MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JOHN GREGORY HANCOCK
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I write under John Gregory Hancock, which is my real full name. I’ve considered a pseudonym at times, though, because ironically people keep thinking my real name is fake.
I write in whatever genre that fits the story. Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Modern fiction, supernatural.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Well, my latest thing of creative effort is a short e-story called Sharing Dunwoodies. It is about a smile made a person, Bill Fastensmith, who through the intersection of his life and those of his friends and some amazing things called Dunwoodies , his life is changed or at least enhanced. I would go more into but its a short story for Pete’s sake so there is very little you CAN say without spoiling. I came up with the story in a way that I often come up with stories, I have a dream or a feeling from a dream and it gives me ideas or a mood or an insight and I wrap a narrative around that feeling until it becomes a tale.
My most popular book might be ROOF in terms of science fiction, and probably Crawlspace or Mortuary Arts for horror. I have several other books and stories and I could talk about them for a long time, but essentially I fall in love with my characters and telling about them is a labor of love. Whether it be Peter Harkness, or Evan Novotny or Katherine O’Donnell or M. Liam Boxwain.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I love telling stories… it doesn’t matter what genre. I enjoy reading all sorts of things so when I have something I want to say …well lets just say I am firmly in the school of thought that the story determines the style its told in. That includes genre. I’m eclectic and that sometimes shows in my work… which makes it kind of hard to pick a genre when I upload it to amazon. I mean, it COULD be horror, or it could be fantasy or it could be romance… or some weird amalgam of all things.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Life. Life is my research. muwahaha. Ok, we’re back to Sharing Dunwoodies: My research is that Bill Fastensmith and I share a few life experiences. Some I would have rather not had. I can’t say what they were. Spoilers, again.
Can you tell me about your Series?
I’m in the odd position of starting a few different series, and needing to make the next book in them. There is the horror supernatural Jack Banyan series, of which the first book is Crawlspace. Jack doesn’t come in until the end, but he’s a network television psychic, the real deal but he’s sold out to make a living. The next book, not yet written, is the origins of Jack Banyan and Marisol. How they come together and how they get thrown asunder and how crossing the veil between the living and the dead unleashes… well, I can’t get into it yet… spoilers.
And my short story The Antares Cigar Shoppe that was published in the Immortality Chronicles anthology curated by Samuel Peralta will become a centerpiece for a science fiction book or a series called Across the Endless Sea of Suns, about a man who is immortal, and his vast lifespan and his exploits and his sins across the stars.
Another series that has more than one book is my Dreams series of short story anthologies starting with Plague of Dreams, and followed by Splintered Dreams. I call them Dreamwood Tales.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
I cannot pick a favorite book of mine ever. They are treasured children and even the stepchild is my favorite. But ok, Three Magic Tales. There, I picked a favorite. If you’re into audiobooks, this is masterfully narrated. By Jon Caruth. And Kristen Parisi narrated my Mortuary Arts (chillingly so). James Foster did wonderful work for ROOF. He’s since gone on to nominated for several narrator awards. The nice thing is that through my audiobooks I’ve realized that hearing my words spoken is sometimes how they were meant to be experienced.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I work well under pressure. I have a nine to five job and my free time is limited, but if I know there is a deadline I can muster what it takes to finish. I don’t set up a schedule, as I’m not a planner when I write, I’m more of a responder to inspiration. For example, my short story A Winter Crossing, which appears in Splintered Dreams and Three Magic Tales, was written in 3 hours when I woke up at 3 am one morning, couldn’t sleep because the story was fully formed in my mind from a dream. I edited it later, but didn’t have to do much because it was complete and whole and deliciously cast I couldn’t see making changes to it.
Not all of my stuff comes that fully formed, unfortunately.
So, I write in manic fits and have long lulls but even when I’m not physically writing I’m working out plot points in my mind.
I write in a bedroom that’s been converted to an office, which is also my videogame heaven and man cave. I’m surrounded by posters of great science fiction movies like 2001 A Space Oddity, War of the Worlds, The Forbidden Planet, and First Spaceship on Venus. There are also vintage covers from Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories and Science Fiction Quarterly.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I have plans to finish multiple projects, as I roughly outline several at a time and jump on the one I’m in the mood for at that moment.
One that I’ve not mentioned yet will be titled Return to Me, My Beloved. It is a science fiction story of first contact set on another planet.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Naming characters is crucial, IMHO. A name informs how you will visualize their appearance, or personality. Arriving at a name is one of the very first things I do with a protagonist. I either go from my gut or I’ll research names appropriate to the setting. I know some authors will ask for name suggestions as they write, but I feel the names are so integral to the story that I don’t want to abdicate that responsibility to anyone else. Jack Banyan is a name I picked because it was a name that was somewhat familiar to people so that they might comment on it (“That’s like the tree, right?”) which is sort of reminiscent of how I have to field comments about my own name all the time and weariness that entails.
Liam Boxwain from the story Prism is a merchant in a fictional medieval England setting, and implies that he works with his hands making boots. Not directly, of course, but it kind of telegraphs that.
