Monday, July 29, 2013

Interview with Author Nancy Hahn

Today I am interviewing Nancy Hahn, the author of over twenty five children’s books.  Nancy began her career as an elementary school teacher.  She danced from an early age, and then taught dance to children throughout the Pittsburgh area.  She created the program “Dance N’ Fun” for the City Parks and Recreation program.  She taught for the Pittsburgh public schools and a magnet school in Pittsburgh.  She created the accredited dance program at Allegheny Community College.  She spent almost thirty years in television programming, by building her own television station and focusing on international and children’s programming and independent movies.  She felt those were voids in the market at the time, and she wanted to fill those voids.  When Nancy’s daughter began touring with Christina Aguilera, Nancy started doing professional song writing as well.  Her efforts resulted in many pop songs that charted and were featured on Radio Disney.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say I met Nancy because my son is part of her newest venture.  He recorded a song called “Rock Dog” that will be used as she begins turning her books into interactive audio entertainment, cartoons, and Broadway productions.

Nancy, the first question I have to ask you is about your dance background.  You taught Lynn Swann and Franco Harris ballet, which was hugely reported on in the Pittsburgh area.  What was that like?

The dance room at the community college was right beside the weight room.  Lynn and Franco used to go into the weight room religiously, and they always had their faces pressed against the window of the dance room to see what we were up to as they went past.  Finally, one day I went to them with my stern teacher’s face (I was twenty two years old at the time, so it wasn’t all that stern), and asked them what they were doing.  My students were aghast.  They all knew Lynn and Franco were star players on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ football team, and they couldn’t believe I confronted them.  They were such nice guys, though.  They looked at me, kind of shy, and said the dance class looked interesting, so I invited them in.  It was funny.  Just imagine Lynn doing a tour jete, and Franco doing one right after him in a fierce competition to do it better than Lynn.  They were hysterical, and they kept coming to my class.  Ballet gave them better agility and helped Lynn to jump higher when he caught passes. 

And your daughter began as a dancer as well, and then become a very successful singer.  What was it like touring with your daughter?
Rich Engler, a huge music promoter in Pittsburgh, was looking for a “Pittsburgh Pop Girl” to open for Eiffel 65.  One of my friends told me to reach out to him and make him aware of my daughter, Hilary.  He was kind of hard to get a hold of, so I decided we would just try our luck.  We drove down to his office, Hilary, my husband and I, and I had a little video cassette recording with me in the car.  I went to the office and spoke to a friend of a friend who worked there.  He asked to see the video, so I played it for him.  Right away he said, “Hold on a second.”  Five minutes later, he came in with Rich Engler, who watched the video and asked if Hilary wanted to open for Eiffel 65.  I was so shocked.  He asked if we were busy on Monday, and I said “No.”  He said “Come to the office, I want to put her on the Christina Tour, too.”  I only went in to ask about one little thing, but it snowballed.  Touring with my daughter was a very rare experience, and it brought us closer together.  We were together in some of them most unconventional living arrangements, in tiny hotel rooms, together twenty four hours a day, and we had lots of obligations.  We had to do everything ourselves, from sound checks to choreography to vocal arrangements.  We ended up doing two simultaneous tours, the “Levi Make Them Your Own” tour, and all the SFX Venues, which were outdoor venues.  It was crazy, but it was wonderful, too.

When did you start writing children’s books?
I started writing children’s books in 2011.

How did you become interested in helping the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan?  Did you travel to Africa?
I heard them speak and got to know them and know their story, especially one boy named Bol.  Bol told me about his life, and it was such an incredible story I felt I had to share it.  We had a sort of unspoken bond; his story was the message and I was the messenger.  Another Lost Boy had a sister who was almost a child bride before he rescued her.  I felt I had to share her story, too.  That is the story of Natepi.  I donate the profits from these books directly to the Lost Boys, no filtering. And the proceeds from Nateti’s book goes directly to her college fund.

Tell me about your new book, “Merry Jane and the Holidays”.
Because of the dancing and the music in my life, all of my books are musical.  The Lost Boy book has musical elements.  “Nene the Hawaiian Goose” has musical elements.  When I created the characters, “Merry Jane and the Holidays,” it was about an animated girls’ band. I decided they would only play on the holidays, and their songs are about the holidays.  They have a phenomenal manger, Rock Dog, and unbeknownst to them he wants to have a singing career, too. 

Explain how you are adding the music element to your books.
I created something called MyBooktoons (“Books come to LIFE!”), which is a way to make books with musical and animation elements.  The Kindle format will soon be able to have these features. 

When will your books be made into cartoons?
They are being made into cartoons right now.  The book for “Merry Jane and the Holidays,” was put out first, and the cartoon will come soon after.  There are many things in the works right now beyond the books and the cartoons, including shows and other venues.  David Granati is the musical wizard who brings all the magic to my songs.  He records them at Dave World Productions.  We are always on the same page and have so much fun working together and creating quality material.

When is the release date for “Merry Jane and the Holidays?”  Where can it be purchased?
“Merry Jane and the Holidays” was released today.  It is being published by Rainforest Books, which is part of the Rowman Littlefield family, and is being distributed by Ingram and Baker Taylor.  I will soon have my own imprint called TreeHouse, and we are launching a book of recipes called “Backstage Baker” which has recipes from an actual Broadway backstage baker.  “Merry Jane and the Holidays” can be purchased on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Kobo (which is the former Borders), Amazon, Apple Books, Google Books, and literally hundreds of other places.  Soon the books will be in public libraries, too.  The e-book universe is expanding by leaps and bounds.

Thank you so much for your time, Nancy.  You are a fascinating and inspirational person, and, on a personal note, you have become a wonderful teacher and mentor for my son.





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