Prophecy’s Gambit (2013) – Written by Nancy Hansen – Pro Se Press.
Welcome back, everyone, for the 11th installment of my Atomic Interview series. If you’re a regular reader of the Anxiety, you know I’m taking a break from writing reviews for the time being but I still hope to have new interviews and new fiction up through the summer. Today, I’m happy to post my interview with Nancy Hansen about a variety of topics, including her latest novel, PROPHECY’S GAMBIT (available here).
Official Description for PROPHECY’S GAMBIT:
FROM FANTASY AUTHOR NANCY HANSEN COMES PROPHECY’S GAMBIT- THE SEQUEL TO FORTUNE’S PAWN, HER DYNAMIC DEBUT NOVEL! Left to pick up the pieces of a life in upheaval after her harrowing adventures in FORTUNE’S PAWN, young Callie makes a disconcerting discovery: she is carrying the child of a clandestine and forbidden union. While the mundane existence of a barmaid in a frontier town holds its own challenges, the world around her is realigning in a most sinister and dangerous way. Calculating eyes, benevolent and malicious, are now turned in her direction; and Callie finds herself in the midst of ever-increasing intrigue to control her destiny. Will this headstrong and courageous young woman—who has within her the spark of life that could bring together a diverse legion of defenders—survive long enough to carry this pregnancy to term? Or will Callie forfeit her place in legend and history to protect the shameful secret of her unborn child’s heritage and unknowingly sacrifice everyone else’s hopes and dreams in the process? Find out in PROPHECY’S GAMBIT by Nancy Hansen-part of her Hansen’s Way imprint from Pro Se Productions!
Mark Bousquet (MB): Hi, Nancy! Thanks for joining me. Let’s jump right into the topic at hand, what is PROPHECY’S GAMBIT? Who is Callie?
Nancy Hansen (NH): PROPHECY’S GAMBIT is my second fantasy pulp novel for Pro Se Press. It’s the middle book of a series, set in the same world and same northern frontier area as its predecessor, FORTUNE’S PAWN. Callie is the main character in the entire three book series, which tells of her unwitting and often unwilling involvement as the mother of a savior. Her child is foretold to bring the three major races of humanoid beings together to protect their land from the minions of a dark god of destruction, but she’s clueless about all that. It’s a time when Humans, Dwarves, and Elves don’t communicate much or trust each other, and the enemy understands that keeping them wary of one another and divided both physically and culturally is beneficial. So there is a lot of internal and external strife in the area as one side works behind the scenes to make this prophecy come to be, and another seeks to change the playing field before it happens. The backdrop is the stock quasi-medieval sword & sorcery world, but this one is in upheaval as magick and the old religious and secular systems that support it are giving way to a new faith that is sweeping the land. Very much the stuff of classic mainstream fantasy, but with a less ponderous and more action-oriented pulp approach that I think straddles the best of both writing worlds.
Callie is an orphan girl raised at an inn, and becomes one of the barmaids kind of by proxy and proximity. She does have some Dwarf in her background, but is mostly Human; short, stocky, blue-eyed and red haired with a temperament to match. She is a survivor by nature, and kind of blunders through her adventures with that unique mixture of innocence and worldliness you’d find in a frontier area. What seems like a chance liaison with a full blooded Elf takes her entire life in a new and not often pleasant direction.
Callie’s adventures and mishaps do drive the stories, but there’s a pretty good sized regular cast of characters for a pulp novel. In FORTUNE’S PAWN we got to see just how she became the one chosen as the mother of this child, and in PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, an adult Callie makes some hard choices when she has to weigh having a life of her own against fitting in. She’s no shrinking violet, and in both stories, she is often up to her neck in hot water situations and fighting for her life. She’s a real harridan at times, but one of those unusual heroines you find yourself rooting for as she careens from one situation to the next.
The gist of the series is that sometimes the person you’d least expect to be heroic somehow muddles through and surprises you with her resilience.
MB: Callie is pregnant in PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, which is an inventive and unique kind of protagonist in a fantasy adventure novel. What attracted you to putting a character like Callie at the center of your story?
NH: First of all, Callie wasn’t supposed to be the star of the series, her child was. But her story got so involved and interesting; I had to give her a chance to live it on the page. I always like to do female leads when it’s practical, and make them something other than sword swinging Amazons in chain mail bikinis! LOL The ‘hero with the feet of clay’ is a very intriguing concept to me, because there’s more wiggle room for characterization with sort of an offbeat protagonist. Plus I think it resonates with readers too, because it’s easier to identify with someone who is less than perfect. You know this gal is already overwhelmed with what’s going on in her personal life, and the hits just keep coming. Yet she’s quick to defend herself and those she cherishes with whatever comes to hand. That’s the kind of bravado we all admire—the person who steps up and fights for what they believe in, no matter the odds. There’s also a good bit of impending tragedy to what’s going on in the background around her, and a lot of manipulation that she’s not really aware of. So this is the small person doing very big things in troubled times. If this child she’s carrying resembles its Elven father, that could get her ostracized if not outright banished from her support system at the inn. Her story seems to have touched a lot of folks; I get regular queries about what’s next for her.
