a brand new Author from Harlequin Escape, a new Digital first imprint from Harlequin Australia, I had a chance to ask Donna Maree Hanson a few questions about her self and her relationship with the new imprint that ever one is talking about, here's what she had to say.
How are you?
I’m very well, thank you. What a pleasure to be invited for an interview. Thank you so much.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a public servant in my day job and I live just outside of Canberra. In Canberra, the temperature ranges in Winter to minus 7 degrees Celsius to nearly 40 degrees in Summer. I don’t like the cold and I don’t like the heat. I think I whinge about the weather a lot. I’m very geeky. Actually my partner’s nickname for me is Dweebette and he is the Dweeb. We both: write speculative fiction, veg on the internet a lot, watch SF action movies and like dweeby things.
How did you get in to Writing?
Ah interesting. I got to about age 40 and had just started work at one of the big four accounting firms, once again doing internal audit work in government. I thought to myself while stuck in traffic. “Is this what I want to do with myself for the rest of my life?” The answer was no. I wanted to write and it sort of snow balled from there. I had a lot to learn. I wrote audit reports, which is not the same as writing fiction. It’s been 12 long years of practice, practice. I had wanted to write earlier in my life, say about at age 19 (and I loved writing stories in school) but I felt I wasn’t smart enough then and I had a baby and then two more so life got in the way. I also have to admit to spending a fair amount of my life in invented worlds. I was always daydreaming and thinking up stories in my head. It helped me cope with tough times I think. Writing keeps me sane (maybe).
Do you have any advice for fellow Authors?
Well, yes, if people are interested in hearing it. I don’t think there is one rule or one way, just ways of helping you to be better informed, practicing etc. I suggest reading a lot. For romance, I think you need to love romance and read it to write it well. I read widely, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, literary fiction, crime. Whatever takes my fancy. I read non-fiction, young adult and stuff my partner recommends to me too. All of it eventually sinks in. Also, sometimes. I read and it sparks off ideas in my head. I’m not talking copycat ideas but tangential ones that open up your mind to possibilities.
I also write a lot. There is an adage that says write everyday, even if it’s just a paragraph or 500 words. That may work for some. However, to write seriously takes sacrifices. For me it was giving up watching TV every night. I didn’t watch TV for five years when I started writing. I watch DVDS though, but it’s usually a sacrifice of writing time. Writing doesn’t come easy. It takes time. You have to make the time to write. If you are an early bird, get up early and get writing before work or if you’re a night owl write before bed. Sometimes, if the idea is burning in me or I have a short story deadline, I’ll write during my lunch break and email it home to myself. I just get it down and then tidy it up.
And can I squeeze one more? Critique other people’s work. Give back to others because reading someone else’s work can give you insights to your own work. I read slush for 6 months and I found I learned so much. Also, I beta read for others and often critique short stories within my writing group. I find a sentence that grates in something I read and I think…mmm I do that. How annoying. That teaches me not to do it.
Tell us about your up and coming novels?
Well I have a few manuscripts I’m shopping around. A fantasy that has romance, but not enough romance to be a romance. Tough for me. I love that story. A dark, post-apocalyptic fantasy that I’ve subbed somewhere but have to wait for at least until two new wrinkles come in before I hear anything. I have a YA steampunk, Victorian gothic horror/romance that I’ll be shopping around. Late last year, I also drafted two paranormal romance novels that I’m getting ready to submit in 2013. Then Rayessa and the Space Pirates has come out with Escape Publishing. Rayessa is a novella length YA space opera. It’s a bit of romp actually and fun. I enjoyed writing it and I love the character. I have to think seriously about writing more Rayessa adventures too.
Tell us about your partnership with Harlequin Escape?
Well I heard about Harlequin’s digital imprint at the RWA conference in August (my first romance writers’ conference) and had a think about my work. Rayessa was a story that I wrote as an adventure that also had a romance arc. Also, Escape promised to reply to partials subs within two weeks (which they did) and then I got an acceptance not long after. I really admire this commitment that Escape has to responding to submissions. Kate Cuthbert gives feedback on the submissions. One friend got rejected but used the comments to address the issues. She did get accepted. It is very generous of an imprint and editor to do that and a huge commitment in time. You seriously have to understand the value of that. In the publishing industry you can wait years to hear anything. Two weeks! I want to get down on my knees and say I’m not worthy. Try it authors, you have nothing but two weeks to lose.
Was it an easy decision to go with Harlequin escape?
I suppose you mean new imprint, new digital imprint question? Yes, fairly easy. After 12 years trying to get something bigger published (I have short story sales) and the industry being so contracted, particularly here in Australia, I decided to refocus my goal posts. Digital is still published. I had the cover, the editing and the PR. It’s a book. It’s out there for sale. So much is changing in the industry that I’d be crazy to hold back. To prove it to you, I say I still cried when I got my acceptance and the excitement for me was the same as if I’d been offered the global, traditional mass market paper published deal. Harlequin have great reach and Escape is doing some innovative stuff so I’m proud to have been part of it.
Was it an easy process?
Yes, as I mentioned, Kate Cuthbert is very quick to answer the submissions and gives feedback. Once accepted then things went fairly smoothly and since then they’ve refined processes even further. I got to go to the launch in Sydney and that was very easy. It was fantastic.
Who are your inspirations?
I have a lot of people around me who inspire me. I have writer friends, some very successful writers, who give me support and friendship through thick and thin. My partner supports me and his writing inspires me. I wish I could put as many words into sentences as he does and have them make sense. My family. My friends give me support and inspiration. As for other writers, there have been some works that have inspired me. I loved Diana Gabaldon’s Cross stitch series, Joanna Lindsay’s Warrior’s Woman, Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials series, Garth Nix’s Sabriel. Stephen Donaldson, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Mordant’s need duology, Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay and many more.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Birthright by Valerie Parv. It’s science fiction and not romance and it’s very good. I’m just about to pick up Unforgettable by Elise K Ackers, another of Escape’s January releases. I also just finished Rescue Heat by Nina Hamilton, which I really, really liked. (also a January release).
What is the best way for your readers to keep up with you?
Well I’m everywhere. I have a blog
Rayessa also has her own blog, twitter and facebook page
Who are you when you are not writing?
Oh I think I answered that one. However, I can ad lib a bit more. Mild mannered auditor for the Federal Government. Mother and grandmother. I also am running (with Nicole Murphy) the 52nd Australian national science fiction convention in Canberra in April 25-28 called Conflux 9. www.conflux.org.au and I’m doing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra this year. (Frowns as if just realizing I’m going to be hellishly busy in 2013).
Thank you for the interview. It was fun.