A Conversation with Steve Dunn Hanson Author, The Course of Fate
You have had writings published before The Course of Fate series. What did that entail? Was any of that fiction on the scale of The Course of Fate?
My first published work was an article for the Ensign, the official magazine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, back around 1981. Since that time, I have had several articles published along with five books, both self-help and fiction, not counting this series. My first book was a novel published in 1987 patterned after the mission I served as a young man in Australia in the early 60’s. I’m still hearing from people who read that book when they were young missionaries 30 years ago. I have also written poetry, lyrics for hymns, and kept a blog for several years. But no, I had not written anything either on the scale of or remotely like The Course of Fate before.
Why now? Can you tell us a little of how The Course of Fate came about at your rather advanced age?
Well, I guess 80 is an advanced age to be publishing books. Hopefully, I have another 15 to 20 years left in me. I have several other books I want to write. The Course of Fate trilogy has been more than 10 years in the making. The idea that absorbed me back then was that the extraordinary Book of Mormon was a type and shadow of our day—and the future. I started thinking about events and characters that would reflect that reality and would be not just believable, but real. Maybe even prescient. I wanted the books to encourage introspection and positive change in the reader, but at the same time be a gripping and entertaining read.
While the ideas started back then along with some attempts to compile them in a readable form, serious writing on the three books began about six years or so ago after I was released from a temple presidency. And, actually, I had the year I turned 80 as my goal to publish. What a journey! A labor of love—with emphasis on labor! Gratefully, and not coincidentally, there have been constant snatches of inspiration all along. Almost a compelling force at times. It was as though I had been given an assignment to write this.
Fascinating. Didn’t you pre-publish the first book of this series a few years ago?
Yes. In 2016, I floated the first book in the series as a semi-standalone on Amazon, titled Sealed Up. I then pulled it from the market in 2018 to be re-edited and re-released when the other books were ready. It was a trial balloon of sorts and did surprisingly well. Most importantly, it was an experience-teacher. Its successor book, FIND, and the next two books in the series, SHATTER and GATHER, I believe, are far better books because of what I learned.
Your title of the series, The Course of Fate, is intriguing. Are you implying that what happens in the future is written in stone?
Not written in stone, per se. That connotes predestination; that everything, including each of us and how we will behave, is already planned out, and we’re just following a script. I don’t believe that. Such a scenario denies agency, and that is fundamental to who we are. Our choices have not been superimposed upon us. They are a result of who we want to be or become. Our experiences allow us to make these ultimate determinations with full knowledge. I believe to have the smorgasbord of experiences that that requires is a paramount reason for our stay here on this earth.
So, I see The Course of Fate as the fulfillment of prophecy. Not that it must happen because those events were arbitrarily destined to take place before the world ever was, but because it will happen. God sees the beginning to the end. He knows where the interaction of the agency of billions of people will take the world. He knows the events that that will bring or cause, and He directs His prophets to warn the people accordingly. I think it is important that the catastrophic events He warns us of will come if we don’t repent or change. They are conditional, and, therefore, by definition, not predestined. Nevertheless, because He foresees, He can foretell. That He does through His prophets, and that is The Course of Fate.
Is there anything significant about your book titles, FIND, SHATTER, and GATHER other than representing the contents of each book?
Yes. They are symbolic of our own lives. When we find a spiritual pearl of great price, it will shatter our unacceptable status quo. We separate from influences that distract us from our desire to focus on the radiance of that discovery and gather with those who want that same light.
The authenticity of your books is commendable. Historically, socially, politically, and geographically, and all that in venues ranging from Mesoamerica to Jerusalem and places in between. What kind of research did you have to do? And did you have anyone helping you with research?
I did not keep track of the time I spent in any one phase of my writing. I wouldn’t be surprised though, that of the 1000’s of hours I have put into this series if my research didn’t take up anywhere from a third to half of that. Absolute authenticity was mandatory. As far as research help, my main assistant was Google. What is available online at our fingertips today would have required an army of researchers to gather just 20 years ago. Google by any measure would have been considered a miracle when I was writing 40 years ago.
You say the Book of Mormon has been your guide for writing this series. What role has that book played in your life?
Since 1960 I have read it cover to cover on the average of more than once a year. I have studied and pondered and discussed and taught its passages and teachings countless times. There is no other writing that I have spent a comparable time with nor that has affected my life to the same degree as that book. I am a witness that a man, woman, or child will draw nearer to Jesus Christ through reading and studying and living the principles put forth in the Book of Mormon than by any other book.
Many fiction authors base characters in their books on people they know. Have you done that? And if so, who?
The short answer is, yes, and sort of. Since the Book of Mormon is the blueprint for this series, a few of the characters in each of the books are patterned after counterparts in the Book of Mormon. In a couple of instances, I have had a person in mind as I created the character. In one instance, I patterned my characters as close to two of my dearest friends, Jack, and Jo Anne Rushton, as I could. Hyrum and Gabriella Bentley in FIND mirror them. Jack, through a freak accident, became a quadriplegic and Jo Anne was his caregiver for some 23 years before he died. She not only gave me permission to do this but aided me in my descriptions of Jack. They are both heroes. You will want to Google Jack Rushton to get an idea of who these two extraordinary people are.
You have scores of characters in this series. Do you have a favorite or favorites?
Well, besides Hyrum and Gabriella, for reasons I’ve already said, I particularly like Nathan Hill, Ariel Shaeffer, Chet Monson, and Sari Leavitt. All have legitimate challenges with belief. And when cobwebs are cleared and truth is seen, they respond honestly and according to their desires. In each of these instances, their decisions required real courage. I want to be like that.
You use epilogues in each of your books in startling unprecedented ways. What purpose do you want your epilogues to serve?
Generally, epilogues are used to bring closure and for the most part are outside of the plot of the book itself. Here I use epilogues to bring about a striking conclusion that is integral to the whole story and is pregnant with ramifications about what this portends for the future. I wanted my books to conclude with a bang and push the reader into irrepressible thoughts about what the future may hold. I hope my epilogues do that.
Finally, The Course of Fate books relate to the present day social, political, and moral state of the world and the seeming aftermath or future ramifications of what is happening now. Probably the question that just about everyone who has read the series is asking themselves is: Will this happen as you have portrayed it? What do you think?
If I could put a smiley face here, I would. My response is: Fiction? We’ll see.