Carol J. Hansen is a salon owner, family-woman and amazing urban-fantasy author, based out of rural Utah, where much of her debut novel DarkStar is set.
Mrs. Hansen made an amazingly stunning debut, and recently the novel has been released with new edits. She has just finished Wizard, the next installment in the DarkStar trilogy.
While we wait (impatiently) for the novel's release, please enjoy the interview I conducted with Mrs. Hansen. I am so glad she found the time to talk to me!
Enjoy! <3 KSR
1. Your first novel, DarkStar, was published in 2012 and was made a semi-finalist in the Reviewers Indie Books of 2012. How did it feel to not only be published for the first time but to have such an honor?
It was amazing! When you write a novel the characters become very personal to you. You can’t wait to share them with others so they can learn to love (or hate) them also. The day UPS brought my first copy of DarkStar, they just sat it in my garage and I was so excited that I took a picture of it lying on the ground…lol. Writing and publishing a book is great experience. You learn so much about yourself and it’s crazy how far you can stretch your mind to create characters and the worlds they live in. I was excited when DarkStar was chosen as a semi-finalist because I didn’t expect such a reception for my book. DarkStar has fans around the world and that is humbling. I’m very grateful to all the fans for being so wonderfulJ
2. At what age did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I know it probably sounds weird, but I never really wanted to be a writer even though I knew I could write. I loved keeping a journal and writing poetry in high school, but it wasn’t until I was writing scripts for plays at girl’s camp that I realized that I was pretty good at dialogue and could probably write a book. When I decided to write DarkStar, I was actually planning on writing book called, Girls Camp 101 since I had been camp director for eleven years. I would still like to write that book.
It wasn’t until my kids were raised, and I was setting new goals that I decided to write DarkStar. J
3. You juggle owning your own salon, being a mom and grandmother and also your writing career. Is it difficult to be so many things to so many different people at once?
It is difficult! That’s why time management and prioritizing is so important. My family is the most important thing to me so they definitely come first. I recently simplified my life by selling the large building my salon occupied and built a smaller one. I work individually now but I still have one of my stylists working with me and I am apprenticing my daughter-in-law to get her cosmetologist license. By down scaling my business, it is giving me more time to write and do some of the things I love to do. Life is so busy and it’s so hard to have time for everything. That’s why it has taken me so long to write the second book in my series. I’m happy to say that Wizard is with my editor though.
4. What authors did you enjoy reading growing up? What authors do you enjoy reading today?
I have always been an avid reader and enjoyed many different genres. I grew up a long time ago and I can’t remember author’s names, but the books Caddy Woodlawn, Where the Red Fern Grows, Death Be Not Proud and The Illustrated Man stand out in my mind. In high school my favorite author was Victoria Holt. I loved her books because they took place on the mysterious moors of England. Her stories inspired the English setting for DarkStar.
Today I enjoy many authors. I try to branch off from main stream authors because there are so many other awesome books that have been written by talented unknown authors. I do like Suzanne Collin, Michelle Paige Holmes, James Dashner and Scott Westerfield. My faith is LDS and I love reading books written by LDS authors also. Tristi Pinkston is one of my favorites (I’m excited to have her as my editor,) and I also enjoy Chris Stewart and Gerald Lund.
5. DarkStar is refreshing as an urban fantasy/romance novel because it is "nice". You didn't need to put in excessive foul language or sex to make it interesting: the story speaks for itself. I would say it is for ages 15 and up or so, would you agree?
I know of people between the ages of 10 and 93 who have read DarkStar and enjoyed it, but I think 10 is too young. My novel is geared toward teens and tweens so I think 13 is a good age to start.
It is a sad reality that the entertainment world, whether books, television, internet, movies, games, etc., use sex, violence and foul language to sell their products. People have become so desensitized to what is right, wrong and moral that things that would have never been read, broadcast or viewed in the past, they are now considered normal. In my writing, I want to show that stories can be clean, and as you said, “nice” but still entice the reader to engage their own imagination by getting the point across without the use of foul language and sex and violence. I’m pleased that so many readers comment and enjoy that DarkStar is a clean read.
