Talking Thrillers with Hart Hanson: The Seminarian

“Masterfully crafted…Hanson returns with another wildly funny ride.” – Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Run Away

Hart Hanson wrote for Canadian television before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked on various TV programs before creating the series Bones, the longest-running scripted hour-long series on the FOX network. Married with two sons, Hart lives with his wife, Brigitte, in Venice, California. 

We're thrilled to bring you our recent conversation with Hanson, in which we discuss his new novel, The Seminarianpraised by Stephen Fry as being "a wondrously twisty-turny mystery that the reader will never want to end."

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Hanson: I live in Venice, CA. I’ve seen every single one of the characters in The Seminarian literally out my front gate. My wife and kids mock me for looking at inexplicable groupings of humans and ask, “What’s going on there?”

This book is a stab at answering that question.

TFx: How many books have you written and which is your favorite?

Hanson: I have written four books in my life. Two I wrote in my twenties which please, God, (PLEASE!) no one will ever read. The Seminarian is my second and most recent crime novel — the first is called The Driver which I quite like and is in development as a series at Netflix.

My favorite is book number five, which is unfinished on my hard drive and is tentatively titled The Venice Flats.

TFx: What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with this work?

Hanson: Xavier Priestly — like me — is a lapsed Catholic. Is he better or worse off for deciding that there is no God?

TFx: What draws you to writing in the thriller genre?

Hanson: I like entertaining readers. I spent many, many years writing TV, so I’m accustomed to hanging theme, humor, philosophy, and point of view on a solid story structure.

TFx: How much research went into the writing of this book?

Hanson: In this book I discovered that I needed to know much more about art, sex-work, fishing, family law, jurisdictional disputes, hired killers, boxing, the penal system, Vegas, Ojai, fine watches, and seminary school than I knew before starting out.

TFx: Which actor can you imagine playing the main character in the movie version of your book?

Hanson: Do you know that if I answer this I’ll get into serious trouble with all the actors I’ve worked with and don’t mention?

TFx: How did you choose the setting(s) and time frame?

Hanson: I live in Venice, California, one of the most interesting places in the world, so the setting chose me. Venice is a story generator. I love Venice.

TFx: What is the significance of the title?

Hanson: My protagonist was studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood when he dropped out of seminary to become a legal investigator. He may believe not in God anymore, but he is still a seminarian at heart: withdrawn from the world, isolated, and separate. His disengagement is severely tested over the course of the book. The world incurs. Life imposes itself on him whether he likes it or not.

TFx: What was the hardest scene to write in this book?

Hanson: The toughest scene to write in the book is ... well, it’s a spoiler. Is this still an interesting question if I am too vague? The most difficult scene to write was when my protagonist — Priest — disengages from something he probably shouldn’t disengage from and is drubbed for it mercilessly by those who care about him the most.

There’s also an extremely violent sequence which was tough to write — not because of the violence but because the choreography of violence is very difficult to pull off.

TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?

Hanson: My first job after university was to ride my bicycle across Canada and write a weekly column about my adventures for the Toronto Sunday Sun. I rode the wrong way — east to west — against the prevailing winds.

TFx: As an author, how do you navigate the balance between providing readers with closure and leaving certain elements open to interpretation?

Hanson: Ugh. Bane of my existence. Satisfying the reader while remaining allusive. Parsing out information in a mystery. What clues lead to what and how they can be interpreted? I think mostly what I do is figure things out at the same time my protagonist does and hope for the best.

TFx: If you had to describe your book in just three words, what would they be, and why did you choose those words?

Hanson: Don’t do that!

TFX: Books often have a central message or theme. What do you hope readers take away from your latest work, and why is this message important to you?

Hanson: The theme of my book is the nature of human connection — with other humans, with the world, and with ourselves.

I hope the reader takes the message that connection is precious and rare and, most importantly, worth fighting for.

TFx: Writing a book is a journey of its own. What was the most surprising discovery you made about your characters or the storyline as you progressed through the writing process?

Hanson: I outline pretty thoroughly before I begin writing. As usual, the story fights back and makes its own own demands. I was very surprised when a kid shows up out of nowhere claiming to be my protagonist’s son. I was surprised to find out who wanted him dead enough to hire a killer — and that hired killer surprised me in every possible way.

Get Hart Hanson’s latest release, The Seminarian, out now on Amazon

"A fast-paced crime thriller... Highly recommended"  – Christopher Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Lamb, Noir, and Razzmatazz

Xavier "Priest" Priestly is a snarky former seminarian turned private investigator. Dusty Queen is a hard-as-nails professional stuntwoman and freelance bodyguard. When Dusty's girlfriend suddenly disappears, a woman in a strange blue wig tries to assassinate Priest, and a twelve-year-old boy shows up claiming to be his son, the two friends are thrown into a maelstrom of intrigue and high-stakes violence that's as convoluted and dangerous as it is hilarious.

Thankfully, Priest and Dusty don't have to navigate these tangled mysteries alone. Aided by a lawyer, who's underwhelmed by their extra-legal methods; a straight-laced detective, who doesn't trust them as far as he can throw them; and Priest's father, a notorious bank robber, they are well equipped to deal with potential kidnapping and attempted murder. But whether Priest is up to the challenge of a son with a gun, a backpack full of weed, and a major attitude problem ... well, that's a different story.

With its unforgettable cast, parade of twists and turns, and breakneck pace, The Seminarian showcases Hart Hanson at his best. Packed with action and glistening with snappy dialogue, surprising tenderness, and (mostly) good people doing some exceptionally bad things, this distinctive thriller is as entertaining as it is insightful.

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