After spending most of my adult life as a wildlife biologist and wildland firefighter I am now able to pursue my lifelong dream of being a writer. When not writing I can usually be found hiking and fishing in the mountains of Montana or Idaho with my wife Debi and our rescue dog, Bella.
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Elk Meadowsby John HansenPublish: Dec 31, 2019Action & Adventure
Hard Timesby John HansenPublish: Jul 02, 2019
The Outfitby John HansenPublish: May 09, 2019
A Bad Place To Beby John HansenPublish: Dec 27, 2015
Arco, Idaho – a long time ago!
Hunting, fishing, reading.Do you remember the first book you ever read? Who is your favorite author?
I read a lot of Hardy Boys mystery books as a kid. However, by age 11 or 12 I had read The Last of the Mohicans and The Deer Slayer.
To name my favorite author is tough. Thirty years ago, it would have been Hemingway with Steinbeck a close second. Now, however, it would be Ivan Doig with Thomas Savage, Kent Haruf and A.B. Guthrie getting honorable mention. Doig wins out not just for his writing ability but what he writes about. So much of it I can relate to concerning ranching and hired men and bars. It brings back so many memories of growing up on our ranch in Idaho.What do you like to do to relax? What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
To relax I hike and fish a lot in the mountains with my wife, Debi, and our rescue dog, Bella. I’m also an avid turkey hunter.
When it comes to reading for pure enjoyment, I read either historical or contemporary fiction. I also read a lot of books about war and the military. Most of the time, however, I’m reading research related books for my next book. Quite frankly, its hard for me to squeeze in a book “just for fun” as I’m either always writing or researching.In life, who has been your biggest inspiration as an author? What are some ways in which you try and be an inspiration to others?
Initially, it was my mother. She always believed that one day I would have success as a writer. During my college years I had one professor at Idaho State who was very encouraging. Even after he took a job at another university on the east coast, he would critique stuff that I would send him. What he did for nothing, I now pay beta readers to do. But since I retired and started writing full time my biggest supporter is my wife Debi. Not only does she encourage me to write she also edits my books. Aside from her editing, however, is her patience and sacrifice. Writing is a mostly solitary, time consuming occupation. A writer’s spouse has to endure, to a large degree, this disruption of their life. When I am working on a book, day in-day out, my wife and I don’t do much as a couple before about noon. I try to make it up to her as best as I can but writing requires a sacrifice from your spouse and for this, I am grateful beyond words.
I assume you mean to inspire others to write. Quite honestly, I seldom talk about writing with other people. Most people show little interest other than a polite brief exchange about my latest book or the fact that I am a writer.What were some of your inhibitions and fears while publishing your first book?
I guess the biggest fear I had was could I even write a cohesive story of 250-300 pages. And second to this, what if the reviews, assuming anybody reads it, are bad? As it turns out, my fears were unwarranted. It took some time for my first novel (A BAD PLACE TO BE) to get any traction but now it is selling regularly and it has won several awards. I am currently at work on my 8 th book.How important do you think it is to strike a work-life and personal-life balance?
It’s very important but what’s critical here is what is “balance”? How much of each day do you spend writing as opposed to personal life things that your family would like to do. Even when I’m not writing and doing something else i.e, driving, dinner, TV, walking the dog, fishing, hiking, etc. my body may be there but my mind could be off in another place and another time with one of my characters. I think what’s key here is striking a physical and mental balance that your family is “truly” happy with and one that allows the pace of your book’s progress to flow. For me, I have to stay committed to a strict schedule to maintain the continuity of the story.How would you describe your experience of being a wildlife biologist and wildland firefighter?
For me, being a wildlife biologist was a childhood dream come true, being a wildland firefighter was an added bonus. Many people tolerate their jobs, accepting the fact it is necessary to providing them and their family food and shelter. They savor weekends and vacations. For the most part, I truly enjoyed my career as a biologist and firefighter. I’m an animal lover and have a passion for the outdoors and unspoiled places. Being a wildlife biologist enabled me to make a difference in wildlife populations which was very rewarding. I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to work with wildlife. With respect to fighting fire I can truly say there was a time in my life that I would rather go on a fire than do just about anything else. But that was years ago. Now when I see a fire up on a mountain and a helicopter flying to it, I envision what the crews are likely doing at that moment. It was an experience I’ll always cherish but it is a young man’s game.What inspired the plot and storyline for "Hard Times"?
