Carrollwood couple keep readers on edge of fear

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen met at a national horror convention. Twelve years later, they’re husband and wife published authors living in Carrollwood.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen met at a national horror convention. Twelve years later, they’re husband and wife published authors living in Carrollwood.

CARROLLWOOD

Lynne Hansen's home office is decorated with zombie bunnies, zombie hands and a plush face sucker from the movie Aliens — not exactly the typical room of a 41-year-old woman.

But she's not the typical woman. She's a teenager at heart who writes gory novels for teens and she's married to a man who writes gory novels for adults.

Hansen and her husband, Jeff Strand, are published authors who have agents, get advances and one even has a movie deal in the works.

Like the rest of their house, they seem "normal." And, in some ways, they are.

For starters, they have day jobs. Strand is a trainer and technical writer for MetLife in New Tampa who likes chewing stale Haribo brand Gummi bears. Hansen works part time in marketing at the Tampa Theatre and has downloaded more than 13,000 songs on her iPod.

They met while at a horror convention and have been married 12 years. Hansen, who uses a pseudonym to distance herself from her adult horror-writing husband, is actually Janice Strand. The couple live in a three-bedroom, two bath house with their cats, Pandora and Mayhem, and have separate writing rooms decorated with gore.

Hansen has published seven novels, including Rave New World, which she describes as a "full-length novel with edgy and mature themes that will appeal to teens." The book contains more than 1,000 vocabulary words frequently included on the SAT. Some of her books are Barnes & Noble exclusives.

Strand, 38, has published 13 books with titles such as Benjamin's Parasite, The Sinister Mr. Corpse and How To Rescue a Dead Princess. He has limited edition novels that are available primarily through online booksellers.

In June, his novel, Pressure, will be available just about everywhere books are sold. A movie deal is also in the works for the novel, but the paperwork isn't signed yet, so Strand said he couldn't give details.

They both work with several different publishers, including Leisure Books, Earthling Publications, Delirium Books and Mundania Press. Leisure, which is part of Dorchester Publishing, is among the biggest publishers to have a dedicated horror line.

The couple's books can also be found on Amazon.com, but they don't make as much as one may think.

Hansen said after all fees are assessed and everyone gets their share, she makes about a quarter for each book purchased through the online retail giant.

"If you combine my sales with Harry Potter sales, together we've sold millions of books," Strand said jokingly.

They don't have access to bottom-line sales figures and won't disclose pay, but Hansen was able to take off work for several years to write and to care for her elderly parents. If they didn't need the medical insurance, perhaps they could do nothing but write.

"Over the years, we've taken turns being the one to hold down the day job so the other could write full time," Hansen said.

And even though they both work other jobs, they don't see coming home and writing as another job, Hansen said.

Strand's early novels were in a variety of genres, but his horror stories garnered the most attention, so he made them his focus.

"I have a very dark sense of humor, for no reason that I can explain," Strand said. "We're huge horror movie fans, and are especially loyal supporters of local independent horror productions."

Hansen has "always loved all things creepy."

One of her earliest memories is curling up in bed with her big brother Chris on one side and her dad on the other, watching "creature features" on television.

While she enjoys it, she does tone down the macabre for her younger readers.

"The books I write for middle schoolers, I see more as suspense fiction with some good gross stuff," she said. "I don't do anything terribly graphic, and just about all my books end with good triumphing over evil, but evil is never totally vanquished."

Hansen says that her dyed-blue hair helps her connect with students when she speaks at local schools about reading, writing, history and publishing.

"Kids can take one look at me and know that I'm not going to be the kind of person who drones on and on, standing white-knuckled behind a podium," she said.

The couple go on dates once a week, sometimes taking road trips to explore sites and learn about towns and cities for historical accuracy in their novels.

One thing they don't do, however: read each other's books during the writing process.

"We want to stay married," Hansen said jokingly.

Hansen and Strand spoke recently to the Times about what it's like to be published authors.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Strand: I usually start by picking the type of book I want to write (such as a zombie novel or a tale of "body horror") before I've got an actual story. Then I'll just brainstorm and build the story from scratch until I've got a very basic framework.

How many hours a week do you spend writing?

Strand: The number of hours I spend each week writing varies wildly depending on how close I am to deadline. I tend to be like the kid in school who puts off the term paper until the very last minute, and now has to stay up all night to get it done on time, and wonders why he didn't just work on it a little bit each day instead of goofing off all this time!

Did you always know that you wanted to be an author?

Hansen: Actually, because I liked school so much growing up, I always thought I'd be a teacher. I didn't decide that I wanted to be a writer until the summer after I graduated high school. I couldn't think of a better job than one where I got to pick a subject I wanted to learn about, got to do lots of interesting research, write a book about it, and then have someone pay me for it.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to be an author?

Hansen: Never, ever give up. The only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that the published author kept going after the unpublished author quit.

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

To learn more

Visit lynnehansen.wordpress.com and jeffstrand.wordpress.com.

Carrollwood couple keep readers on edge of fear 03/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 4:30am]

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