Sunday 13 May 2012

The Strife Scrolls - Michael Hansen

Most of the people I interview have been blogging for a little while. Some over a year, some a few months. Michael Hansen is like me, brand spanking new. Did I say spanking?

What was the biggest hurdle in starting your blog?

For me, the biggest hurdle in starting this blog was – well – actually starting it. I’ve tried blogs in the past, including a daily music blog, but I fell out of love with the project because I found I’d rather spend time listening to the music and researching it than subsequently writing about it. So, finding the right area of focus was the first stepping stone. Over the last few months, I’ve grown much more interested in my own creative writing endeavors and thought a blog would be the best way to get some visibility as I return to work on the Strife project.

Jump in! I was at a panel with skit troupe Loading Ready Run and that was their advice on starting to post web content: Start posting content. Where do you turn when you don’t know what to post?

Well, I’ll admit that my posting has been spare lately because of the work I’ve been doing on the other side of my site, but normally I can dig into some of my old writing samples and revisit them. I have piles and piles of unfinished songs, starting paragraphs. I even have a story I started in 6th grade, written on a napkin in a local cafĂ© while I hung out with my sister after school.

I think I have a haiku like that, written for my friend's wedding. I have no idea where I put it. You are still building your audience, where did most of your comments and followers come from?

There aren’t very many comments on the blog itself, most are on my Facebook account, where I’ve been posting 5-Minute Fiction warmups to a wide variety of reviews and receptions. Ranging from my friend being shocked that I could make a story out of, ‘Nothing throws me into a terrifyingly homicidal rage quite like a properly maintained rain gutter,’ to my aunt, who is an author herself and very supportive. I found out some folks have been sharing some of my Notes and people have asked them where they could buy a copy of my short stories. So I’m hoping I can build that Facebook involvement over to my blog and website soon.

Nothing like friends and family to help increase your reach. I love 5 Minute Fiction and plan to interview Nicole Wolverton in future. Sadly, my daughter's soccer is on Tuesdays, right at that time. sigh Where are you trying to gain traction for your audience/following?

At the moment, I’m working on networking – developing contact with fellow writers who may have been where I am now, or who may be interested in looking into the field of collaborative fiction. The Strife project is a work of collaborative fiction and I’m trying to raise awareness to the method.

Do you find your blog is helping or is just a time sink?

I definitely find that it’s helping me. I’ve been far more focused since it began and, although I’m spending more time on web development at the moment than blogging, I’m putting in time every day to get the site going, and I’ve been putting in about 500-2000 words a day on my scattered writings to boot!

I know I benefit from daily efforts on my writing. Be that a blog post, a flash fiction piece, or editing a WIP. You have several books published, but your blog and twitter accounts are both fairly new. Can you tell us more about the Strife Scrolls and your collaborative process?

The medium through which I discovered collaborative fiction was a friend dragging me bodily into a series of play-by-post roleplay forums. With PBP-RP, you assume the mantle of one character at a time, interacting with the environments around you and the people you meet in these environments – all on a designated internet Message Board. We started playing on one site – Tirilithil – which led to an amazing group of people I’ve since come to call close friends. After joining a sub-project of some of the other players, my friend and I caught the creative fever and created Strife Eternal on Hyperboards. It was free, and it was a playground for our wildest imaginations.

Strife Eternal is a PBP-RP project existing in an as-yet-unnamed city – I hate naming places, it’s twenty-fold harder than naming a character – with a healthy population of everyday people and a largely concentrated populations of vampires and lycanthropes. What started out with 6-7 characters each between the two of us quickly grew into over 40 characters between 10 collaborators, and the whole project lasted about 16-18 months before interest waned. However, I found myself unable to abandon the characters I had made and the persistent need to know what happened next. So I took the notes that we had made about future events and began plotting things out. At the same time, I began to secure IP-releases from the collaborators to allow me to take over their characters and to edit the content we generated into the form of prose manuscript. The raw data is 431 pages, Times size 10 and single-spaced, and only tells about 45% of the whole story. Once the whole story is written, it will then be split into four novels, each centering around a different group of characters and unfolding more details of the main plot; each novel will also have its own flavor or theme, with one focusing on atonement, another related to ethics, another to speculative science fiction and the last to love and hope.

I refer to this as the Strife project because Strife Eternal has quickly become only one part of the overall picture. There is project Strife0, which follows some of the characters through a significant series of events which are often referred to in Strife Eternal. Strife2, or Second Strife, is a different setting and a different web woven in the same Strife era, taking place about 20 years in the future. There is also a Strife Legends project involving the early mythology of Strife Eternal, and the early development of characters and chance meetings that echo down the line.

Wow, that sounds daunting. Kudos for sticking the project out. Do you have any other questions for Michael? You can follow Michael on Twitter as @buzzynutkins