Derrick Ferguson: Who is Nancy Hansen?
Nancy Hansen: That’s a tough question to answer simply because I’m a lot of different things all rolled into one messy package. I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. I live on an old farm out in the country. I’m a writer, editor, avid reader, gardener, crafter, amateur naturalist. I like to haunt flea markets, thrift shops, and yard sales looking for more things to clutter my house. I have a lifelong fascination with pre-industrial culture, mythology, and the occult. I love dogs and cats, kids, and all kinds of interesting little critters with fur, feathers, and scales. I can hold a tune and bang on a 12 string guitar. I cook, and my cookie baking is legendary around these parts. I have waaaay too much yarn and not enough time to crochet things from it. About the only thing I don’t do anymore is have is an actual day job.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the government you do for a living?
NH: I currently reside in beautiful, rural Eastern Conneticut, in one of the last agricultural and open woodland areas in this part of the state. I’ve been fortunate not to have to work outside the home for many years. I was a stay-at-home mom for my boys growing up, and my mother lived with us, so I had enough time and helping hands to pursue interests and hobbies that might turn into a later life career. Writing was one of those. Right now, the IRS knows I am a writer, because I actually got to claim royalties on one tax return.
DF: How long have you been writing?
NH: There are two answers to that question.
#1) All my life; because I’ve always had a love affair with the written word, and I’m a natural born story teller. I was that kid in school who didn’t mind book reports, essay questions, and term papers because I knew I’d find something interesting to say. I read a lot, and after a while you develop a style of writing you prefer, so I guess the progression to writer was a natural thing. I’ve kept journals and written 8 page letters to people.
#2) I started writing with the intention of getting published sometime in the late 80s, when my boys were elementary school age. I had tried music, marketing my artwork (I dabble) and a craft supply business before I settled on writing as the best fit with my lifestyle and temperament. I’m very much a creative maniac ‘behind the scenes’ sort of person, so sequestering myself away somewhere that I could let my weird imagination roam freely was very appealing. It also fit my home life the best, because while I was learning the trade, I could still be there for the family. Writing has no set hours, you can work any time of the day or night, and I did, burning that candle on both ends. I’ve had my mind fixed solidly on fantasy fiction since the mid-90s and switched my style from mainstream to pulp back in 2010, when Pro Se came along.
DF: What’s the best advice you can give a woman wanting to write Pulp?
NH: Actually, I don’t think there’s any gender difference when it comes to the actual writing, because it’s pretty open and welcoming field right now within all the indie publishing companies. So this applies to anyone who wants to write pulp. First off, don’t be the least bit intimidated by what you perceive pulp to be, because it’s a lot less mysterious than you’d think. It’s a particular technique of writing action adventure/heroic fiction with a fast pace that has permeated all pop culture media. It can be learned, and whatever you want to write can be adapted to it. Read some pulp—both classic and modern—to become acquainted with how it works. Sit in on some discussions or panels, and simply ask a few questions. Don’t be shy, because most people in this indie part of the industry are very generous with their time and expertise, and we are often available on social networking sites. You can learn a lot just by lurking, because we all love to talk about what we do and why.
DF: What’s the best thing about writing Fantasy?
NH: Fantasy has always appealed to me as a reader, because it so successfully takes me out of this world, into one where I can relive my childhood imagination vacations. I started writing it, because I hungered for more of the kind of stories I loved, and decided I would just have to create them myself. I am somewhat of an idea mill, and my mind likes to run away somewhere and play hooky for a while, so having a legitimate reason to be woolgathering makes me seem a lot less eccentric. My kids always patiently explained to their friends that mom is a writer, like its some kind of paranormal status, and I suppose it is. My family has always been very supportive. These days, if I’m walking around in tee shirts with dragons and wizards on them, mumbling to myself about swords and casting spells, nobody in my household thinks twice about it.
DF: Tell us about Pro Se Press and what you do there.
NH: I started out with Pro Se back in April 2010 as a staff writer. My dear friend Lee Houston Jr. got his foot in the door by the recommendation of another writing pal, and I begged him to share my name with Tommy Hancock, who’s always been the Pro Se front man. I sent Tommy two audition pieces (Masquerra and The Storm Lord & The Song of Heroes: Lori’s Lament) and not only did he like them, but he published them both and asked if I had more. That opened the floodgates on my files as well as new ideas, and started a year long barrage of stories old and new. As I went along, I learned to adapt what I had been doing to the pulp style, and never looked back.
