Donna Hanson talks about her own writing
I interviewed Jane on my blog and she asked me to answer my own questions for her blog. I thought this was rather funny, a bit of ‘what about a taste of your own medicine.’ Jane answered the questions so candidly that I found it inspiring. Maybe it will loosen my tongue.
Your new novel is coming out. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Technically, I have two novels coming out, albeit short ones. Under Donna Maree Hanson (my own fantabulous name) is Rae and Essa Space Adventures, which is a sequel to Rayessa and the Space Pirates
http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857992543 (Rae and Essa Space Adventures)
People tell me Rayessa and the Space Pirates is a fab title. I’m pleased to hear that because it was the name I came up with in despair, a sort of place holder until someone with more genius than me thought up a better one. Rayessa and the Space Pirates is a bit of fun, a rollicking adventure with SF, crime and a bit of romance. If you haven’t read it, then you really should because Rae and Essa Space Adventures will be a spoiler for you. So I’m going to cheat here. Rae and Essa Space Adventures starts about a year after Rayessa. It’s got a different protagonist and it’s slightly more mature in voice than Rayessa was. It’s more traditional romance in structure, with SF and adventure thrown in. I really like it but that’s quite natural for the author to say. Both are novellas and you can get through them pretty quickly. Links to the publisher’s website are at the bottom of the post. But in case you’re wondering it’s Harlequin’s Escape publishing.
The other novel is by the ‘other’ me. Yes, the pseudonym where I write paranormal romance. I’d like to keep them separate but in my citation for the A. Bertram Chandler Award it’s clearly spelt out so there’s not much point in trying to be coy any more. Hopefully, I won’t get googled in my day job. This month a prequel to my first published paranormal romance book (Bespelled) is coming out. Called Spiritbound it takes place before the events of the first book. http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9780857992437 (Spritbound)
I’m not trying to twist your mind, it’s just now the ideas came to me. To summarise, this is a light paranormal romance (steamy) set around Balmain in Sydney and features witches, who are part of the folk, the folk being magical creatures of many descriptions to be explored in other books that are yet to be imagined by me. Spiritbound is the story of Grace and Declan. Grace is an accidental necromancer and powerful witch, who freaks out the coven by raising her dead cat by accident when a child. Because of her ability she is ostracised and can’t get a date. In rocks Declan, newly returned from overseas and the story of her life gets interesting. Grace is lovely and I loved writing her. She may fart rainbows and sunshine but that can’t be helped, she’s just so nice. The other thing I like about this story is the female relationships: Grace and her mother Elvira and with Elena, cousin/adopted sister. It’s so strong and fulfilling. Spiritbound is a short novel. It is also due out with Harlequin Escape in April.
Donna, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Sydney originally but live in Canberra. Have done for near 20 years. I lived in New Zealand from the age of 17 to 25, where I had three kids and married a Maori. Not in that order but you can shuffle it a bit. I came back to Bondi in Sydney with three young kids, then studied at university, got a degree, a job and then came to Canberra.
I started writing at age 40, when I had time to pause and think about my life. I have had short stories published over the years but my main focus has been on novels. It is only in 2013 that my first longer work got published. By May 2015 I will have had seven novels published, four with Escape, one with Harper Impulse and two with Momentum. Momentum published the work of my heart, Dragon Wine as two books, Shatterwing and Skywatcher. Needless to say after writing for nearly 14 years I have a bit of a backlist and have more books on the boil. Rayessa and Dragon Wine were older works but everything else is newly written since 2012. Gee, I just realised how fast time goes when you’re having fun.
Donna, what do you find so attractive about speculative fiction? In what ways do you find it fulfilling?
I have written across the spectrum of science fiction, fantasy and horror and into paranormal romance. I’ve even dabbled in contemporary romance but struggle to keep out werewolves, vampires, ghosts and aliens. I like spec fic because I like the ‘other’, the things that are different and I like the ‘what if’ questions and now fantastical adventure can make an individual shine. I like how, as a writer, I can take the issues and events in the world and recast them and explore them. Sometimes, I don’ t know why things are the way they are in our world or I think about what can be and then I put them in a constructed setting and explore. Not everything I write is deep and meaningful, some of it is plain fun, but I like the spec fic. canvas so much.
What are you working on at the moment?
Hahahaha! What a question! I feel hyperactive and lazy at the same time. I have been drafting a Regency Romance and enjoying it. I’m sort of playing in the water here, because I’m not sure if it will see the light of day, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was writing straight SF and Fantasy, I wondered if I was a better writer of paranormal romance but never tried my hand at it. Now, I’m doing the same thing with Regency romance. By the way, I do consider Regency Romance to be a type of fantasy. And as well as that, I’m currently revising the next instalment in the Dragon Wine series. I may feel like I have achieved something if I get that ready to go when needed. I have loads of other things on the boil, like Invoked, which is back to me for reworking and revising. (Because it did a belly flop on submission to the editor). Invoked is a sequel to Bespelled, featuring witches but ones that live in and around Lake Macquarie.
