A Conversation with Tianna G. Hansen
Congratulations on your upcoming work in Pussy Magic, Rag Queen Periodical and Picaroon Poetry! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
TH: Thank you so much, Lauren! I am so excited to be accepted by such wonderful magazines. It is always a thrill to be published in new places. I garner inspiration from my experiences - often writing about trauma and pain because I find it cathartic. My writing can be very dark, but I think this lends to the idea that there is always light that can be enhanced when focusing on darkness. I believe it is necessary to release this darkness, and writing is one of the best ways for me.
In some of my more fictional pieces, I also take inspiration from things I have personally experienced. My first novel takes place in prison. I found a great passion for discussing the life of prisoners (particularly female) after participating as a student and intern in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program during college, where I worked with inmates as my classmates and students in max security prison. This was eye opening and I have since promised to push my limits and comfort zone in order to soak up as many unique experiences and different walks of life to better suit my writing.
What is your creative process?
TH: My creative process is varied by the day. Once I have an idea, I either begin writing immediately, or ruminate on an idea for a bit of time. It depends how demanding the idea is to be written down. Some are fleeting and need to be captured the moment they enter my mind; others linger and I let them boil until I absolutely can’t stand it and have to release them onto the page.
When I am writing something particularly personal and traumatic, I’ve found it’s better to let the idea or memory sit for a while instead of diving in. I have to be gentle with myself and recognize that sometimes, there are things I’m simply not ready to delve into and explore deeper in order to preserve my mental health. But mental health is something I love to write about – it is so important to spread awareness and help others who struggle. I hope to make an impact on someone who needs to know they aren’t alone.
Who has been the greatest influence on your work and why?
TH: In terms of someone I know personally, my mother has been the greatest influence. Not only has she constantly supported me and encouraged me to pursue my writing but also she is one of the strongest women I know who has suffered her own traumas and pains of the past, but she doesn’t let this hinder her. She raised my sister and me single-handedly as children and for that I will always be grateful to her.
In terms of an author, (I hope this isn’t too cliché), Sylvia Plath’s poetry and novel The Bell Jar have been the greatest influences. I first read TBJ before beginning my senior year of college and it changed my life. Ever since reading it, I haven’t been able to remove the imagery and characters from my mind. I find myself constantly returning to this idea of losing all idea and recognition of self. Looking at your reflection in the mirror and not knowing who is staring back. The struggle of a strong female character in a void of despair and cultural pressure to be someone she isn’t. It fascinates me how deeply Sylvia struggled in her own life and much of her novel can be taken as autobiography for losing that sense of herself and feeling unable to conform or be who everyone else wants or expects her to be.
What is your greatest challenge when writing and how do you overcome it?
TH: My greatest challenge in writing is battling self-doubt. No matter how many times I overcome these feelings, they always return. It goes hand-in-hand with writing and something all writers battle, but it will sink me low on days even when I feel I’ve had much success with writing. When I am writing something particularly personal or traumatic, I find myself toeing the edge and fighting not to return to the very negative mental state I have worked hard to pull myself out of. I think this is something I will always struggle with. I was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety at a young age and these are emotions that are impossible to defeat completely. They always come back in play when I write.
My husband has consistently questioned why I write about dark things– at one point he was convinced it was hindering me, but I believe the opposite. It is a necessary catharsis for me; I often push myself through to the end. It always feels more satisfying when I’m able to place my experiences on the page.
Tell me about Rhythm & Bones. How did the concept form? What is the goal of the magazine?
TH: My love child Rhythm & Bones came to me at a time when I was feeling deflated and hopeless in many regards – I was becoming detached from my love of creative writing which was devastating and I found myself unhappy in many areas of life. I was also severely battling PTSD that often felt unbearable. After being published in multiple lit mags, I was inspired to create one of my own to focus on this deep pain and trauma and overcoming it. I wanted to give others a place to feel safe and open in expression of how they’re feeling because I think it is so important. The overwhelming response I received bolstered my confidence and made me feel like I was really (hopefully) making a difference for these writers and artists, and creating a welcoming place in the lit community.
I was driving to work one day when the name popped in my head standing for the rhythm, which I write my poetry and the “bare bones” of literature that I focus on when writing flash and shorter fiction. I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind so I decided to do it, and once I recruited two of my best friends as editors to help out (plus an invaluable bonus of the most wonderful Renee being an extremely talented graphic designer), it made sense that this needed to happen. It felt like the next step in my journey as a writer and I‘ve always dreamt of becoming an editor. This gave me the ability to pursue my passions and dreams, and also help other writers find a place to showcase their work.
