the things.  One of the guy who is on the other side of the fence, ex-con you find yourself rooting for him to do the right thing.
A lot of things in this book resonates because I live in Florida, home of the infamous stand your ground killing of a black teenage boy, and George Zimmerman.  The back and forth about the pros and cons of Stand your Ground.  I read an article a few months ago that said 28 children were killed using the Stand your Ground law in Florida, where the shooters were let free because of the law.  I am on the fence, because while most of the cases are just absurd, caused by trigger happy people, and they should get punished somehow, I also am a mom, if someone breaks into my house you can bet I'm gunna be shooting the crap out of them, only I don't own a gun.  This book puts you in the mindframe of a homeowner that shoots and kills intruders, how it can happen in seconds, and you're defending what is yours.
The only thing I was conflicted about, was that 911 placed the main character on hold.. twice.  I've called 911 several times, never ever ever have I been placed on hold unless I was transferred between sheriffs and local cops or something like that, jurisdiction transfers but even then it was like two seconds.  It makes a person angry that somewhere in this world, something like that Canada? 

Aside from the 911 I enjoyed this book, it was a quick, easy read, but a thrilling read as well

The author was kind enough to answer some questions for us, so sit back and check it out.

You got the idea for Homeowner With a Gun from a news article. How long after reading the article did you decide to write this book?
Actually, I wrote a movie screenplay first, maybe a year after reading the article. It only took about four weeks to write. Nearly a year after that, I decided to develop the screenplay into a book—which turned out to be more work than I initially thought. With a screenplay, the story is conveyed visually or in dialog, whereas in a book you go inside the characters’ minds. The approach is so different that you really can’t just “adapt” a screenplay into a novel. You have to start from scratch, with the screenplay serving only as a starting point for a new outline.   
If you were in Jeff’s shoes, would you have taken the same steps as him?
Almost certainly not! In chapter two, I probably would have stayed in the bedroom and waited for the police to arrive. Of course, with Jeff, everything he’s worked for, he’s struggled for, is in that house. It represents so much to him. Whereas with me, I’m more nomadic (four different addresses in the past seven years alone) and my house doesn’t mean so much to me. Also, I don’t have kids to protect.

Do you have an opinion on gun ownership or standing your ground?

I’m all for gun ownership—although I don’t actually own a gun.
In Homeowner With a Gun, the applicable law is commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine, i.e. a man’s home is his castle and he has the right to defend it. Most states in the US have this. We have something similar in Canada, but courts here, I believe, put more onus on the homeowner to use only “necessary” or “reasonable” force, and to retreat in the face of a threat if at all possible. (In the States you generally don’t have to retreat.) If you shoot and kill an intruder up here, like Jeff does in the book, there’s a good chance this would be deemed excessive force and you’d be in serious trouble. I disagree with this. The American model is better. If someone breaks into your house, you should be able to do what you think necessary to defend yourself and your dwelling. End of story.
There was kind of a related case in Toronto not too long ago that caused a big outcry, where this guy kept going into a store in Chinatown and stealing stuff. The store owner finally collared the guy and locked him in a storeroom until the police arrived. The result:  the police freed the thief and charged the store owner with unlawful confinement. This is totally wrong, yet another instance of justice being turned upside down.

How did the cover come about?

When I was writing the screenplay, I visualized the movie title, “Homeowner With a Gun,” superimposed on the Shaw family’s front door in the opening sequence, like a warning sign. When I started writing the book, I kept this idea for the cover, then strayed from it and went with an image of a house in moonlight with the title hovering over it in the dark sky behind. I worked with this house concept for quite a while, then discarded it and went back to the door idea and hit on something I really liked.
I wrote a post over at about the design process I went through. Here’s the link: "The Cover that Wasn't and the Cover that Was"

According to the “also by” you’ve written quite a few nonfictions and another fiction novel, do you have a preference for the genre that you prefer to write?

No preference, really. I enjoy them both. With nonfiction, I like the research. It’s like a treasure hunt, looking for nuggets of information that will go into crafting your story. With fiction, I like the freedom to be more creative. My previous book, for example, Bad Elephant Far Stream, started out as a nonfiction story about the life of the circus elephant Topsy, electrocuted on Coney Island in 1903 (the original title was simply Bad Elephant). In order to make it really personal, however, and tell the story from Topsy’s own perspective, I ended up getting so “creative” that in the end it just became a novel. I guess I always wanted to write a novel, but needed to make this roundabout approach in order to do it.

What are some of the challenges you faced in writing this book as opposed to nonfiction books?

The biggest challenge is the freedom that fiction affords the author. With nonfiction, the story, i.e. the plot, is already laid down. The author’s job, through research, is to find out what it is and then to craft his or her research into a story. With fiction, what I find most challenging is the total freedom you have with the plot. I mean, there’s nothing there, no roadmap, no signposts, to guide you. You have to make everything up. This makes the process a lot harder, I find. With all my nonfiction books, the first draft required only some polishing before being published. I knew what the story was and I simply had to tell it. With my two works of fiction, on the other hand, there’s been a lot of additional work after finishing the first draft. The story was just so much more fluid and required lots of reworking (a second draft, a third draft, etc.) before I got it right.
Tell us about yourself. How long have you been writing, what made you decide to write, have you always wanted to be a writer?
I started out doing freelance writing for magazines and newspapers back in 1992, when I lived in Japan. But I’d always wanted to write books. A magazine or newspaper goes into the garbage tomorrow, but a book—a book is permanent, it sticks around. It’s almost a kind of immortality.
My first book, published in 1997, was an employment guide entitled Help Wanted: Korea. Nothing special. And the publisher promptly went out of business and the whole print run got remaindered. Then, in 1999, I started on something big, a 700-page history entitled The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China. It took four years to research and write and another two to get published (in 2005). A new edition was just released earlier this month and is selling very well. Here’s the link: "The Imjin War" on
Once I got The Imjin War completed, the creative juices were really flowing and I’ve been writing books ever since. I wrote two more books on East Asian history after that, then switched to popular nonfiction with a book on Canadian sprinter Percy Williams entitled I Just Ran, and then an account of the land speed record in the 1960s, Speed Duel. I also wrote a screenplay last year based on Speed Duel, and was out to LA earlier this year to meet with some people about it. No big break yet, but I’m hoping!

What book are you reading right now?

J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun; before that, Ty Seng’s The Years of Zero, about the author’s childhood in Cambodia’s killing fields.
Do you have any authors or mentors that you attribute to being your biggest influences when it comes to what you write?
I can’t really say which writers may have influenced me. In my earlier years I read a lot of Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, but I don’t write anything like them today! In terms of writers I admire this days, I’d cite Paul Theroux, V.S. Naipaul, and the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian. With all three of them you come on a sentence, a single sentence that conveys so much, and you think: Wow...that is a jewel. That is perfection.

What’s next? Do you have any future projects?

The next book I have planned is a novel set in Japan in the closing days of World War 2. The title is One Hundred Million Eat Stones. I’ve written three books on East Asian history (and I lived in Japan for six years), so this sort of plays to my strength. It’s a story I’ve had in mind for many years, and I finally feel ready to write it.

What is one thing you could tell your fans, future and present, a teensy bit of advice, a favorite quote, anything, something to pass on, or words of inspiration?

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” (from one of the many rejection letters Stephen King received for his first novel, Carrie)

Here are some relevant links regarding this book:

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