James L Hill, a.k.a. J L Hill, is a native New Yorker from the South Bronx, Fort Apache, of the turbulent 60’s. He earned a degree in computer programming, his other love. A multi-genre author, his experiences seasoned his novels and the worlds he imagined. James started RockHill Publishing LLC to publish his own work and give others access to the literary world.
The four-part adult urban crime series, The Killer Series, is complete. Killer With A Heart, Killer With Three Heads, Killer With Black Blood have all received five-star reviews. Killer With Ice Eyes, the final chapter of the boys from the Bronx, is available now. He is currently working on a three-part historical fantasy Gemstone Series; The Emerald Lady is in publication to rave reviews. The Ruby Cradle and the third book, The Diamond Warrior, is coming soon.
Stephen: So today on Discovered Wordsmiths, I want to welcome James Hill. James, how are you doing today? I am good. How are you? I’m great. I hear you’re getting the rainstorms that I had the last couple of days.
James: Yeah, last two or three days we get the thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Cause you know how hot it is. It’s hot everywhere nowadays.
Stephen: Yeah exactly. Yeah. So James we want to hear about your book. We’re going to talk about your killer series, but before we do that, let’s find out a little bit about you. So tell us about yourself, some things you like to do besides writing where you live hobbies, that type of thing.
James: I live in Virginia beach now, but I grew up in New York city. Yeah. I grew up in the South Bronx. New York. I heard it. Yeah, you hear it. New York, Uhhuh, . And it all pertains to part of the reason why I wrote the killer series. I grew up in New York and in the South Bronx and gang time back in the sixties and the seventies.
And then we moved into a mob neighborhood, which was my mom’s old neighborhood when she was a little girl. And so we moved back up there and it was Italian, Irish, German, Jewish. I think we were like the second black family to move into the neighborhood because, in New York, people move in and out.
Where she lived before her house was wiped out by the highway. They put the highway through there. When we moved back into the neighborhood, it was. Only one other black family in there. That’s pretty much where I come from. And what I’m doing now is I’m living in Virginia Beach, which is a much nicer place.
Except when it has storms. Except when the storms roll through. I the heat, so I’m not too bad about that. The humidity is a killer.
Stephen: Ah, it’s a killer. So your book’s about humidity. Got it.
James: Okay. Yeah. It is very steamy.
Stephen: Got it. Okay.
James: Here goes the cat. Yes. Here comes the cat.
Stephen: Cats love to be on camera.
James: Yeah. I have a cat and a dog, neither of which are mine. My son left the dog and my granddaughter left her cat. So
James: adopted. Yeah. So I now have a cat and a dog. The dog is up there looking out the door. He’s rather big. He’s upstairs. He likes to lay in front of the door and scary by that comes by.
Stephen: Okay. Got it. So why did you want to start writing?
James: I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I started writing when I was reading comics. Marvel. I’m more of a Marvel person than a DC. Okay. Who’s your favorite? It changes. I was a big fan of Daredevil.
Stephen: Okay. I got a friend that loves
And then Thor because, who wouldn’t want to be a god? But yeah I, I a lot of the different older characters. The newer characters I wasn’t too into because, by the time they started coming out with Punisher and people like that to me, they weren’t superheroes because they really didn’t have superpowers.
I think the Punisher was killed and then comes back to life or something like that.
Stephen: Probably several times by now, I think. Yeah.
James: That kind of changed the way the superhero world worked. Most of the superheroes when I was growing up as a kid, They were either irradiated and got superpowers or, there was mutants, naturally mutated people who had superpowers, that kind of thing.
So I was very big into science fiction and that’s what really got me writing. I would start writing the next. coMic that will come out. We will read the comic. We trace and draw the characters and I would always work on what I thought the next story would be. That’s also what got me into serial writer because of the fact that, Marvel, ran 30 2020 comics.
Before you had the full story,
Stephen: I love that you just said that because my son works at a comic book store and he’s loves comics and I’ve always loved comics and we were talking about that and another friend also how comics are basically the, Next step of serial fiction from a hundred years ago, the pulps Conan and Lovecraft and all that.