Where do your ideas come from?
I dream in color, I often dream complete plots and I dream characters. I remember most of my dreams and will incorporate parts of them into my stories. For the book ROOF, I had a dream that I came upon a society that lived on the roofs of large city buildings and used poles to vault from roof to roof. In the book, I changed how they traveled, and roof dwelling is one piece of a much larger plot, but that was the germ of the idea that got it all started.
Sometimes I have something I really want to say, as I do in Dying at the Reflecting Pool, which is a political cautionary tale.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Yes, I have ideas for romance that I’d like to try. I might use a pen name if I do. I know many romance writers as friends on Facebook and I admire their work.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting the time to put my butt in the seat physically to write. Honestly, that’s the hardest. Once I get writing and into a flow it’s all cake. I have fun writing, and I enjoy being surprised by my own story as it comes together.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I created an animation trailer for my first book, Plague of Dreams. I didn’t really see that anyone saw it or paid attention to it, but this was in 2013 and I was unknown so who knows what would happen if I did it now? I might do that for some future projects.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
As an author, although this is not an accomplishment per se, but I am proudest that of those who have written reviews, my tales get consistently high ratings, usually 4-5 stars. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that people are enjoying what I’m putting out there.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Creating my own worlds. Getting to know interesting characters as I write them. Having them tell me what they want to say. The absolute best thing about writing is that if you let it, it becomes like surfing. You respond to the wave as it changes, and you just enjoy the ride.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would dearly love to see some of my stories told cinematically. I’m a very visual person, being a graphic designer for my day job, and I think how I tell a tale is crafted to be a visual entity.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes, always. Because I always loved to read. The library where I grew up allowed you to check out 10 books at a time, and I would ride my bike with a basket up front, check out all ten books and read them voraciously and come back for more. I grew up in the sixties, and the golden age of science fiction was still in force. I wanted to be Asimov, Sturgeon, Bester and Campbell when I grew up.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice is to not listen to too much writing advice. We’re all different, and we all tell tales differently. Enjoy and encourage yourself on what makes you distinct from the field instead of trying to conform to one person’s formula for success. Write in the way that makes you the most comfortable and productive. Experiment to find out what that method is. Have fun with it, most of all. Write what you would most like to read. Reread your work over and over again as you edit and hone it down to its best form. If you can stand to read your own stuff dozens of times as a reader, then its going to be fun for the other readers out there as well.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Well, I’m an artist for a living (I do my own covers and interior illustrations) so I’m covered there. But if I could be something I’m not now, I’d love to direct movies or be the first person on Mars. Only one of those is possible at this point.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Yes, I love to read my reviews. I think its helpful to see how what you wrote lands in the hearts of the readers. I don’t usually respond to them except to say thanks, and I don’t begrudge anyone’s opinion. Sometimes they make valid points that I’ll think about for the next project.
Never, never respond to bad reviews. Bad mojo, that. I’m lucky that I have received very few bad reviews, but I see no upside to responding to them.
But here’s the thing: reviews are not FOR the authors, they are for other readers. It’s not our sandbox. We have no business mucking around in it. Of course, we’d prefer good reviews, but I personally prefer honest reviews, because I think that’s better for other readers.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Definitely marketing. I should probably at some point get someone else involved doing that for me, but right now I feel a bit uncomfortable hawking my own work. I was raised to not brag and it feels like boasting a bit to keep pushing the marketing of something I wrote. I know that’s probably going to sound weird but I know a lot of authors with the same issue.
My favorite part of writing is when it gels and I’m feeling the reality of the characters and look up to see time has mysteriously passed while I was in the zone.
What are you working on now?
I’m letting some larger projects stew and trying to submit short stories for a while to other anthologies, just to mix things up.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Sure. This is from Across the Endless Sea of Suns:
There are times when I’m wrapped in old man sweat and blankets that I miss Colette. I miss the wonderful wide-eyed face that drank everything in, including me. I even miss deadname Andy, who originated that face with those cerulean blue eyes, though Colette forbade me to ever mention his name. It was a door closed and firmly shut, a stop on a train moving ever forward. And I could appreciate that. I had my own list of dead names that collected like debris in my wake.
I first met Colette, or at least first knew Colette as Colette in the grotto of Sheldon’s “hospital”.
I’d already been sitting vigil at her bedside for what seemed like days but was probably just hours. When she first opened her gummy eyes I was the plain unremarkable moon-shaped face she saw. In spite of that, she grinned a mountain-sized smile. I knew it wasn’t just for me, it was a smile for something and everything around me or behind me or through me, and I was ok with that. It was a smile at the world finally going her way, for once.
“I had the most amazing dream,” she whispered. I nodded, knowing she would get around to the details in a bit. She drifted back and forth through consciousness for a time that was just between her and me in that makeshift sterile room. Plastic sheeting had been duct-taped to make the oblong stolen space inside the abandoned warehouse. Or was it a factory? I can’t seem to remember. The structure was huge, and dwarfed the semi-transparent walls.
