NINE FOR THE NEW (New Creator Spotlight)
AP: Nancy, welcome to ALL PULP! First, can you tell us about yourself, some personal background?
Back when my kids were young, I was a stay-at-home mom by choice and necessity. My oldest son has a neurological disorder and was struggling in school. My mother was recently widowed, depressed, and very dependent on me. We moved her in with us, and once things stabilized I started casting about for some sort of creative endeavor to focus career aspirations on. After playing around with both art and music for a while, and then completely failing at a craft supply selling business, I decided writing was what I really wanted to do. It’s very artistic and challenging, and doesn’t require as much time leaving home to sell your wares, which worked better with raising a family. There were a lot of demands on my time back then, but I was thinking about my own future too. I had a high school diploma and no job training, and money was pretty tight, so going back to school was out of the question. Instead I took a couple of writing correspondence courses from home. Best thing I ever did! Those focused lessons, along with teaching myself how to operate a computer and run a word processing program, really made a huge difference in what I was able to accomplish at the keyboard. Unfortunately I’m not an organized thinker and I’m a rotten typist, so if I was still using up correction ribbons by the case or trying to read my chicken scratch and cross-outs, I’d have given up writing a long time ago. I managed to get a few articles published here and there and took a couple prizes in local poetry contests, but getting my fantasy fiction in the hands of readers was always my passion, and that had been an elusive goal until recently.
AP: As a writer, what influences have affected your style and interests the most over the years? Do you have a particular genre/type of story you prefer to write?
NH: Well, besides the convergent interest areas, I’ve always been a huge fan of speculative fiction, especially epic/heroic fantasy—what is known in the mainstream market as ‘sword & sorcery’. As a kid I loved anything that had to do with Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Robin Hood, pirates, Japanese monster flicks, classic horror films, and the like. I devoured Jack London’s tales of the north and drooled over John Steinbeck’s ability to tell a funny, ironic, or heart-tugging story and still get an important point across. I discovered Sherlock Holmes as a young teen and spent an entire summer reading an omnibus hardcover someone tossed in the town dump! We got a lot of bundles of comic books that way too, and I read all I could. In my late teens, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy because a dear friend loaned them to me for the summer, and she also passed on some Conan stories written by authors other than Robert E. Howard. Along the way, someone gave me a box of romance novels with a copy of Andre Norton’s Catseye in it. Never read many of the romances, but I’ve worn out two paperback copies of that fantastic book. I had the high school librarians scouring the stacks for anything I hadn’t read, and that’s about the time Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire came out. I was the first kid in that school to read it, before it even went on the shelf. can be hard to take, invariably makes for a much better tale.
As soon as my sons were old enough to listen, I used to read bedtime stories to them. The older they got, the more complex books I would read, voice-acting the characters and explaining the tough words and concepts. Once they got involved in PC and console gaming, I would watch them play, and then grab a book for myself and read something to relax with before I went to sleep. Those were sometimes stressful days, and so I learned to select something entertaining to decompress with. I did read a little science fiction or horror, or the very occasional historical romance, but most often it was a beloved epic fantasy. Finding and falling in love with a copy of David Edding’s The Ruby Knight in the cutout bin at the local bookstore and then getting my first Howard Conan omnibus collection and devouring that are what put the idea in my head that maybe I should think about writing this stuff too. By then my bookshelves were groaning anyway, and my head was filled with ideas of how I would handle stories and characters like the ones I was reading.
So I guess it was just meant to be. Those influences were my first introduction to the world of pulp, and while I might not have called it that at the time, looking back I can see how I got here.
AP: What about genres that make you uncomfortable? What areas within pulp are a little bit intimidating for you as an author?
NH: I don’t know that there’s much in the way of writing I’m actually uncomfortable with. There are areas I’m not particularly interested in, and some I’m not all that skilled with—mainly because I don’t have enough reading experience. Slasher horror, hard sci-fi, bodice ripper romances, complex spy/mysteries, westerns, military and police stuff, and the noir kind of suspense stories that wind up being dark period pieces are all somewhat intimidating for me. I can’t stress enough though, if you want to write well in a particular area, you need to read a lot of what’s already been done, and if I ever want to write them that’s what I will do.
