Exclusive Interview with
R. J. Hanson
When did you start writing?
I began writing around the age of twelve. When I discovered I could make the characters in my stories do what I wanted them to, I really developed a passion for it.
What makes writing your passion?
I love creating and telling stories. I also enjoy a tale in which the good guys aren't ALL good and the bad guys aren't ALL bad, because no one really is ALL one thing or another. But the thing I love the most is that I can create (and live in my head) a world where justice can be found, where courage is rewarded, and where the question of 'does the ends justify the means' can be fully explored.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing for thirty-five years now. Of course, I only published my first book at the age of forty-five (two years ago). My daughter (and my editor), Kaity, is the one who spurred me to actually do something with the notes and stories I've put together over the years.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I was terrified, and oddly excited. I still go through bouts of 'Imposture Syndrome' but I suppose most authors do.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I've been playing a pen-and-paper role playing game (RPG) called Rolemaster since I was fifteen. It's a lot like Dungeons and Dragons. Just about all of my characters are based either directly or loosely on characters actually played by real folks. Roland, my main character, for example is strongly based on a character I created in 1996. He's been living in my head ever since. My adult children like to joke that most of my characters are older than they are.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Marketing. I don't know anything about it and have no natural talent for it. However, as an Indie Author, I've had to study it and learn as much as I can about it. The goal isn't really to make a pile of money (although that would be pretty nice) but to share my tale because I think people will really come to love my world and the characters that live in it.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I just keep writing. I don't remember who said it, but there's a quote that goes something like 'you can't edit a blank page.' So, I just keep writing. If I decide it's all trash the next day, I throw it out and start again. Just keep writing.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
For me it's because I have a story to tell that I can't hold in. The Bloodlines Reforged Saga is an epic fantasy tale that is going to span several series and dozens of books. It's a story I have to finish. However, there may not be a 'finish.' I know where the story goes so far, but when I get to 'the end' I may find that I have only begun the story.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Don't put off your dreams because you think they might be silly or that people might laugh. You only get one life. Don't wait 'til you're forty-five to publish!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
I absolutely read every single one of my reviews because I want to know what readers liked and what they didn't. The bad ones do take me down a peg or two and sometimes interfere with my productivity for a day or two but I get over it. Sometimes it's just a matter of realizing that my works aren't for everyone. Not everyone loves a good epic fantasy like I do. Sometimes you just have to realize that you can't make EVERYONE happy.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
I find good reviews elating! Everyone, all of us, love it when someone else 'get's them.' I'm no different. The people that like my stories 'get me' in some way. I also find it interesting when they really enjoy an aspect of the story that I didn't anticipate. That is a very exciting experience.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
All the time. Not specifics, obviously, because I write fantasy. But I've been in a few scrapes in my life. I know how it feels to be stabbed, to be knocked out, to have your nose broken or the wind knocked out of you. When I write about those things in my work, that's coming from genuine experience.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
I suppose, in some way, every character reflects some aspect of me. I don't know how an author could avoid it. I would like to be more like Edlryn, but the ugly truth is, I'm much more like Roland. Roland can be inconsiderate, and a downright a-hole sometimes.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
Yes. Visual art is not my thing, so I struggle with deciding what a good cover is or is not. But I would say it is very important for the single reason that most people (right, wrong, or indifferent) pick up a book based on the cover. That act, or omission, can introduce them to a whole world that they'll relive over and over again, or cause them to pass by a tale that might change their life.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I really enjoy talking with readers. I didn't think that I would, because I tend to be an introvert. But, have chatted with many readers, I've found that I really love it.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Wonderful! I distinctly remember the first time I was recognized as an author. We were having new internet installed and the guy putting it in says, "Wait! You're that author guy! Right? You wrote Roland's Path?" We ended up talking about the books for over an hour and I gave him a free signed copy before he left. It is one of my favorite memories.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Wow. Tough. I love Tolkien (who doesn't) because of the doors of imagination he opened for so many people. Terry Brooks, Roger Zelazny, R.A. Salvatore, George Martin, Stephen King, and Louis L'Amour all run a close second.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I don't want to be 'big.' I would like to make enough money at it to write full time, but that's mainly because I have so many stories I want to get out there. I guess you could say that the dream would be to meet someone on a train or a bus or at a coffee shop and them be excited to meet me and want to talk about the books and what the stories mean to them.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
Yes. Because I'm a perfectionist. However, perfectionists don't finish books. They just keep rewriting them. At some point you have to push it away and move on to the next story. There may be time to rewrite the books I've already published, but there are so many more that I have to get out first.