Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Essa Hansen?
I’m a writer and also a sound designer on science fiction and fantasy films such as Big Hero 6, Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, and Pixar’s Onward. My day job is to make up sounds for mythical beasts, aliens, robots, magic, spaceships, and future technology. Perfect, right? I’ve been writing/storytelling for as long as I can remember, but only pursued publishing in the past few years.
I grew up in backcountry areas of the West Coast and Canada, spending a lot of time out in nature. No surprise that my stories are filled with lush environments, biotech, and creatures. I still enjoy backpacking, and while time for hobbies is thin right now, I’ve covered many of the fantasy ones: horsemanship, swordsmanship, some archery, and falconry.
Your debut novel, Nophek Gloss, is due out in November. It looks really cool, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Nophek Gloss is the first book in a trilogy, but the main plot wraps up, so it can be read standalone. The story is about a young man, Caiden, whose planet is destroyed for economic gain; he’s thrust into a vast bubble multiverse and forced to grow up too quickly physically, emotionally, and morally as he seeks out justice. He’s aided by a found family of misfit aliens, and a unique starship that has a soul and a universe of its own.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I got the idea for the world of Nophek Gloss while looking at macro photography of soap bubbles and extrapolating that structure to galactic scale. The multiverse is a collection of spherical universes of all sizes stuck together like a vast foam. Each universe has unique deviations in the laws of physics, and things passing through the membranes between are translated/transformed accordingly. I wanted to imagine what sort of explorers might dive in headlong, what complicated economy might emerge, and what a diversity of species and identity might look like in such a world.
My inspiration in general tends to come from all over in little bits: art, media, nature, and my own experiences. When I’m writing or developing a new concept, those pieces merge into existing ideas or become a starting point that I take in a new direction.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
Well I still have my dad’s lovingly worn down 1974 boxed set of The Lord of the Rings! My parents were readers and — along with my adult friends — always encouraged imagination and gave me books as gifts. I was always reading and being read to, and my school curriculum involved a lot of SFF literature from an early grade, so I can’t recall a time when genre stories weren’t all around me.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I was writing for my own enjoyment long before I decided to venture into publishing, and I would continue writing even if the books were just for me. The slowness of the industry can make it a lonely process, and it’s been extra demanding to juggle two careers at once, but I love that they’re both creative and within the same genres.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Writing currently fills every spare moment of the day, so I don’t have a set practice at the moment. I outline more now that I have a better sense of structure and pacing. I try to form a solid foundation before I start drafting, then I discovery-write the scenes themselves, so while I know what’s going to happen, I don’t know the specifics of how the scene will unfold until I’m actively writing it. With research, I do some up front so I know the world I’m treading into, but a lot of my worldbuilding is done as I go. I’ll either pause to research something on the fly, or make myself a note to check up on the science or terminology later.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
My mom tells me I learned to write very early, that it always came easily and I was always writing — little notes at first, up to complete stories in 4th or 5th grade. I had a lot of freedom as a kid and I lived in a magical setting in the Southern California foothills, which was fertilizer for my imagination. I quickly realized that creativity and storytelling could be expressed through writing, art, drama, and so on.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I’m so happy to see more diversity and inclusion in the SFF genre as a whole — something that was lacking in the industry in my young reader days!
Early reviews of Nophek Gloss have been finding my immersive, sensory prose and imaginative concepts different than other books currently on the market, so I hope my stories fill a niche while also delivering the character-rich, action-packed space opera that is thriving right now.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I am hard at work on Book 2 in The Graven trilogy. The sequel will expand the scope to multiversal conflict and expand the world into new dimensions of consciousness.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
My reading has been on hold while I hustle for a deadline, but I’m currently in the middle of Alastair Reynolds’s Revenger trilogy.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
Depends on the person! I tend to make my recommendations really specific based on what I know about the individual, rather than just throwing my favorites at them.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
Most people are surprised when they hear I’m a licensed falconer — it’s pretty uncommon.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I wish to say sleep, but I have books to finish! I’m very much looking forward to connecting with readers and seeing how they respond to Nophek Gloss. In-person events aren’t possible due to the pandemic, but I have several fun virtual events coming up for the launch.
Essa Hansen’s Nophek Gloss is due to be published by Orbit Books next week (November 17th) in North America and in the UK. The second novel in the series, tentatively titled Azura Ghost, is due out in October 2021.