AP: Are you a pulp fan? If so, how has that affected you as a writer of pulps. If you aren’t a longtime fan, then why pulp?
NH: You know, if you had walked up to me and asked that question a year ago, I would have said it depends on what you consider pulp. This past year of being steeped in the entire pulp culture has shown me that it’s a pretty broad based definition. But to answer the first part of the question, yes I am a pulp fan because I love to read good stories full of action and adventures with clear cut heroes and villains.
In all honesty, I’m not writing any fiction now that is much different than what I always have done. I’ve just picked up the pace of the stories a bit. I always set out to write a story I’d love to read. I see pulp not as a separate genre, but a specific style of writing that encompasses many genres. What sets pulp apart is that it is very fast paced, as much action oriented as it is character driven, with heroes and villains that are distinctly defined. It’s wonderfully entertaining reading, (and darn fun to write too!) and that’s exactly what it was intended for. Pulp is the escapist fiction of the everyday reader-for-pleasure, and that’s why no matter how accepting or not the mainstream market has been, pulp has always managed to survive in one form or another. Like its many heroes, pulp is too hard boiled, direct, stubborn, and beloved by its many fans to go down without a fight.
I came to writing pulp through word of mouth about how a startup publishing group called Pro Se Productions was looking for writers. The attraction wasn’t because it was pulp per se, but because I could write the kind stories I love so much. I had to audition just like everyone else, and sent a total stranger named Tommy Hancock a couple of stories; and wonder-of-wonders, he actually liked them! In fact he said he wanted more, and I sure did want to write for someone regularly, so I signed on as a staff writer.
Just a word about writing in general to potential writers reading this… Be a pulp hero too, and never give up.
I’ve been writing seriously for almost 22 years now with limited success in the mainstream publishing industry. I’ve watched that market contract through buyouts and attrition, going from dozens of small companies to like 6 major houses. Getting published with the big houses is now mostly a numbers game involving marketability based on name recognition. The standard and genre fiction magazine and anthology markets that still survive have slush piles clogged with manuscripts from folks like us vying for a few precious pages between the ads and interviews with big names. Fortunately we live in an age where things like print-on-demand and E-copies make indie companies like Pro Se a viable possibility even without the hefty advertising budgets. I’m proud to be involved in what I see as a groundswell of frustrated talent turning to what works best—going directly to the public with what we have to offer. I’ve talked to a lot of self-published authors and other creative people in fields like music over the last few years, and the happiest, most fulfilled ones are doing just that—selling direct so that there are less flaming hoops to jump through to find an audience.
AP: What do you think you bring to pulp fiction as a writer?
NH: Because I haven’t read a lot of what you would consider classic pulp (yet), I’d have to answer that I have few preconceptions about what can be done in any particular way. Since many of my writing influences were in the mainstream market, what I write is very character driven, and you will always find very well defined people in my stories. I’m also big on settings. I want you to see what I visualize in my head. Not that other pulp writers don’t do that, but I came into this with an entire batch of work already established and so I know how these particular worlds work and what to expect from the main good guys and baddies.
Being a woman who happens to write pulp stories gives me a bit of an edge on creating strong female leads. I think that is one area that has been underserved in what we would consider classic pulp—that and positive characters with diverse racial, ethnic, and even gender preference. If you look at the success of the Harry Potter books or Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, you can see that even our younger readers love a good yarn with all sorts of exciting and dangerous things going on. Our audience has grown more diverse over the years, and pulp has more growing to keep up with them. I see a lot of good stuff out there now, and it’s nice to be on the cutting edge.
AP: You’re a staff writer at Pro Se Productions and you have several series going on there. Share a bit about them with us, if you would?
Roshanna the Huntress, The Windriders of Everice, The Vagabond Bards, The Sudarnian Chronicles and the brand new By The Wayside Tales are all set in the same world, a sort of classic fantasy good vs. evil, sword and sorcery setting. Each one has a particular set of main characters doing what they do best against that big backdrop.
