Author Interview – Mark Hansen
Please meet Mark Hansen. I am happy to present him as a new author for us. Judging by his bio, he’s a fun dad. Looking at his Dutch Oven Cooking Blog, I plan to cook several of his recipes. I personally love Dutch Oven cooking. We did it all the time in Girl Scouts, and the food is AMAZING!
Mark Hansen has been writing and studying writing for most of his adult life. Though “A Tale of Heroes, Book 1” is his first published work of fiction, he has written many books, including game rule books, tech manuals, and cookbooks, as well as blogs over the years. He currently lives in Eagle Mountain, UT, and loves to play geeky games with his sons.
Be sure to stalk Mark on his social media. You won’t want to miss out on new releases and stuff.
- A Tale of Heroes. A Fantasy Story Blog in the World of Wynne.
- The Hero’s Tale. A family-friendly blog of RPGs
- Mark’s Black Pot: Dutch Oven Recipies.
- The Hero’s Tale. A family-friendly group with RPGs
Interview Conducted by Sherry Terry
TNR: How long on average does it take you to write a (insert genre here) book?
Mark: Each of my two fiction books took about a year or a little longer to write. I run it all as a story blog at ATaleOfHeroes.com. I post up two scenes a week, on Monday and Thursday, each about 600-1200 words long. Every 12 scenes, or about six weeks, I’ll close up a “Part” of the story, and every 3-4 parts will be a story arc, and after about a year, that story arc will close with a big finish and resolution, and I’ll compile all of that as a book.
Characters phase in and out, and the story goes on. So, book 1, “Of Children and Dragons” was all of 2018, book 2: “Of Wizards and Dragons”, was 2019 and the first few months of 2020, and now, I’ve just barely started on what will become book 3, “Of Dragons and Kings”.
I’m REALLY excited about what I have planned for book 3. The storyline is shaping up, and the new main character will face some cool changes in his development. I’ve already got some cool ideas for book 4, too (“Of Dragons and Gods”).
TNR: Tell us about your writing process, and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
Mark: My writing process is a bit different when compared to most, I think because I have done my works as a story-blog. In most cases, writers will draft, rewrite, edit, beta, and then complete the entire work before the public sees it. In my case, I’m doing that process in a microscopic way with each scene.
I write a scene or two at a time, then I’ll do my own preliminary edit/rewrite. My editor looks it over and I fix what suggestions I agree with (which is most of them). Then, I have a few beta readers that look it over. I do a final fix and put it up on the blog as its time comes up.
A lot of the questions that many authors deal with in their rewrites, things like character development, foreshadowing links, story arc development, plot holes, etc… are all addressed in my plotting process. My plans will often go through significant changes long before I come to the point where I’m writing any particular scene. Because of the way I plot things out, I can have an idea when I’m going through my daily life (working, cleaning, etc) and I can insert or change a scene that’s months down the road.
Then, I don’t have to worry about remembering it, because it’s now written into the notes.
TNR: Are there any other genres you read besides the one you write in?
Mark: I’ve been diversifying my reading a lot lately. I’ve been reading mysteries to help me better set up more intriguing subplots, and romances to help me with my ‘shipping, etc… Each of these other works helps me to better understand fantasy.
I’ve also been reading classics. A lot. That has helped me in profound ways. I would strongly recommend that for ANY writer of ANY genre. Not all classics are universally great works, too. However, I have found elements in each one that has taught me about my own writing. “Pride and Prejudice”, for example, is very florid and wordy, especially its dialog. But I learned a lot about privilege and about class systems, as well as how to do a good slow-burn romance.
I’ve shied away from horror. Eventually, I’ll have to read some, because I do want to make my bad guy dragons scary. But reading horror scares me. I know, right? That’s what it’s supposed to do! But I don’t like being scared. So, I’m having issues with that.
TNR: I don’t blame you one bit. What are you currently working on and what is it about?
Mark: “A Tale of Heroes, Book 3: Of Dragons and Kings” is about 5 young adventurers that are a bit caught up in the fringes of some pretty big things going on in their world. A big bad dragon is undermining the stability of the various kingdoms in the land, so he can conquer them all and re-establish the reign of the Dragon Kings.
If that happens, he will definitely rule with a heavy claw. One of the characters from the previous two books has an artifact (a dagger) that could help stop the dragon, so the current team of characters, led by a half-elf wizard with lots of personal issues named Eddiwarth, will be trying to track down the dagger and get it into the hands of the right people. It will get posted, twice a week, on ATaleOfHeroes.com, and, of course, it will be available as a book in about a year or so.
TNR: What does your family think of your writing?
