Interview with Michael Hanson by Chris Bartholomew
I'm a big fan of Michael Hanson and the writers of his new book. I thought I'd talk with him so that others can get to know him and the Sha'Daa crowd too, because I know you'd be interested in this new book. I've put up a link (click on the book cover on the front page of Static Movement) so that you can read about the (15) very interesting authors who had a hand (pen) in this massive two-book project... I hope you'll check it out.
Well Michael, after years of waiting and work, Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse is finally coming out. As you know, I was around the same forum when you were all working on this book and I personally can't wait to read it.
Q. How long did it take to write the book – to market the book?
Hey Chris. Yah. It is hard to believe that Sha'Daa has been in the works for this long. I wrote the very first rough outline in 2003, and then we found a home (publisher) for the first book just last year (2008). So I would say the entire process took a whopping five years (from conception to getting accepted by a publisher). And yes, I am VERY tired.
Q. Talk a little about the book chapters, writers, and 'the making of'
I originally wrote six individual chapter outlines that would comprise the book. Because of the enthusiastic reply by authors I had approached for recruitment, I eventually ended up writing twenty 1-3 paragraph chapter outlines altogether.
As I explain more fully later in this interview, I found authors for the book on the world wide web.
The actual "making-of" was a heady year of massive back-and-forth e-mailing. I had never met, in person, any of my fellow authors. I had never talked to any of them on the phone. All correspondence over a one-year chunk of time was done purely by e-mail and website forum posting. Hundreds of e-mails clogged up my server and my eyes threatened to explode on several occasions from the mass of reading, re-reading, proofreading, and editing that needed to be done.
One major cohesive element of this novel is the character of "Johnny, The Salesman," a shady, supernatural, half-mad being who appears in everybody's chapter to offer up unusual opportunities and trades. One of my first duties as creator of this project was to go into everybody's first drafts and make sure that all the encounters with The Salesman were standardized to an acceptable degree.
Co-author Ed McKeown's offer to assist in proofreading, and eventually take over as the official Editor of Sha'Daa, was a major boon to this large project, and one for which I am eternally grateful.
Q. What is the book about?
Once every 10,000 years, the barriers that separate the Earth from the hundreds of Hell Dimensions in existence, weaken for a period of 48 hours. This is the time of The Sha'Daa.
During this two-day stretch, demons, monsters, and alien armies are given an opportunity to try to break through and wreak havoc, madness, slaughter, and all out annihilation upon us. Almost 10,000 years have passed since the last Sha'Daa occurred, and the next one is coming soon, in the not too distant future.
Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse is what happens when it arrives. Mu ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Q. Did you pick the writers who'd be involved or did they submit, how did this all come about?
I had written the initial outline of Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse in 2003, and then found myself sitting on it for about a year. I just couldn't find the right muse to kick myself into writing it. And then it hit me. Why not open up a portion of my Sha'Daa Universe (which contains previously written and published short stories, and
screenplays, etc.) to other writers, thus making it a true Shared-World Anthology?
But how does one find quality authors and convince them to get involved in a project with a relatively unknown writer like myself? With no Publication Deal in place, or solid promise of getting one made? There's the rub! It took effort.
First I needed to find a pool of talent. And I decided to look for some really hungry authors, ones willing to take a chance and gamble on something that was not a sure thing.
So where did I go? The internet! I basically spent three months reading every single short horror, sci-fi, and fantasy story I could find on the web (in early 2004) in various webzines and e-zines. Yes, I read a lot of REALLY BAD STUFF. However, I was able to find a decent amount of quality product being created by some very talented writers who had not yet broken into the big markets. In time I put together a list of 33 authors I felt were up to the task of taking on my chapter outlines (I had written 1-3 paragraph outlines of what I wanted each chapter to be about).
Next, I typed up a SUPER LONG introductory e-mail. I explained who I was (an author who wanted to create a shared-world anthology), displayed my background (I listed my resume of 30+ short stories I had published at various webzines over the past three years), showed samples of several Sha'Daa short stories I had written to date, and laid out the basic proposal of the project as a whole (a shared-world anthology that when finished we would pitch it to various publishers until hopefully finding a home for it - an admittedly simplistic and naive plan, but there you have it).
