From the moment I first heard about Santino Hassell’s new paranormal series I had a feeling it was going to be something special, and so far I am not disappointed. Insight sets the tone to our first look into the supernatural world of The Community where romance meets mystery and suspense. Interested to know more? Then check out what else I had to say about the book in my review over here.
I am absolutely thrilled to chat with Santino today about Insight, psychic abilities, and where the rest of the trilogy will take us. Please join me in welcoming Santino to Just Love Reviews!
Thank you so much for hanging with me today, Santino! I’m anxious to learn more about your writing and this new series so let’s jump right into these questions. 🙂
R: What draws you to paranormal romance?
S: The idea of our world being parallel to a world where magic and ghosts and the paranormal exists. Fantasy and paranormal have always been big for me as a reader, especially as a kid, because it’s the ultimate form of escapism. As an adult, I’m drawn to stories with Big Bads who can actually be defeated. It’s a different type of escapism, but I was drawing on that heavily while writing The Community trilogy.
R: Insight was a long time in the making. What originally inspired you to write it, and what can readers expect from the rest of The Community trilogy?
S: I was originally inspired by the idea of a kid (originally the main character was a girl, and it was a YA romance) who grew up surrounded by this dysfunctional family of psychics, but being taught it was a secret only to find out there is an entire paranormal world out there. VC Andrews heavily influenced the early version of the story. It turned into a gay romance with a murder mystery and a Big Bad even bigger than the initial murderer. INSIGHT is an invitation into the world of paranormal and the psychic community whereas the next two books take you inside that community, rips it apart, and shows you who all is trying to secretly undermine it. Each book has a different pair of main character with a complete romantic arc, but the overall plotline will flow through the trilogy. So, there’s a romantic HEA in each book but the Big Bad isn’t totally defeated until the end.
R: Have you ever gone on a literary pilgrimage in the name of research? What kind of research did you do to prepare for this book?
S: This book is primarily set in New York City where I grew up, but there are also stops in a small Texas Town, New Orleans, and Jacksonville while Nate travels from Texas to NYC with Trent (who he meets on the road). I’ve made this exact road trip three times, making the same stops, so it’s built on my own experience even if I didn’t do it knowing I’d write about it later.
R: After the research is done, do you allow yourself a level of creative license to write imaginatively or do you stick to the facts?
S: With paranormal there’s a lot of imaginative writing and world building, but I still try to remain factual about things that exist in the real world. Sometimes I get obsessive about my research and wind up researching the most minute details to an exhaustive extend. For example, I was once writing a chase scene and it led to me trying to find the blueprints of a building to figure out how many exits there were.
R: Without getting too spoilery, can you tell us what the hardest scene to write was? How about the most fun?
S: The hardest scene to write in INSIGHT was definitely one of the last scenes. There’s a fight, a big confrontation, and then everything is revealed. I rewrote it… I would say four maybe five times to get it right. I can’t explain without spoiling, but the biggest issue was doing the Big Reveal in a way that felt natural. The most fun scene for me was moment when Trent and Nate first met. Nate is on the side of the road trying to hitch a ride, and Trent stops but is so skeptical about it all. He’s a logic guy who usually plays it safe, so he was pretty funny.
R: What’s a scene that didn’t make it into the final manuscript?
S: I rewrote a good seventy-five percent of the book, so there are a lot! One of the major swaps were Trent and Nate’s sexual relationship. Where there were originally scenes of them ignoring their attraction, I built in the steam because it felt more natural. When I first wrote it, I was fighting a lot of the “they would definitely kiss here” because I thought I needed to wait.
R: If you could have one psychic power, which would it be? Are you a skeptic or a believer when it comes to psychic abilities?
S: I’d like to be able to astrally project myself. I don’t know why. It just seems interesting to me, and reading minds sounds awful. If there are any psychic abilities that exist, I would say I believe empathy is definitely a thing. There are some people who have the strongest sense of empathy I’ve ever encountered, to the point of it being eerie, while some people have none at all. It’s why empaths are so common in The Community.
R: You’re known for creating playlists that correspond with your book releases. Is there a Community playlist? The J-rock, Zydeco and Classic Rock that Nate and Trent listen to throughout Insight would make for quite an eclectic mix!
S: I don’t have one, but now I think I should!
(Ask and you shall receive. Have a listen to the sound of Insight…)
R: Speaking of Nate and Trent, can they recommend a couple paranormal books at the top of their “must read” lists?
S: Yes! Especially since Nate’s choice of books in the first chapter was a super discreet nameless nod to my favorite queer paranormal series–Psycop by Jordan Castillo Price. They’d recommend that one and Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.
R: Ten or Twelve? (You’ll have to read the book to get this one, folks!)
S: Ten! If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that sometimes the best things happen when you take a chance.
Oh how true that is! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today. On behalf of Just Love, I’d like to wish you success with Insight and all of your future releases.
Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
You can purchase INSIGHT from:
Barnes & Noble
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.
Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.