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Monday, February 18, 2013
Nancy Hansen Interview
Ralph's Rants interviews Nancy Hansen!
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!
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!
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.
you always have the calling to write? Or was it something you came upon later
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 ofmy 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
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.
‘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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ofhis. 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.
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.
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.
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
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!