Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Author Interview: Audrey Keen-Hansen

My Interview today is with Audrey Keen-Hansen, whose memoir of her years as a rancher's wife in Colorado in the 1970s is entitled Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight. Audrey is a former broadcaster, news writer, and college professor. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Speech Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and taught at Western Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Welcome, Audrey. Have you always wanted to write? Do you consider yourself a writer?

I think I’ve been a writer of one kind or another all my life—beginning when I was editor of my high school newspaper, then associate editor of the University of Wisconsin humor magazine, then an advertising copywriter, then an editorial writer for newspaper and TV. I also wrote a film script for Schlitz Brewing Company (when the company was a high-flyer). If you consider it “writing,” I also authored a number of successful grants for organizations in which I was employed. In retirement, I did feature stories for an Albuquerque seniors’ newspaper and helped edit a quarterly publication of writing by seniors.

What led you to write your memoir?

When I was in the midst of my career in my early 20’s, I married a TV director and we worked together on several projects. We also had a little boy, who was 8-months-old when his father died. I was a working single mom until my son was 13. I so much wanted a father for him. Then I met a Coloradan who had lost his wife and who had two children, ages 6 and 8. They needed a mother. We decided to put the families together, but I had to move to Colorado from Wisconsin to do that. My husband was a professor at Adams State College in Alamosa and also owned a small ranch. As it turned out, he taught and I “ranched.” Since I had never lived outside of the city and knew nothing about ranching, this experience was a real test and challenge. I began writing down our adventures, my mistakes, and the experiences of living in a small Western town. This eventually evolved into my book, Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight.

How long did it take you to write it?

I began writing anecdotes about my life on the ranch about 15 years ago. I mainly just wanted to use these to remember my experiences. About three years ago, I decided I had so many that I could organize them into a book.

What kind of writing schedule did you have?

Since I was unsure of my goal, I really had no schedule.

Do you write other things? Do you have fiction projects inside you?

In the last few years, I’ve turned to fiction, mostly short stories. At one time, I harbored a dream of doing a book, which would have been historical fiction. My son lived in Seattle for some time and I traveled rather extensively in British Columbia. The setting of the story would have been on Vancouver Island. Actually, I did start writing and had the story pretty well outlined. Then I realized I needed more information on Canada’s military organization and its defense department. The research was formidable. I gave up. However, the opening chapter, I discovered, could stand alone. I made it into a long, short story. This eventually won an award in a Canadian short story contest.

Otherwise, I write mostly short stories now. I love it. But, of course, there’s no real market for these. I guess it’s mostly personal amusement. I belong to a writing group and share my works with them.

How do you handle life interruptions when writing?

Since I have no deadlines, and live alone, I choose time whenever the muse strikes.

Is there something you always dreamed of writing, but haven’t yet?

Actually, I did put together a Roadside Guide to the San Luis Valley, a guidebook I worked on and researched for 10 years, but I never found a publisher. I couldn’t self-publish because I needed maps drawn. I eventually ran out a copy for myself, complete with pictures, and I contently look at it from time to time. For me, it’s a real “self-published” work.

What one thing do you like most about the writing process? Least?

I enjoy the process of creating, the “make-believe,” the opportunity to dream up circumstances and dilemmas then resolve them. The “least” would have to be the detail and necessity of contacting publishers and the marketing .

Tell us about your book, Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight.

This is my personal story (memoir, really) of five years on a small Colorado ranch—an experience so foreign from my former life, yet so rich with adventure. I came from a midwestern city to the rural San Luis Valley and learned not only how to ranch, but also how to cook for a husband with Oklahoma tastes, how to be both a mother and a step-mother, and—perhaps, most challenging of all—how to cope with snakes and other such creatures. My husband also was a biologist who took the family all over the Valley and into the mountains—to seek out something “biological” and to teach us all about the wonders of nature. We had some harrowing experiences along the way. Because everything was so new to me, I describe in much detail activities and sights common to Westerners, so I think the reader—no matter where he/she lives—can experience living in the West along with me.

Editor/author Ken Holm said: “The book conveys a great sense of place as you describe your comic adventures on the ranch, your forays into the mountains, or your trips to the livestock auction. I got to know the family members very well.”

What is your advice to other writers?

Read a lot. It helps hone the craft. I read one or two books a week, always have. Your favorites probably are the good writers. Pick up on how they do it.

What is your other published work?

Over many years, my writing, mostly journalistic, has appeared in numerous newspapers and other publications. One prize-winning short story, “The Incident at Raven House,” is in Tall Tales and Short Stories, Vol. III, Tall Tales Press, Calgary, AB.

Audrey, thank you for the interview.
Thanks!


Coyotes Always Howl at Midnight is available at Trafford.com, Amazon.com, Target.com, and from Audrey at a discounted price: $9.95 + $1.85 shipping

Contact Audrey Hansen at
ahnmex@hubwest.com or
505-291-1669

or send order and payment to:
Audrey Hansen
9904 Menaul Blvd., N.E. #G4
Albuquerque, NM 87112

4 comments:

  1. Excellent interview. I love the San Luis Valley, so this looks like a great read. That part of Colorado is one of the most amazing places - and the people are pretty cool too.

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  2. I remember your title from putting together the WWW catalog--love it! Your story is quite intriguing. What an adventure for a "city girl!"

    Don't give up on writing!
    Heidi

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  3. Audrey, it's great to "hear" you talk about your work, and Marsha, thanks for a thoughtful interview. Kudos to both of you!

    Susan
    http://communityoftheland.blogspot.com

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  4. This sounds like an interesting book about an interesting life. Good luck Audrey.

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I welcome your comments.

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