And then you have comics and those extend, into our modern time. There’s still serial fiction for the most part, you read 30 pages. It’s Oh my gosh, what happens next? Wait till next month,
James: next month. Yep. And it was great when it was only a dime, but now it’s a comic is 2.
Stephen: 50. And it’s wow, 2. 50? No, man. They’re like four and five bucks now. I haven’t been
James: in a comic store in a long time. Yeah.
Stephen: They’re crazy. And there’s some, they’ll come out with a special edition. That’s 10. It’s jeez, oh man.
James: And now they come out like this thick, they have the whole.
Anthology type of put together.
Stephen: Yeah. I don’t mind that cause that’s six to 10 comics all put together and you can sit and read it, some of these people, they go weekly and just by a stack, it’s geez,
James: my brother’s like that. He’s still read comics. And he’s like that.
He goes out and buys, the stack of comics and everything and sits down
Stephen: and reads them. My son reads a lot of comics but it’s because of work. And I’m like, yeah, sure it is.
James: Now since I’m a publisher, I don’t get to read. The pleasure of reading, I have to read for, with a critical eye to everything.
Stephen: And even if you don’t intend to, it seems to be the more you write, the more you read and you evaluate without even thinking about it. Oh
James: yeah. Yeah. You become a terrible critic. Being a writer makes you a terrible
Stephen: critic. It absolutely does. Okay. So your series, the black series I’m going to take it.
It’s a mystery. What made you want to write these books?
Stephen: The killer series is killer series. I’m sorry. I was looking at your sign in the back. It says killer with black blood.
James: Yeah. Oh yeah. That’s one of the book
Stephen: titles. Yeah. Yeah. Killer series. I apologize. Yeah.
James: No problem. It’s because like I said, I grew up in gangs and in the, a lot of my friends were in the mob.
When we moved into the mob neighborhood, I had a lot of friends who were mobsters and everything. And so I wrote this series about, uh, somebody from the South Bronx, from the gangs joining up with a guy who was what we used to call Junior Mafia. If you’re a teenager and they’re just waiting to to join the mafiaa, that’s the family business.
So they’re going to go into the family business and you can’t join the mafia until you’re 18. They don’t take you under 18 because they don’t have any leverage over you. When you’re 18 and you join the mob, now you can go to prison if if they turn you in or something, but if you’re under 18, then of course you, at the time you couldn’t go to prison.
Okay. Thing changed with the gangs because that’s one of the reasons why they changed the laws with the gangs because the gangs did the same thing. They took in younger kids, 12, 13 year old and made them members of the gangs because They could hold the weapons and if they get caught with the weapons, they don’t go to jail except for maybe a year or so.
They go to the youth house because they’re under age. They can’t be charged with murders and things like that, which is why they want to change that law. So anybody else who thinking about, the law and how to get around it, guess what? They will change the law to get around
Stephen: you. And not that we can don’t doing this.
Oh, we’re not
James: going to donate that. You think If you think there’s a loophole, there probably is. And when they, and when you exploit it, guess what? They’re going to sew up that loophole. So that’s what made me decide to write the killer series. And I decided to write it as these two guys who come together.
Teenagers and they both for whatever various reasons they have, they both really only have one goal in mind and that’s to become major criminals, international criminal. You got to have goals in life.
Stephen: Yes. Yes. Tell us about the series. How many books are there and what’s the overall series storyline, I guess your latest book, what that one’s about.
James: Yeah. All right. So there’s four books. And when I wrote it, I had the intention of making only four books in the killer series. I really wrote it based on the second book. Now the second book is killer with three heads. And it’s after these two teenagers get together in the first book, they rob a money drop.
They rob a mob money drop because Nikki thinks that this guy is skimming money off the mob in his neighborhood. So he’s we’re going to go in there and rob him because obviously he’s robbing money from the other family. We can go and rob this guy. And actually that wasn’t the case at all.
The guy would step was stashing the money in his neighborhood because he had to deal with the father and to keep the bank there. So that’s how the whole series gets started. They robbed this guy. And between him and Mojo, between Nikki and Mojo, they robbed this guy and it sparks a mob war. Now Nikki’s problem was his family wasn’t getting the respect he thought they deserved.
