# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Susan Hancock and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all from my desk at home in the UK.
As a former University Lecturer, I have written and published non-fiction over a number of years. However, I had to give up teaching in order to concentrate on my battle with a cancer which is currently dormant. Thank goodness for chemo and radiotherapy…fingers crossed that the big C stays knocked back!
For a while, I was depressed and didn’t want to do anything with all this newfound time, but then, to the surprise of my loving family, I became obsessed with the idea of writing an adult novel and ended up writing three, the ‘Anstey’s Kingdom’ sequence.
My books are SFF with a love story and a historical twist as refugees from war on a distant planet hide in Elizabethan England. The three are: Surviving Anstey: A Story of Love through Time and Space; Anstey’s Revenge: Will Love be Enough? and Anstey’s Legacy: No Greater Love.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Working in SFF has allowed me to present contemporary issues from a distanced perspective, whilst simultaneously portraying the close-up emotional landscapes of both human and surrogate human characters. My protagonists are refugees, trapped by the man who made them sign draconian contracts in order to escape the war. The self-styled “Director” is ruthless, and, together with his band of trained “enforcers,” puts to death any who try to escape. Readers will, I’m sure, be able to draw real-life parallels.
# How do you deal with creative block?
I tend not to suffer from it, however, if I do find myself reluctant to write, it is usually because I have taken my characters along a route they are rebelling against. As soon as I discover what is amiss, I delete the offending section. Once I start back along the right road everything flows once more.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
With titles, I try to avoid overlap with other books. It can be difficult for readers searching for your books if there are a number of similar-sounding titles. A clear indication of story content probably helps – hence my sub-titles, which suggest sci-fi, love, and time travel. Covers should also truthfully reflect story content if possible.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I’ve been fortunate so far, but I fear that it would upset me. I also review other books on my website and only post about those I particularly like. It’s so easy and cruel to destroy people’s self-esteem. I wouldn’t say I liked a book if I didn’t; I prefer to remain silent if that’s the case.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best was the moment when my first reader told me she loved my story; the worst was (and is) having to advertise my books; the most surprising continues to be the number of supportive and like-minded authors I have been able to chat with in on-line areas such as Twitter.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
My hope is always that the two are interlinked. I write for readers out there who like similar books to the ones I enjoy. My characters evolve into people I care about and my wish is to place them in the hands of readers who will love them too. I don’t think I could ever write to order for a particular audience that has been pre-defined by those who judge what is and isn’t “commercial.”
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
For me, a big part. I have to be emotionally invested in my characters or I can’t write (I’m the same as a reader). I’m often in tears at my laptop when I’m writing about something bad happening to one of my ‘people’, but the story makes its own demands on them.
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
I tend to picture scenes from the overall story and write a lot of dialogue between my characters, then I go back and fill in what they’re thinking and seeing and the actions that go alongside.
# How much research do you normally do for your books?
For the trilogy, I spent a lot of time researching the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Devon my Aurigan characters step into through a rift in time and space. I was so grateful to the North Devon Records Office in Barnstaple (wheelchair friendly) for all their help with locating relevant texts and it was exciting to stay at the Royal and Fortescue Hotel, formerly the Fortescue Arms, which is the model for the inn which my protagonists Kat and Thomas visit. There is an amazing ceiling in the hotel bistro, which dates from 1620! My local research was really helpful in locating contemporary documents, maps, and information on the pirates who occupied Lundy Island (12 miles off the Devon coast) and play a significant role in the second of my books. I also used relevant documents to research the floods along the Bristol Channel (early seventeenth-century) which feature in Anstey’s Revenge: Will Love be Enough?
# What are your plans for future books?
I am currently writing a set of sequels to the trilogy. These will be about the now-adult children of my original main characters, Kat and Thomas. I’m also debating whether to release a novella about the life of Kat’s mother on Domum-Orbis (her home planet).
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I’m fascinated by froglets. Since cancer damaged nerves in my spine, I can’t get out walking as I used to, so I love sitting in the garden and watching the tadpoles in our wildlife pond turn into tiny baby frogs before they go hop about. In a recent hailstorm, I watched a line of them (just over thumbnail-sized) bouncing over the lawn to shelter under a laurel tree.