Monday, February 18, 2013

Nancy Hansen Interview

Ralph's Rants interviews Nancy Hansen!
Welcome to another week of Ralph’s Rant’s does Interviews. This week’s guest is none other than fantasy and pulp author extraordinaire, Nancy Hansen!
Jumping right into it, welcome Nancy, I’m very happy you agreed to doing this interview.
Ralph, I appreciate you not only having me in as a guest, but for all the reviews and interviews you do on your blog. That’s such a big benefit to the New Pulp community in general, in getting the word out. So thank you for having ,me!

So Nancy, how long have you been writing?
It seems like forever! I’ve always loved writing, because I’ve always loved good books and I’m a natural born story teller. I was that kid in school who actually looked forward to the essay questions on tests because I could fake my way through them. But serious writing, as in wanting to be published and read, started back in the early 1990s, when my kids were in elementary school and I was a stay-at-home mom looking for something to do as a later life career. I settled on writing because it fit best with my life style, and never looked back.

Did you always have the calling to write? Or was it something you came upon later on?
Well I answered some of that in the last question, but looking back over the years I can say definitely, for me it’s a calling. While I might not have taken the steps toward learning how to write well until later in life via a couple of correspondence courses, some books, and networking with other writers online; writing has been a large part of  my life from as soon as I realized that words on a page actually told stories. I was a very avid reader as a child, so much so that I’ve been known to pick up dictionaries and encyclopedias just to page through them and read anything that caught my eye. As an adult, reading became a natural progression to writing. I would read books to relax at the end of stressful days, and then kind of critique them in my mind; wishing this was done differently or gloating over how well that passage went. That lead to wanting to create the sort of story worlds I just could not find. No matter how sophisticated technology gets, it will never surpass the creativity of the human mind, and being able to link words into mental pictures is an art I find completely absorbing.
What made you want to write New Pulp? Was it a natural fit? Or was it something you just wanted to do?
You know, other than having read some C’. L. Moore Jirel of Joiry and Robert E. Howard Conan stories, and having just attended a free gallery showing of classic pulp art, I had no real background in pulp when I stumbled into the New Pulp realm back in the spring of 2010. I had written a bunch of mainstream fantasy stuff that I couldn’t seem to sell, and so was just floundering around wondering where to go with it next. Then I got an invite as the friend of a friend to this little startup company called Pro Se Productions. So I sent in a couple of short stories as writing samples. I was totally shocked when not only were they welcomed, but they actually got published! I had my first actual fiction sales in Fantasy & Fear, one of the original three Pro Se Magazines. I gave them the very first SONG OF HEROES story (subtitled Lori’s Lament), which was based on a dream I had. I also submitted a standalone story written from an idea posted online by a good friend, after changing the gender and name of the main character. That one was titled MASQUERRA AND THE STORM LORD.
I was off and running after that; resurrecting files that had been gathering cobwebs for 6-10 years or more, and fleshing out some 20 year old ideas. I think I bombarded Tommy Hancock’s email regularly for about 18 months. While working as both staff writer and editor, I learned a lot about what pulp had been and where it was headed, so it was on-the-job training. Along the way, I decided I much preferred a pulpy presentation when it came to spinning words into stories, so it became something I wanted to do, not just a way to be published.
The ‘Fortune’s Pawn’ Series; has that been in your mind for a long time? I know you told me that this series was originally one long novel, how many books are projected to be in this series?
Right now for this immediate story arc I’d say three, with the final one coming out likely early next year, though it will tie in with other work I have out. But yes, that storyline has been kicking around a long time, because the backdrop world that FORTUNE’S PAWN and my other imprint books are set in has been my playground for well over 20 years now. All of the books and anthologies in my Pro Se imprint Hansen’s Way so far—FORTUNE’S PAWN, PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, TALES OF THE VAGABOND BARDS, and THE HUNTRESS OF GREENWOOD— take place in that same big, overarching Terran World setting, albeit at different times and locales. I have crossover characters throughout. You’ve mentioned the high wizard Kendahl in your reviews Ralph, and he is a very old character, going back to the first fantasy book I attempted to write, which I am scavenging this year for a new novel in a different series in which he has a supporting role as magical mentor and guide.