Mojo problem is that he’s, Somewhat psychotic in that I’m what psychotic, mildly psychotic. He’s like very family oriented. If you do something against somebody in my family, I go out and kill everybody in your family. It’s very straightforward with him. Either you’re his friend or you’re his enemy.
And so they get together, they rob this guy and then things happen. So that’s the first book. The second book, which is why I actually wrote the whole thing, was that now Morris has to leave town because of everything with the mob war and everything. He gets out of town. He’s becoming an international criminal.
He’s into arms dealing and everything else. He’s a, he’s an enforcer for the mob for his friend Nikki. He’s an arms dealer because they have their own lives. They had their own criminal enterprises and someone kidnaps his daughter and that brings them back to New York to find out who kidnapped his daughter and revenge.
Revenge is the two main themes to the whole killer series. Revenge is one friendship is the other
Stephen: and not killing.
James: Yeah no not actually killing. Killing is a side product of the friendship and of the revenge, so these guys are, thick as thieves, as they say, and so they, they will do anything for each other.
And that’s what makes. This whole thing go because they will do anything for each other. So that’s what most people don’t realize about them. Because one guy is black, the other guy is Italian. And they figured that they’re going to go against each other at some part, but they don’t, they never do.
They are, no matter what each one does, the other one, oh, he got his back.
Stephen: Got it. Okay. So do you know of, or can think of any books that are out there, other authors that are similar to your books?
James: There’s a lot of mob books out there, but most of them are like mob romances and things like that.
And my book has romance in it and, you have the girls and you have, the mob princesses and, the gang princesses and things like that. So there are books out there that are like that. And then there are books out there by, I think it’s Icepick Slim. Who writes about the inner city and black people and, that kind of like gang life, drug dealer, things like that.
But my book is a bit different than any of those because it like mixes all of that in into one story. So it’s not really a mob story and it’s not really a gang life story. Okay. Because they’re moving out of those worlds. into international criminals. They’re becoming international criminals.
So they don’t stick to, Nicky like sticks to the mob because that’s what his desires are, to become the godfather and to become a commissioner and all that kind of stuff in the mob. But Morris, Bojo, his life takes him into the international criminal world because of them being arms dealers and stuff.
And there’s elements of the government, how the government works with the mafia and it works with, the crime syndicates and things like that to get what they want out of life. When you say, are there books like mine? There are books that might touch on different parts of that storyline and different things, but my book goes beyond and further than anything I
Stephen: ever read.
And it’s set in modern times? Yeah. Okay.
James: It’s set in like the 70s and 80s. Okay. Okay. It takes place between the seventies up to about the nineties.
Stephen: Okay. So if you like the Chicago mob books, like Untouchables or Godfather, or, you probably like your book.
James: Yeah. Yeah. What is it? What’s the name of that movie?
Oh, it always escapes me. The name of the movie with Joe Pesci and them.
Stephen: Yeah. Good fellas. Yeah.
James: Fellows, casino movie like that. Boys in the hood, that’s another movie
Stephen: that I thought about that because. It sounds, you talked a little bit about gangs. You talked about mobs.
It sounds like on the verge of that because of your two characters and, their background you think so. Yeah, I could definitely see that city or something. Have you ever
James: heard of a story called the Bronx tale? They made a movie out of it with De Niro.
Stephen: It sounds familiar, but
James: it takes place in pretty much the neighborhoods that I grew up in a Bronx tale.
They go from Cedric Avenue. In the Bronx from one side, because one side is the Italian neighborhood. The other side is the black neighborhood. And if you ride that bus, I think it’s number 12, but anyway, you ride that bus. I hung out all over the Bronx. So you ride that bus from one end to the other, you go from the black neighborhood into the Italian neighborhood.
anD it was like the dichotomy of the two neighborhoods. And so that’s a Bronx, that was a Bronx tale, and that probably is most like my story. Okay. My book is more like that story. If you looked at it as a whole. Got
Stephen: it. Okay. That’s cool. That helps people if they’re interested in, let’s say, Oh, I like those things.
So yeah, I’d love Jane’s book. So what type of feedback are you getting from readers?
