February 3, 2021: This Week We're Wild About... Dan Hanks
This one is for the readers who love adventure, genre mashups, and the kind of escapism that makes you completely forget where you are. In this interview, Dan Hanks writes that with his book Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire he wanted to give readers fun. That's a gift we could all use this year, I think! And he definitely hit the mark. When I first opened up the book, I meant to just skim a few pages and then the next thing I knew I was blinking back to awareness fifty pages later. And as soon as I was back in my world, I wanted to go back into the one Dan had created. It's like Indiana Jones but better (the reader doesn't have to squirm through old school racism, sexism, and colonialism to enjoy the adventuring). The only problem is that now I have a taste for adventure and don't know what to read while waiting for the next Captain Moxley book!
-Natalie McCall (Head of Youth Services)
What's the title of your upcoming book?
Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire - which actually came out on 8 September!
What book should readers go to for an escape from reality?
Normally an epic fantasy would be the kind of place I'd want to escape to, but it's been a heavy year so I've been preferring lighter reads. The Saturday Night Ghost Club (Craig Davidson) is wonderful, short and bittersweet, and took me right back to the innocence of childhood. But if you want a fun adventure that's pretty far removed from our current reality (and hopefully it stays that way), you can't go wrong with Fury from the Tomb (S.A. Sidor). That's just a joyful, funny, exciting ride from start to finish.
What book should readers go to when they want to face reality?
The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) blew me away with its immediacy and power, all set within a context we've sadly become even more familiar with in 2020. It has a lot to say about our current reality and does it so well it'll stay with you long after you've put the book down. It's also the only book I can remember that made me laugh out loud. Which sounds strange considering the seriousness of the subject matter, but Angie Thomas is such a great writer she was able to weave in some very human - and very funny - moments in the midst of the horror.
What was your reading life like before the pandemic?
Honestly, it hadn't been great for a while. I used to devour books when I was younger, but it dropped off when I had kids and suddenly had to choose between writing time or reading time (and writing time usually won). However, I made amends late last year when I got together with a couple of friends and we created the OcTBR Challenge - which is all about dedicating the month of October to trying to read as much of your TBR pile as possible! After that it picked up a little and I found a bit of a reading routine.
What has your reading life been like since the pandemic?
Weirdly... it's been better! I think it's partly because I decided I needed even more of an escape this year, but I've also had a lot of requests to blurb upcoming books, which forced me to relearn how to read fast again. I'm definitely going to keep this going now. (Probably.)
Why should people read for pleasure? Is that any different now?
Not everyone enjoys reading of course (my youngest struggles with it and prefers finding his stories in films), but I think if you do, then reading for pleasure can be a key element of surviving this ridiculous world. It can be an escape, a break from routine, an adventure. You can find forever friends and even fall in love. You get to personally experience a whole other life from someone else's point of view. It's basically magic! And who doesn't need magic in their lives?
Yes, ESPECIALLY in 2020, because it has been A Year, impacting us all in many different and serious ways. So if reading has ever brought you pleasure, I think this is absolutely the year to ensure you make time for it.
What do you hope your book gives to readers?
Fun. That was always the intent. To entertain and provide a few hours of fun. That's it.
Should book lovers worry about the future of publishing during the pandemic? If so, how can they help?
It's tricky, because in some ways the pandemic has caused publishing to change its ways for the better. I think others have mentioned the benefits of events going virtual and I definitely found that with my launch. Yes, it was disappointing not to be able to have a book launch in an actual bookstore, but doing it online meant it was accessible for so many more people - both live and after the event. So that's been good and I hope we continue to pursue these more accessible aspects of what we do, especially when it comes to events and conferences.
However, in terms of getting our books into the hands of readers, I do think there is cause for concern and we need to try and help. It's been a tough time for us all, but obviously with fewer (or no) people being able to browse libraries or bookstores, that's really hit hard for a lot of people in the process - especially the booksellers. The big online store who shall not be named will be fine, but if you've ever enjoyed simply browsing a bookstore in person, picking up interesting looking books, gazing at covers, and getting excited about a purchase or two... well, it's time to show that physical bookstore your love. Perhaps order a book for collection or ask if they do delivery or maybe buy a book from them as a gift for someone for Christmas? Every little will help keep these wonderful places in our towns during and after the pandemic.
If you could imagine your dream virtual library, what would it be like?
I love being able to browse bookshelves. Give me an actual virtual bookshelf (or ideally hundreds of them), full of wonderful looking books I can scroll along and 'pick up' to have a closer look at if I fancy it, and I'll be sold. :)
Where can readers find you online?
Twitter and Instagram: @dan_hanks
Do you have a favorite bookstore? Where would you like readers to buy your book (we also have it at the Library, of course!)?
My wonderful local bookstore is Bay Tree Books in Glossop, UK. This is where I first got to sign copies of my book and the owner, Sarah, has been wonderfully supportive. You can order from them via the (also wonderful) bookshop.org here: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/baytreebooks