Ami Blackwelder Interview
with Craig Hansen (SHADA)
with Craig Hansen (SHADA)
1) What inspires your writing, your muse?
It depends on the project.
For SHADA, which kicks off the Ember Cole series, there were three levels of inspiration.
First, I very much admire the Stephen King story, "The Body," which was part of his DIFFERENT SEASONS collection and made into the movie STAND BY ME. I admired that story so much that I've always wanted to do something that might aspire to favorable comparisons.
When I asked myself how I wanted to introduce readers to Ember Cole, I formed the core concept of the story around the same core concept of "The Body." Specifically, I wanted to tell the story of a shared camping trip during the summer before four friends go their separate ways by entering high school.
The core difference is that while King's story centered around four boys, mine centers on four girls. After that base inspiration, I allowed SHADA to become its own story, but it began life as my take on "The Body."
The second inspiration is how much I enjoyed gathering around a campfire and swapping ghost stories when I was younger. SHADA is kind of a ghost story. Or at least a story that's haunting.
The third level of inspiration is less obvious in SHADA but will become more prominent in future installments to the Ember Cole series. It's this: I loved comic books as a kid.
The one problem I had with the whole "extraordinary powers" thing is that it seemed there were so many of these folks in Marvel and DC Comics that they started to feel less special. And few of the non-super-powered characters felt as interesting or important, except in how they related to the powered characters.
So with the Ember Cole series, I'm doing a bit of a comic book thing, though it's probably closer to paranormal suspense in the final analysis. I'm telling the story of one special girl with some special abilities.
But she's not going to put on a costume and fight crime, or move to New York, or anything like that. She's a high school freshman trying to survive homework, a stressful and imperfect family life, social cliques, romantic attractions and that sort of stuff. While a handful of people like her may exist - people with special abilities - they will be few and far between.
Also, there will always be more normal folks in the world of Ember Cole than those with supernatural talents. EMBER actually began for me as a concept for a graphic novel or comic book series that I never quite got off the ground.
So that's the third inspiration for SHADA and the Ember Cole series.
2) If you couldn't write, what would you do?
Probably become homeless. Not that I'm making Stephen King money quite yet, mind you. But most of my non-novelist day jobs have always depended heavily on my writing ability as well.
Take that out of my skill set… make me illiterate or chop off my hands or somehow make it impossible for me to write, and I guess I'd have to work something I'm not well-suited for. I'd probably have ended up dead by now, because I wouldn't have been any good at those other things.
Now, if the parameters are just, "You can't be a writer, but you're not illiterate or anything," I was pretty interested in acting and singing back in my younger years. In fact, I've nurtured my singing talent ever since, even though it's not my number one passion, like writing.
I had the head of a tiny recording studio tell me once I should be earning a living off my voice, for whatever that's worth. So I guess I'd be camping out at X-Factor audition locations, since I'm too old for American Idol.
3) Who is your favorite author? Book?
Favorite author? There's not just one. My top three traditionally published authors are Stephen King, James Patterson, and probably Faye Kellerman. My top three indie authors are Victorine Lieske, L.J. Sellers, and probably David McAfee.
Of all those, King is tops because I've been reading his stuff longer than anyone else's.
My favorite book on the traditionally-published side is the novella, "The Body," by Stephen King. My favorite indie book is NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS by Victorine Lieske.
4) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In the summer between eighth and ninth grade, just as I was entering high school. (Just like the kids in SHADA.)
That's when I heard back from Minnesota's COMPAS program and found out my short story, "The S.S. Nova," had been accepted into their statewide anthology that year, and I would receive two contributors' copies as payment. (I still have one of those copies.)
A few months later, I was in Saint Paul, MN, doing a public reading with all the other contributors. That whole experience hooked me.
5) Have you gone the traditional route? Indie route? or both?
Well, considering I've been an active writer for thirty-two years, (I'm forty-five), yeah. I tried for decades to reach print the traditional way. I came close a couple times, got some short works published, excelled in journalism, but never broke through with a novel, never landed a gig writing comic books, nothing.
So I'm relatively new to the indie route. I have to be extremely hard on myself to make sure my books are professional-level reads, but I do know the difference, even in my own work. I've sat in an editor's chair more than once.
One nice thing, though, is that with the indie route, I'll never again have to open a letter or an email and read, "Unfortunately, your novel does not meet our current needs. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors."
Boilerplate stuff and nothing personal, I know, but after the first twenty-five years of that, it gets a bit grating on even the most patient of folks.
6) What advice can you give for writers out there looking to promote?
The first bit of advice I'd give is, don't sweat the promotional bit too much early on. Pour your time into writing the best novels you can, and really make them as good as they can possibly be.
Once you have at least two published titles, you can start doing a little promotional work, but don't go full-bore until you're reached four or five books available. Because until you get to that level, your sales will be slow no matter what you do.
Here's what I did: when I released my first novel, I did a week of blog-touring. Most of the rest of the time, I just relied on blogging and Twitter and Facebook.
For SHADA, I'm doing a couple really intensive weeks for sure, and a third may be added. But that's it. So maybe the winning formula is do no more than a week of intensive promotion for each novel you have out. One week if you have one title, two weeks for your second title, three weeks promoting your third, and so on. I'd probably stop adding weeks once I reached a month, because eventually you just need to get back to writing.
And promotion takes a lot of time and energy - resources that could be invested in writing and producing more books. The more titles you have, the better.
7) Name three places readers can find you?
My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Online, they can visit my website at www.craig-hansen-com, follow me on Twitter at @craigahansen, or track me down on Kindleboards.com, where I hang out sometimes.
8) Tea or coffee?
Neither. Never been big into hot bitter beverages. I used to drink a lot of pop, but much of that has caffeine, too. So lately I've been doing sparkling water; the kind with an essence of a flavor, but no sugar and no artificial sweeteners, either. Just ice-cold, bubbly water.
9) Morning or night?
Nighttime, definitely. That's when I do my best writing. I'm not an early morning person at all.
10) Cats or dogs?
When I was single and working in journalism, I owned a cat. As long as I came home once a day to check on his food and water, and cleaned the litter box once a week, my cat could take care of himself. By nature, cats are mostly self-sufficient.
By nature, a dog would have been too co-dependent when I was single. It's not like I could skip out on covering a fire, or a board meeting, or a high school football game, or production night at the paper, and say, "Sorry, gotta go now, it's time to walk the dog."
But I've always enjoyed both, and now that I'm married we own one of each. Plus, I'm no longer in journalism, so I'm at home more.