James: Oh, I’m getting great feedback. People. People love the story. I get five, five star ratings all the time. People say, I’m a sick person because of all the it’s quite a violent book in some cases.
They, they murder people like left and right and not just murder you, torture. My, my editor on the last book, Comes around as a killer with ice eyes, which I just released last summer about this about a year old now And she was like come on James Another torture and I was and now this is Morris’s daughter who’s growing up to take over The gangs and the mob and she’s gonna legitimize it somewhat so and of course her thing is that she’s also looking for revenge on what happened to her.
I’m like come on, this woman grew up in the mob and the game. You don’t think she’s going to be as hardcore as everybody else. So soft, easygoing person. No.
Stephen: So you got a four series or four book series. Would you rather see these turned into movies or a TV show?
James: Interesting enough, I think it would probably be better as a TV show because you can, because there are four books, if you want to do all four, it would be way too long of movies.
Each movie would be three hours long if you wanted to go through.
Stephen: Which, wasn’t the Godfather three hours? Yeah,
James: but you’re talking about four of them. You’re talking about, it’ll be a Lord of the Rings type of thing.
Stephen: Yeah, though, I go to movies a lot with friends and my son and stuff.
You know how many movies are almost three hours now? There are a lot of three hour movies.
James: I just watched Oppenheimer and that’s like a three hour movie. And it’s no action in that movie at all. That is,
Stephen: that was one of the weirdest big name movies I’ve seen in a while. I go to a lot of like art house films with my son that are like weird.
And then I saw Oppenheimer and I’m like, I had to digest it. I’m like, I can’t even, my brain can’t wrap around this movie yet. It’s just, it was,
James: yeah, it was amazing because it was like a three act play. It was like a three act play that took three hours to go through. And like I said, there’s no real action.
Mostly you have a two hour, two and a half hour, three hour movie, there’s a lot of action and stuff going on. No, this was strictly drama. And,
Stephen: and it’s not action, but it moves at a very frenetic pace. It just moves clip by clip very
James: quickly. Yeah. So I like movies like that, but I was thinking that if I was to get this, It would be, it would make a nice TV series because it would run several
Yeah, do like a Sopranos thing. Yeah. Really delve into the characters. And what you were talking about with multi generations. You could move through generations and stuff with the
James: book. Oh yeah. Because it picks up in the 70s and it goes up to like the 90s. So you have the commission trials in there.
You have the the war on drugs, how the government really wasn’t about the war on drugs. It was more about, overthrowing the countries in South America. Venezuela has more oil than the Middle East. And at one point in time, we knew we were losing our grip on the Middle East because we were losing the Shah of Iran, and we were going to lose that oil.
So they started moving against. Venezuela and tried to overthrow that country so that they could then, get the oil out of Venezuela. Yeah. So there’s all kinds of international intrigue in the stories, as well as the crime element. So like I said, there’s government agents that they work with.
And so it’s a big story as far as the series goes, as far as the characters and everything. It’s really a big arc and story. Over two decades.
Stephen: Okay. All right. So do you have a website that people go to and find out more info about the books?
James: Yes, you can go to jlhill books. com, which is my website, or you can go to Rock Hill Publishing.
dot com, which is my publishing company’s website.
Stephen: Okay, great. I’ll put links in the show notes. Yeah. All right. Either one. No, sorry.
James: What I said, either one will take you to either way.
Stephen: So you said it’s a four book series. What are your plans to do next?
So it’s a lot like the killer series. Oh,
there we go.
Yeah. I figured the storm may have knocked you out. I’m glad you just tried to get back in. We’ll just edit all that, so for everyone at home, we’re back, even though you won’t notice it at home. Hopefully we’ve had a short.
yEah. But it I’ve had it happen before and that’s the great thing about Zencaster is it’ll still help get us synced up and match everything. So it’ll be good. It’s fine. All so we had talked about your next book, your fantasy. And we’re going to talk about writing in multi genres here in a minute.
So let me ask a few more questions about you. What are some of your favorite books and authors that you like to read?
Second time I’m reading it. Yeah.
So what’s your favorite Stephen King and what’s your favorite Asimov?
Yeah, he had, a couple short stories, like a thousand or something like that. I’ve got a bunch of those too.