The book that was cannibalized for FORTUNE’S PAWN, PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, and the upcoming trilogy finale, MASTER’S ENDGAME, was the novel I was shopping around at the time I hooked up with Pro Se, a huge 850 page behemoth of a doorstop that took four years to write. It started as a prequel to what will be the next novel series, which is partially written too. When that next series is done, it will lead directly up to the events in THE HUNTRESS OF GREENWOOD.
I have five different story arcs within this one big world, and plenty more possibilities. That’s kind of why I needed an imprint I guess. LOL
You really hit your stride in ‘Prophecy’s Gambit’ the second book in this series. What in your estimation made the second novel a smoother flowing piece than the excellent first novel?
I definitely felt that way about PROPHECY’S GAMBIT too, though its predecessor FORTUNE’S PAWN was Pro Se’s best selling book for quite a while. I think what made the difference is that I had a lot more experience writing pulp by the time I tackled the second book, so it was easier for me to sense when the action needed speeding up. Also, I didn’t have to lay as much groundwork in the second book, and my main character was adult throughout. Much of PROPHECY’S GAMBIT is new material, and I’m a better, more experienced writer and editor now than I was at the time I wrote the weighty tome these stories were cut from.
One thing that I have consciously tried to do is to straddle a line between writing traditional sword & sorcery fantasy and heroic pulp fantasy. That is a very tricky balance to accomplish because there are very distinct differences in pacing and character development, and you have to understand that contrast to know where and how to blend it. It makes the writing harder, but I know I have fans on both sides of the fence, so it is worth some extra effort to give all of them something they can savor and enjoy. That’s my ultimate goal, and it can be done. The longer you work at it, the better you get.
Is there anything of Nancy in any of your characters in this series?
Yes, I’d say there’s a heaping bucket of me in there, sprinkled liberally throughout the stories. You can see it somewhat with Callie, because while she is an innocent individual thrown into dangerous and difficult circumstances beyond her wildest imagination; she always finds her strength somewhere within and rises to the occasion. The wild and stubborn streak she has is also a lot like me. LOL In Callie’s case, her strength is in her willingness to fight back rather than crumble, and that comes from a combination of her mixed Dwarven and Human heritage and the sheer doggedness of a orphan determined to survive. There will be future characters that have other aspects of my personality; they’re just waiting in the wings for their cue to walk out and greet you all.
I have to admit the Elf Lord Levanti is very much modeled after my dad—a master negotiator within his company union, someone who could get sworn enemies to sit down at a table and hash things out civilly. Dad didn’t have as much of a cool head or subtle way with words as Levanti, but he was as inspiring as well as tireless and determined to win people over.
I tend to write a lot of strong and powerful yet rather plain and otherwise unassuming female characters because I think it’s an area that’s been underserved in speculative fiction as a whole and pulp in particular. Most of the famous ladies of classic pulp were gorgeous as well as deadly and efficient, which is fine; but it sets an impossible standard to measure your own life against, which is ultimately what we as they are for a very important reason: I want every girl or woman who reads them to be thinking, “Hey—that could be me on a good day!” I’d like all my male readers to focus on what this gal actually does instead of how she looks in that skimpy, sexy, skintight outfit as she kicks butt. Yet these ladies are still all woman, and very appealing even though they know how to handle themselves in a crisis—even if they aren’t classic beauties. If I have any hidden agenda, that’s probably it.
What else can we look forward to from you this coming year? For instance, is there a ‘Keener Eye’ novel on the horizon? Or more short stories?
For now I plan on keeping the KEENER EYE, as well as THE SONG OF HEROES and the SILVER PENTACLE, all short stories in series for Pro Se Presents. I think you can plan on another KEENER EYE tale later this year. Whenever it comes up, there is already another SONG OF HEROES written and in the queue. I might do a standalone story or two for Pro Se Presents if and when I get the chance.
On the imprint, you will be seeing another brand new Terran World series debut as an anthology. That is in editing right now and I hope to have it out somewhere in the first half of the year. I had another antho planned, introducing an additional new seroes, but the seminal story decided it wants to be a novel of its own, and the concept is big enough to support that. That I’m planning for a second half of the year release. As I said earlier, MASTER’S ENDGAME, which will end Callie’s solo main character focus, is likely to see print sometime early next year. I have to work on a Pro Se release schedule with these, and I don’t get any special favors, so this is all estimated.
