5Q :: Marshall grad’s book series could be the next big thingDuluth native Whitney Hansen's “Hero Rising” book series seems readymade for silver screen adaptations.
In a world where good news is hard to come by, the masses have increasingly embraced entertainment that offers a little break from reality. Do you think it’s a fluke that pop-culture visionaries like J.J. Abrams are becoming household names, or that James Cameron’s “Avatar” became the highest-grossing film of all time?
Regardless of your thoughts or theories, all of this is good news for Duluth native Whitney Hansen, whose “Hero Rising” book series seems readymade for silver screen adaptations. Take the 21-year-old college student’s first book, “Sorrow’s Child,” for instance; not only is it set in the future — you’re already intrigued, aren’t you? — but its plot is thick with such “nerd nectar” topics as superhumans, mysterious viruses, Big Brother-esque organizations (The Program) and, oh yeah, cyber-assassins.
Are you drooling yet? We thought so.
Budgeteer: For the uninitiated, what is the “Hero Rising” series all about?
Hansen: “Hero Rising” is a science fiction novel series that follows the futuristic story of Amanda. In Amanda’s world, some humans have developed amazing abilities. To keep the balance of power, the Program created an assassin with abilities far beyond those of the metahumans.
This soldier is Amanda. At 16, she discovers that there is more to life than killing and goes out on her own to find her true place in the world. “Hero Rising” follows her from assassin to runaway to family member and eventually to protector and savior. It’s about a girl with immense power struggling to find the one thing we take for granted: humanity.
You began writing your novels in high school— so, how does one find time to complete something as significant as “Sorrow’s Child”? Has time with friends suffered because of your literary vocation?
I’ve always had a thing for writing. I wrote my first novella in eighth and ninth grade. I started the “Hero Rising” series in 10th grade. It helps me think, helps me hammer out emotions I can’t express in other ways. Writing’s my coping mechanism, so I have to make time for it. Don’t think of it so much as I have less time for friends; it’s more like, when other people read or watch TV, I write. I think it’s a healthy balance.
“Sorrow’s Child” has echoes of some of the sci-fi greats — were there any authors in particular who inspired your narrative leanings?
I think my interest in the “gifted child” story arc started with Anne McCaffrey’s Acorna series. I’ve always loved her style and her gift with switching effortlessly between characters. A lot of my early work directly imitated her structure and tone.
However, though “Sorrow’s Child” has some concept pieces in line with Acorna, the style more resembles Douglas Adams in both “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.” It’s complex in a way that requires the reader to stay focused throughout the experience.
I can’t say that I have Adams’ amazing gift for tangents, which is my favorite part of his stories, but the similarities are enough to notice, I think.
A lot of times books like this are picked up by Hollywood and converted into screenplays. If a big-budget movie were made from your creations, who would you want in the lead roles and/or behind the camera?
I’m not certain who I’d have as the lead. By design, Amanda’s a hard face to find. The name that comes to mind is Summer Glau, but that’s difficult because she’s been typecast in very similar roles, so I’d be afraid of people thinking River Tam (her character in the “Firefly” series) as they watched Amanda. As for directors, I’d love it if Joss Whedon (“Dollhouse,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) would take the job. His work is beautiful. I think he’d like it, too, since so much of his work has to do with mind control and altered states.
Finally, on a lighter note, how has the Windy City been treating you? Where do you spend your time there?
Chicago’s an amazing city. I love spending time at the museums. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum of Natural History are my favorites. I’ve gone to both so many times and I still haven’t seen everything.
Besides that, I spend a lot of time in the summer walking the streets as well as hanging out on the beach. If you ever want to find me, I’m the 21-year-old making a giant sandcastle.
NEWS TO USE
To order a copy of “Sorrow’s Child,” the first book in Duluthian Whitney Hansen’s “Hero Rising” series, visit www.whitneyhansen.com. While you’re there, you can also download a sample chapter to keep you occupied until your book arrives.