18 authors jumped on board. 15 of us made it to the finish line.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your publisher? How did you go about finding a publisher and how long did that process take?
Altered Dimensions Press is an Imprint of Cyberwizard Productions (CP). They are a small press that is relatively new on the scene, and as such are willing to take on new talent and give budding novelists a break where the larger presses jealously guard their castle gates. They have a small staff and limited war chest, but they are definitely legit, and make up for their modest resources with an abundance of knowledge, hands-on experience, and constant open communication through every stage of the publication process. I have nothing but good things to say about CP.
All credit goes to Sha'Daa co-author, and Editor, Edward McKeown, who found, contacted, and ultimately convinced CP to take us on.
I'd say the search lasted roughly three years. A lot of places turned us down. The vast majority outright ignored our inquiries and proposal submissions. We came close to considering "self-publishing" on more than one occasion, but Ed kept sticking to his guns and did a masterful job of convincing me to keep holding out, and this is the result. Maybe there really is something to this "fate" thing after all.
Q. Tell us a little about the cover, who created it, whose idea was it?
The full wrap-around cover of the book is actually two oil paintings created by fantasy artist Johnney Perkins. Publisher Kelly Christansen then took scans of the paintings, and digitally wedded them together, before adding credits and text. We're all very proud of the cover and feel it does an excellent job of promoting the "pulp" nature of Sha'Daa.
The concept came from a small pool of ideas. Editor Ed McKeown and I chose six scenarios from throughout the first book that we thought were appropriately visual, transcribed them into an e-mail, and sent them off to Johnney.
Upon reading them all Johnney chose the opening paragraph of my interlude short "Jump" and created a simple black pen on white paper sketch, which he e-mailed as an attachment back to us. One glance was all it took for Ed and me to give our enthusiastic thumbs-up on the basic idea. And the rest, as they say, is history.
A link to his work can be found at http://www.CyberWizardProductions.com
Q. What are your marketing plans? I know with your beautiful poetry book AUTUMN BLUSH you went all out, are you planning to do the same here - and what are the other writers doing to market as well?
We are putting the finishing touches on a detailed marketing plan that I will be e-mailing out shortly to all of the authors in the first book. I figure with 11 writers involved in this one novel, the potential for getting the word out on Sha'Daa is excellent.
We've created a one-minute promotional video which we've already started posting at youtube.com and various other sites, as well as e-mailing it around. A six-page press kit is almost completed and will be e-mailed to all the authors as a high resolution color pdf file.
In short, we'll be encouraging the authors (and ourselves) to aggressively approach local bookstores to set up book signings, contacting local libraries to be put in their collections, contacting local newspapers to set up interviews and reviews, attending conferences as panelists, etc., etc., etc., it's an endless road of possibilities.
Q. Have you thought about talk radio for getting the word out and are there any plans to do something like that?
Thought about it. Not quite sure how to do it. I'm definitely open to the idea, though! And yes, I'm adding it to the huge list of things to do in promoting Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse over the next few months.
Q. James Wasserman was a wonderful friend, how does his family feel about the book?
James' father, brother, and aunt have all corresponded with me over the past few years and they are all very supportive of seeing James' last story make it into print.
James Wasserman was 31 years old, had just completed his Ph.D. thesis in behavioral neuroscience (which he was awarded posthumously from Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada), and had handed in his Sha'Daa chapter "The Four Horsemen" to me shortly before his unexpected and tragic death. James was an excellent writer who had a real future as an author of the fantastic.
His father, Howard, is in charge of James' estate, and has given us his wholehearted support in seeing James' story make it into print. "The Four Horsemen" will be a chapter in our second book Sha'Daa: Last Call which will hopefully be published some time in 2010.
Q. When will the book debut be, and where can people buy it? Where will it be available?
The official publication date is May 1, 2009. It will be available for direct purchase at both Amazon.com and CyberWizardProductions.com and you will also be able to order it from any bookstore.
Please note, however, that it is currently available for early purchase at Cyber Wizard Productions.
Q. How can people find out more about Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse ?
They just need to go to my website: HERE and click on " Sha'Daa " in the menu at the top of the page. We have bios on all the authors in both Sha'Daa books, excerpts from all the chapters, and much more.
Q. Do you have any final words?
The Sha'Daa approaches.