I should have one or two Pulp Obscura stories appearing sometime later this year, and I’ve turned in a Tall Pulp story, so I’m hoping we might see that this year too. Again, that schedule is up to Pro Se. I have other Pro Se anthology/digest work that I’ve either turned in, have been working on, or will be starting soon. I can’t elaborate more than that and I have no idea when anyone will see those. This is a diverse bunch of projects for me and all I can say is you will be seeing my name on more than just my standard fantasy tales.
Sadly, I’ve had to turn down offers to be involved in some anthologies that I just didn’t have time to bring myself up to snuff for. I do pace myself, and I won’t take on a project I know I’d do a mediocre job on. That’s not fair to everyone else involved.
Along with the writing, as Pro Se’s Assistant Editor I get to periodically work on books by other writers as well as back up our other editors when they are swamped. I try and make myself available to other writers when they need to chat or have questions I can answer.
I’ve also branched out and done some work for other New Pulp publishers. Last year I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to Airship 27’s brand new anthology series SINBAD—THE NEW VOYAGES, which took on classic FX Ray Harryhausen style adventures and gave them a new international cast of characters and a decidedly pulpy twist. That was a fun story to write! I’d love to turn out another one of those this year if I ever get caught up, but I have thrown my hat in the ring for another Airship 27 project that must come first. Just recently Mechanoid Press released MONSTER EARTH, which I know you reviewed Ralph. What could be more fun that writing in an alternative earth where giant Kaiju type monsters have supplanted nuclear armaments in the Cold War?  That story was also one of my favorite ‘write to the bible’ projects and I’d love to pen another. And, I’ve just been approached by another startup group on a project I can’t talk about, but will certainly consider once I have all the details because the premise and projected series title sounds very good. So yeah, my New Pulp dance card is pretty doggoned full!
And don’t forget, I write a bi-monthly column for the New Pulp site. I sit down at the keyboard and open a vein, rambling about whatever topic of writing and loving pulp happens to catch my fancy.
Are you experimenting with any different types of genres this coming year?
All the time! I’m primarily a fantasist, but the opening paragraph that became the first KEENER EYE was given to me as a challenge, and it became my first foray into Private Eye fiction. For various projects lately I’ve penned a Western, a swashbuckling adventurer of Spanish California (no, not Zorro); a team of post-apocalyptic elemental superheroes with dashes of steampunk, horror, and time travel science fiction; a femme fatale adventuress and scum buster in a modern setting, a local legend set in a historical backdrop, and a good old fashioned super heroine with gadgets galore going up against a particular costumed villain and the evil mastermind that backs him. I still have options on a 1930s island adventure tale, maybe something involving a jungle lad, and more Sinbad and giant Kaiju monsters. I am breathlessly awaiting the debut of a rather quirky little magical series with younger fans in mind that is going to keep me and two writing partners very busy. So while I’m most comfortable in a sword & sorcery fantasy setting and can write faster that way, I find with enough time and research I can tackle just about anything.
As authors, who were your favorites who inspired you the most?
I have pretty eclectic tastes. As a kid I adored Marguerite Henry horse stories, Walter R. Farley’s Black Stallion and Island Stallion series, and Walter E. Brooks Freddy The Pig—who had the most outrageous and entertaining adventures! Anything with dogs or horses as the main characters was fair game for me back then. Jack London and John Steinbeck were early teen faves because they could tell gritty, riveting tales with characters and settings you could see in your mind, and I read some James Michener for the richness of his historical settings. I was that weird kid in high school who actually enjoyed the writing of ‘the bard of the common man’ William Shakespeare, even though they made him boring as heck by dissecting every story he retold into units of study arbitrary to some highbrow literary agenda. I just read them as entertaining stories based on snippets of civilization’s comic or tragic history, and blocked out the rest of the people trying to guess what his motive was in penning this line or that passage.
