Interview by Angie Taylor
Welcome, John Hancock to BOD’s author spotlight interview. What a pleasure it is to get to spend some time with you and share a little bit about you with our fellow authors and fans at Band of Dystopian!
I’m honored and thrilled. BOD has been a very welcome place for me to hang out with my writer peeps and my reader peeps and those little yellow Easter peeps.
Tell us your writing story. When did you know writing was the world you wanted to live in?
As a boy I grew up in the late 60’s. I would ride my bike to the library, fill the front basket with the allowable number of books and read them all. They were my best friends — Asimov, Sturgeon, Dick, Bester, Padgett, Lewis, Wells, Verne.
I only knew then how much I wanted to read. Later on, I wanted to write. It wasn’t a sudden thing, it was a slow drenching fog of a thing. I loved English in school, although to be fair, I loved everything in school.
In college, I took creative writing and dreamed of getting published. But this was in the 80’s. The gatekeepers were stalwart and forbidding. I sensed that, from the visiting authors.
So I put that dream aside. For a long time.
In the early nineties, in a midlife crisis fugue, I tried again, I sent off a couple of stories to Asimov magazine, both rejected. Though one was a personal rejection, which I cherish. I was able to get a couple of stories in webzines, back before webzines were cool. But I put that dream aside. After all, I had a creative outlet, working as a graphic designer for newspapers, so that monster in my breast was being fed, somewhat. It shrunk, and only mewled it was hungry once in a while.
Then, the self-publishing paradigm happened. At about the same time, I temporarily had a relatively non-creative job. The monster grew larger and must be fed. I started writing a fantasy novel. I got a little ways and wondered if this was even a viable option. As an experiment, I collected what stories I had, expanded flash fiction I’d done and came up with some new stories, and packaged it all together, using only me. I wanted to see if I could do it. That became A Plague of Dreams.
whew! only the first question and I’ve written War and Peace. Sorry!
What was your favorite book or series when you were a child? What about as an adult? Have these book influenced your writing?
When I was very young, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. L’Engle. As a preteenager it was the golden age of science fiction: Bradbury, Asimov, Ellison. In college, it was Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Poe. Then, as an adult: Clive Barker, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Eddings, Tad Williams, George RR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Rusch, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula LeGuinn.
You cannot help but be influenced as a writer by those books you’ve read, even the bad books, because they teach you.
I love stories that address a genre in a different way. You do this so masterfully in “Roof.” Can you tell us where your idea for Roof came from?
Roof, like most of my works, starts with a dream I’ve had. I borrow either the mood, or feeling or outright details. I dream in complete plots most of the time.
The particular dream that was the kernel to get me started was this:
I dreamed I was scared to death, leaning against a parapet of a building, high, high in the air, and someone hopped over to rescue me. I clung to the architecture for dear life, afraid of falling, afraid not to fall. This other person grabbed my hand and leaped across to another building roof, taking me with them. Once I was there, they had a whole community of homeless people, laughing and singing. I looked over the roof and saw the city below, and realized I was no longer part of that world, that now I would live on the roofs of buildings. In the dream, we pole-vaulted across the roofs.
Of course, that’s just the germ of the idea, Roof is different a bit, and so much more of a story than that.
As far as genre: I read so many genres, that I just write a story, and don’t worry about how it fits into a genre. In fact, that’s the most anxiety-ridden part of publishing for me is deciding what category the book I just wrote falls into. And the blurb. I hate writing blurbs.
I love the idea that technology can be programmed to have personality and perhaps even souls. Where did your inspiration come from for giving your automatons such humanistic qualities?
Honestly, my character told me. As I was writing Peter, he told me an engineer wouldn’t be able to stand by something broken without trying to fix it. That is the soul of the engineer. When he was having humanity taken away from him, he had to find a way to be around humans, even if he had to make what wasn’t human, human.
Roof is full of technological computer jargon. Are these details from personal knowledge or did you have to do some serious researching?
It’s the world Peter lives in. I didn’t have to research because I did a short stint at a software company, I was Margaret (user interface) to their programmers. I’ve built a pc computer from scratch, to see if I could do it. I was one of the founders of MacOSXhints.com, although I don’t participate there now. Used to be there was almost nothing about macs and their operating system I didn’t know. Now I can’t because its more complicated. I worked on the first macs made, and was on the internet before it was the internet, due to knowing some of the right people. I’m ancient, and have lived through many things. I’m the sponge that absorbs it. Coo coo ca choo.
Also, the hidden computer language he invents is my idea, I don’t know if that does or will exist at some point. I don’t see why it couldn’t.
What can you tell us about your participation in the upcoming release of Prep For Doom?
I created 20 different personas and wrote the whole thing myself. I’M KIDDING!.
No, I was lucky enough to be part of the brainstorming phase, where the overall story arc was discussed by the wonderful ER Arroyo and others. I wanted to write a pocket story, one that kind of existed in its own little world parallel to the main story. I posted in a private chat the rough sketch of the story, they approved, I wrote it and sent it in, hoping it would be accepted (there are so many fantastic authors in BOD that there was no guarantee I’d get in).
Luckily, I think people liked my characters and the way they talk to each other, so it got in. I’m honored and humbled at the same time.
What has it been like collaborating with other authors on such a project?
Well, it was sort of like tying a necktie in the dark. You sort of kind of knew the barest hint of what other people were doing, and so you tried to mold your story in a way that would fit. Great credit needs to be given to Sara Benedict and again ER Arroyo for shepherding that all together.
I was honored to work more directly with Casey L. Bond, and include her main character in at the end of my story. That was a cool thing to do, and unlike anything I’ve done before.
Are you currently working on other writing projects you’d like us to know about?
Well, right now, I’m in the editing phase to have a story of mine included in the Immortality Chronicles, a Samuel Peralta project (you should check out some of his other Chronicle books). I’m trying to get a version of another of my stories published through a renowned horror publisher, we’ll see if that comes to fruition (fingers crossed). If it doesn’t through that method, I will certainly self-publish it as I think it’s one of the better stories I’ve ever done in that genre.
Plans, plans. I plan to have a sideways sequel to Crawlspace, which will start off a series based on Jack Banyan, psychic. I plan to title it “Banyan’s Law” and it will connect sideways to Crawlspace. I also have blocked out a Science Fiction novel that will be titled “Return to me, my beloved”. When I finish that one, I will try to send it through the traditional publishing route and see how that comes out.
I’m working on more installments of “The Utopia Syndrome,” micro short stories that I will ultimately package together.
I also have more stories in my head than I can tell, so keep tuned!
Besides writing, what are some of your other hobbies and or day jobs?
I’m a graphic designer by day, I love to play video games with my son (though he reminds me I don’t play enough) Otherwise, I’m a fairly sedentary person, I don’t rock climb or skydive (not anymore) and I can’t even ride rollercoasters (due to having my vertebrae fused in my neck). So the best thing, if I’m not writing, is sitting next to my lovely wife as we watch TV. (there’s another best thing, but we shan’t go into that)
Thank you, John, for your time, and for sharing your awesome stories with us at BOD!
ROOF – Sci-Fi Dystopian
The Utopia Syndrome – Sci-Fi Dystopian
Crawlspace – Horror
Three Magic Tales – Fantasy
Splintered Dreams – Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy anthology of stories
A Plague of Dreams – Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy anthology of stories