Currently, I am still a regular contributor to Pro Se Presents, as well as have my own imprint, HANSEN’S WAY, which carries the bulk of my Terran World fantasy stories. I’ve written for the Pulp Obscura collaboration anthologies with Altus Press, and I’ve been tapped for other in-house anthologies as well. I write far more than sword & sorcery fantasy these days; I’ve dipped my toes in a lot of other pulpy sub-genres.
I started editing for Pro Se when we had the larger format magazines, where I handled Peculiar Adventures. I got a battlefield promotion of sorts after we started printing novels and the manuscripts began pouring in faster than Tommy could dedicate his normal 40-hour days to them. I am now Assistant Editor, which sounds very impressive but really means I fill in wherever I can, mostly editing book manuscripts. Other than that, I’m sort of an unofficial ambassador and sounding board, because I like chatting with people about what Pro Se is and what we do.
DF: Why do you have your own imprint there?
NH: They asked me nicely, and I said sure. LOL! Seriously, I had so much material written in this one particular fantasy world I created—five separate series with dedicated characters and settings so far—it just made more sense to move it out of the mainstream submissions and into a sideline. It also helps to have those short stories out of the magazines, leaving more room for other submissions, as well as for me to experiment with different genres.
DF: What’s your theory on writing Fantasy and how did you modify and/or adapt your style of writing Fantasy to Pulp?
NH:Fantasy runs the gamut, because the only unifying factor is a world based on some sort of mythological, magical, or occult concept rather than hard science and technology, or a recognizable modern or historical backdrop. It also adapts well to crossing-over with other genres like horror, westerns, mystery, science fiction, etc. So it’s really a wide-open field, which I enjoy immensely, as I have plenty of space to play with ideas.
As far as writing pulp fantasy, what I had to learn right off is that it’s absolutely vital to ramp up the pacing. I came into this as a mainstream-targeted writer, so my novels were ponderous and slow moving, and my short stories were not as action-packed as they needed to be. I can’t stress the pacing enough; the breathless action and endless adventure is what makes pulp… well, pulpy. I didn’t have a strong background in pulp like most of my peers, so this was kind of a ‘learn as you go’ experience for me. Once I understood how it works—and a lot of that came from the editing I was doing at the time—I found out it’s not as daunting as I thought.
Over the last couple years I’ve learned to adapt my perception of what diehard sword & sorcery fantasy readers expect to what pulp fans crave, with reasonable success. It requires straddling a line between telling an energetic tale with plenty of things going on, and still retaining the tried and true hero’s quest in a big world backdrop with lush details. Yes, it can be done, though it takes a lot of forethought, and every word has to count. I’ve fallen so in love with the smaller size and higher action and adventure aspects of the pulp stories, I don’t think I’d want to go back to writing the big doorstop books.
DF:Do you enjoy editing?
NH:I’ll answer that with a qualified yes. I do enjoy editing more when I am working on someone else’s manuscript, because I get to read a lot of kewl stuff! I’ve always liked working with new writers, so I’ll often get things that need some extra TLC, because I have the time and patience to work closely with an author to get the very best out of their brainchild. It’s been a very positive experience for me, and nothing makes me smile more than helping someone previously unpublished get their first book in print. It’s like seeing Christmas morning through your kid’s eyes, and remembering how that felt…
I like editing my own stuff a lot less, but it’s one of those dirty little jobs of writing you absolutely must do. I tell other authors I get edited too, and not just by me. Nobody is perfect, and I absolutely require a second set of eyes that makes sure my prose is readable. It’s easier for me to see problems with someone else’s manuscript than in my own, because I’ve read it over so many times, my brain tends to skip the problem areas.
That said, editing is a lot of work, so I prefer to intersperse it with actual writing whenever that’s feasible. I get burned out after a long manuscript edit, and long to start tapping those keys and making stories again.
DF:What can we expect from Nancy Hansen in 2013?
NH:More of the same, and more new stuff too. My sequel to FORTUNE’S PAWN, titled PROPHECY’S GAMBIT; is due out very soon from Pro Se Press.
I have a brand new anthology collection for the imprint written and in editing right now, and another novel in progress with a second on the back burner—that second novel will be the third in the series started by FORTUNE’S PAWN. I’ve already contributed a short story to Pro Se’s TALL PULP anthology, featuring a local Connecticut legend; not sure if that will be out this year or not. I still have those two previous Pulp Obscura tales awaiting publication and expect to be involved with at least a couple others this year.
