Derrick Ferguson: Who is Tommy Hancock?
Tommy Hancock: It might be easier to answer with who I’m not, but we’ll leave that for another interview. I am a father of three kids I dearly love (Braeden, Alex, and Kailee), husband to Lisa, who is overdue for her mental evaluation because she is still putting up with me, and an avid idea guy. By that I mean I have ideas for stories and projects and events and…and…well, stuff all the time. I’ve always been that way and it’s driven me into a whole lot of interesting directions. Probably defined me more than anything else has, that urge to create, to get ideas out. It’s definitely shown me my strengths and weaknesses.
DF: Where do you reside and what do you do for a living?
TH: I live in Melbourne, Arkansas, a little town north of Batesville, Arkansas, which is a slightly bigger town about 90 miles north of Little Rock.
I am currently an investigator for an Attorney. Not necessarily Pulp material, but sometimes it gets really interesting. And definitely inspires stories.
DF: Tell us something about your background.
TH: Grew up that kid who wrote his first story in third grade and used his friends as the heroes. Never stopped writing after that. By eighth grade, turned the stories into a script that we used to talk our English Teacher, Mrs. Sifford, into letting us act out. Moved into theater that way, into audio drama from there, and somewhere along the way I collected comics, old time radio, books, and Pulps. My parents and little sister didn’t really understand how I was a part of the foursome they called a family because my interests didn’t fit any of theirs. So, I sort of got on a kick of searching out similar minds. Took a while, but found a whole passle of ‘em in 1997 in the world of Fan Fiction. From there, while I built a pretty neat family of my own, worked on my own original stuff until Pro Se happened.
DF: What are your influences?
TH: As eclectic as my interests. I am a huge Mystery/Detective fan and a writing influence is most definitely Robert B. Parker. But I draw a lot from Hammett, from L’amour, Stuart Kaminsky, Steven J. Cannell (his television work), and a handful of Pulp types as well.
Also, my writing is heavily influenced by my love of old TV and radio shows. There’s something about the economy of 23 minute shows that I love and has given me the ability to tell a story in short form tightly and succinctly.
I also have three major influences, believe it or not, that are musical in nature. The body of works of Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, and Meatloaf hugely impact my storytelling. All three have different ways to tell a story, but they share one things-the almost cinematic way the stories they tell unfold.
DF: Which do you like better: writing, editing or publishing?
TH: That’s a hard question to ask simply because, to be honest, they’re the same for me. Not that that they are the same activity, but what I derive from each is the same. The concept of contributing to new stories, to being part of a creative process, to putting even just a little bit of me into a tale…I can do that as an author, editor, and publisher. So, really, they’re all equal with me.
I’ve got a huge focus now on all aspects of creating, not just putting words on the page. I am a major part of the storytelling process in publishing and even as an editor. Also, my creativity has taken on a life of its own, evolving through conventions, events, and such. I’ve learned that I am as much a part of the story as the stories we publish and I write. So, being in panels, joining in discussions about writing and such, and coming up with special events is a new thing creatively for me in the writing sense. Although, to be honest, I’ve always made room for the creative stuff I wanted to do.
DF: What is your philosophy of writing?
TH: It’s pretty simple. Have the idea first. Don’t write until You have the idea. And even then, don’t write until the idea has You. I am not a believer in the concept that stories go where they want to once the writing process starts. The writer is the driver at that point. But I firmly feel like while the idea is still just that, an abstract construct teasing one’s mind, then that is the moment where anything can happen. And when it does, when the idea has you enough, then You write. And You write until it’s done, even if that takes five years and you do other stories in between. I have several ideas in progress and some that are just pieces…that I will write, that will end up in something I do. Because the ideas had me before I started writing them down.
DF: What writing projects are you working on now?
TH: A lot that I’m really behind on. One of the curses of doing a ton of things is that other things get left behind. But that’s part of growing and I’ve tackled the ‘No, this can wait’ philosophy that anyone who is overwhelmed sort of slides into. I’m working at this moment on a few things, including The Rook Volume 7, ‘Nomorrow (the follow up to my first novel, Yesteryear), The Adventures of Nicholas Saint, all for Pro Se. Then I’m working on a Fight Card novella as well as a comic book and a couple of other things I can’t reveal for Moonstone. I also have a two book deal with Dark Oak Press, one being a hard-boiled detective novel, which I am working on currently.
DF: What’s the best thing you’ve written so far?
