Some Thoughts with ... Dan Hanks

7 Jul 2023

The Author/s

Dan Hanks

Dan Hanks

I'm an author based in the rolling green hills of the Peak District with my two kids and fluffy sidekicks Indy and Maverick (and sometimes Poppy). When I'm not writing books, I work with a local archaeological consultancy. 

Delighted to be repped by Sara Megibow of KT Literary and Steve Fisher at APA Talent and Literary (film and TV). 

I'm also one of the co-founders of the OcTBR Challenge, and write books, screenplays and comics when I'm not at work or wasting time on Twitter or Instagram.

The Interview

1.- When did you start writing?
I remember writing stories at school when I was about 7 or 8. Back then I was liberally pinching ideas (okay, entire stories) from film and TV, and I enjoyed mashing things together and seeing what happened. Pretty sure one of my efforts was about a mine cart chase on an ice planet (spot the references there). 
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I started writing properly, though. The LOTR movies coming out inspired me to read the books and I think I was already reading the Wheel of Time too, which led me to think “hey, I want to write a big, epic book!”. So I did. That particular story is sitting in a drawer somewhere, but it was enough to get me learning the craft and writing more.

2.- How did the idea for Captain Moxley appear?
Honestly, the story behind Captain Moxley started out as me writing Indiana Jones 5! I came out of the cinema after Crystal Skull a little disappointed, because I guess it didn’t live up to my high expectations after being a lifelong fan. And I was already thinking about branching out to try and write screenplays, so I wrote Indy 5 as my first script and it was actually not bad! Of course, that wasn’t seriously going to go anywhere, so I ended up rewriting it with a new character - Captain Moxley - who wasn’t an archaeologist herself, but a spitfire pilot who got reluctantly got dragged into adventures. As for the story itself, that was born from my love of the Atlantis myth, which was definitely caused by the click-and-point Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis game. It all ties back to Indy!  

3.- Would you say your own experience in the archeology field influenced this book? How?
Absolutely, yes. I loved the story of Atlantis and while at university studying archaeology I researched that and other legends, to the point I wrote my dissertation on the various flood myths around the world. It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to get a bad response from the academic board that marked it, but I will never forget my professor - who was secretly a little bit Indiana Jones himself, I later learned - sitting me down and saying that while it was a terrible dissertation, it would make a good book. And it did! 
That said, while some of the plot was born from my love of fringe archaeological topics, there is a lot of post-colonial archaeological thinking in the story when it comes to the characters. Especially in the arguments between Sam Moxley and her sister Jess. It was important to me to draw on my knowledge to acknowledge the important conversations taking place in the real world about ownership and preservation of history. 

4.- Could you tell us a little bit more about Swashbucklers, your other published novel?
Despite having a ridiculous premise, Swashbucklers is actually pretty personal to me in lots of ways. It’s about a divorced dad, who returns to a hometown he once saved as a child from an undead pirate - and discovers he has to do it all over again, while trying to be a responsible parent (and mostly failing). I loved the idea of “what if the Ghostbusters had to juggle saving the world with child care” but also wanted to explore what happens after the group of kids, in all those 80s movies, save the town from the bad guys. Are they forever lauded as heroes? Do people remember them for the right reasons? I wanted to know what happened to them after they grew up.
This all sounds super serious and some of it certainly tries to explore some serious ideas about the dangers of nostalgia. But honestly, it’s just a bit of a romp, with tons of 80s nods, cool console weapons, a whole heap of British folklore, and a talking fox. Also: it’s set at Christmas and features a giant murdery Santa! 

5.- What kind of influences would you say were involved in the creation of Captain Moxley?
Indiana Jones is the obvious one. But I grew up on a steady diet of those pulpy shows and films, like Zorro and Flash Gordon, and then later had The Rocketeer and (Brendan Fraser’s) The Mummy. These films and shows never took themselves too seriously, the characters were always a whisker away from death, and they were always great fun.  

6.- The novel is set up in 1952, why did you choose those dates?
My grandpa was a spitfire pilot in the Second World War, so I wanted Captain Moxley to be one too. However, I didn’t want to set it during the war, because I felt that had been done a lot already. I had always been horrified by how some of the Nazi scientists had escaped punishment after the war and ended up in America working for the government, so that was kind of interesting to me - having the US government as the bad guys, working with Nazis. Funnily enough, we’re now seeing that in the latest Indy movie!

7.- For people who liked Captain Moxley, which other fiction works would you recommend?
The one I recommend is Fury from the Tomb by S.A. Sidor. It’s a rollicking adventure with a superb voice, great characters, lots of scrapes and blood, and some terrifying bad guys. 

8.- What can we expect from Dan Hanks in the future?
It’s been a quiet couple of years since Swashbucklers came out, but, trust me, I have been writing non-stop in the background the entire time. I would love to say what I’ve been up to. I really would. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about anything yet. The only thing I can say is that you can expect to read more from me 2024…