In my late teens I was handed some copies of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which started my rabid love of fantasy. That ‘big world’ backdrop idea came solidly from Tolkien. Interestingly enough, it was poets like Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost who taught me how to get a lot of description and emotion packed into very few words. As I got deeper into the speculative fiction world, while I would read all kinds of horror, science fiction, and fantasy and plenty of crossover genres, but it was always the fantasy worlds that enthralled me. Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Terry Brooks, Terry Prachett, and Piers Anthony are all favorites. The female authors were especially inspirational, for many of them had struggled through an era where women in speculative fiction had a very tough time getting taken seriously.
About the only classic pulp authors I had read were Robert E. Howard and C.L. Moore. Ms. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry I bought as a discounted omnibus and became entranced with her red haired warrior maid (why are they always red haired?). I had read some non-Howard Conan novels back in my teens, and while they were entertaining, I had no idea of the sheer breathless pacing of Howard’s original pulp stories until I picked up an omnibus of  his. By Crom!—Howard could keep you turning pages, anxiously wanting to know what was going to happen next. That was my real introduction to classic pulp, though I didn’t appreciate it at the time.
It’s very important to read outside your favorite genre—in fact, read all kinds of stuff. You need to get a handle on how complex ideas can be broken down and best purveyed, and how to work in details outside the genre that make a story come alive, and you can’t get that from sticking with one genre only. You’ll go stale quickly unless you broaden your reading horizons. Even if what you read is a great example of what not to write, you’re already ahead of the game.
What setting do you like writing in the best? Different worlds, such as the ‘Fortune’s Pawn’ series is set in? The ‘classic’ pulp era of the 30’s and 40’s? Or the current time, such as the ‘Keener Eye’ shorts have been set in, and why?
I’m always most comfortable in my element, immersed in some fantastic quasi-medieval, mythological setting, but really—I write whatever interests me that comes my way. If you think about it, the classic pulp writers were doing the same thing, giving you everything they could. They wrote in what to them would have been contemporary settings to places that were exotic, futuristic, outlandish, ancient and alien. As a pulp writer, you have to be prepared to pack your bags and go just about anywhere in space and time you need to in order get that story done.
What is the next big project that you are looking forward to starting on?
Oh there’s always something on my agenda! The biggest current project I have is that novel in progress that I thought was going to be only a short story. That thing started out as a book I was writing on a Tandy 1000 computer on dot matrix printed fanfold paper—yeah, it’s that old. Still good stuff in there though. It will establish a series that I already have a couple of short stories ready for, but didn’t have the genesis tale written. Then I have MASTER’S ENDGAME waiting in the wings, and if you thought PROPHECY’S GAMBIT was exciting, this beats the snot out of it! I’m just hoping I can rope it down into one final novel in that series, it’s got tons of stuff going on and all those subplots have to be tied in.
Of course there are lots of smaller projects too. I’m going to be busy all year long. I should have no problem filling two more anthologies in 2014, and depending on when MASTER’S ENDGAME comes out, I wouldn’t rule out another novel.
Any of your work you would particularly like to spotlight here and tell the world to go out and buy right now? Feel free.
How about all of it?  LOL!
Seriously though, rather than just pinpoint one particular work if you’re not sure, pick a genre I’ve written in that comes closest to something you’d like, and get yourself a paper or an inexpensive E-copy in a format your electronic gizmo can handle. There are a lot of choices out there as far as what will work on what device, and you’re not spending a fortune on them. You’re not just supporting me either, because in the anthologies outside my imprint and Pro Se Presents, I’m usually coupled with the work of other writers as well as editors, artists, and setup folks who put every ounce of care into what they do. Do support the independent publishers, because most of them are doing this as a sideline, with day jobs and family demands, because they love New Pulp and Classic Pulp so much. We want to give you, our readers, some alternative to what Madison Avenue thinks you need to read. Every time we sell a book we smile, because it makes all the hard work and head banging getting these things to print worth it. I know I give writing and editing everything I have, and down at this level we do most of our own self-promotion too. It takes an incredible amount of creative energy to get books out, and we’re doing something I never would have dreamed of when I started thinking bout being published over 20 years ago.
Besides, when you buy one of my books, it keeps me from wandering the streets, begging for dark chocolate. LOL
Thanks for playing Nancy, it’s greatly appreciated, and as always it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Folks, give Nancy a big round of applause!
My pleasure Ralph.