When I sat down to write “Hard Times” I wanted to write a story about the struggle of homesteaders in eastern Montana. I’ve always had an interest in the history of the American west and how it was settled. Homesteaders were an integral part of this process but there were so many people who believed in the railroad and the government’s sales pitch for free land and the riches to be made farming that failed and walked away with nothing. This is the story I started to tell but then it occurred to me that I could make the story so much more if it depicted what desperate people would do to survive, to get title to that land the railroad and government said could be theirs if they worked hard. With this concept, I moved forward with two of my main characters, a husband and wife. One of them is committed to having a farm and the other isn’t. They’re both desperate to get what they want but in radically different ways, neither of which falls within the limits of the law.Who was the inspiration behind the character Myles Keegan? What did you love most about writing his character?
I’ve always been interested in the plight of the common person, the person that is struggling to make a living and his being exploited by big business whether it be a lumber company, mine owner, packing plant or factory. Again, this is where I started out, a man desperate to make a living, to acquire the American dream. Myles Keegan was this man and the Klondike gold rush was his means, or so he thought, to make this dream come true. I chose the setting of Alaska and the Yukon because the gold rush that occurred here in 1898-1900 was epic because of the extremely harsh environmental conditions and the thousands of people who tried and failed to make their fortunes here.
Just learning so much about the Klondike gold rush that I was unaware of. It was amazing to me what men and women went through to reach Dawson City and the gold fields. Equally surprising was learning that many people upon reaching Skagway and Dyea, after looking up at the Chilkoot Trail, got right back on the boat and went home. It was in this milieu of intimidation that I chose to put Myles Keegan to see how he would fare, how he would measure up. Would he even survive?How much discipline does it take to be a writer? Would you say you are disciplined?
I’m not sure how you measure or quantify discipline. Once I start a book, I write every day, generally from about 0645 to 1200. My goal each day is 700 words. A thousand words is a big day for me. I start each day with reviewing and editing what I wrote the previous day. As far as, am I disciplined, I would say I am. When I have a book in progress, I never have to force myself to write. A lot of days its like I’m the scribe who follows my characters around and records what they say and do.Among Josh Morrow, Seth Jacobs and Sarah in "A Bad Place To Be", who is your favorite character? What did you love most about writing his character?
I would say Josh is. I wanted to write a western that didn’t have, as its main protagonist, an invincible character with a dark past who is incapable of a lasting relationship with a woman. I wanted the story to center around a more realistic, believable person. To that end, I tried to create a character who was a solid individual but nobody extraordinary. A Bad Place To Be is the story of an average man trying to make a simple life for himself and Sarah, a person who is the victim of a failed dream who was forced to turn to prostitution.
Doing the research to create a character is always enjoyable to me but overall it’s seeing a character who is nothing more than a name take shape, come to life to the point when writing dialogue what he says is second nature.Is "Unfortunate Words" based on any real life story?
It is from the standpoint that the Sedition Act and discrimination against German Americans was very real during WWI. The inspiration for “Unfortunate Words” came from a PBS documentary that I watched concerning the Sedition Act in Montana. Based on this issue, I built a fictious story and characters based on real life events. I think this book is particularly relevant today with so much in the news about people exercising their 1 st amendment rights. In 1917-18 a lot of people went to prison and had to pay huge fines for saying anything even mildly critical of the war effort.What are some common marketing traps a lot of new authors fall into? Any advice on how to avoid them?
I have often thought that new writers are like a school of little fish that are being shadowed by a lot of bigger predatory fish. There are an untold number of award contests most all require a fee. A person needs to research on line which are the reputable ones before sending your book and money off. There are also many book promotion companies, they too want money. For a fee, there are those companies that will display your book, along with a lot of others, at a book fair. I’ve never paid for this but it doesn’t strike me as promising if I wasn’t there to promote my book.
I would say the best strategy for a new writer is to periodically put your ebook on Amazon fo free. You’ve got to build a fan base and ratings and reviews. One way or another it is going to cost you to do this. Advertising may result in some sales but in my experience it was a break even proposition at best. And, unless a person is extremely lucky, a fan base cannot be built on one book. Keep writing, putting your books out there, alternating free for a few days and then paid. And bear in mind that with the self-publishing craze there has come a huge amount of competition. The frugal reader these days can read all the books they want for free or 99 cents. I see unknown writers with books on Amazon that have been out for 4-5 years and have three or four reviews. Their kindle is priced at $3.99 while their competition is .99 or free. I’ve been writing seriously for about five years now and this is the first year that I’ve made any real money. My latest book entitled, The Outfit, has done very well. It has brought me thousands of new readers that are now reading my other SIX books.Which is the next book due for release? Are you finished writing it?
My next book is tentatively titled, ELK MEADOWS. It will hopefully be out in January or February of 2020. It is not yet finished but it is coming along fairly well.How did you come to know about AllAuthor? How has your experience with us been?
I first saw AllAuthor on Twitter. So far, I have been very pleased with the exposure my books have received on Twitter and the AllAuthor website.. It is nice to have a common venue where writers can share information.
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