Welcome to my first Illustrious Peep interviewee, Jack Hanson!
Jack, it looks like you’re a new addition to Permuted Press. How did you stumble into our merry little apocalypse?
I’m friends outside of Permuted with fellow author Bill Braddock as we are both boxers and authors. He suggested I send my manuscript in to Permuted, and here I am. In other words, all this nonsense of mine going mainstream is his fault. Thankfully he’s a great author, so I doubt people will hold it against him for long. His latest, Brew, makes you think twice about beer while being an entertaining yarn. Go check it out if you haven’t.
I have, and it was great!
I believe our friend Bill Braddock mentioned that your book contains dinosaurs, guns, and a futuristic setting. Care to tell me more?
It would be my pleasure. Cry Havoc is the seventh book in a nine book cycle, but the first book I’ve actually sat down and written. It follows four cadets as they complete their last year in a military academy, and I believe I’ve avoided a lot of the standard tropes that pop up when writing about teenagers – In other words, there are no love triangles. The dinosaurs (known as ‘Old Blood’, as in the Old Blood of Earth) are a major part of the novel, but not overwhelmingly so. They’re sentient, intelligent, and somewhat tragic, as those who are around humans (such as the ones in the novel) for extended periods of time are outcast from their own species. I would say that exile and how characters deal with it to find their own place in the world is a major theme in the novel.
That being said, there’s plenty of action and the final climax involves a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus charging into battle armored up and loaded for bear with energy shotguns, rail guns, and missiles looking to wreck someone’s day. I’m also a big fan of the immersion school of writing, and avoid lengthy expositions as much as humanly possible. I like to drop events and names and let the reader use context clues to figure out what’s going on, or to engage a sense of mystery.
However, I’ve found this makes the novel hard to talk about in a bubble, since I’ve got a 40 year story arc that ties in. Ergo, I typically use the boilerplate “dinosaurs and machine guns in space” because it tends to get your attention, even more so than “psychic super soldiers” or “suicide commandos” which also feature in the novel. Brevity, soul of wit, all that.
From the looks of your Facebook locations, you spent some time in the “sandbox”. How do those experiences inform your writing?
They bring a sense of realism to my writing, since I’m writing Military Science Fiction. I was in Afghanistan from 03-04, out where CPL Tillman was killed, and then in Mosul/Tal Afar from 05-06. I was with an airborne infantry unit in the first deployment and part of a Stryker brigade in Iraq, which allowed me to see a wide variety of operations even as a grunt infantryman.
There is a lot of things that you have to be there to actually understand, or at least to put it into words so that others can make sense of it. The major advantage my time in the Army is that I can talk about the tangible (rank structure, chain of command, weaponry, indirect fires, troop leading procedures, how a squad attack should go off, etc) and intangible (team psychology and relationships, “hurry up and wait”, the love/hate relationship with the military, why NCOs are so damn important) with some authority.
When did the writing bug bite you?
I’m one of those who have been writing bad short stories since I was a kid. It’s only in the last few years I’ve polished my talent enough to sit down and write a novel, and then have the skill to make it look good.
What would you like to achieve as an author?
Honestly I’d be happy if I could have some influence on the trajectory of military science fiction, and help authors who want to write it have other options beyond “Baen or e-pub”. Not that Baen isn’t a good house to work for, but your options are definitely limited if you’re a new author writing MilSci.
Looking at the roster of novels Permuted has put out, I thought it was a long shot that my space opera with dinosaurs was going to get accepted by a house that puts out mostly zombie/SHTF fiction, especially coming from a first time author such as myself.
Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when Michael (Wilson) offered me a contract, and I am quite thankful that he took a chance on me and my work. If I can make his investment worthwhile, that’d be another achievement I’d like to have under my belt as well.
M-16, AR-15, or P-90? Discuss.
Among the three? P90 easily, and twice on Sunday. The polarities in firearms nowadays are fascinating to watch, and it’s exciting to benefit from what’s being put out there. Take for example the P90 – at first glance it looks like the firearms version of the platypus. Hold it in your hands though, start playing with it, and you realize that it’s a beautifully crafted weapon with a lot of interesting features. The bullpup configuration, ammo type, and trigger placement turns this wacky looking weapon into a death spitter with laser like precision.
My go to rifle, though, is a heavily modified AMD-65 (Hungarian AK variant), which would be the otherpolarity in the firearm world. Here you have a weapon pattern that’s mostly unchanged since the 1950s but is still incredibly reliable and relevant in a world where we have drone strikes and GPS guided bombs. The advent of modularity has really given new life to older rifles. I’ve got a nifty rail system on mine, and with it I’ve added a Surefire and an Aimpoint red dot, as well as a new pistol grip and skeletal folding stock. These functionality upgrades have added new capability to a weapon that’s been around for decades.
This is what I mean by polarity: on one side you’ve got polymer based weapons that look like they walked off a movie set, on the other you’ve got older weapons that you can adapt to your heart’s content. It’s all very exciting, if a bit expensive.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on the sequel to Cry Havoc, tentatively titled All Hands Against. I’ve heard it said
that the way you write a trilogy is in the first book you put the protagonists up a tree, in the second book you light the tree on fire, and in the third book you get them out of the tree. I’m finding the second novel is definitely a different animal than the first, for better and for worst. You’ve got to reset the climax, continue to grow the characters, and you’ve still got everything that came before to deal with.
That being said, it’ll be nice to see some of the seeds I’ve sown in Cry Havoc to start bearing fruit for the audience and be able to show off more of the world I’ve created.
There’s also ideas for novels about a religious war between sharks and dolphins, and the adventures of a ghostly WWI soldier who makes sure people die when they’re supposed to.
On the nonfiction side of things, I’d like to write a book about raising backyard chickens in the rural Southwest. Most of the information out there is geared towards greener pastures than what I have going on, and there’s unique challenges that I haven’t seen mentioned too often in most of the literature out there.
What advice do you have for up and coming writers?
Be true to yourself and your work. I know a lot of authors who have the “published at any cost” mentality and they’ll wreck the heart and soul of their novel just so they can get their name on a paperback. In my case I had two different agents try to turn my novel into another YA romance love triangle story because that’s a lot of what’s driving the market right now. I was told I was an idiot by other authors for not going along with it, but at the end of the day I can look myself in the eye and know in my heart I’m putting out an entertaining novel. It’s a hard road, but it’s worthwhile at the end of it.
That being said, be honest about whether or not you’ve got a good novel on your hands. If it’s not good, make it better. If it’s trite and repetitive, work on it. Part of being a professional is being able to stand by your work and be proud of it. You should be your own harshest critic, and the rewards for that kind of candor will become apparent.
Watch for Cry Havoc on Amazon and your other favorite e-book sites!