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12th May 2023
Meet Rowan, the Author Behind "The Art of Betrayal"

Rowan Hansen's name may be a familiar one to Control fans. Over the past few years, they've been a huge positive and creative force within the community, creating artwork and music videos, as well as hosting a patch design charity livestream on Twitch benefiting The Trevor Project. Their enthusiasm and passion for the series is tangible and they have been a vocal supporter for both the developers and fellow fans. Recently, they celebrated a personal milestone, and something a little different. At the end of February 2023, Rowan self-published their debut novel, The Art of Betrayal.

The Art of Betrayal is a collection of found recordings (in various formats) oozing with creepiness and mystery. It all begins when someone receives a hard drive of a partial investigation. As Rowan describes, "It's a lot of things. It's a pretty mind-bending experience, that's for sure, but it's also a journey you hopefully won't ever forget. Think of it as - 'Stranger Things if Stephen King wrote the series' - and you'll get a pretty good idea of what you're in for." And, if you're a fan of Control and its weirdness, this is a story for you.

Admittedly I'm incredibly biased; I had the pleasure of glimpsing into Rowan's weird and wonderful process, a few months prior. Near the end of 2022, I received a message from them asking if I would be interested in checking out a draft for their upcoming book. I had been following its progress for a while now. I knew that it was a mystery involving a band, and I knew their names and general personality; Twitter posts and Tumblr mood boards had filled me in that much. But the manuscript itself was much darker, deeper, and richer than I had expected it to be.

It also ended up being much bigger than it was at that point, and with the story now out in the wild, it felt like a good time to delve into the creative process with them.

I've known Rowan for a few years now; an enthusiastic and passionate artist and creator who has seemingly endless energy. They thrive on doing stuff that my introverted brain feels like it needs a nap just following. While doing the interview, they were also taking part in an outdoor adventure. A seemingly perfect time to talk about a horror story... 

When it came to inspiration, Rowan named This House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski as the "culprit" alongside Stephen King, and analog horror and short stories. But the day they picked up Danielewski's work, was the start of their first draft. "The draft went from the beginning to completion in around three months, and then I let it sit for a bit. For ages, I couldn't be bothered going back to it, but then I decided to actually make it a proper novel, so I started rewriting it all in mid-2021, I think! From then onwards the rewrite took about a year on and off to work on." Over thirty months, the first drafts slowly came together, with Rowan writing whenever they could, leading to what they call a "disastrously messy" writing routine for the first draft. As opportunities for writing were spontaneous, fitting around other obligations, music played a huge part in getting back into the scene. To pick up where they had started, Rowan kept a curated Spotify playlist on a tab to immerse themselves in the world. You can listen to the playlist, HERE.

With the first draft completed, things began to fall into place and take shape, including some format changes. "Really late into the process I decided to turn the journal chapters into handwritten portions, so that took another two months. Anything else was just squeezed into the last few months - proofreading, manuscript formatting, and cover design. Overall it took about two and a half years to get done."

When asked about the trickiest part of the project, Rowan had a very clear answer, "trying to get all the motivation to keep going! The rewrite was such a slog to try and do, and the only way I ended up getting it done was because my friend Kyle (@TheKyleCopeland on Twitter) started uploading his word count for his novel every day, so I joined in. Without him, I don't think I would have ever finished the rewrite, honestly! Motivation is really hard to come by when the idea's already been turned into a draft because you have to try and change things up. It's hard work!" Fortunately, the presence of an accountability buddy helped get the story in shape, putting it into a place where Rowan could start to collect the first set of feedback, of which Kyle was also naturally part of that group.

Showing it to friends for feedback and making edits was one thing, but the project was already nearing completion, and that means looking at the next step. Publishing. The personal nature of the story fed into their publishing choices.  "There's a lot of tragedy in the novel, and that's no mistake - I was having a really terrible time mentally when I wrote the draft, so it became a cathartic outlet for me." In the end, they decided to self-publish using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to keep creative control over the story, "I couldn't bear having a publisher change the story to make it more 'profitable', or remove anything I insisted on keeping. And also, for a queer author, I doubted I'd be picked up that easily by a publisher, and I honestly just decided that I'd rather do everything myself so everything was perfect."

During the project, Rowan was finishing up their education, alongside a global pandemic when mental spoons were already limited for everyone. Reflecting on the project, Rowan admits, "I guess I'd tell my younger self to keep at it, because I never thought I'd get here through that horrible point of my life with a published book by the end." With the publication, there are also mixed feelings, "I've been dead honest with everyone who's asked me this, so I'm going to be dead honest with you: I'm actually really glad it's over. Like, sure, publishing it finally was awesome, but it also feels like I'm finally closing the book on the really awful part of my life that created the first draft in the beginning. I'm glad it's over, but yes, it's quite cool!" The result was a brilliant compilation of diary entries, audio recordings, doodles, and more revealing a hair-raising story that will enthral you.

Rowan Hansen's debut book, The Art of Betrayal, can now be purchased in paperback on Amazon. 


Formerly "Vanguard"

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