Oh, cool. Cool.
Nice. Cool. Good idea. Did it work? Did you get anything?
But you were trying.
Got it. In Virginia beach, do you have any favorite bookstores you’d like to go to? Okay.
Nice. Okay. All right. So before we talk about writing multi genres if you’re walking down the street and somebody said, Hey, James, I heard you wrote a book. Why should I get your book and read it? What would you tell them?
The killer series.
Nice. Okay. Hey, I got to ask, is that a Cardinal from a Cincinnati Cardinals? Oh. Oh, okay. Cause it looks similar.
Nice, nice, yeah.
Ah I went to only Sunday school and that was enough.
You need to write a story based around that now, it sounds like
we could probably have a good discussion on that. I got confirmed, but they almost kicked me out of the class four times. Yeah, I understand.
All right. James you’ve published several books, a couple series. What are some things you’ve learned? Not that you’re doing different from when you started,
Okay. All right. With that writing for through multiple books and series, you’ve written sci fi, you’ve written mob and crime, and you’ve written fantasy. So there’s a lot of advice out there. A lot of people saying, stick with one genre, stick with one type of book and, get your readers in that.
So you, you basically said, no, I’m not going to do that. Why did you choose to write multiple genres like that?
need to have a mermaid mob book. So a lot of people say the problem with that is, and I agree with you, honestly I write middle grade, but, I tell people all the time like middle grade is a demographic. It’s not a genre. And within middle grade, there’s all sorts of stuff that kids read. Dork diaries is not the same thing as Percy Jackson, but they’re both middle grade, and so I say, I write middle grade fantasy, which allows me to write. In multiple things, I’ve got a strict fantasy in a medieval world with goblins and magic. I’ve got another fantasy that’s like an alternate British spy thriller, but it’s a fantasy because it’s, not real. Then I’ve got this other fantasy I’m working on.
That’s a Scooby Doo gang paranormal investigator. It’s all fantasy to me. But they’re, not necessarily. The same readers, though I think kids tend to read across genre more than adults. So have you found that people get like your fantasy book and then they’ll get the mod book and go, what the heck is this?
I like your fantasy. Why are you writing my and they do you get negative comments or does it confuse people?
there we go. There we go. You back.
I can hear you. Can you hear me?
Nope. Can’t hear me. Oh,
now can you hear me? Yeah. Yeah. You were talking about the use of the pen names and the differences and the fantasies lighter.
Okay. And I do like that. You said you use two different pen names because that’s typically the solution. People go to if you go right in different genres. Now, do you cross pollinate? Do you, yeah. Tell your fantasy people like, Hey it’s not fantasy, but I do have this mob book and, Hey, mob people, I’ve got this fantasy book.
Just if you’re interested, do you do any of that?
That’s the designator brains being blown out or not, which do you like? So I do agree with you about, people have multiple interests and I think there’s actually more people like that than we realized, but. We get pushed into these preset genres. And I have been talking about this for a couple of years with people on the podcast that I think the genres are old school.
There’s something that we’re getting away from, especially with the younger generation and what got me thinking about it was on Netflix, they don’t give you, it’s very difficult to go in and just browse a genre. It takes work to find the genres, but what they do is they give three tags. To every movie they have gritty hardcore crime or humorous crime or southern crime or something, or it’s gritty Southern crime or humorous Southern crime.
And you can click on a tag and get all the different movies. That fit that. So you might have a Southern crime story, but you also might have a Southern comedy or a Southern history. So depending on the tag you pick, you can get wildly different genres. And I think that system of using tags like that is way superior than just using genres.
And I think we, we should really go to that system for all of our books.
Agreed. Agreed. All right. So James even with the dropouts it’s been really great talking to you. I’ve had a fun time chatting about your books and stuff today. So I, I hope you don’t get blown away by the storms. But before we go, do you have any last minute advice that you would give to new authors?
Nice. Great. All right. James, I wish you luck on your books. And hopefully maybe we’ll hear you in a year or so and hear more about your fantasy. We’ll talk again. That’d be great.
Great. And we’ll make sure we have links in the show notes. So everybody check it out. Thank you, James. Have a wonderful afternoon.