6. There are very deep emotions between Alec and Amrie: longing, love, hope and intrigue and the emotions all feel very real when reading the novel. Were the characters or the situation based on anyone/anything in real life, because they do seem quite real as you read about them?
I had fun coming up with different situations that Alec dealt with when receiving Mysticryss power and many were based on things that happened to me. I just added the magicJ Take for instance, a few years ago I was at Second Dam and there were thousands of tiny caterpillars everywhere and they were eating the trees. It was crazy. So when I was creating scenes where Alec was receiving different powers, but didn’t know what they were yet, I used that experience and made it magical. I hiked to the Wind Caves and spent a day writing there because I wanted my readers to be able to visualize what I was seeing.
There are definitely some underlying messages in DarkStar and they are known only to the people involved.
7. You are writing a trilogy, not stand-alone novels. Why and how did you decide to make it so and not expand and/or diminish the series?
If you read the first page of DarkStar, it says: “I cherish the precious memories of my friends from the past, for without them…there would be no DarkStar.”
Let me explain that quote. When I was a teenager, I ran with a group of friends and we all gave each other silly nicknames. A special friend gave me the name, DarkStar. We also had a symbol to go with our name and mine was the moon and star.
I’ve always thought that DarkStar would be a great name for a novel and a movie. A few years ago, I was going through a challenging time in my life and one night I couldn’t sleep. I got up and was sitting in my dark front room wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. My kids were raised and married and it was time for me to set some new goals.
As I stated before, I was toying with the idea of writing a Girls Camp book, but that night I received the strong impression that I needed to write my DarkStar novel. It was the perfect time because of the popularity of the fantasy genre and its massive fan base. I knew that with a name like, DarkStar, it had to be a fantasy and there was no question what the story would be about because the friend who gave me my unique nickname -- his name was Wizard. That’s where it began.
As the story line progressed and plot ideas surfaced, I realized that there was definitely room for a second book and I wanted it to be called, Wizard. Two books can’t be called a series so I knew I needed to make it, at least, a trilogy. The final book will be named after the Warshaw wizardry, The Mysticryss. I’m fairly sure that the 3rd book will be the last in the DarkStar series, but there are some awesome characters that have the potential of having a series of their own -- we shall see what happens. ;)
8. Magic and wizards are not typical in popular novels today as main characters, and you explained on your website [links will be below at the end of the interview] why you chose a wizard and the name DarkStar, but did you ever consider writing about something different?
As I stated in the last question, DarkStar was destined to be about a wizard. I just wasn’t sure how it would all play out. I am very happy with the outcome though and I’m excited to get the next two books finished and published. The ending is awesome! It’s amazing how, when you begin writing, idea’s pop into your head and the story writes itself. And yes, I do have other books in my head, but not necessarily fantasy’s.
9. You have an alternative/acoustic EP that accompanies the novel, [DarkStar, written, produced and performed by the amazing musician Matt Lande; his links will also be below for the readers who might be interested.] which is also a bit unusual. Why did you decide to have music accompany your book?
Writing a book is the easy part. Wondering how to market it is overwhelming. When I was writing, I knew I needed a niche, something unique for marketing my novel. I love music and decided one way I could promote DarkStar was to have a song written for my story and to have a music video made for that song. I was fortunate to connect with musician Matt Lande and he agreed to read DarkStar. The intention was to have him write one song but, as he read it, he was inspired to write three! Matt is very intense when he puts him mind to writing lyrics and music. He amazes me with what he comes up with. I think the DarkStar EP helps readers relate with Alec and Amrie’s emotional bond.
