This month begins a series of author interviews for those writing in the young adult genre. I’m happy to introduce a fellow vegan and animal rescue enthusiast as the first author I’m interviewing – Gina Hanson.
A bit about her first.
Gina Hanson has been writing stories since elementary school. She holds an M.A. in English Composition and an M.F.A. in fiction writing.
Hanson has published several short stories but is still in the process of securing representation for her two YA novels, The Importance of Being and Skye Michaels and the World Below. Her YA work often explores themes related to gender and sexual identity. Her current work-in-progress is a YA novel called Love and Other Hazardous Materials.
When not writing, Hanson teaches writing at her grad school alma mater. She lives in Southern California with her spouse and their rescue animals. You can learn more about the author at www.ginahanson.com.
Interview questions and answers
So, what have you written?
I’ve written quite a bit. I love to write short stories, and I have enough to create a couple novel-length collections now. I might do that someday. I have two novels for adult readers. One, I wrote years ago, and it will probably never see the light of day. The second one, THE MANY STONES OF COLBY CAIRNS, was my MFA thesis, and I sent it out to literary agents for a while before giving it a break. I’d like to see it in print someday. I also have a novella of interrelated short stories I wrote in college. I’ve been cleaning it up a bit recently. I hope to do something with that someday as well.
My primary focus right now is on finding representation for my two YA novels, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING and SKYE MICHAELS AND THE WORLD BELOW. Sometimes it feels like too much of my writing time is spent on the querying process: researching literary agents and sending out materials. I’m ashamed to admit that I have more unfinished novels than finished ones. However, I’m heading into the last few chapters of my current work-in-progress, so I feel I’m getting much better at finishing what I start.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I do. It varies based on the time of the year. During the school year, I set a weekly word count for myself. I teach writing classes, and with lesson planning and grading papers, my schedule can get pretty inconsistent. To compensate, I set a 2500 word weekly count based on 500 words, five days a week. This gives me some flexibility in missing days without beating myself up over for it.
In the summer, however, my word count goes way up. I generally do not teach in the summer, so I get the bulk of my writing done then. I aim for 7000 words a week, or 1000 words per day. I am very disciplined in meeting my daily count because it’s easy to get behind if I skip a day. I will allow myself time off for illness, but not for vacations. Even if I write 1000 crappy words for the day, at least I met my goal.
If there were an aspect in one of your books that you wish could be true in real life, what would it to be?
SKYE MICHAELS AND THE WORLD BELOW is the story of one girl’s obsession with Skye Michaels, a female rock star who takes the world by storm. Skye is considered one of the best guitar players of her generation, and she sells out arenas filled with her rabid fans. If there were one aspect of this book that I’d like to see in the real world, it would be to have a real musical phenomenon like Skye Michaels. We see popular female musical acts all the time, but Skye is different. She succeeds at a level that has typically been reserved only for men. I’d love to see the day when musicians are asked who their favorite guitar player is, and they respond with a female’s name. That’d be cool.
The incredibly unlikely thing from the book that I’d also love to see is one of the social side effects of Skye Michaels’ fame–a complete overhaul of animal welfare in America. Skye Michaels is a hardcore animal lover. She funds “rescue cities,” massive sanctuary projects for homeless pets. She is a vegan and turns millions of her fans off meat, causing the meat and dairy industries to revamp their practices to deal with the lower demand. I love the idea that some aspect of celebrity culture could lead to substantial changes in the treatment of animals and our environment.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
THE STORY OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE is the first book I actually remember reading, but I only have flashes of settings and scenes in my mind. CHARLOTTE’S WEB was the first book I remember from beginning to end. It had a profound impact on me in a social sense as I have always been an animal lover, and after reading it, I became more aware of animals being raised for food. I’m sure on some level it contributed to me becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan, and is probably at least partially responsible for my creation of characters like Skye Michaels.
On a writing/storytelling level, I think the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur had an enormous effect on me as well. Deep friendships are at the core of nearly everything I write. For me, there is no greater story than that of a friendship that endures. I’m sure that first literary friendship I encountered has something to do with that.
What is the best book you’ve read lately?
Easy. KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky. I first heard of the book when it was sold to its publisher, and I thought the premise sounded glorious. It’s about a group of fangirls who “accidentally” kidnap their least favorite member of their favorite boy band. I bought it the day it was released, having no idea what to expect. I quickly discovered that Moldavsky had mastered the kind of narrative voice I work so hard at in my novels. I felt the writing was so good, it actually blocked me for a few days. Every time I sat down to write, I kept thinking, “I’m never going to develop a voice like that–I’ll never be that good.”
But soon, the book became an inspiration for me. Perhaps even a challenge to step-up my writing game a little. And this may be cheating because I’m going to mention a second book here, but Shaun David Hutchinson’s WE ARE THE ANTS similarly blocked and then challenged me. He uses these interesting doomsday scenarios throughout that I loved so much, that I’ve now been playing around with the structure of my latest work-in-progress. I’ve never read as many great YA books as I have this year. I think the genre has really hit its stride.