I think you’ll see my name popping up in a couple other popular Pro Se titles. As far as Pro Se Presents, I’ve committed to continuing my Silver Pentacle, Song of Heroes, and The Keener Eye series, and along with stories already submitted and accepted that have yet to see print, I promised to write at least one more new tale for each of those ongoing titles. Now and then a standalone story will suggest itself, so I won’t rule that out either. I have a pirate yarn I’ve been mulling over that looks to be at least a novella in length. I also have something interesting coming up for the younger pulp fans that I can’t discuss right now, so stay tuned; because this is something both Pro Se and I are very excited about, and over time, it involves the collaborative efforts of two other long time writing pals.
I expect I’ll be doing more editing for Pro Se as well.
You’re going to see my name on titles by other publishers as well. I’ve already done one story for the inaugural volume of Airship 27’s SINBAD, THE NEW VOYAGES, and I’d love to do another. Once I have the time, that and perhaps another AS27 anthology might be getting a submission from me.
I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of Mechanoid Press’ first MONSTER EARTH anthology, in which I have a story as well. Definitely would love to do another of those!
Other than that, I am open to any and all suggestions. I’m finally at the point where I’ve had to turn down some work because of lack of time. It’s a good place to be.
DF:What’s a typical Day In The Life of Nancy Hansen like?
NH: My days vary quite a bit depending on who is home and what’s on the agenda here, where we are renovating and most of the work is being done by family in our ‘spare’ time. Right now, my so-called office is in one end of the open dining room, right off the kitchen and in heart of the home, so I am front and center for everything that goes on. It gets chaotic. Most days I get up in the AM, schlep around online during breakfast and feeding the dog, making my email and social network rounds, Sometime around midmorning to noon, I get down to the heavy duty work of writing or editing. While I am at work, I try and stay offline except for research and Dictionary.com, or maybe a quick weather check. I don’t game or get tied up in anything non-writing related, though now and then I might go off on a research tangent. That said, the phone rings, people stop by, I have to handle household chores or take the dog out.
Lunch is almost always at the desk, because I don’t want to lose my working mojo. I pick an ending time for the day depending on how things have been going and whether my eyes are too tired to continue (I have poor eyesight), who’s cooking, and whether I have anything else to do before bedtime. The evening hours are for going back to email and updating my online status, and maybe a bit of online TV, since we don’t have cable TV set up here yet. I have a lot of late nights when I’m busy catching up on some research or writing, maybe chatting online with other writers or fans. This is an all older adult household, so there’s no longer the regular chaos of kids running around making a racket, other than on holidays and special occasions.
So it’s me and the keyboard a good part of the day at least 5 times a week, and often all 7 days if we’re having a quieter weekend. Depending on the time of year, I might spend time out in the garden, or working on holiday projects, cooking, or at some other project. I am never one to sit idle and do nothing, I always have some project in my hands, even when I’m watching a movie. Now and then, I take time off for appointments, to go shopping, run errands and so on, but I try and cluster as much of that into one day as I can manage. Not being able to drive because of my eyesight, I have to depend on a ride, so I make the most of every outing.
On the noisiest construction days, when people are in and out and I might have to move around a lot, or on days when my elderly and chatty mom comes for a visit, unless I have a pressing deadline, I will set writing or editing aside and focus on housework or chores. I’ve learned to be flexible, because working from home means you are bound to get interrupted. The time gets made up somewhere else. I meet most of my deadlines regardless.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Nancy Hansen?
Nancy Hansen: Hmmm, tough question to answer. Let’s see…
I currently write a column for the New Pulp site called So...Why Pulp? where I open my brain and let things fall onto the page every other week. I have a passion for very dark but not very sweet chocolate, tuna salad, good coffee, fresh baked bread, and pecans. I collect fantasy figurines and odds and ends of swords, bows, knives and other medieval-type weaponry.
I’m dying to go to the UK and other European countries and tour castles, barrow graves, standing stones, and other sites that catch my fancy. I have an awful lot of houseplants and try very hard to remember to water them regularly. I’m bossy with an explosive temper, but it blows over quickly and I always try to remain tactful. I love a good laugh, even at my own expense. I tend to get obsessive about whatever my current interest of the moment is. And I do all this without the benefit of caffeine, which my system can no longer tolerate.
I will definitely be at Pulp Ark 2013, so if you want to come meet me, come looking for me at the Pro Se table. I hear we’re going to be very busy, but I’m the short & round woman with the long walnut brown hair going silver, the weird fantasy tee shirts, and green eyes behind thick glasses. I love meeting new people!