Interview by David McDonald.
Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and under the pseudonym (Dani Kristoff) paranormal romance. Her dark fantasy series (which some reviewers have called ‘grim dark’), Dragon Wine, is published by Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan digital imprint). Book 1: Shatterwing and Book 2: Skywatcher are out now in digital and print on demand. In April 2015, she was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction’ for her work in running science fiction conventions, publishing and broader SF community contribution. Donna also writes young adult science fiction, with Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures out with Escape Publishing. In 2016, Donna commenced her PhD candidature researching Feminism in Popular Romance. Her first Indie published book, Argenterra, was publishing in late April 2016. Argenterra is the first in an epic fantasy series (the Silverlands) suitable for adult and young adult readers.
Also writes as Dani Kristoff.
You’re coming up on six months into your PhD. How are you finding the experience, and what impact, if any, has it had on your writing?
The time has passed so quickly. At first I was so intense and excited that I was living and breathing the PhD. Then I realised I couldn’t sustain that pace for three years so I have dialled it back a bit. One of my reasons for doing the PhD was to become a better writer and part of the PhD is a novel, which I have some excellent ideas from arising out of the research. Anyway, to keep the balance I try to take Fridays to write and Wednesday nights (but I’m not so good with that). Anyway, I think there is a balance there somewhere. Although after working intensely on an academic paper I don’t have much mojo left for fiction writing. Sigh.
You’ve taken the plunge into the world of indie publishing with your new books, Argenterra. Could you give us an idea of what prompted that decision and how you have found the experience?
Argenterra is a book I’ve been working on for the last 15 years on and off. I didn’t heavily submit it over the place, but it did get to acquisitions twice, but alas it didn’t fall over the line. So I figured the book was good enough for print and I couldn’t be bothered waiting another year for it to languish in a slush pile. I’d been talking to author friends who are hybrid authors and one of them suggested I self-publish, preferably a series. Well the Silverlands series, of which Argenterra is the first book, was mostly written. I had a draft of the second novel in the series and 50,000 words of the last one. So I was encouraged to do that. Self-publishing is hard work. I paid for the cover and the editor and I had to worry over the proof reading, particularly when I found errors. I wanted it to be the best it could be. So at first it was stressful. It’s not as liberating as I thought except, I get to promise to deliver the trilogy. No publisher pulling the plug on me. That said, the rest of Dragon Wine will have to be self-published too. It didn’t sell enough for the publisher to continue and then the imprint shut down. I’m still aiming for traditional publishing deal, but I have enough material to keep the self-publishing beast and the traditional publishing beast fed. I have a book coming out under Dani Kristoff with Escape Publishing in January – a paranormal romance called Invoked.
Well in Australia, there is more professional support for romance writers. There’s the Romance Writers of Australia and they are bloody awesome. Spec fic could steal ideas from them. I believe it has been tried here but the spec fic scene is a bit fragmented. We tend to go to cons, but they are fan not pro. There was Clarion but then there wasn’t and Clarion is good if you have the time and the money, but for novelists there isn’t much. When I went to my first RWA conference, I had tears in my eyes because they gave out first sale ribbons. I was so touched that the RWA is focussed on getting their members published and so welcoming and supportive overall. And I wanted one of those ribbons and I earned one the next time when Bespelled came out. It is displayed in my office. Spec fic needs something like that. Encouragement, support and professional development.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I really liked City of Light by Keri Arthur. It’s a segue for her into a post-apocalyptic setting and some intriguing genre blending within urban fantasy. Not heavy on romance (or sex) but some interesting takes on the usual tropes.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
This is usually a hard question but in the last year I’ve started reading Lois McMaster Bujold and, yes, I could sit with her on a plane and ask her a whole of lot of questions or just listen to her talk about writing and her ideas.