I am thrilled to have Santino Hassell on the blog today!! He is making the rounds for the Release Tour of Oversight the second installment in his Paranormal series The Community which released this week and is takes us back to a New York City underworld being where oppression and repression is the name of the game.
Our heroes Holden Payne the son of one The Community founders and Sixto Rossi the who’s been hired to keep an eye on the Heir Apparent. The universe Santino has created here is perfectly set in the hard landscape of New York City where anyone can hide in plain sight and underground scenes not only exist but thrive in this amazing metropolis.
I had some questions for Santino about some of his favorite NYC spots and some of the more serious themes he explores in his writing, he was kind enough to oblige.
The Tipsy Bibliophile: Santino, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Oversight! In this book things continue to get darker. It seems like the more we know, the more sinister things appear to be within The Community.
One of the things that I love about this series is that it’s about this hidden world within New York City, a small nation of people with paranormal abilities that are hidden in plain sight.
I am New Yorker, and one of the things I love the most about it, is that even after many years living here I can still discover hidden gems, and off the beaten path places. It’s one of the magical things about this city. There is always something new to see, hear, or taste.
Since my blog usually features a wine and food as well as book reviews, I wanted to ask if you could share some of your favorite underground New York City spots to eat or go for a drink?
Santino Hassell: Oh man, I could go on about that for a while but let me think of my absolute favorites. Most of the best places to eat in NYC are the ones off the beaten path where it isn’t a major attraction. In Brooklyn, one of my absolute favorite places to eat is at Green Fig Bakery, which has delicious bagels and breakfast sandwiches (eggs and pancetta!), and gourmet sandwiches for lunch. In Park Slope, one of my favorite bars is Pacific Standard. They have a great beer selection, and a fun theme of East Coast meets West Coast with an entire sitting room in the back with library-style décor.
In Staten Island, there are so many. But I’m gonna go with Meatballs and Martinis, which is a delicious Italian spot that is very typical kind of “old world Italian American”. And while we’re in SI, we can’t ignore RA Deli. It’s a total hole in the wall with a couple of tables, but the best Dominican food I’ve had in a long time. In Manhattan, there are a string of great Japanese spots in Koreatown along 32nd street, and Khyber Pass in the East Village which has delightful Afghan food. There’s tons I’m not thinking about, I’m sure.
TTB: Holden, one of the heroes is a nightclub owner, Evolution, among other things has been a place where up and coming bands can come to play. I imagine the gigs at Evolution featuring a lot of fringe and counter culture acts. I am huge fan of live music and I am always hunting for places in the city where I can see bands way off the mainstream.
Do you have any favorites in NYC where you go if you want to see some awesome live music?
SH: If we’re talking amateur and unsigned bands, or artists who aren’t super mainstream, I’d say Brooklyn Bowl, Bowery Ballroom, Lit Lounge, and Union Hall to name a few off the top of my head.
TTB: Now if it’s alright with you, I’d like to shift gears a bit, in this book as in some of your other work you get at the construct of privilege and power. You also explore things like oppression, censorship and social control. Privilege and power, and other social justice themes are pretty recurrent in your books, which is unusual and very thrilling for those of us who like a bit of resistance in our romance.
Why is it important for you to bring these issues into your stories?
SH: We live in a society that is ruled by gas lighting, fear, and constant manipulation. I’ve experienced this just being a writer, and we all experienced this in the past several months, but marginalized people deal with it on a daily basis. Ultimately, besides the romance plot and the paranormal elements of The Community, I wanted to use this community to showcase how an entire group of people can be gaslighted and manipulated into compliance with fear and constant subtle grooming.
Basically, the Community maintains control of psychics by saying “I can help you, but you can only trust me because everyone else is out to get you, but if you ever question or criticize me I will ice you out or malign you”. In real life, the government does this to us, certain media outlets, folks on social media, and individuals do it to their loved ones and friends. It’s something we need to talk about and spread awareness about so people will realize it’s happening to them. Any time someone works to control your choices or thoughts by instilling fear or distrust of the people around you, it’s a red flag. That’s what The Community does, and that’s what people do every day.
TTB: Lastly I wanted to talk about another recurring theme in your stories, that is homeless LGBT youth. In your novels you write about centers where homeless LGBT can receive service, and you also touch upon their plight and some of the harsh realities that some LGBT youth face here in New York City. This is something very close to my heart, I am very active as a volunteer for the Ali Forney Center here in NYC and always appreciate when I read about centers similar to AFC in your books.
I wanted to ask if you could mention any centers like the ones in your books or AFC for readers who would like to know more, or maybe even donate to such great programs?
SH: The first one that comes to mind, and one I went to when I was younger, was The Door in lower Manhattan on Spring Street. They have an amazing amount of resources and programs to support young people, and I loosely based Gateway off it in the Five Boroughs series. They have counseling, health services, a GED program, do internships, help with nutrition and foster care—you name it and they do it. They also have a satellite in the Bronx.
Another really great program is the LGBT Youth groups that are run by A Center for Family Life in Brooklyn. It’s a really inclusive center with a very diverse staff, and welcome to people of all walks of life. You can donate to both The Door and Center for Family Life online! You can also reach out about volunteering if you’re local.
Thank you for having me!
Thanks so much to Santino Hassell for the interview, the awesome recommendations and letting us know about some great programs in New York City that are helping homeless LGBT youth!!
Thanks for stopping by.
Cheers and Happy Reading!
You can by Oversight by Santino Hassell HERE.
You can learn more about Santino and his work HERE.