BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with DENA HANKINS

By Connie Ward

DenaHankinsLg

 

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Stories are a constant part of my life. I love to find new and creative ways to interpret the behavior I see around me. Sometimes, those small stories catch fire in my imagination and I build entire worlds around them.

I’ve known some amazing people, folks who would be suspect in non-fiction because they’re so fabulous.  I read a lot of romance, much of it mainstream because that’s the bulk of what’s published, and I rarely saw my friends and lovers represented.

I write because I love stories. I write romance and erotica about queer and trans* people because I want us to see ourselves in loving, sexy stories set in a world just a little bit better than the one we live in.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I started getting published with short-story erotica. The anthologies out there come to being through calls for submissions, which are wonderful writing prompts. The process of completing a story, polishing it, and submitting it was good practice for dusting off an old manuscript and giving it a new look.

I’d written the first draft of Blue Water Dreams a few years before as a proof of concept. Could I finish an entire manuscript? I chose romance because it comforted me to know how the book would end – with the happily ever after! I also value love stories, the exploration of how people will respond to their own emotions and those of other people. I find it rewarding to put together a couple of people I love (because I do fall in love with them) and helping them find their own ways over their hurdles.

So yes, I could finish a manuscript. Could I sell the book?

The first draft of Blue Water Dreams BSB-BlueWaterDreamswas going to be a book about two straight people. I was thinking of the big romance publishers at that time. And then one of them became queer. And then they both surrounded themselves with queer and trans* folk who wouldn’t be rewritten! The book was static, stale, and confused in that draft, because I was forcing myself to write for the greatest commercial appeal and failing.

The short stories I’ve had published have been about my communities, and Blue Water Dreams didn’t take flight until I let the characters become the people I wanted them to be. Making Oly a trans man blew away all the compromises I’d made in writing the first draft. The sex scenes got hotter and more fun, the community scenes made more sense, and the entire book got real.

I write queer and trans* folk because I love our stories. I love how we navigate the world, work together, support each other, and put together lives we find fulfilling. Even though we don’t manage all these things all the time, the queer and trans* communities inspire me to tell stories of joy and growth and power and love.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My life has been a series of never-ending coming-outs. Queer, kinky, poly, and so much more, and in every stage and phase, my parents have been staunch supporters. When I told them about my writing, they encouraged me to dedicate myself to it strongly, sure that I could succeed if I put my heart into it.

My primary and long-term partner, James, has been with me since 1996. He’s done more to encourage my writing than anyone else, bringing it up when I let it slide, praising my work and my potential to write great things.

Many of my friends come from the sex positive, feminist sex toy world. I sold sex toys for eight years at Babeland, and I learned so much about the breadth of human sexuality there. Even those friends who aren’t tied to sex toys or my social justice circles know that sex is one of my favorite subjects. Many of them are charmed that I’ve gone the romance route rather than something raunchier, but they’ll see when the book comes out. Love and romance don’t preclude major heat!

Where do you get your ideas?

Some real-world thing will catch my attention – a challenge or opportunity, a machine or organization, a rule that seems hard to follow. Then I imagine the people who would be faced with the situation and how different people would respond. I make note of the most interesting scenarios and what kinds of characters would be strongly affected by them. My book ideas list is long!

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

An outline helps me get a grip on the rhythm and pace of a story. I will usually know the main beats of what will happen, but I don’t let a plan get in the way of inspiration.  My first drafts aren’t so great, though, and I make detailed plot summaries to help me rewrite a more purposeful, deeper, and effective second draft. I’m not the writer who wants feedback right away, either. No one sees the first two or three drafts. I need to create, then shape, then polish before I’m ready for a reader.

What makes Blue Water Dreams special to you?

Blue Water Dreams rose from the dead. It was not good enough – not for me or for anyone else. This book taught me what it means to write honestly and from the gut, without consideration for commercial appeal or social acceptance, and succeed.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Tons! People who know me are sometimes jarred by the aspects of Lania that are unlike me, because she cares about all the same things I do. She has her own worries and concerns, her own path, but she is motivated by things that also motivate me. Oly and the other characters all have aspects of real-world friends, right down to stealing cool names. (Even Lania’s last name, Marchiol, came from a Babeland customer who said I could use her name.) Where I started with a real person, though, each character grew into their own being during the writing and rewriting. I don’t think anyone will recognize themselves.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

My life, my desires and hopes and dreams and needs, made more sense to me after reading the early works of Patrick Califia. In the late 1990’s, I was shaping my life to provide the most fulfillment possible, and his works like Macho Sluts and Public Sex were huge for me.

Lately, I’ve devoured Sheree Greer, V.K. Powell, and Clifford Henderson. I’m a fan of erotica, and especially anthologies edited by our very own Radclyffe, Rachel Kramer Bussel, and Sacchi Green.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write all you can and read ten times as much as you write. Write to the gaps in what’s out there – if you want to read sweet romance featuring thrash metal band members and can’t find any, write that.  Keep criticism in mind, but take praise to heart.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I’m a real-life sailor. I’ve lived aboard boats since 1999 in Seattle, and have made my way through some of the planet’s most beautiful waters. Living aboard means working on the boat, but I consider that fun too. What’s life without a couple paint splatters?

Reading is a passion for me, and I love romance, science fiction/speculative fiction, and any stories that are windows in to world-views I enjoy sharing.

I am a cycle-commuter and love to explore new towns by bike.

I move often and getting to know the restaurant options has gone beyond hobby into art. I also tend to find the kinky community wherever I go for some sense of togetherness.

Last but not least, I spend time with James. Anything we do is elevated by how we love and enjoy each other. It’s a good life.

 

7 Responses to “BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with DENA HANKINS”


  1. 1 VK September 4, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    It was truly interesting meeting you at the BSB retreat. Sounds like you’ve led a very interesting life…and it continues to expand. Looking forward to reading your book.
    P.S. Thanks for the shout-out!

    Like

  2. 2 S.A. September 4, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Nice interview, thanks for sharing! I particularly liked your admission that trying to write for the commercial audience harmed the storytelling – I’m glad that you allowed yourself to write “honestly and from the gut” to revamp the tale and get it out there. Congrats on the book!

    Like

  3. 3 Dena Hankins September 4, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Thanks, VK! I’m glad I got to meet you too.

    The commercial writing thing…yeah, big lesson. Crucial, and it fits so well with most of my other life choices, I’m still amazed it took so long.

    Like

  4. 4 Devlyn September 5, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    Dena, it was good to get to know you via this interview. I look forward to reading your book.

    Like

  5. 5 Kate September 5, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    This whole interview is about love. Writing romance, living romance, falling in love with friends and partners, community and characters. Going to your heart for the fuel that gives your stories their rooted truth and blazing passion.
    You can feel it in the chapters, too. I loved this book and felt loved BY this book. Work that comes from so much love has to be pretty wonderful.

    Like


  1. 1 The Haps | Women and Words Trackback on September 7, 2014 at 11:05 AM
  2. 2 Did you catch this? | Women and Words Trackback on October 11, 2014 at 2:37 PM

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