MB: Talk to us about the kinds of antagonists Callie faces. What about any allies she might have?
NH: Outside of her little circle amongst the people that frequent the Woodsgate Inn, Callie has enemies and allies she could never comprehend. She has no idea what importance she and the child she’s carrying have to her part of the world, and she’s been kept necessarily ignorant of it to protect her. There’s an entire underplaying of rival godhead forces trying to wrest this whole world from each other, and even among their mortal minions there’s some rivalry. One of the things I purposely didn’t do with this overarching setting—which goes well beyond this novel series into my entire Hansen’s Way Imprint with Pro Se—was make these celestial entities omniscient and all-powerful. The will of the deities are done by their corporeal followers.
The back story is twin warring godlings were vying to control the same world, and they were forcefully sundered along with their respective realms. The destructive twin wants back in, and he won’t take no for an answer. His creation-oriented sister is losing ground to the worshippers of a sun god that’s really caught on, since he’s the champion of the weaker and shorter lived but more fruitful race, which is Humanity. None of these entities can directly affect what happens, but they can inspire followers who do…
So even in Callie’s case, she’s up against an entire host of antagonists who all are under some supernatural influence. Whether someone is an enemy or ally is often a matter of circumstances. There are people she knows she can trust, and a few who work strictly in the background with her welfare in mind. There are others who are clearly up to no good and some that play into the hands of either camp. In her small part of the world, the people she relies on are mostly good hearted, and as innocent of her destiny as she is, though there’s a stinker here and there that mucks things up for her. Being set within an inn servicing a frontier area, there’s all sorts of strange people passing through, and more likely contact with the other races (Elves and Dwarves). So the list of possible allies and antagonists could be endless.
MB: PROPHECY’S GAMBIT is the sequel to FORTUNE’S PAWN. Did you always intend to write a sequel? How “stand alone” is PROPHECY’S GAMBIT?
NH: Both books can be read out of order and still enjoyed, because I did my best to not make them entirely dependent on one another. They and the final sequel, which will be titled MASTER’S ENDGAME, were cut from a far larger book that told the entire tale of Callie’s life up until her child takes over the scenario. Anyone who’s read the books knows there’s a whole lot going on in the world around Callie that’s she’s not even privy to, nor would she understand if she was, and that all gets brought together in the next book. I started out writing about Callie’s exceptional child, and realized I’d better give that little one some heritage. The couple of prequel chapters I envisioned rolled out into an entire 850 page doorstop! These books hold the best of that with new material that has a very pulpy twist.
MONSTER EARTH (Mechanoid Press): Welcome to a world where the Cold War was fought not with the threat of nuclear destruction, but with Giant Monsters. Watch as the denizens of this Earth that might have been learn to harness the power of these legendary creatures for good and ill. In these seven tales you’ll witness first hand as… –A young boy learns the value of sacrifice when the Japanese use a giant monster to attack Pearl Harbor… –An Inuit confronts his heritage to harness a frightening creature of the Great White North… –A false guru’s greed endangers 1960s Boston… All this and more await you in the pages of MONSTER EARTH! Join editors James Palmer (Slow Djinn), Jim Beard (Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker) and some of the most talented voices in New Pulp, including Nancy Hansen (Prophecy’s Gambit), Edward M. Erdelac (The Merkabah Rider series), and I.A. Watson (Blackthorn: Dynasty of Mars) as they take you to a frightening vision of Earth… MONSTER EARTH!
MB: In addition to PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, you’ve also contributed a story to the just released MONSTER EARTH anthology. What’s MONSTER EARTH about? What attracted you to contribute to this anthology?
NH: Monster Earth was a fun concept, and my contribution turned out to be one of the fastest stories I’ve conceived and got down on the page. I read the initial idea for the series, and signed on immediately. I loved those old Kaiju monster movies with Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera, etc, though I only got to watch them on TV as a kid. The premise behind the anthology is very unique because in an alternate history, our world is fighting the Cold War not so much with conventional and nuclear armaments, but with gigantic building-size monsters! And just about every country has at least one. You can imagine the paths of destruction. Each writer was given an era to work within and a choice of possible settings and backdrop within that period of time. The one caveat was that while the monsters had center stage, it was the human element that made the story work. If you’ve seen that cover, it’s a very similar to the movie poster for Calling All Monsters and that was intentional. This was a love letter to the giant city stomping critters we all adore, but with a totally new treatment.
