I’d like to introduce…
Dan Hanks: screenwriter, copywriter, content director, and overqualified archaeologist.
Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
CAN YOU NAME THE BUSINESS BOOK THAT’S ALWAYS ON YOUR DESK? (I’M TALKING ABOUT THE ONE THAT’S COVERED IN PENCIL MARKS, COFFEE STAINS AND HAS TURNED DOWN CORNERS…)
My desk is either the kitchen table or the sofa most days, so it’s usually just me, the laptop and the seat of my pants. However, I do have Andy Maslen’s ‘Write Copy, Make Money’ & ‘Write to Sell’ handy on the Kindle nearby – just in case I get stuck.
WHAT’S YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN?
I can’t point to a specific campaign, but anytime there’s a World or Euro Cup, Nike usually pull out some very simple, but very brilliant advertising — where the copy is minimal but effective. And it never fails to get my blood pumping and make me need to go kick a ball around. Even at my age.
“EVERYONE HAS A BOOK IN THEM…” OR SO THE SAYING GOES. WHAT DO YOU THINK/KNOW/BELIEVE IS THE SECRET TO GOOD WRITING?
Rewriting. I was an editor in a past life and know from experience there is no perfect first draft (or even second). Good writing is about getting something down on paper, then rewriting to make it work – whether it’s an entire book or a single line of copy. And sometimes that single line is THE WORST. But a good writer will rewrite until it does the job.
IF YOU WERE JUST STARTING OUT, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF? WHICH BOOK OR BOOKS WOULD YOU READ FIRST?
I’d been writing for years, but I didn’t get anything published until I was about 34 — it was an article for a popular news/opinion site in Australia. I’d already completed a huge sci-fi/fantasy novel and was fixated on being an author, but it wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t moving forward as a writer.
As soon as that article was published it opened the floodgates and kicked me into gear to write more and in different mediums – and that improved my craft significantly. So I guess my advice to my younger self would be to stop dicking around and don’t limit yourself. Try everything sooner and see what happens.
SILENCE? RADIO? OR MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
It can depend what I’m writing. If it’s a screenplay or novel there is nothing better than a good movie soundtrack to keep you in the mood. If it’s copy for a website or DM then I usually opt for silence.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE NOVELS OF ALL TIME – AND WHY?
Okay, so it’s a kids’ novel, but The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton was and still is my favourite book. A wonderful story that taught me the world is full of magic and there are no limits to your imagination—perhaps the greatest gifts of all. (I’m not ashamed to admit I still listen out for the ‘wisha wisha wisha’ anytime I go into a wood.)
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Can I have the whole thing? A masterpiece of fantasy, science-fiction, steampunk, pop-culture, horror and western. I even loved the ending.
1984 by George Orwell. You really don’t need me to give a reason for this one.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN? WHY DID IT ROCK YOUR WORLD?
My first screenplay.
With novels or short stories, I can’t help but read with an editor’s eye and pick it apart. But there’s something different about screenwriting—perhaps because less attention is given to crafting perfect description and more focus is given to showing story and character through dialogue. Whatever the reason, when I started writing screenplays I soon discovered I was able to read my work back without being a critic.
So that first screenplay was the best thing I’ve ever written because I got to enjoy it as a reader. And it rocks my world because it’s being developed into a movie, so you might get to enjoy it soon too!
WHAT’S THE LAST THING YOU BOUGHT? AND YES, THAT PACKET OF CHEWING GUM COUNTS.
Star Wars and Avengers t-shirts for my boys.
WHO WAS YOUR TEENAGE CRUSH?
I’m going to go with a fictional one to avoid any embarrassment. I always had a thing for Nancy Drew. But sadly she only had eyes for Ned Nickerson.
I don’t like to talk about it.
DESCRIBE THE BEST MEAL YOU HAVE EVER EATEN.
I was going to say vegetarian ravioli, in the hotel restaurant at Mount Cook, New Zealand in March 2008. Not only was the food divine, but we had a view overlooking the snowcapped mountains at sunset. I actually wrote in the comments book that it was the best meal I’d ever had!
However… we recently went down to London to celebrate my wife’s 40th birthday and my brother’s AMAZING partner, Lottie, cooked us a 3-course vegan meal – all from scratch. Even the pasta. It was divine and truly showed that being vegan didn’t mean sacrificing anything, just using a few different ingredients. So she wins.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TIPPLE?
On those rare occasions I’m not driving, I love a good beer. But I’ll always make time for a good mulled wine at Manchester’s Christmas markets.
IF I WERE TO GIVE YOU A PRIVATE JET, DAVID ATTENBOROUGH AS A TOUR GUIDE AND A MONTH OFF WORK – ALL EXPENSES PAID – WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT OR WHO WOULD YOU WRITE ABOUT – AND WHY?
I always envisaged myself writing about ancient archaeological mysteries, so let’s go to South America where all the mystery still is.
WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKETS?
A Lego Batman and some fluff.
PEN AND INK, PENCIL AND PAPER OR KEYBOARD AND SCREEN? WHAT’S YOUR WRITING STYLE?
Keyboard and screen. Although I did write my first screenplay entirely with pencil and paper (typing it up every night) and it turned out pretty well, so maybe that’s what I should be doing for everything.
DO YOU READ ANY BLOGS OR MAGAZINES ABOUT WRITING? (AND I MEAN READ, NOT JUST SUBSCRIBE TO AND DELETE/LEAVE ON YOUR DESK AND RECYCLE?)
In terms of fiction, there are three writers whose posts I’ll always read – Chuck Wendig, Andrea Hannah and Michael J. Martinez. Similarly, I’ve dipped into the posts of all the copywriters I’ve connected with on social media, as they’re all brilliant and often teach me something new. I used to read Script magazine, but not as much these days.
