Dan Hanks is joining us today to talk about his novel, Swashbucklers. Here’s the publisher’s description:
When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn’t like it was in the movies. Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits – even the friends who once fought alongside him.
Struggling with single parenting and treated as bit of a joke, Cisco isn’t really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that’s made worse by the tendrils of the pirate’s powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways.
With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don’t have schools runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes…
What’s Dan’s favorite bit?
A simple date night.
The scene came in the edits, written in a fast and furious midnight writing sprint with a good friend. There was a need for an additional moment to give us a little bit more of the relationship between two of our parenting heroes, Doc and her wife Michelle, and a date night was the plan I came up with. Mainly because I think all parents deserve a break, even the fictional ones.
The scene itself was to be relatively short. I didn’t want to interrupt the pace of the story too much, so I went in intending to simply write a few nice paragraphs about them going to a restaurant and having a meal. That was it.
And, if you read the story, that really *is* it. There’s no surprise attack. No battle waged. No possessed Christmas decorations or monsters to be found. Just a married couple enjoying a meal.
Yet, for me, this night out between two women became so much more. Not only because I managed to get in a nod to one of my favourite ever Red Dwarf episodes, but because it allowed me to find the heart of the story.
Our lead protagonist, Cisco, has a hell of a time in this book. The plight of a single man, struggling to be a great dad to his son, provides much of the story’s emotional beats. But it’s Doc and Michelle who bring a more positive love and lightness to the story, allowing me to explore that pure need of two busy adults needing to escape their chaotic lives to enjoy a night off from parenting and fighting supernatural monsters.
For a simple scene, there will be many parents out there who read it and immediately appreciate the beauty of this need to reconnect with their person, devoid of the chaos of children. The quiet, uncomplicated process of sitting down, having a meal cooked by someone else entirely, and enjoying uninterrupted conversation. And perhaps a bit of flirting and knee scraping.
I think this peek into the normalcy of a relationship allows the reader to connect. To put themselves into the story. If you’ve been in a committed relationship, you’ve had this moment. An evening where you try to shed work, kids, responsibilities and just be with your partner. Remembering not only who they are, but who you are – when you’re not, you know, battling evil giant Santa or wrangling the kids. And in this moment, with Doc and Michelle, not only do they remember each other, they begin to touch upon their friend Cisco returning, leading to pangs of nostalgia, and yearning for moments in their past long forgotten. Suddenly they begin to understand what their friend felt all this time, and the reasons that primal lure of nostalgia stopped him from growing up and led him back to Dark Peak. Ultimately, it leads them to make an important decision. To cross that line in the sand and properly commit to his quest to save the world once more.
Love and understanding over a curry?
In real life or fiction, it doesn’t get better than that.
Dan is a writer, editor, and vastly overqualified archaeologist who has lived everywhere from London to Hertfordshire to Manchester to Sydney, which explains the panic in his eyes anytime someone asks “where are you from?”. Thankfully he is now settled in the rolling green hills of the Peak District with his human family and fluffy sidekicks Indy and Maverick, where he writes books, screenplays and comics. His debut novel, Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire, was published by Angry Robot Books in 2020.