Shelly Bryant divides her year between Shanghai and Singapore, working as a writer, researcher, and translator.
Meet Tanya Hanson
Interview for Tanya Hanson
SB: When was your first novel published? Was it a work of Christian fiction? If not, when did you get your start in the field of Christian fiction writing, and what made you make that leap?
TH: From 2002-2009, I wrote four full-length secular historical Westerns before writing my first inspirational. During my husband’s cancer battle in 2008 (he won, praise God!), my faith was tested to the utmost. I got an inkling that maybe I should try inspirational romance, and I entered a contest, “Hearts Crossing,” at White Rose Publishing. I didn’t win the contest itself, but I “won” an eight-novella contract for a “Hearts Crossing Ranch” series. Yay!
This is a contemporary series. Each sibling of the Martin family of Hearts Crossing Ranch in Colorado has a story--but my first love is historical. I love the research. So my editor has suggested a historical exploring the Martins’ roots and how they got their start in Colorado. I’m excited because when I turned in the eighth story, I missed the Martins immediately.
SB: At what point in the writing process do you let someone see your manuscript? Who sees it first?
TH: My editor sees it first, and if I have questions along the way, I seek her opinion. I don’t use a critique partner or crit group.
SB: How do you keep an inspirational story from turning into a preachy one?
TH: I have read plenty of judgmental inspirationals that I totally want to throw across the room, so I use them as examples of what Idon’t want to do LOL. I’ve heard from reviewers and readers alike that whatever one’s faith situation, anybody would like my stories. So that’s a very good thing.
One of my recurring themes is the “hills and valleys of faith.” That means, IMO, there’s not some pinnacle of faith that you reach where everything is perfect ever after. I think even strong believers have doubts and struggles, and maybe, by showing that’s normal, a person with little faith would realize he/she isn’t alone out there.
SB: Do you keep a daily journal? If so, what impact has this had on your writing?
TH: I kept a heart-tugging journal when my husband nearly lost his life to complications of chemotherapy for testicular cancer. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a frame of mind to re-read those pages...so nowaways, I do more of a day planner thing where I just list the stuff I did that day or the places I went. But I admit, I’m probably two weeks behind at this moment LOL. I just don’t want to leave behind for my kids things that would be hard for them to read. Does that mean I will destroy the cancer journal? I don’t know.
But I will tell you that horrible experience plays a huge part in Sanctuary, book three of the series, where the oldest Martin, Hooper, ranch foreman and single dad, is recovering from testicular cancer, worried about his future and his little girl’s.
The story received a wonderful web-exclusive review at Romantic Times and received the “CTRR Award” at Coffeetime Romance as a recommended read.
While all stories are “books from the heart” in some way, Sanctuary truly is on every level. The heroine is based on a close, young family friend who is beset with a grade four brain tumor for which all treatments have been exhausted. I readily admit her situation weighs on my heart and raises questions even as I beseech heaven.
SB: Which is most important to you in your writing: a well-paced plot, lovable characters, or the message of the story?
TH: I love terrific ensembles of characters, and I like to think they help bring the plot and message to full fruit.. I also love giving secondary characters as much “flesh” as I can. “Ma” in the Hearts Crossing Ranch series, Elaine Martin, is a hoot, and (spoiler alert)--she will even end up with her beau. Awwwwww.
Ps. Yes, Elaine is named for my aunt.
SB: Where do you think would be an ideal place to read one of your novels (rank in order):
a. on an airplane
b. by the pool
c. snuggled under a blanket in front of the fireplace
d. listening to an audio version while at work in the kitchen
TH: #1: Aw, in front of the fireplace. Or campfire! All of my heroes are cowboys
#2: Second would have to be by the pool. I’ve got a pic of my hubby reading one of my historicals in a hotel pool in Palm Springs, California.
#3: On an airplane with your Kindle/iPad loaded up with them all so you can keep on going and going and going...
#4: My least favorite LOL because I don’t like to cook. Fortunately, hubby does and is a GREAT chef.
