Interview with V.J. Fitz-Howard, Author of On The Hunt

27 Oct 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, On the Hunt?

On the Hunt is book one of the just-released Shrimp & Grit Trilogy. It’s a rollicking, raunchy, romantic romp across the contemporary South. The heroine, Tami Vaduva, is the most decorated female soldier in U.S. Army history – and she is on a mission! Her commanding officer, a dashing U.S. Army colonel and certified “Southern Gentleman,” impregnates her on his last night of active duty, hours before a military helicopter whisks him out of an Afghan combat zone. Determined to break a curse of single motherhood that has plagued the women of her family for generations, Tami tracks the retired colonel to his estate in the genteel horse country surrounding Charlottesville, Virginia. A master of military dark arts, she deploys covert operations, surveillance tactics, deception and PsyOps in her quest to “capture” the colonel – and the wedding ring for which she longs. But after four combat tours fighting jihadists and insurgents, she is about to confront her most ruthless enemy yet: old money Southern snobs determined to prevent her from climbing over the gilded walls of their high-society citadel.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Living in the South, which is filled with fascinating, eccentric characters everywhere you turn – all of them brimming with contradictions: The nicest people are often mean as snakes; scratch the surface of the {seemingly} meanest folk and they’re sweet as fresh cream. Millionaires afraid of being perceived as “shiny” pretend to be poor, and drink cocktails out of jelly jars. Blunt, grunting rednecks have a philosophical side. Everybody down here has a story and is a story – often a funny one.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Flannery O’Connor’s A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND AND OTHER STORIES is the gold standard: She nails the South like no one else. Florence King’s CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED SOUTHERN LADY and John Kennedy Toole’s A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES are two of the funniest books ever written, and not coincidentally, they, too are about the South. On the Hunt aspires to be a fast, fun read in the spirit of Carl Hiaasen’s novel SKIN TIGHT. And I’ll add one more, just because our heroine is a randy military gal: George MacDonald Fraser’s legendary FLASHMAN. Only instead of being a cowardly rake and cad like “Flashy”, Tami from On the Hunt is described by her commanding officer as “the fiercest, grittiest, ass-kicking-est Southern girl ever to join the United States Armed Forces.” She’s all honor and all heart.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I can tell you who it couldn’t be: Somebody who is oh so serious! There are so many prophets of doom and gloom today. An ideal guest would be somebody who knows how to tell a story, doesn’t have some big MESSAGE to impart, and has a sense of humor, for God’s sake. If he could be brought back from the dead, Ian Fleming would be fun to talk to. My first question: “Tell me about how you came up with the name ‘Pussy Galore’?

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair with my spouse, cocktails in hand, dreaming up wacky characters and cooking up jokes to insert in the novels. That is the most golden aspect of the process.

What is a typical day like for you?

Like most people’s work routine in the COVID era, when everyone is trapped at home: Write, get kids up for online classes, write, fix lunch, write, help with schoolwork, write, get interrupted again, edit, call it a day, have a cocktail on the porch, feed everybody, clean up and retire. Then repeat the next day.

What scene from On the Hunt was your favorite to write?

The heroine in our tale, just back from a combat tour, makes an unannounced visit to West Virginia, to the home of her mother, grandmother and great grandmother, all of whom are certifiably bananas. It’s a comic head-on collision.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Yes, from the British writer Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. “If you have the misfortune to be born into a generation who must earn its living, you might as well do something amusing.” Writing this series was a ceaseless source of amusement.

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V.J. Fitz-Howard is the author of the new book On the Hunt.

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