Roshanna is a frontier ranger type character who is good with a bow or a knife. Because of her triple bloodline heritage of Human, Elf and Dwarf; she is tough, witty, and has a lot of charisma and empathy for others. She lives alone as a warder protecting an enchanted northern forest that has a portal between worlds hidden in it. She gets into all sorts of adventures, and her first story, “Of Kin and Clan”, just debuted in Pro Se’s Fantasy & Fear #3. Of all the characters I’ve written, she’s my favorite and the one I’d most love to be like.
The Windriders sagas take place farther south in a high mountain range, and involve a legion of mounted warriors on flying steeds that protect an area served by the one large pass through those mountains. They are lead by Neoma, the abdicated crown princess of the realm of Everice, and many of her recruits are young adult misfits needing a place to fit in. Think Black Sheep Squadron with warriors on flying horses fighting dragons and gryphons.
The Vagabond Bards are a fellowship of musically talented people committed to being teachers and keepers of the history of the land in a time of great upheaval. These roving bards get into a variety of adventures and each story features one or more of the group off doing what they do best—keeping the populace informed and working to make their world a better place. Picture them as a roving medieval Peace Corps with musical instruments and a penchant for good taverns and dependable transportation.
The Sudarnian Chronicles take place in another, well settled area of that same world, where there are all sorts of magical creatures and beings and plenty of things to keep the four young people who are the main characters busy. This story has a quartet of regular characters: Nicholas and Ethan, two orphaned refugee brothers—one skilled with fighting weapons and the other able to summon creatures and do some elementary wizardry; Sarita, a young girl of another culture who has natural abilities with healing, spirit calling, and clairvoyance; and Lauren, a tomboy of sorts who has a lot of gumption and great skill with a bow. A foursome of abilities that compliment and contrast, like the teams you find in many RPG games.
By The Wayside Tales is an offshoot of my last Vagabond Bards story, continuing the adventures of two guest characters I just fell in love with. Alexandre Louis Edouard Lebeau is a short-statured but feisty count-turned-adventuring cavalier, armed with sharp wit, impeccable style, and a flashing rapier. His half-Elven companion and ardent interest is the lovely and talented pickpocket, cat burglar, scam artist and highwaywoman Danika, AKA The Phantom Rose. They are by association now outlaws trying to do the right thing and clear their names while staying one step ahead of the hangman, sort of like a medieval setting Fugitive series. I dedicated their first standalone appearance “The Reluctantly Betrothed” to the benefit book being put together for Pulp Ark to donate to libraries as a way to get more pulp into the stacks. For now that is where they will remain, making appearances within benefit books, unless they develop a following of their own.
Three other series I have outside of this all encompassing world setting are The Song Of Heroes, the Companion Dragon Tales, and my newest venture, The Silver Pentacle.
The Song of Heroes has a more modern setting, but features the legendary Lorelei the Siren, who has been brought back to the world of the living by the ‘gods’ to find and eliminate some of the scummier villains of the world. As with all sirens, her biggest assets are her lovely good looks and her enchanting voice. Lori, as she is known, is rather a tragic figure in that she is atoning for her past sins as an enchantress who purposely shipwrecked sailors to steal from them. Being immortal, she will outlive anyone who loves her, and because she is bound to this crime busting life, she must always move on after each assignment is completed. She wears a magical bracelet and chained ring that, when disconnected, brings one or more of four very diverse ‘heroes’ who are doing similar penance. At times the differences between her associates and their intended targets are not so very marked, nor are all of the targets human either. Plenty of violence and adult topics implied in this series—still PG 13, but not for the kiddies, with her introductory adventure, “Lori’s Lament” having appeared in Pro Se Presents Fantasy and Fear # 1.
The Companion Dragons Tales are a similar modern setting with lots of magical overtones and all the bad puns you could ever want to read. J Little dragons become the familiar companions of various wizards, witches, enchantresses, and mages, many of which are also writers. Each magical person has a particular claim to fame, and each dragon has specific abilities. The adventures are set in worlds both known and fantastic, and it is the connection between the dragon and the human companion that drives the stories. The first one started as an online spoof by a writing friend, and once I was invited to join in, they kind of evolved into an entire world of their own. (I tend to complicate things…) While my original intention was to target younger readers, there’s plenty of appeal to all ages, as with the Harry Potter stories. What’s not to like about a world where the universal currency is based on chocolate, and you could be saved from attacking hack wordsmiths or evil clowns by ninja nuns and that famous adventurer, Rhode Island Smith? Nothing is sacred and everything possible is lampooned.