TH: Either “Lucky”, a story based on the Nightbeat radio show for a collection this past year from Radio Archives or my first published story, “Crossing Contention”, a western short featuring Virgil Earp, a story published by Airship 27.
DF: Where did your love affair with Pulp begin?
TH: Standing in an Kmart looking up at a spinner rack that had books on it and pulling a Doc Savage omnibus off of it. Started like blazes right then and didn’t stop.
DF: What’s the best advice you can give an aspiring writer who wants to venture into the wild and wooly world of New Pulp?
TH: Read. Read what it is You think You want to write. Then, when You decide to write for a Publisher, read what they publish. That is a must, as far as I’m concerned. A question I always ask new writers who approach Pro Se is ‘What of ours have You read?’
DF: How has New Pulp grown from where it was to where it is now?
TH: I think the readership has grown, although not where any of us want it to be. I also think, and this may irritate a few people, that New Pulp has sort of reached its capacity in the way most companies have approached it. We feed a niche and that niche has plenty to eat with Pro Se and other companies out there, not to mention what is out that really is New Pulp even though it doesn’t call itself such. If Pro Se and others want to continue on, want to leave a mark outside our little circle, then we have to consider different ways of doing that without compromising what we want to produce.
Part of that means, at least for Pro Se, using the wide brush that I’ve always painted what Pulp is with. To appeal to readers who wouldn’t think to pick up a book that someone says is a super hero book or a mystery book, to find writers, artists, and stories that fit what we do, but also to widen the reach of our work, New Pulp has to push beyond itself.
DF: What is the fascination that we as writers and readers have for the Classic Pulp Heroes?
TH: I can tell you what it is for me. It’s to make sure their stories go on. When I love a character, the two words I hate the most are ‘The End’. So I enjoy reading new stories of established characters, even bad ones, because at least I know the story goes on. They keep on living.
DF: Tell us The Secret Origin of Pro Se.
TH: Well, one secret that isn’t really is I didn’t start Pro Se. I have a partner, Fuller Bumpers, who worked as a writer and actor in LA for several years, who came back to Arkansas to be a lawyer and have a family, but couldn’t beat the bug of wanting to create. Fuller brought me on board as we got to know each other in our regular jobs and he found out I was a creative like him. We started out looking at audio drama and that was fun, but not where either of our hearts really were. So, with my learning about the New Pulp Movement (not yet named such at that point), we decided to push in that direction and resurrected the Pulp magazine, then moved on to books and the rest is what Pro Se is today.
DF: Why have your own publishing house?
TH: That’s a question that probably should be harder to answer than it is. Because I wanted to. I wanted to have books I’d want to read and although some companies were doing what I liked, I knew the only way I’d really get books that I’d love to have on my shelf was to have a hand in producing them.
DF: What can we expect from Pro Se in 2014?
TH: A lot. I’m pretty well known for teases, you know, hinting at what’s coming…so that’s what I’ll do in response to this. A new imprint that takes a rather unique look at Genre Fiction... Women of Fantasy (and that's all I’m allowed to say at this point)... a Crossover that will shake one Universe at home in Pro Se to its foundations...a New Pulp Novel by a Classic Pulp Author...Another new imprint that will definitely pull back the steamy underbelly of Pulp and show how raw it can be…and the launch of something that no one else in our corner of publishing is doing that we think it is high time for. And that isn’t all…have to leave people wanting more.
DF: Where do you see Pro Se five years from now?
TH: I don’t really have a clear concept of where Pro Se will be in five years. I have a plan, one that I’ve sort of kept close to the vest. In five years, we’ll be in the third phase of it and all I can say is, if it goes anywhere near like I plan, then Pro Se will be a little bit of everywhere.
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Tommy Hancock like?
TH: Very busy. Literally a juggling act. I get up, I pulp, I take care of the family, go to work, Pulp when I can get the time there, come home, do the family thing, then Pulp more.
Although that is pretty much a day in day out sort of thing, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had people say, “wow, to be so focused on Pro Se and Pulp, that’s gotta be a lot of work and lonely.” It is a lot of work, but the instant it feels like work to me, I’ll walk away. And as far as being alone, not in the least. I’ve got a great staff at Pro Se. Morgan Minor is the best wingwoman ever. And then I have a circle of friends, sort of my own little Algonquin Round Table, that figuratively and at least digitally literally surround me and keep me going. So, I’m good with a Pulp filled daily routine.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Tommy Hancock: That’s about it. Thanks for the opportunity