MB: Your contribution to MONSTER EARTH is called “And a Child Shall Lead Them.” Talk to us about this story, if you would.
NH: The era I was assigned was the late sixties. My first proposal came a wee bit too close to someone else’s, so I shelved that and came up with another idea that went over very well. I chose to set it here in the US, where the Vietnam War dragged on and the counter-culture hippie movement was fractionalizing our citizen’s loyalties between supporting our country’s involvement overseas vs. making peace and brotherhood a universal concept. I decided to use what used to be Ceylon (it’s now Sri Lanka) to open the story, and moved the action to Boston because it had multicultural ethnic areas within a short distance of historical buildings. New England is my native stomping grounds, and all the elements of the story fit so well. A sort of intelligent monster that has been revered as a godlike being is awakened when a precious item is carried off to the US by a false guru, who sets himself rather nicely in Beantown’s burgeoning Flower Child population as a healer and prophet. Unfortunately, the Ceylonese monster wants it back, and enough mayhem ensues as it moves ashore that the US calls out one of its lesser used and rather hard-to-control creatures. There’s a lot of property damage, which plays well to that era where the old South Boston neighborhoods were being razed anyway. A couple of personal stories woven within bring two street people—a young immigrant boy from India and his hard drinking Native American guardian—full circle from local panhandlers and buskers to heroes of the moment and beyond. Lots of 60s Easter Eggs in this one, from military armaments, to pop culture. You’re going to love what sound motivates the American beast to fly out on its mission. There are epic battles that trash a lot of real estate, and our false guru gets his comeuppance.
MB: Being a Bay State kid myself, I’m looking forward to reading it! Let’s shift away from writing for a moment. Who is Nancy Hansen?
NH: I’m a lot of things besides a writer and editor. I’ve been fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom to what are now two adult sons, one of who is married and expecting his own son this August. I have an eight year old grandson who shares my love for all things fantastic as well as gardening. Gardening is something I really enjoy, along with reading, crochet, cooking, crafts, and I’ve dabbled in art. I’ve been known to bang on a guitar and sing a bit and I will haunt yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops, looking for more stuff to clutter up my house. So I keep busy!
My oldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder. I purposely did not go back into the workforce so that I could help him through the school years. I also had my widowed mother move in with us, which wound up being good for the entire family as well as for her. While I was doing the mom as teacher/volunteer routine, I took it upon myself to explore some interests for a later life career. I settled on writing because it fit in well with my home life and occupied odd hours I had free. I took a couple correspondence courses. Once we got a home computer, I taught myself to write on that, and when our rural area of Connecticut finally got dial-up internet that wasn’t long distance, I learned to surf the internet. My ability to put complex ideas into words landed me two volunteer moderator positions within a year, the first with Sierra (the software company) on their gardening and landscaping forums, and then with Prodigy Internet Communities where I helped out on the Books & Writing Bulletin Board. Prodigy is where I met fellow writer and dear friend Lee Houston Jr., as well as Roger Stegman, who everyone will get to know down the line, as we three have a joint project cooking. Horror author Kevin Rodgers, who also now writes for Pro Se, is also a B&W BB alumnus.
Those three guys, my best writing pals, kept me going when I was ready to give up because I just could not get published. The book that FORTUNE’S PAWN and PROPHECY’S GAMBIT were cut from was written in those days as were a lot of my early published short stories. I can’t stress enough the importance of online networking. I live in a rural area dominated by two state universities and the very respected but now defunct Curbstone Press, which championed minority contributions to literature. There were no local writer’s groups I could find that welcomed speculative fiction authors without any publishing credits. Writing is a lonely business, because you’re inside your mind so long. It’s vital to be able to share and get constructive feedback, tips, and encouragement, along with the occasional necessary kick in the pants. My buddies kept me going long after Prodigy was swallowed up and the Communities disbanded. I wouldn’t be here writing this without them or the support of my family.
MB: You’ve published both novels and short stories over the years. Do you have a preference? Do you have a plan (write a novel, write 2 short stories, write a novel, etc.)?
NH: No, no real preference. I will say for novels, I prefer to use my own original ideas, but I can go either way with short stories. I write to whatever short piece deadline is the nearest, and try and work on a book as time permits and the spirit moves me. I usually have more than one tale going at a time, so it’s a matter of mindset when I sit down at the keyboard. I use a lot of bookmarks in my documents and will reread a portion of the last couple of sittings’ work until I have a feel for where I was going, and am satisfied that section is done. Then the bookmark gets jumped ahead to the next section that might need some extra work. I edit on the fly, and always do at least a complete second pass.