Mark: My immediate family is pretty supportive. It was my son that first got me excited about writing fiction. Both of them, actually. It all got started when we started our family RPG night, playing and shaping our own game system. We were doing that when my kids were only early teens, and we do it still, many years later. My youngest son is also a writer. He’s one of my beta readers, and we watch a lot of AuthorTube videos together.
Sometimes my wife reminds me that my writing and promotion are getting in the way of family time when I get too focused, but she’s also very supportive. My extended family is all pretty indifferent. I have one superfan in my nephew, and that’s really cool. He also loves to write and draw, so I’ve kinda mentored him a little. It’s a lot of fun when we talk about the characters and story-lines of our works. Really, the best gift you can give an author is to read and talk about their work.
TNR: I agree 100%. It sounds like what you have going with your kids and nephew is really fun. Do you ever get writer’s block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Mark: There are times when the ideas are flowing and writing is exciting and I’ll get way ahead. Right now, as I’m writing these answers, it’s early May, and I have scenes ready to post all the way into late June, and I have another week beyond that written, but not revised.
There have been times when the juices aren’t flowing as well, and life gets crazy, and I slow down. I’ve written and revised some scenes the night before I posted them. I don’t like doing that, but it has happened! I find plotting helps me the best with writer’s block. If I get stuck, I start imagining the story and figuring out how it will work, and what are the subplots and the interconnections, and suddenly I get all refocused.
It doesn’t always happen, but it will usually pull me out of it. Another thing I’ll do is just make myself start a scene and run with it. I’ll remind myself that if it’s not turning out, I can always start over or revise it, and I often do. But just getting started will often make it happen for me.
TNR: What inspired the world for your story?
Mark: The world of Wynne was the land that we did our first adventures as we were playtesting our role-playing game system. I had scrawled out a simple map and some rough ideas of the races and politics, and we jumped in and started adventuring. With each successive adventure, the lore and the story expanded.
I originally started the story-blog as a way to help promote the game. I made character sheets for each of the characters in the story, and the flow of the story fits the world and the rules of the game. The magic of the story is the magic system of the game. The more I worked on the world-building in the game, the more it developed for the story, and vice versa.
TNR: Does your book use any references to mythology or real-world folklore, or does it contain its own folklore?
Mark: There are references to medieval Europe, but different, a little, I think, and other bits that are original. I’ve kept the theology of it all relatively simple. So, rather than a vast pantheon, there are just two, the Creator and the Destroyer, both of which have angels and servants (we call them champions) that jump in and out of the story-line to direct or help the characters.
Some of them have become quite the story themselves!
TNR: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
Mark: The biggest advantage of self-publishing is also its biggest problem: It’s all you. On the one hand, that’s good. You have total artistic control, and total freedom. You can do whatever your story needs, and market it in any way that you want to. You can make your cover the way you want, and get the layout and printing the way you want. You can also set your own prices, and can usually get more money per book than you can with a traditional publisher’s royalties.
The downside is that it is all up to you. You have to do it all. The cover, the layout, the printing is all on your shoulders, and all out of your own pocket, too. That’s also a big problem when it comes to marketing. My cookbooks were traditionally published, and the publisher got them placed in bookstores all over the country. I could have NEVER done that on my own.
I often see writers on Twitter ask, “Should I go traditional or self-pub for my book?” It’s a funny question when you think about it. The question assumes that some other company will WANT to publish your book. It’s a lot like a young high school basketball player asking, “Should I join the NBA?” before anyone has even scouted them.
I chose to self-publish my books because the story-blog format was so experimental, I didn’t think anyone, readers or publishers, would even get it.
TNR: What’s your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
Mark: Facebook is great for marketing to existing family and friends, and keeping them up to date on what I’m doing. Twitter is wonderful for finding supportive groups of other authors, but I haven’t found much value in it yet for drawing in a lot of new readers. I think you need to have thousands of more followers than I do for that to happen.
Overall, I love social media. I love interacting with others and sharing my stories. I think it’s a much slower marketing system than many other people realize. It takes a significant amount of time to (both focused time, and elapsed time) to build it up to the point where it really works for you.
TNR: I agree. I have pretty good luck, that’s where most of my sales come from. But, I started cultivating my presence on social media two-years before I published anything. How about a personal question? If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
Mark: My first publishing experiences were cookbooks, and I love cooking, so I think I would have a blast doing a world-wide culinary tour. I would visit the finest restaurants and the street corner vendors. I would hit the open markets and learn to cook local cuisines from the grandmothers. It would be fascinating!
TNR: What a great interview! I know I’ve learned some valuable information. Thanks so much for giving us a peek into your life.
Check out Mark’s catalog. Going camping? Do dinner and dessert Dutch Over style!
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