Thursday, February 19, 2015

AMONG THE STACKS: Freda Hansburg


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Freda!!  Welcome BACK to The Gal.  It's always a pleasure to see you :)
            Let's start off with something easy - Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Freda Hansburg:
I'm a psychologist, on the bring of retirement after forty years of clinical practice.  Although I've published non-fiction, Shrink Rapt is my first novel (and won't be my last, I promise).  I've lived in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, PA) all my life, and now my husband of 30 years and I are about to embark on the adventure of moving to the beautiful South Carolina low country.  I work out, do Scrabble and crosswords, read voraciously, regard old movies as old friends, and tend to be a Smart Alec.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Freda Hansburg:
My zodiac sign (Aries), my Myers-Briggs code (ENTP), my phobias (wasps and subways), my highest bowling score (I think it was 236, but that was a long time ago), and my natural hair color.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Freda Hansburg:
Black Beauty, a novel about the trials and tribulations of a horse in England.  I think I made my mother read it to me about twenty times until I could finally read it myself.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Freda Hansburg:
I just picked up Val McDermid's new novel, The Skeleton Road, from the local library.  McDermid is a wonderful mystery writer and it's always a treat to discover a volume of hers on the New Fiction shelf.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Freda Hansburg:
I've been writing, in one form or another, since childhood.  In fifth grade I won honorable mention in a New York citywide fire prevention essay content, and was handed a medal by the then mayor, Robert Wagner.  In college, I was an English Lit major, active in writing and editing for campus and community newspapers.  I briefly attend Columbia J School, until I decided that journalism entailed too much running around, then worked in publishing, writing jacket copy, press releases, sales scripts, ads, etc.  I've co-authored two self-help books and some scholarly articles.  But my dream was always to write and publish a novel - because novels are what I love to read.  It took me a long time to do it, but I'm very, very happy that I persisted!  It's been one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Freda Hansburg:
Nothing very exotic.  I use a desktop computer, which means I'm at a desk (duh!).  That said, once I'm in the zone of writing, I forget where I am, what day it is, and just about everything also except the page in front of me.  What a great feeling!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Freda Hansburg:
I outline my stories, but invariably deviate from the outline as the novel develops.  I've found it helps to keep a set of "Next Directions" notes as I move forward, little blurbs about the upcoming chapters. This allows me to expand and modify as I go.  On days when I'm feeling blocked, or intimidated about starting a chapter, I'll open a new document and sort of "tune up" by writing a few lines of dialogue, or anything that gets me underway.  When I feel like I've got some momentum, I'll paste it into the manuscript and keep writing.  It's like I need to trick myself into tackling the new scene or chapter.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Freda Hansburg:
Shrink Rapt was loosely based on my own experiences directing a treatment program in a Philadelphia university hospital, and trying to navigate my way through the academic labyrinth there.  The novel I'm currently writing was inspired by a combination of situations shared with me by different patients, which I then spun off into a totally imagined story.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Freda Hansburg:
Gal, this is the toughest question you've posed.  "Inspired" is different than "admired."  There have been so many books and authors I've savored.  But for "inspired," I'll keep the list very short.  I'd be hard pressed to name a more haunting, compelling story than Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice, in which a tightly wound, aging artist gradually surrenders to his strange ardor for an adolescent boy.  That the story takes place amid the mounting threat of plague in the city of Venice added to the sense of fatal attraction and danger.  Perhaps this book is the prototype for my image of a great story (see question below).  I'm also inspired by writers who defy linear rules of structure.  Doris Lessing in The Golden Notebook and, more recently, Tana French in The Secret Place constructed novels that circle around and end at the beginning.  The effect is like a reality rush, reminding us that time is fluid and awareness happens in the moment.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Freda Hansburg:
Um...everything?  Completing a novel is a difficult process.  I like to use the metaphor of walking through a long, dark tunnel alone with a flashlight.  You can only see a few feet ahead of you and the journey seems endless and scary.  You just have to keep moving forward and trust that you'll make it out the other end.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Freda Hansburg:
What I love most is encountering a character whose equilibrium is precarious to start with - who's poised on the edge of the cliff, so to speak, and then rolls over, taking us with him.  It's the sort of story Ruth Rendell does so brilliantly.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Freda Hansburg:
Well, clearly April Simon, the psychologist protagonist in Shrink Rapt.  She's a younger, thinner, heavier-drinking version of me.  Although, unlike April, I never had a husband who cheated on me (that I know of).  But her cats are totally based on the ones I used to have.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why did you pick your particular genre?

Freda Hansburg:
I'd say it picked me.  I've been devouring mysteries and psychological thrillers for years.  They're irresistible.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your book different from others out there in this genre?

Freda Hansburg:
I'd like to think that being a psychologist helps me bring some depth to writing psychological thrillers.  I try to delve into my characters, understand their motivations.  I've been told I write strong, naturalistic dialogue and I suspect that comes from having spent years listening to people.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Freda Hansburg:
When we move to South Carolina this spring, my ambition is to learn to play Pickleball.  It's an up-and-coming Boomer sport, sort of scaled-down version of tennis.  The development we're moving to has courts.  Look out!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Freda Hansburg:
I'm a few chapters away from a completed first draft of a stand-alone thriller, Tell On You.  A high-school teacher with a pregnant wife falls into an infatuation with a 16-year-old student - who's very bad news - and finds himself caught in a deadly triangle between her and her friend.  Dark stuff!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks again for stopping by, Freda!!  You are welcome back any time :)
            One more thing before you go - Where can we find you?

Freda Hansburg:
I'd welcome hearing from my readers.  The easiest way is to go to my website, and click on the Contact Me page.

1 comment:

Pete LaMaster said...

I've enjoyed interacting with Freda in the Writer's Group she has run. It has been enlightening fun to watch her stories develop and get her improvements to mine. I look forward to being "rapt" as I read her novel.