I also edit for Pro Se and occasionally for friends who ask nicely and are willing to wait for my input, so I have to be disciplined about work habits. That’s very hard in my current household where I work in the dining room in sight of the kitchen, which is the family and friend meeting spot on weekends. We also have renovations going on, and while we’re doing most of the work, it’s a zoo in here at times. Right now it’s gardening season, and the outside world keeps calling me away. I just spent a couple of months fighting some undiagnosed illness that kept me weak and fatigued. My medical people took it very seriously and I got tested for everything known to mankind with no definitive answer. It was very debilitating, though no one can agree upon what it was, and thankfully, it’s slowly going away. Right now I am way behind on everything I have due, and have had to scale back what I’m responsible for this year. So if I owe you something, I’ll get to it, but please be patient. This 56 year old body is balky most days, and my doc stressed I need to get away from the keyboard and do something physical every day.
MB: Which of you previous stories are you most happy with? Is there one story in your catalog that’s “quintessential Nancy Hansen?”
NH: I hate to sound like a braggart, but my stories are like my kids, each one of them is unique and precious, and I love them all, even with their warts and quirks. THE HUNTRESS OF GREENWOOD anthology is one I’m very partial to, because Roshanna has been with me a very long time, and she’s really a great deal of what I would love to be if I was athletic and heroic. However, I do write more than fantasy. I’ve had the opportunity to write two Pulp Obscura imprint tales for Pro Se, one of which came into print recently. In THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SENORITA SCORPION, I wrote my very first western, a tale based on the original character created by classic pulp author Les Savage Jr. I did a ton of research for that one because the original author knew his stuff, and I’d never even read a western before the source material crossed my screen.
I’ve created a modern tech era PI series with a female lead, called THE KEENER EYE for Pro Se Presents magazine, and there will be more installments there. I have a post-apocalyptic pulp elemental superhero series called THE SILVER PENTACLE that still has a couple of unpublished pieces that I expect we’ll be seeing that somewhere down the line; and another one with a immortal siren (think mermaid with legs) turned reluctant scum-killer who has some very interesting and creepy sidekicks from beyond the grave in THE SONG OF HEROES series.
I’m also rather proud of my story for Airship 27’s first volume of SINBAD—THE NEW VOYAGES. Here we have the quintessential Ray Harryhausen FX character, with a bit of an update and a quartet of brand new multinational supporting characters. This was another project that I signed onto as soon as I heard about it. I loved those stop action movies of the recently departed master of that technology, they hold up well even against today’s CGI wizardry. I had a blast writing my tale, it just fell out of the keyboard, and I’m joined by two very well respected pulp authors in that dynamite release.
I have a lot of unpublished stuff floating around out there that I can’t talk about right now. When there’s a great concept involved, I find I can write easily to someone else’s brainchild. In spite of pulp’s reputation for being plot driven, for me, it’s all about the characters. I have to get inside their heads, and understand what makes them tick and then the plot just suggests itself.
MB: You mentioned the recently released THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SENORITA SCORPION. Who is Senorita Scorpion? What makes her unique?
NH: When the Pulp Obscura imprint was first announced and the list of classic characters to write was released, Senorita Scorpion was the first one I chose. Strong female leads were a rarity in the classic pulp era, so I couldn’t wait to dive into the material. I need to stress again, I had never written a western tale before, so there was a major learning curve for me. Plus I had to make this story sound like part of the original author’s continuum. Thank goodness for Google, it saved me a lot of head banging. LOL Les Savage Jr. knew his western lingo, the layout of the area the story takes place in (southwest Texas), and the era he was writing in. It was a challenge to take a walk in his boots after all these years. I don’t think I would have embarrassed him too much, even though I gave Elgera Douglas her own adventure without having her bailed out by one of her male admirers. I got the impression from what I read of Savage’s work that he was itching to do more with her, but the times he was writing in had most of the heroes bold, adventuring men rescuing helpless damsels in distress.
MB: What’s your story about?
