Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview with Helen Hanson



Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
3 LIES:
At CIA headquarters, a young officer discovers that terrorists may have commandeered their computer systems to launch an unauthorized mission. Elsewhere, conspirators abduct nine people to manipulate the rules of their game. Two disparate ambitions -- Clint Masters becomes the reluctant link in the chain of danger. 

Ever since Clint’s almost ex-wife dumped him, he bobs along the Massachusetts coast in a sailboat with his black lab for company. He avoids all forms of technology, a counterintuitive effort for the burned-out founder of CatSat Laboratories. Tired of clutching the brass ring, he needed to untether, step off the corporate treadmill, and smell a flower. Fortunately, he met one, a beautiful, unspoiled woman who doesn’t treat him like a commodity. His relationship with Beth offers more promise than his marriage ever did, even if she is on dialysis for her recovering kidneys, until she disappears.

In spite of the evidence, her family refuses to admit she’s in danger. Without routine dialysis, she won’t survive. As Clint realizes that he loves Beth, damn-near ex-wife Paige sashays back into his life with disturbing news. While the CIA young gun tracks his quarry, Clint enlists the help of two men to find Beth, a blithe Brit named Merlin, and Todd, his playboy partner-in-tech. But Clint  must find Beth before her kidneys fail. And before someone unloads a bullet in his head.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Absolutely.  I understand the thrill of rejection.  I’d been waltzing with an agent throughout 2010, and I expected the dance to end in representation.  I set a Nov 1st deadline, so I was going to publish one way or the other.  3 LIES wasn’t my first manuscript, just the first one that I felt confident unleashing on the public.  The other novels helped me find my voice as a writer, but mostly, they were self-indulgent drivel. 

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I’m a major fan of critique groups, and I frequent two each month.  Without question, my work has improved from the feedback.  I get the opinion of others who study the craft.  Whether they read my genre or not, there is always some nugget to carry home. Plus the meetings inject me with motivation. The time is a wonderful communion with my writerly brethren and sistren. When I tell normal people I need an undetectable way to break into a house, they squint at me and call the police.  In a critique group, someone inevitably demonstrates how to jimmy a lock.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
I wanted my work available to the public.  I didn’t want to squander any more energy querying and attending conferences, when I could spend that time writing.   The 2010 royalty rate changes made indie publishing a viable option for me.  

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
It was important to me that a professional set of eyes scrutinize my manuscript.  A dear friend of mine is a professional editor.  She ghost writes, developmentally edits, and line edits.  Her effort was invaluable.  But five other critique partners vetted my manuscript long before she reviewed the final draft.  

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
There are more virtual avenues to stroll than I can manage and stay sane.  I can’t do it all.  I don’t want to do it all.  I had to find my limits and pitch my tent near the border.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Pubit

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I stink at marketing. I don’t like to be sold, consequently I’m awkward at selling.  So I don’t.  Some people are more naturally artful at this than others.  If someone repeatedly tells me to buy their book, I usually hide them from my feed.  New announcements, I’m good.  Naked ware-hawking, not so.  I’m on Facebook, twitter, several forums, and I blog at my website: www.HelenHanson.com. I enjoy hanging out online with funny, friendly people, and I figure they’re smart enough to determine if  my book might appeal to them or someone they know.   My job is to write the best novel I can and let it be.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
When I have an opportunity to let people know my work exists, I appreciate it.  Like this one.  Thanks!  But the critical part is the writing. Currently, I’m full-court pressing to complete my novel, DARK POOL. I don’t strive to be a great marketer.  I want someone, somewhere to willingly leave their realm for mine. 

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Read everything you can on every aspect of self-publishing until it sounds redundant.  That’s what I do every time I approach a new subject, including my decision to go rogue.  It doesn’t make me an expert, but I’m always well informed.

What’s next for you?
DARK POOL: 
At 22, Maggie Fender is legal guardian of her felony-hacker step-brother and her father, another Alzheimer’s victim.  While she waits tables to keep their family afloat, Russian mobsters and an investigator think her family may know something about the four billion dollars of hedge fund money that disappeared.

DARK POOL is due for launch this spring.  There’s a larger excerpt available at the end of 3 LIES and on my website.

Author bio:
Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent.  Hackers.  The CIA. Industry titans.  Guys on sailboats.  Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them  against  unrelenting forces willing to kill.  Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity — from either end of the trigger.  While Helen writes about the power hungry, she genuinely mistrusts anyone who wants to rule the world.

Helen directed operations for high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, video games, software, and computers. Her reluctant education behind the redwood curtain culminated in a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrated studies in Computer Science.   She also learned to play a mean game of hacky sack.

She is a licensed private pilot with a ticket for single-engine aircraft.  Helen and her husband spent their first anniversary with their flight instructor studying for the FAA practical. If you were a passenger on a 737 trying to land at SJC in 1995, she sends her most sincere apologies.  Really.
Born in fly-over country, Helen has lived on both coasts, near both borders, and at several locations in between. She lettered in tennis, worked as a machinist, and saw the Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium sometime in the eighties.  She currently lives amid the bricks of Texas with her husband, son, and a dog that composes music with squeaky toys.

If you enjoy her books, please consider writing a review.  If you don’t, please be kind.