Interview with Shawn Hansen

ShawnVatarThis week we meet Shawn Hansen. Shawn has a broad base of wisdom to share, which includes writing and marketing. Be sure to visit her sites – lots to learn.

Tell us about yourself:  I’ve been earning money writing since 2006 – I (happily) left my college English professorship to write and market full time. Best. Decision. Ever. I’ve published over 1000 stories in magazines like Thaumatrope, Tweet the Meat, 7×20, and in the anthology 140 and Counting. My latest eBooks (Halloween Tales and Eulogy for a Mime and Other Stories) are available through Amazon. As The Indie Book Marketer, I help writers turn their passion for writing into profit.

What inspired you to start writing?  I honestly don’t know what inspired me to start writing, but I presume it was my love of reading – I’ve always been a voracious reader – I get that from my mom. When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents read to me a lot, and we went to the library regularly. I often wanted books as gifts, and I don’t ever recall being told “no” when asking for a book. I was the kid with the biggest box of books every time those Scholastic orders were delivered in homeroom. It may have been nerdy, but it made me feel like the coolest kid in the room. I also remember walking the aisles of bookstores marveling at all the books and covers and spines and dreaming of how magical it must be to move from a blank page to one filled with meaningful words. To this day, I’m amazed that given we all have the same words available to us, people pay me for the way I string mine together. How wonderfully random! I’ve been writing my whole life, but I only gave myself permission to take it seriously in 2006. When I made that decision, I created a business, and I outlined a plan to begin earning money. I included study time to learn the craft and to research the markets, and I wrote every single day. I set a goal of submitting something every week someplace, and eventually, it paid off. In the last two weeks, I’ve released two eBooks of short fiction. My goal to end 2013 is to publish two new eBooks of short fiction each month, and once I have 6-8 (for adults), to turn them into a compilation in print. My plan is to alternate between fiction for grown ups and fiction for kids.

What influenced the way you tell a story? In terms of the stuff I write for grown ups, I think the old black and white episodes of The Twilight Zone crawled into my brain and took root. I love that kind of storytelling: The surprise, twist ending that’s fair to the reader. When it comes to kids stuff, there’s no doubt Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are my influences. There is a certain type of awe and magic that runs through what they wrote, and if I can manage even a little of either, I’m happy.

How do you approach the art of writing?  I don’t think of writing as an art. Often what I produce is art, but the writing itself is work, and I approach it as a business. Some of what I write is intended specifically to earn me money, and some (though not all) of that isn’t my favorite type of writing, but like any business, there are things about it I love and others I hate. That’s my biggest tip to anyone who wants to be a writer who earns money – treat it like a business from the very start. Learn about the craft, the markets, the opportunities, and set a schedule that includes not just writing for pleasure, but also writing for profit. Surround yourself with money-earning writers, and pick their brains. You’ll find out very quickly they spend at least as much time (if not more) marketing what they write as they do writing. It’s a great lesson to learn early on. When I decided to begin earning a living writing, I committed to producing writing that would sell whether it was copy, fiction, nonfiction, ghost work, or articles. It didn’t matter to me: I just wanted to make sure I could pay my bills with my writing. That opened a lot of doors for me, and I became a much better writer learning to tailor my work to different markets and projects. I’ve continued to pursue various ways of getting paid for my writing – many of which almost no other writers consider. For example, I earn several hundred dollars each year writing Tweets for others, and in learning how to do that, I found markets that pay for my Twitter-length stories. Imagine getting a $100 check for writing a story of 140 or fewer characters. That never gets old.HalloweenTales_2013_REDUCED

 What do you read for pleasure? At any given point in time I’m reading three books. Generally one is fiction (primarily for pleasure) and one is nonfiction (primarily for growth). The third is always an audiobook I listen to while exercising or driving, and that’s always fiction. Right now I’m listening to Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. The fiction book I’m currently reading is Dawn by Octavia Butler, and for nonfiction it’s Infographics: How to Drive a Ton of Traffic from Just One Page by Social Caffeine. Asking a writer who her favorite author is is evil. (Wait a minute? Evil?) I haven’t ever met an author who doesn’t devour books of all types, and I have multiple “favorites.” I also think who we love evolves with our writing skills and style. I’ve learned from every author I’ve read: Harper Lee, Janet Evanovich, Henry James, Patricia Cornwell, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Steig Larsson, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. My favorite author is far and away Stephen King, though Joe Hill (his son) takes a close second and may supplant his dad on my list very soon.

You write short stories, flash fiction and other tidbits. Do you have a favorite? Maybe an excerpt from a story that I can share with readers? I love crafting a whole story in a very limited space, but I don’t really have a preference between Twitter fiction (140 or fewer characters), Drabbles (stories of exactly 100 words), flash fiction (300-1000 words), or short stories. Each of those forms satisfies a part of my creative need, and I still write full-length pieces as well. (Though lately I end up chopping my full-length works into smaller stories during rewrites.)

Here’s an excerpt from “Overnighter” from Eulogy for a Mime and Other Stories

 Any upcoming events? I’ll be holding several online author events over the coming months, and I’ll be speaking about self-publishing and author marketing at the Ultimate IM Rockstars event in Reno, Nevada on April 4th-

Final words of wisdom? Authors don’t make money, writers do. It’s one of the most important lessons I try to teach. If you want to learn more about what I mean, here’s a link to the podcast I did about it: http://indiebookmarketer.com/strategycast-episode-02-authors-dont-make-money-writers-do/

How to Connect with Shawn

Web Sites: IndieBookMarketer.com, ScribbledStories.com, Flying Donkey Press, BookCoverJunction.com,BrainyGameBooks.com

Social Media:

Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/ShawnEHansen

Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/Shawn_Writes

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ShawnHansenMarketingSolutions

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ShawnHansenChannel

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ShawnHansen

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/shawnhansen

Thank you Shawn!

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