I had to scratch around a bit for an idea once I’d read the first volume of Savage’s collected work. He was a tough act to follow! Elgera Douglas, in spite of her beauty and wild spirit, seemed like sort of a lonely person, being raised in a valley shut off from the rest of the world for several generations. So I got to wondering, how would her neighbors feel about the untamed mistress of the Lost Santiago Mines? Taking it from that angle, I gave her a couple of nearby people to rescue when she happens to run across one of them being tortured and taunted by desperados, while their bad guy boss rides off to force the local widow being escorted to town to marry him. It gets interesting from there on in, with an old fashioned ambush gun battle, the frantic ride to save the reluctant bride-to-be, and a shootout in a local mission. THE BELLS OF ST. FERDINAND is what came out of that initial idea, and the feedback has been very positive. I can’t tell you how much I sweated this one, and how many late nights I spent looking up things like paint horse color patterns, saddles and chaps, plants native to the area, and weapons would have been common to that era. Writing is more than just putting words on paper; you have to back them up with some kind of solid reasoning if you want them to resonate.
MB: Let’s bring this full circle: What’s next for Callie and the world of PROPHECY’S GAMBIT?
NH: Because PROPHECY’S GAMBIT was released early this year instead of last fall as planned, I’m going to time MASTER’S ENDGAME for the first quarter of next year if Pro Se has a spot for it. Most of the material left in the original combined book is usable, but there’s a lot of it, and so I’m going to have to be judicious in what I keep and what goes by the wayside. I have to keep my pulp audience in mind too, so that the action never slows too much, and that means some rewriting. Fortunately, there’s a lot going on in that section, as the battle winds are fanning over the area. It’s going to be the biggest, boldest part of the three stories, and you will also find a Harryhausen nod in there from one of his most ardent fans.
I need to stress again that all of my HANSEN’S WAY imprint books—the novels and the anthologies—are set in the very same fantasy world, though at different times and places, and there are crossover characters and concepts that anyone who has read one of the books will recognize. So if you pick up TALES OF THE VAGABOND BARDS or THE HUNTRESS OF GREENWOOD, and you’ve read FORTUNE’S PAWN or PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, you’re going to feel at home. I have three other series within the imprint planned at this point, but there’s a lot of room to grow. This year should see two new book projects published: one is an anthology that is completed and awaiting final editing and artwork, the other a novel that started as the first short story in an anthology but then took on a life of its own. Both are brand new settings and primarily new characters within that overarching fantasyverse of mine, and I predict they will be quite popular because I toned down any adult material and violence to make them accessible to all but the youngest readers. Many of the starring characters are children or young adults, but there’s no talking down, so there should be an all-ages appeal. They’re filled with pulpy goodness too.
MB: What’s next for MONSTER EARTH?
NH: MONSTER EARTH did very well, and I hear there is going to be a second volume. I was invited to write for it, and I’d truly love to, but I’m not sure I have the time right now. I am woefully behind after being sick for a couple of months. I’ll jump back into the monster mash at some point, because I don’t think that terrific concept is going away any too soon. Mechanoid Press hit a home run with their debut book.
MB: And what’s next for Nancy Hansen?
NH: I’ve got more things to write than I have time to get to them! I have all sorts of stuff out there awaiting their turn in print, both short stories and novella/novel size projects. You’ll see my name popping up here and there. I’d definitely love to do another Sinbad tale for Airship 27, but I’m signed on to other projects now that deserve my attention, and I’ve got one novel to finish and another to start… I’m reaching the point where people are approaching me with requests to get involved in their projects, something I’m quite honored by.
I also write a biweekly column for the New Pulp site and just finished the latest one and sent it out. And recently, I volunteered to write a monthly column about rural country life in my town’s newsletter, and have been told my introductory piece should be going to press with the rest of it for June publication. Kind of a busman’s holiday for me, but it’s short and something I know a little about. It’s good to stretch yourself as a writer, and not get stuck in a rut.
MB: Where can people go to learn more about Nancy Hansen, PROPHECY’S GAMBIT, and MONSTER EARTH?
NH: Someday when I get organized, I am going to have my own website. For now, we’ll have to make do with my Amazon author page to see the totality of what I have in print. My books are also on Barnes & Noble online, Smashwords, and various other sites. I have a regular presence on Facebook and Google+ and I’m just starting to noodle around with Goodreads and Linked-In. I don’t update as often as I should, but I have to split my time between writing, editing, housework, gardening, family, etc. I need some 40 hour days!
And that’s it for the latest Atomic Interview! Thanks to Nancy for joining me, and remember, if you like an author’s work, there’s nothing you can do to help spread the word better than leaving them a review at your bookseller of choice!
When he’s not talking to other writers, Mark Bousquet is doing some writing himself, including the recently posted “Why Grant Jannen Can’t Have Sex” to this very site, which you can read for free and stuff, minus the stuff. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including the recently released The Haunting of Kraken Moor, Gunfighter Gothic, Stuffed Animals for Hire, Dreamer’s Syndrome, Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.