Since inception, R&B has really grown into something wonderful and inspiring. I’m so passionate about it and running this mag has given me a way to focus my creative energies while feeling like I am making a worthy impact. It helped me claw my way out of a negative rut in both my writing and creating as well as a very dark mental state I had started to become engulfed in. I felt like I was drowning before I created this, and now I can finally breathe again.
I continue to expand the magazine, including a “Sisterhood” of women who create blog posts and features in what I called Necropolis based off a wonderful poem by Kristin Garth (who really helped me in the creation and support of this blog). This was a way to give these worthy women and writers a safe place to lay their stories and truths, to speak about whatever they are compelled to, and a way for me to continue publishing beyond the quarterly issues. We are still publishing quarterly webzines as well as print anthologies biannually (featuring two issues each). I wanted to give our amazing creators something physical to hold and feel accomplished about, so I decided to do print issues. I have also recently taken on Kristin’s amazing blog creation, The Sonnetarium, and we are housing her weekly posts here, featuring interviews and original poetry.
We have begun (slowly) accepting chapbooks from some wonderfully talented authors. Our debut is due out in December - Grief, and What Comes After by Ailey O’Toole, and we have a second chapbook, Lady Saturn by Wanda Deglane, scheduled for publication in February 2019. I am working with a few other authors for possible chapbooks and am excited to see this aspect of my tiny indie press grow. I am completely dedicated to promoting these authors and their work and excited to keep expanding. I can’t wait to see the finished products. This is truly a dream come true.
I have high hopes to continue expanding and in light of recent events in the news, I have felt compelled to put together an anthology titled You are Not Your Rape, based off my own experiences with sexual assault and abuse, and the overwhelming and disheartening response to those who come forward to speak about these difficult truths. There are sadly so many who have experienced assault and abuse - I think bringing together their stories will help raise awareness and provide some necessary healing for them.
I also had a recent idea to create a separate poetry mag due to the overwhelming amount of poetry submissions we receive. We can’t accept all of them for our issues (which are already full until July 2019!) but there are so many wonderful, compelling poems that I want to home; it made me think, why not start something else? This will be an online creation (for now), called Rhythm of the Bones. I’m currently working with Paul Rowe to form what we hope to be a psychologically inspired first issue. Keep your eyes out; I have a feeling Rhythm & Bones will only continue developing.
So, what’s next for Tianna G. Hansen?
TH: What’s next for me? That’s a loaded question - I feel like I am taking it day by day. I have two chapbooks in the works (one is a poetry collection titled Metamorphosis and detailing my struggle through mental illness, abuse, and trauma and how I am overcoming it daily and working to heal; the other is a creative nonfiction collection titled How to Become a Phoenix which deals with similar subjects in a different form). I set aside my first novel from editing (but it is still on the back burner) and have started writing a second novel. I hope to have these published some day and am leaning toward self-publishing the chapbooks or publishing through Rhythm & Bones. Since I recently got married, I am working to find a healthy balance between my writing life and being a new wife, but thankfully my husband is amazingly supportive and wonderful to me. He encourages me every day and believes in me more than I do myself. He has always been an essential part of Rhythm & Bones and continues to come up with new ideas to help us grow. His support and encouragement is priceless. I’m lucky to have found such a wonderful man to show me such a bright path despite the darkness I have endured. I know the path will only continue to grow brighter, I have high hopes and faith in my abilities to defeat this trauma and PTSD that plagues me, and I know there is so many wonderful things in store.
Tianna G. Hansen has spent her entire life surrounded by words - reading and writing stories before she knew how to put a pen to paper. One of her dearest loves will always be poetry, but she enjoys writing all types of fiction and adores creative nonfiction. Check out her work at CreativeTianna.com or follow her on Twitter @tiannag92. She also encourages you to check out her love-child lit mag created this June, Rhythm & Bones Lit, at RhythmNBone.com, or on Twitter @rhythmboneslit.
Lauren Walsburg is an Australian writer, editor, and artist. She has been published or has forthcoming work in Skive Magazine, Positive Words, Cauldron Anthology, The Mystic Blue Review and Riggwelter. Her debut poetry collection Ink Stained Heart was released in April 2017. You can find her at laurenwalsburg.com and @LaurenWalsburg.