Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If you could speak to the dead, anyone at all, who would it be? An interview with YA paranormal suspense author Craig Hansen

Today I'm interviewing Craig Hansen about his paranormal suspense novella, SHADA

1) Tell us about your book.

SHADA is a roughly 28,500 word novella that marks the first installment in the Ember Cole series of paranormal suspense books. It's the least obviously paranormal because Ember hasn't really come into her powers at the point in which this story takes place and because SHADA isn't about Ember's powers. It's a story about her and her closest friends, in their last big outing together before life drives them their own separate ways.

It's a fun read that has received early praise from some prominent independent authors, and I'm hoping the good word-of-mouth will continue to spread as more and more readers buy it, try it, and find it enjoyable for a story of this length.

While it's less obviously a paranormal book than future installments, there are some paranormal thrills going on in SHADA. The girls decide they want to go on a camping trip sleepover together so they can hold a séance and speak to the dead. Ember has a very personal reason for wanting to do this.

And while these are girls who are between the ages of thirteen and fifteen at the time of this story, and know very little about how to hold a proper séance, they give it a good effort. The novel opens with an enticing question: If you could speak to a dead person, anyone at all, who would it be?

All four girls have their own answers for that question, but once they get out in the middle of the woods, things start to get spooky, and while I won't spoil what happens, let's just say… sometimes the dead have their own agenda.

2) What inspired you to write this book? 

When I was roughly the same age as the girls in this novel, maybe a bit younger, I actually tried a séance myself, and while the results were nothing that would interest Ghost Hunters, I did get more than I bargained for. I have a blog entry on my own blog that goes into great detail about what happened.

That's for the main theme, but there are some underlying themes for this novel. One of them is a motivating subplot for Ember that focuses on her grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It can be scary for a kid Ember's age to deal with and to understand, and it's the sort of thing that fills a person with questions. Being young, they might not always seek their answers from the right or best sources.

3) As a current resident of the fine state of Wisconsin, I'm intrigued by your choice of setting. Why did you choose Wisconsin? 

I chose it is because I lived in northwestern Wisconsin for about five years myself, as a community journalist and sports reporter.

I lived in an area where the woods and vacationland took over from the pure farmland further south. When I was living there, I liked to say that I got to live where most people save up all year to go on vacation.

That being the case, I soaked up a lot of that atmosphere, so when I needed to create a place where my novels could take place, it was a natural choice. My fictional town of Hope is a bit bigger than any of the towns near where I was; it's probably comparable to Eau Claire, which was east and south of my old neck of the Wisconsin woods. I just took the idea of a town the size of Eau Claire and set it in a slightly different geography.

I just love the sheer breadth of the woods up there, though. I often thought, as us oddball writers often do, that a person could commit a murder up there, leave the body in the middle of the deep, dense woods, and it could be years before anyone came across it and discovered it.

And of course, that sort of thinking is what leads to novel ideas, even those that's not what Shada is about.

4) Halloween is coming. A casual review of literature shows that ghosts have been a staple in fiction ever since humanity first started telling stories. Shows about guys running around with night vision goggles looking for ghosts in old houses are somewhat popular. Why do you think the ghost continues to fascinate people even in this modern technological age? 

I believe it does, and I think the popularity of Ghost Hunters and similar "paranormal reality" shows attest to that. My wife and I are looking forward ot the Ghost Hunters Live event on SyFy, which we watch every year.

Another clue is this: as I write this, my wife and I spent our date night going to see Paranormal Activity 3. We've seen all three installments together, and the movie series is just a whole bunch of spooky, ghostly fun. In fact, I understand it made over $28 million on Friday alone and could be drawing between $50-$65 million this weekend. Biggest opening ever for a horror movie and not a fang in site.

So, yeah, vampires get all the glitz and fame, but a good, haunting ghost story one that's spooky without all the over-the-top gore and such, like the Paranormal Activity series is usually pretty timeless.

How we tell ghost stories has changed, in some ways. The popularity of paranormal ghost-hunt shows make it harder to get away with full-bodied apparitions because viewers and readers are more sophisticated now and want something closer to the weird stuff they've seen on shows like that. It's more appealing when you don't go quite so over the top.

But the essence of all ghost stories is: someone's not staying dead. And that can be fun.

5) What are you two favorite characters in the book?

I'll answer this as though you asked, "Aside from Ember…" Because naturally, Ember is the most appealing character to me, or I wouldn't be building a series around her, or writing a story like SHADA to introduce readers to her before her life gets really complicated.

Within the confines of SHADA, I'd have to say one of the most fun characters to write was Willow. She's the youngest of the four girls but definitely the brainiest. A bit of an outcast, too, because she's not willing to play the social game and hide her intelligence.

After Willow, I'd have to cite Shada Emery herself. She's the narrator for our tale, and it's through her eyes that we get our first impressions of everyone in Ember's world. We get to know a little bit about her in Shada. We'll learn more in the future, a few books down the line.

6) I'll ask your own question: If you could speak to the dead, anyone at all, who would it be?

Like Ember, for me, the answer would end up being pretty personal. I'd love to speak to my Mom again. She passed from pancreatic cancer back in 2008, and I used to call her two or three times a week, sometimes more, just to talk about life and how things are going and what I'm thinking, and listen to her do some of the same.

I know I can never recapture those days, and I realize I probably made as good a use of that time in my life as anyone could have. But when someone we love, like a parent, passes away…especially when they were such a confidant and fixture in our routine…their absence leaves a hole there that's not always easy to fill. And no matter how much you took time to talk to them and appreciate them, you always have regrets and wish you could have done more, spent more time, gone on more face-to-face visits.

My mom's ghost doesn't haunt me, not in that way. But I am haunted by the good memories and the regrets in almost equal measure.

7) This is book one of the Ember Cole series. How many books do you plan for this series?

To be completely honest, it's wide open as a series. If sales go well, and people keep embracing the character, there are a lot of stories I could tell with Ember Cole. I conceived of her originally as a comic book/graphic novel character, so I have a lot of ideas on different places to that her as a character.

So, this is one series that I think readers can embrace, where they won't go, "What do you mean, it's only a trilogy? Why only seven books?" Even though I have other ideas--standalone novels and other series I'd like to get to, the Ember Cole series is one that can continue a long time, for as long as readers are still interested and I'm still alive and writing.

That's not to say at some point I'll write a storyline and realize, hey, the character is used up. The story is demanding a final curtain to fall. That could happen. It probably will at some point. But I don't see it happening soon.


Thanks, Craig.

If you want to see more from Craig, you can visit him at http://wwww.craig-hansen.com/.

SHADA can be purchased at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.


Chrystalla Thoma said...

Oh, so you're the author of SHADA - I saw your thread on Kindleboards. :) Would you also be my guest one of these days? I'd love to interview you. :)
My email is: chrystallathoma@gmail.com

Your story sounds wonderful.

Craig Hansen said...


I'd be pleased to offer you an interview at your convenience. My email is craig at craig-hansen dot com.

Feel free to email me and I'll respond as promptly as my schedule allows. If you wish, I can even add the interview to this blog tour. :)

All best,