10. How did you and Matt decide on making the EP and the music videos that spawned from two of the three songs?
I wanted a song and video that I could use as a trailer on my website, but after Matt wrote the 3 DarkStar songs, we decided to make an actual hard copy 3 song EP which could be marketed with my novel. Matt was working on his “Welcome Home the Child” album at the time so he recorded and produced my DS music as he did his. We realized that we have a unique project – an author and a musician coming together, so we set some goals. We were accepted on the website Kickstarter and were able to get backers to help with the financing of making our music and videos a reality. We received some awesome support from great people! I chose the scenes for the videos but they were developed by me, Matt and our awesome cinematographer, Daniel Webster. I actually took Daniel to the sites we filmed at prior to Matt’s arrival. That way he knew the area he would be filming. It was an awesome experience and I hope everyone will want to go to my website and watch them.
11. The novel is set in Central Utah, where you live, and that was also where the two music videos Matt Lande did for you were shot. Why did you choose where you live and England as the settings, as opposed to somewhere else?
The setting of DarkStar is actually in northern Utah, about 4 hours north of where I live. I wanted a magical, mystical setting and the high mountain Cache Valley is exactly that. My brother lives there and my daughter attended college there for four years. I’ve spent a lot of time in Logan and knew it was the perfect location. I chose England because, even though I’ve never been there, I love it. Victoria Holt books took me there and I have ancestors who lived there.
12. Your next novel, Wizard, is still in the process of being ready for publication. What can readers expect in Alec and Amrie's continued adventures? Also, will Matt be making more music for the new novel?
Alec and Amrie met in the modern world, but their connection is through the magical world of wizardry. They just don’t know what bonds them yet. Wizard will explore the mystery and their relationship further as Alec struggles with his responsibility in the unseen world. The story begins in Logan, Utah, but takes us to England where more unthinkable events happen. New characters are introduced as the plot thickens. I think readers will be intrigued as they are sucked deeper into my DarkStar worldJ
Yes, Matt and I will be doing more music for the DarkStar series. Our goal is to eventually make the DarkStar EP into a full production album. Matt has graciously agreed to let me help write some of the songs. As soon as Wizard is released, we will be doing more book and music signings along with DarkStar concerts where Matt will perform and share his magicJ
13. DarkStar has recently been republished with new edits. You did explain fully in your blog why that was, but can you give readers a quick explanation here?
When I wrote DarkStar, I didn’t have the money to hire a professional editor so I had some awesome friends help edit it. They did a great job, but of course they are not editors. I was anxious to have my book published and even though I knew it should have an edit, I went ahead and published. What I didn’t expect was for it to be received as well as it was. DarkStar became popular, not only through myself and my marketing, book signings and such, but through Matt Lande and his fan base. When they saw him reading it, many of his fans read it too. I’m very grateful to Matt for thatJ As my fan base grew, I knew I needed to get a professional editor, not only for myself but the my readers. DarkStar now has a clean professional edit and is republished and available. My editor is working on Wizard as we speakJJJ
14. What do you hope the readers will take away from your novels once they have finished reading?
I hope that readers will love my DarkStar world as much as I do. I want them to grasp the world I have created and love my characters. I want them to know that books can have romance, mystery and intrigue and still be a clean read.
15. Thank you very much for doing this interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
You are very welcome Kelly. Thank you for interviewing me and for your continued support for both Matt and I. You’re awesome!
Three things about me…
1) I come from a very large family. My mom is #8 of 16 brothers and sisters. My dad is the baby of 12 brother and sisters…and yes…the kids in both families are all from the same mom and dad! No his, hers and theirs. My grandparents were strong people!! My mom & dad only had 5 kids. I’m second to the oldestJ
2) I was a cheerleader adviser.
3) I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago, but found that you can overcome barriers and do and be anything you want to. I believe everything happens for a reason so you take the trials in life and make them as positive as possible. I Your attitude defines youJ
Find Carol at the following places online:
Website: www.mydarkstarworld.com [Novels, EP and even DarkStar-inspired jewelry can all be purchased here!]
Facebook LIKE Page: www.facebook.com/MyDarkStarWorld
Find DS Musician Matt Lande at the following places online:
Facebook LIKE Page: www.facebook.com/mattlandeofficial