SB: Do people or situations from real life show up in your work? Is this intentional, or do they sneak their way in?
TH: Oh goodness, completely intentional. I think everybody I know has (or will soon have) given his/her name to my characters. And my real life definitely plays a huge part. Not just my hubby’s cancer struggle, but fun things, too. In Hearts Crossing Ranch, book one, the setting is a city slicker wagon train, and my hubby and I went around the Tetons on one ourselves, not long ago. And in Soul Food, book five (out May 4) the heroine is the vegetarian chuck cook on a wagon train....she’s definitely named for and based on my beautiful vegetarian niece. (The real Kelley is definitely not a cowgirl, though!)
On a couple more serious notes, the heroine’s severely disabled son in Angel Child, book six, is based on my godson who was born with Angelman syndrome. Also...the estranged brother in Right to Bragg is named Paul because of an ongoing circumstance with my own brother Paul. (Yes, I pray about him and me all the time. One of those valleys...)
SB: If you had to choose one or the other, would you rather be born 100 years ago or 100 years from now? Why?
TH: Even though modern medicine helped save my husband’s life and I adore indoor plumbing, I guess the history buff in me would like to go back 100 years. With technology changing our world at such a quick pace these days, I don’t know if I could keep up a hundred years from now! I just got a new laptop and this version of Microsoft Word has had some hair-tearing moments. Grrrrrr..
SB: Is there one secret to good writing you wish you'd known when you were first getting started?
TH: Yes! I’d only been a member of RWA a little while when I crashed out my first book and it got published. I had a much more complicated writing style then and didn’t have enough scenes with the hero. Now I make sure I give equal time to him and her and try not to take the reader out of the story with massive paragraphs and overwrought descriptions.
(Also, Google your pen name first. I did not and now share cyberspace with a porn star of the same name. Even though she spells it HansEn...everybody misspells my name to begin with. Sheesh. At least I get a lot of traffic to my website.)
SB: Was there you were hoping I'd ask that hasn't yet come up in our interview?
TH: Yes! I am a besotted gramma! My kids are the best thing I’ve ever done and now each has given me a little grandson. When the five-year old recently read out loud his practice list of words, I got chills up and down my spine. And the baby just warms my heart with his smiles. He was named for my hubby, and to see “grampa” getting down and grubby with those little guys is like, a miracle. There was a time when we didn’t think he’d make it or get to enjoy being a grandfather.
SB: What can readers look for next from Tanya Hanson?
TH: Well, something I haven’t mentioned yet is my first-ever romantic suspense. When the editor posted a “prompt, situation and quote” one day on her blog, I used the elements to write Faithful Danger. Somewhere in the story, I had to use pink polka dot shoes, two puppies, a woman in hiding, a mysterious stranger and the comment “dead guys don’t usually show up for breakfast.”
Of course the mysterious stranger is a cowboy/high priced P.I. who crashes a wedding where the maid of honor, wearing the crazy shoes, is a Manhattan socialite hiding out in California ranch country from the bad guys after her late bad-guy husband.
I modeled fictional Rancho Lorena, California after the real-life town of Santa Ynez, a place dear to my heart. Every year, a local restaurateur holds a bike-ride and luncheon to raise funds for Livestrong. Something else dear to my heart!
I have three more Hearts Crossing Ranch books to be released through 2013, and late fall, I will have a secular, sensual Christmas novella, Christmas for Ransom, re-released from The Wild Rose Press. I don’t have any problem wearing two “hats” (Stetsons? ) as a writer of both inspirational fiction and secular fiction. I also hope to get the historical proposal for my contemporary series finalized, and to get a submission ready for PelicanBookGroup’s new young adult line, Watershed. (Pelican is the parent for the White Rose Publishing imprint.)
Thank you, Shelly! Below are buy links. Books are also available on Kindle and Nook.
My website: www.tanyahanson.com
Also visit: www.petticoatsandpistols.com
I’m starting up a new wordpress blog, Good Christian Cowgirl, but it won’t be up and running for a while yet. Depending on when this appears, it might be ready.