TEA OR COFFEE?
Tea. Decaf. With oat milk. Sounds wrong but I love it. As for coffee, I might be exiled from the writers’ association for this, but I’ve always detested it. The smell is fine, but I couldn’t ever drink it. *shudders*
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CUP OR MUG? CAN YOU DESCRIBE IT?
My sister got me one when I brought the family back from Australia in 2012. It’s got “Dad is King” on it. Which I like to think is true (even if it isn’t).
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST ADORED CHILDREN’S BOOK? AND CHARACTER?
See Question 6. And I think Moonface was pretty fantastic. Although I might be saying that only so he’d let me use the Slippery Slip. (I saw that Vicky Fraser also mentioned him in her interview, so I guess those books really had an effect on us — and quite possibly we haven’t grown up yet.)
YOUR FAVOURITE WORD?
I have a thing for the word ‘adventure’. It’s been used to death, but it still excites the Indiana Jones in me.
YOUR MOST LOATHED WORD? (YOU KNOW, THE ONE THAT MAKES YOU SHUDDER AND SAY “EW!”?
I love all words equally.
No, wait. ‘Impactful’. That one can go and die.
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU? – BROWSING ONLINE OR LOST IN THE AISLES OF A BOOKSTORE?
Without kids? In the aisles.
With kids? Online.
FAVOURITE SONG LYRIC OF ALL TIME? AND WHY?
“Follow through, make your dreams come true, don’t give up the fight, you will be all right, ‘cause there’s no-one like you in the universe.
Don’t be afraid, what your mind conceives, you should make a stand, stand up for what you believe, and tonight, we can truly say, together we’re invincible.”
Invincible by Muse. I love these lyrics because my wife Fiona wrote them on a birthday card early in our relationship — and they meant so much to us that the song eventually ended up as the first dance at our wedding. (Although sadly I was forced to make the DJ fade it out before the awesome guitar solo.)
NAME THE ARTIST WHO IS GUARANTEED TO GET YOU UP ON THE DANCE FLOOR.
Muse. Although I haven’t been near a dance floor in ages so it’s probably best I’m not encouraged to get up on one now, because it wouldn’t be pretty.
DO YOU HAVE ANY STRANGE WRITING RITUALS YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?
Sitting down, turning on the laptop and banging my fingers against the keys. Works (nearly) every time!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON TODAY? WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE?
Today was all about content plans, which is fine by me as I love the psychology behind that – researching keywords, looking for new angles on old topics, getting into the mindset of the audience. All good fun.
In the pipeline? A contact in the TV industry is overseeing a couple of pilot treatments, my feature screenplay is at an exciting/desperately nerve-wracking Hollywood stage, and I’m pulling together some pretty cool guest interviews for my blog – so that pipeline is looking pretty full!
DESCRIBE THE LAST PHOTOGRAPH YOU TOOK.
It’s of my two boys, one with green ink all over his face – after I stupidly thought it would be okay to grab a nap during Scooby-Do. Despite having my arms around them both the entire time, a pen was located and scribblings were had. I’ve still no idea how he managed it.
On the positive side, both the sofa and my own face were left unpenned, so there’s that.
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE REALLY CHANGED YOU AS A WRITER?
Good writing is rewriting. And you can do it as you go, but it’s probably far more productive to get all the words on paper before you worry about making them shine. (Or at least it is for someone like me, who can spend months rewriting the same bloody line to get it ‘perfect’, at the expense of actually finishing the piece.)
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU WROTE THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR JOB?
A blog post bio for an online competition called Pitch Wars. I didn’t get picked, but it was a fun ride and I highly recommend it for anyone who has a manuscript that’s ready to query.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING?
Again, good writing is rewriting. Or a good writer is only as good as their editor.
I’m all about the edits.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE MAD MAN – OR WOMAN?
Again this could get me thrown out of the copywriting club, but I don’t have one. My copywriter wife has lived in that world in Australia and suffered quite a bit because of certain outdated processes and thinking. We tried to watch this show, but it became a bit like reliving all of that, so we gave up. However, if there was a female copywriter struggling against the male masses, then I’ll pick her.
NAME YOUR FAVOURITE FILM.
Casablanca. That script is a thing of beauty.
WHICH BOOK OR BOOKS IS/ARE BY YOUR BED TODAY?
I recently finished reading the AMAZING ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ by Sabaa Tahir and next up is ‘The Charismatics’ by Ashley R. Carlson.
WHO WAS OR IS YOUR GREATEST TEACHER?
My primary school teacher, Jean Barnett, at Hartsfield JMI in Baldock. An amazing woman who taught me to love learning.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST?
Bob Ross. I’m not even kidding, I love that guy.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO WORK BEST – IS IT AT A DESK, IN AN OFFICE OR IN A COFFEE SHOP? AND WOULD YOU SEND US A PICTURE OF WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS?
The kitchen table or my sofa, as our home office is a work in progress. Funnily enough, I was recently part of a project called ‘Fifty Portraits’ by a wonderful photographer called Janet Broughton, so yes I have a lovely photo thanks to her – although any magic happening in the photo is all down to her talent.
AND FINALLY, WHERE CAN THIS CAFFEINE-FUELLED AUDIENCE FIND YOU?
Everywhere! You can find entirely professional Content Director Dan on LinkedIn and mostly professional freelance copywriter Dan at TenOhSeven.com – while the rest of me awaits discovery at my writing blog tenohseven.com, as a staff writer on Fantasy Faction, or trying to be funny on Twitter at @dan_hanks.