You weren’t around for that, I know. It was you, like you, running around doing this or that that kept you from my side. Was that intentional? Did that sound bitter? Ok, that was bitter. I wonder at what places they were, what was happening, what you were doing. But by then I knew it wasn’t with me, or for me. You were a woman on a mission, you were. Yeah, well.
When Collete woke, her slumber lingered on her face like cobwebs and she rolled over to face me.
“I had the most amazing dream,” she said again. I remained quiet, waiting, allowing her to arrive at how best to tell me.
“I was walking down into a bowl-shaped valley. A hard sun beating on my neck and shoulders, and I kept shrugging them to make the heat go away,” She laughed to herself a little bit. Woozy, sounding drunk. The anesthesia.
“In the bottom of the valley was this magic spring. Whatever you desired it would grant you. You had to give up something of value, though, so I offered buckets of my poisoned blood. I was hoping the sprite in the spring wouldn’t see how worthless the blood was.”
“She asked me what my heart hungered for, above all else. I asked if it could make me a woman. It didn’t say anything for a long time and I was afraid I’d asked for too much. But then I looked down at myself and saw that the magic water had delivered. I was beautiful. My shoulders were petite, and my hips ample and curved and my breasts grew to where I could reach down and caress them. I was so happy in my dream that I was about to burst. And you know the best part?” she asked me.
“No, Andy,” I said,” Why don’t you tell me?”
“I woke up just now and I am a woman. It was true, all of it was. It wasn’t a dream after all, it was something that really and truly happened, and it happened to ME. Of course I hurt now and I need to brush my teeth, and my shoulders are still broad and my hips too narrow. But I’m a woman now, inside and out.”
Grateful tears gushed down her face in gobs and soaked into her pillow. And her face was so unconsciously happy that it made her the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Well, the second-most.
She was giggling and flinching when she moved wrong, which only made her laugh harder. I think even the laughing hurt but she couldn’t stop doing it. She was fulfilled, finally becoming her own dream.
That’s when I guess I fell in love with her. Not the outside of her or the trappings of her or the arms or face or what have you. I fell in love with the spirit that was always her. I saw more clearly who she was, who she’d been all this time, obscured by the debris of Andrew.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
I write what I would love to read, so since I’m eclectic and fickle, I hop around a lot. There is no balance unless being distracted by all genres is a sort of balance.
Where did your love of books come from?
I was and am a hungry reader. I love being transported to another world in my mind. My childhood was not always happy, and books were my refuge.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Too many to mention them all, I love so many, but I’ll list a few. Of the famous ones: Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Phillip K. Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, George R.R. Martin, Jules Verne, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Fiest, Mercedes Lackey, L.E. Modesitt, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Frank Herbert. The writer I idolize though is Kurt Vonnegut, and I am in the school of how he writes: he never uses 15 words when 7 will do. That is how I also write, I don’t pad I edit down to all that is truly needed to tell the tale.
Of those authors I know personally or from online (and this is a very unfair list because I know many more good authors in this category and hate to narrow it down): to name a few — Tony Bertauski, G.P. Ching, Lorna Suzuki, Zoe Sharp, Susan Kay Quinn, Jon Messenger, Jen Foehner Wells, Samuel Peralta, Casey L. Bond, Alexandra Sokoloff, Caroline A. Gill, Harlow Cyan Fallon, Stacy Erickson, Carol Davis, Mary Ting, and Sydnie Beaupre´.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I wrote a short story in the Prep for Doom anthology, that featured a character named Old Earl, a homeless man with a storied past. He is probably my favorite. Although Bill Fastensmith is my favorite character as a person. No… wait… oh I give up, I like them all or I wouldn’t have written them.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energizes me like a shot of triple espresso. I’m more me when I write.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time. Not enough of it or not enough quality uninterrupted time. I’m actually looking forward to retiring so I have more time to write.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’m the reader I’m trying to satisfy. If I don’t find it interesting its not worth writing. That having been said, I do make an effort to upend expectations and at least try to be original. But I’m at the whim of my ideas. Sometimes my ideas are more stereotypical. But I have not as yet tried to fit my stories to fit a marketplace trope for the sake of just matching a template. How boring would that be?
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
(refers you back to a previous question where I list quite a few) But yes, ALL writers make me a better writer. The more I read, the more I learn to disappear into a world.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
I’ve joked that a story about my life should be titled “I seem to be in the business of doing things I regret”
I even gave that line to one of my characters. I won’t say which one.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
What is the secret to life? The answer would be what Peter Harkness discovers in ROOF:
“Robbie. I saw it. It’s… it’s all about thought. Our thoughts live on. What we love, and what we do out of love. I…”
Where can your fans find you and follow??
A couple of places.
My amazon author page:
My author website (which I desperately need to update at some point):
my facebook author page:
my Goodreads page:
My personal facebook page (caveat: I’m very outspoken on a variety of issues, including politics and LGBTQ rights and just basic human rights.)
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
it was an honor!