What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writer’s block etc).
Can I say that I am all of the above? Go on laugh, but it’s true. I used to be a panster, write every day and be so focussed that I really wasn’t interested in anything else. I repine about not being that enthusiastic anymore. I was definitely in a hurry to hone my craft in those first years. Trouble was I kept going in sideways directions with publishing, convention running and editing etc. These days I’m likely to plan, even if it’s just a few paragraphs outlining the overall story. This is because I don’t remember things as well as I used to and because I don’t like wasting time by making mistakes. I like to know the story is going to work out in the end. Because I’m planning more, I tend to put way too much plot in my paranormal romances as a result, but I’m learning more about character to balance it out. I think I do character better when I don’t plan.
These days I write sporadically. I am easily put off and distracted. Jane mentioned 8 hour Buffy sessions. I put up my hand. I do that. I do worse. I watch Pride and Prejudice (all of the versions I own) when I want to avoid writing. It’s not writer’s block exactly. It’s a distracted, diffuse attention span thingy and trying to do too much all at the same time. I counted and I had about 13 manuscripts in various stages of construction. Some just need a revision and to be sent out, others need reworking, others need the first draft to be completed.
I don’t know how I got myself into this, but I had big plans for writing at the end of last year and this year and they’ve done a belly flop. This is mostly due to work being busy and stressful and my mum dying. I write when I make time, usually a writing date where I find it hard to shirk and writers’ retreats where I’m very productive. Having confessed to all that I can say that I’d like to write every day even if it’s just a paragraph and I’m going to strive to do that. I’m taking lessons from Jane.
What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?
As you can tell from the above, I think I like drafting rather than revising or reworking, but that’s not entirely true. I’ve just painted myself into a corner here. I get a buzz from creating new work and I love the discovery of a new story, new characters. It’s a drug and I’m addicted. The real work for me is the revision and the reworking/editing. That’s where I have to sit down and work through it. I may get lucky and have a discovery or an insight that makes the work better but essentially I’ve discovered the ending and I know how it pans out. If I have issues then I can set my mind to fix them and that gives me a buzz too. I think it’s an attention span thing and maybe I get bored. I can’t say what my problem is…it’s all the pretty shiny things I want to do, like craft and to read… I will find a cure eventually.
What part of writing do you find hardest?
I think I’ve spelled that out above, but I will add…waiting….waiting…It’s waiting for beta readers to give you feedback, it’s waiting for an editor to get back to you and waiting for the cover and for the book to come out. It’s the long wait for submissions to be seen, rejected and resubmitted. It’s waiting, waiting and waiting….arghhhhhh. Waiting can be disheartening, it can make you crazy, that’s why writing-drafting and revising are so good, because you feel like you can control your life while you wait for something.
What do you plan to work on next?
The big ticket item I have to do, that I really want to do, is write the last two books (or one big book) in the Dragon Wine series. The books in the series I’m working on now are essentially written but the finale –I have to write that…and it scares me…because when I had all the cool ideas I didn’t write them down and it was a long time ago. Don’t worry, I know how it ends…I think. I may change my mind. I also have ideas for prequel and sequels but then again I always do…I can’t confine my imagination to a mere trilogy! .
Donna Maree Hanson
Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and under a pseudonym, paranormal romance. She has been writing creatively since November 2000. She has had about 20 short stories published in various small press and ezines. In 2006, she won a Varuna Long Lines Fellowship for her novel in progress, Dragon Wine and was also shortlisted for the Varuna Manuscript Development Award that year. Donna has also had two of her short stories receive honourable mentions in Datlow’s years best horror. In January 2013, her first longer work, Rayessa & the Space Pirates, was published with Harlequin’ s digital imprint, Escape (link here.) This novella length work is a young-adult, science-fiction adventure/romance (space opera). A sequel to Rayessa & the Space Pirates will be out with Escape in early 2015. Dragon Wine is to be published by Momentum (Pan Macmillan Australia’s Digital Imprint) in two parts, Shatterwing and Skywatcher, in September and October 2014. In 2015 she won the A. Bertram Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction.
You can find Donna’s website at https://donnamareehanson.wordpress.com/
or of for paranormal romance at https://danikristoff.wordpress.com
Donna’s on Twitter a lot (“did I mention this addiction?”) @DonnaMHanson or @Dani_Kristoff and on Facebook.