Interview with self-published author Marita Hansen
When a foreigner thinks of New-Zealand, he will usually daydream about pristine beaches, amazing wildlife, or perhaps kiwis. His thoughts wouldn’t easily be going in the direction of violent gangs surviving in cheerless slums, with the blind-alley future of alcohol, drugs and the vicious circle of more violence. But such can be the reality of South-Auckland, an area well-known to Marita and described by her in her debut novel Behind the Hood. Marita paints this harsh reality with a relentless pen, her sentences scratch deep into your soul, the images she conjures are painfully honest. What I enjoy most in her writing are her unsurpassable dialogues in the New Zealand accent, each expression a jewel of originality. Marita is a writer who doesn’t make concessions in order to embellish the reality she sees around her. Herein lies her beauty and her power.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live in Singapore, where I’ve been since December 2009. I will be here until the end of 2012, which is when I will return to New Zealand.
I was born and bred in Auckland, New Zealand.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I’m vegetarian, and have been for fourteen years. I had to go off red meat for medical reasons, but I chose not to eat the other types. I love Italian and Croatian food the best, love pasta and anything with tofu. I’m a reasonable cook. I’m best at making pasta dishes, pizza, and novelty birthday cakes. Food is important, but I’m careful of what I eat.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I love sport, in particular soccer, running, and karate. I’m a bit soccer mad, and am a youth coach and referee. Exercise to me is very important. My other hobbies are reading and art.
Do you have kids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have two kids, an eight-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old girl. My boy loves dancing, maths, computers and Sponge Bob:) My girl loves to write, dance, act and sing, and is a very good soccer player, particularly as a goalie.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
Although I miss New Zealand terribly, I do like to travel and haven’t done nearly as much as I would like. Outside of New Zealand and Singapore, I’ve been to Croatia, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
I am an artist, but I’ve put it aside for the moment to concentrate on my books. I would prefer to be an author, and to keep art as a hobby rather than a job. When I was in New Zealand art was pretty much a full time thing. At one point, while doing a large commission, I was painting seven days a week. I am passionate about both my art and writing.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
My husband would prefer if I had a regular nine to five job I think his opinion would change if my book took off. But, we’ll have to see how that goes. My kids are okay about it. In relation to my family back home, I’m not entirely sure as my book
just came out, but from the Facebook comments so far they’re being supportive.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I don’t mind chatting with people, and can be overly chatty online, but wouldn’t consider myself as social. I like staying at home, rather than going out. I have to force myself away from the desk at times, because there’s more to life than writing. Plus, I have other responsibilities.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I think my best trait is that I’m easy-going, but my worst trait is that I’m a terrible procrastinator. I could definitely do without being a procrastinator.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I write from home. My view is of the gorgeous garden outside: Palm trees, Bougainvillea, bamboo and so forth.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
No, I don’t need anything in particular near me while writing. Though, if I’m painting I need music.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I write realistic fiction. Originally I did try my hand at YA fantasy, but I ended up putting it aside. When I first started writing “Behind the Hood” I intended on doing a fantasy based in Singapore. But the location for the story wasn’t working, so I moved it to one of my old neighbourhoods in New Zealand. As soon as I did that it rapidly morphed into realism. From there, I found that this genre was a lot easier to write and held more meaning for me.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
I don’t like sending off submissions to agents. It’s absolutely horrible. They take way too long to reply, and a couple have wasted my time. This was one of the reasons why I decided to self-publish. Plus, when I took the plunge into self-publishing I
thought I was returning home by the end of 2011. Due to this I was feeling the
pressure of getting my book out there, because if I returned back to New Zealand without having done so I was worried “Behind the Hood” was going to languish in the depths of my computer unread. But, I did have it professionally edited, thus doing my best to get it up to publishable standards.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages,
disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
I’m nervous about having self-published my book because the hardest thing is marketing it. Someone can have the best book in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it won’t get anyway. Self-published authors have to be persistent with marketing their books, getting it onto people’s blogs, participating in places like Goodreads, twittering, and joining in with the Facebook community. Writers’ websites are also important, along with forums. You also need to do talks, like
going to bookstores (I will do this once my paperback version is out), plus go to meetings if you’re invited to speak there.
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I’m a part of the Facebook group Writing Kindle Books. And I pretty much covered the way I market my book in the above answer, but in addition I write a blog and am trying out the book game site called Bookbuzzr.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
My first book went live on August 12, 2011. I felt nervous about it, because it’s a pretty full-on read and I was worried about how it would be received. I was also nervous about the formatting, but one person told me that there were no errors in relation tothis, so I was happy with that. Additionally, the marketing side of things was daunting.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
“Behind the Hood” is the first in a series. I will release “Behind the Tears” next year, and so forth. The idea for “Behind the Hood” basically came from setting it in one of my old neighbourhoods in South Auckland, New Zealand. As soon as I had my character Maia walk past a gang, things just flowed and the story took on a life of its own. Plus, I did include things that were familiar, personalities, settings, etc. which was why it probably came so readily. But because I was new to this writing game, and was still persisting with the notion of going down the conventional route with publishing, “Behind the Hood” took fifteen months to complete.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I go with the flow; I have no set number of words. I just write when it comes to me.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I’m not really sure. Life I suppose. My experiences and what I see around me.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
Hopefully being able to support myself and my family from my books, as well as getting my novel turned into a television drama since the structure of the chapters are suited to this.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, Marita!!
You can find Behind the Hood at the following distributors:
“INTENSE! I could probably leave my review at this one word and that would say it all. What a nerve wracking read. At first I thought there were going to be too many point
of view characters for me to get involved emotionally, but they all tied back to each other perfectly. I had no problem keeping track of who was who and how they related back to each of the other characters. By the last three-quarters of the book I had the phones turned off and the Do Not Disturb sign hung on the door. I had to know what was going to happen and I didn’t want any interruptions. Marita Hansen did not disappoint. I can’t wait to read the sequel…” Amazon Review.
“This may be a work of fiction, but the author has used her knowledge to give us an
eye-opening and realistic look into a very rough culture. This book is quality, one not to be missed.” Smashwords Review.