Featured in the Spotlight today, and pulping his fiction for you so you don’t have to is, Dan Hanks, author of the hugely enjoyable, Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire.
To start with, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Dan Hanks, a writer and editor who lives in the Peak District, UK, with my family – and I’m very lucky to be able to say that my debut novel is out in September. Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire is my take on the old school Indiana Jones style adventures I grew up obsessing over. I actually studied archaeology because of those films and video games, so it’s really fun to be able to say I’ve now written an archaeology-adjacent book! Although there is admittedly some destruction of archaeology in the story, so it’s not exactly a handbook or anything.
From editor to storyteller, why the leap or was it a natural progression?
It was actually the other way around. I started writing long ago and learned the craft over many years, which led into lots of different avenues of writing: from telling stories to digital copywriting and content writing to drafting freelance editorial pieces. I also had the good fortune to work as an editor for a heritage consultancy during my time in Australia, which was hard work but pretty much combined my two great passions, so it was great fun. But storytelling was always in the background and I worked hard all that time to become a better writer of stories, which eventually led to me writing a book that got my dream agent – Sara Megibow. After that I tried to move more into solely freelance fiction editing to throw myself completely into fiction and that’s been a lot of fun, to help others to see things they might have missed in their work, while learning a few things myself too. So until recently I’ve been balancing these two sides of book writing and it’s been a great experience.
Can you tell us what drew you to writing Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire?
In all seriousness, I left the cinema after watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and figured I’d try to write the sequel. Ridiculous, right? Except, I knew those films backwards, the beats, the structure, the quips… so I knew I could do a half decent job. Whether it was a bit of therapy to work through that fourth Indy movie not quite sitting right with me or maybe it was a bit of fun as I tried my hand at screenwriting, I’m not sure. But it worked out pretty well. That script was eventually turned into a different story with different characters, then I adapted it into the book it all grew from there.
Why ‘pulp’ fiction and an Indiana Jones style-story?
Pulp fiction is just so much fun. It has its own look and feel, the tone is something that gets under your skin and thrills and scares you, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I wanted to write something that was just damn good fun. A popcorn blockbuster of a story that everyone can enjoy. I didn’t quite realise what 2020 had in store, so I’m even more thankful now that it’s a book you can pretty much escape to for a good time – which is something we probably all need this year. As for Indy, well this started out with him in mind. It’s changed a lot since that initial script, but I hope it retains that Indy-ness because those original three films are the quintessential popcorn blockbusters.
Can I ask about the process of getting published with your debut, at Angry Robot?
I can sum the whole process up in one word: brilliant!
I’d been a fan of theirs for a long time, so I was already thrilled to bits when editor Eleanor Teasdale said she thought my book was a joy and wanted Angry Robot to publish it. However, things got even better when they said they’d get Dan Strange to do the cover! This was the same designer who did S.A. Sidor’s FURY FROM THE TOMB, one of their previous pulpy novels, and I absolutely adored that book and that cover. I’m a big fan of those old school illustrated film posters, so that really was a dream come true.
Obviously we’ve had a pandemic to navigate along the way, which made things especially difficult for all parties. But they are such a lovely bunch of publishing people that no matter what obstacles they’ve faced, they’ve made it very easy for me at every stage. A dream publisher.
And finally, what can we look forward to reading next, and what do you have in the works?
I’m heading towards the end of a British Ghostbusters-at-Christmas story, which has been a lot of fun. The lockdown impacted my ability to get it finished before summer, but I’m still hopeful to get it to my agent before Christmas. And there’s something else I’m working on right now, which is also a lot of fun in many different ways… but I can’t talk about it just yet. Hopefully soon. 🙂
Dan Hanks is a writer and editor based in the rolling green hills of the Peak District, UK, with his human family – and fluffy sidekicks Indy and Maverick. His debut novel, Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire is out in September 2020.
Order at these outlets: https://www.danhanks.com/books