The Silver Pentacle is a brand new series for me, and it’s a real departure from anything else I’ve written. Take a post apocalyptic Earth, combine four elemental super beings with an androgynous demi-deity. Toss in some mythological gods and goddesses vying for control against the backdrop of an ongoing war fought by giant mechs, some ecological mayhem, and plenty of rifts in time and space bringing strange creatures and beings alive. Shake well, and give them a cosmic treasure hunt with a measure of steampunk and classic science fiction props, and the occasional cameo of a historical personage. I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading it. It’s been a challenge to write, and I love every moment of it. I’ve been told that the first SP story; “To Kindle A Fire” will be debuting in Peculiar Adventures #4. I’m putting the finishing touches on the second tale, “Where Fair Winds Do Blow”, right now. That one has Atlantean mermen, sea monsters, and pirates…
Whew, that’s all a lot of work, but also a labor of love. I enjoy having something new to pick up on any time I feel jaded by a particular story. And nope, I have no problem keeping them all straight. I write copious notes.
AP: You’re a woman writing fantasy pulp. Does the fact you’re female give you any sort of different perspective on pulp?
NH: I suppose it might, because from what I understand, my gender makes me a bit of an anomaly. But honestly, I think of myself as a pulp writer who just happens to be a woman. I do use a good amount of strong leading ladies and female sidekicks in my stories because I like the idea of giving women something more to do than romp around being hot and sexy or helpless. These ladies I’m writing are not barely clothed, half dressed supermodels or whimpering victims waiting to be saved. They’re gutsy gals from all walks of life muddling through, doing what they do best. I write plenty of male characters too, and a couple of gender conflicted/neutral ones. I’m working hard on getting more ethnicities into the mix, because I want the stories to reflect the diversity of my audience. People in the real world come in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes, colors, genders, experiences, and backgrounds; and we all want stories to contain characters and settings that feel familiar and comfortable. The tenets of pulp are pretty much the same no matter who you are or what you’re writing: fast paced action in an engaging tale, with heroes you’d be proud to share a victory drink with, and villains you’re glad to see trounced. The rest is in the tale itself, and if it’s done well, it doesn’t make a darn bit of difference who-all wrote it or what the particulars of the character’s dossier are.
AP: You’re an editor also for Pro Se. What do you edit and what do you think you bring to that position that can be of benefit to the writers you edit?
J I do copy edit everything I get, looking for the usual little typos, redundancies, and so on. But I also view those stories as a potential reader, trying to get a feel for what each author does well, where the strengths and weaknesses are, and how this story or series could work best for Pro Se in general and PA in particular. I don’t put myself on any pedestal just because I have an extra position after my name. I get edited too, and believe me, I make plenty of mistakes! From experience I can say that the feedback, though it sometimes
What I like about small companies like Pro Se are the interpersonal exchanges. As an editor, I am not some unseen enigma with a printed signature on a form letter. Most of the writers I deal with know, or should know, I am always there if you need someone to kibitz or kvetch with and bounce ideas off of. I am on Facebook and can be reached via Pro Se or my work email
AP: What’s coming Nancy Hansen in the future? Any projects you want to discuss?
NH: Well, a whole bunch of things! I turned in over 20 short stories to Pro Se last year alone, and there’s more in process as I write this. Most of what I write for Pro Se appears in Fantasy & Fear, but as I said above, the Silver Pentacle series will be debuting in Peculiar Adventures down the road. I have a couple of longer term projects that I can’t discuss right now, but rest assured, I will always have more than one iron in the fire and I’m always open to new projects and collaborations. With the amount of material I have on hand, I’ll be able to write for the rest of my life, and likely never get it all done. Good thing I love what I’m doing huh?
AP: Thanks a lot for taking time to visit with ALL PULP, Nancy!
NH: It’s been a pleasure fellas. This bespectacled gal really enjoys and appreciates all that the ‘Spectacled Seven’ does to report on and promote those of us who are keyboard banging warriors in the world of pulp.