SIGEL — “I’ve always loved books,” local author Colleen Hansen said. “My mom used to read to me from a time that I was very young ... Books have always been magical for me.”
Eventually, it occurred to her that it would be wonderful to write something like that, to be able to take people away and stir their imaginations.
Last month, it culminated in the publication of her first full-length novel, “Roses and Moonlight,” on Aug. 4 under the local company Unknown Authors.
The book, which is set in rural Pennsylvania, tells the story of Cassandra Laurence, a young English professor suffering a crisis of faith after losing someone close to her. Her situation is worsened when she learns of the plans of one Nicholas Gallagher, a successful real estate developer from New York City, to build a large commercial center in the middle of her beloved rural town.
The story is about the meeting of the two and what comes after.
Hansen, who lives in Sigel and grew up in Ridgway in Elk County, has spent most of her life in rural Pennsylvania and said that she loves living in a small town and often incorporates that into her writing.
She said that she appreciates small town values, such as the fact that everyone gets to know each other. Those values emerge as themes in “Roses and Moonlight.”
Hansen originally had an associate’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. In 2005, she went back and obtained her bachelor’s. This, too, she said influences her writing, as her own tastes in literature tend to be reflected in her characters.
She specifically cited British literature and British romantic era poetry as genres she particularly likes. She said she enjoys British literature’s “sense of heritage” and British romantic era poetry’s affinity for nature, something she shares as a resident of a small town.
However, she said she likes to read and write just about anything, such as a good love story, books that explore relationships and also faith-based literature. “Roses and Moonlight” aims to combine these three elements within its larger narrative.
Hansen started off writing professionally as a freelancer, which gave her a variety of work. Some of her earliest works were for children, short stories and articles that appeared in magazines, e-zines and other publications including her church’s. She also wrote freelance on topics for adults, with a particular focus on home and family life articles. For a time, she wrote regularly for her sister-in-law’s monthly newsletter “Moms Making It.”
She made what she described as her first serious attempt at writing a novel at the age of 14.
She was first published in the early 90s. However, “Roses and Moonlight” is her first published full-length novel.
Hansen first encountered her current publisher, Unknown Authors, at an information table that had been set up in the Punxsutawney Community Center for Groundhog Day. At the time, Kitty Scott, who founded Unknown Authors, was looking for manuscripts to publish.
Previously, Hansen had submitted her book to publishers, once as part of a company’s idea to publish a romance novel from each of the 50 states. A few editors showed interest but ultimately did not pursue.
“Things change so quickly in the publishing world,” Hansen said.
Unknown Authors, whose intention is to bridge the process of publishing and self-publishing to increase the ease with which rural writers can get their work out there, decided to take on “Roses and Moonlight.”
Because the novel was already written, Hansen didn’t receive as much guidance from the company in terms of the story itself, though she did have to modernize it a bit in the edit, as the book was originally completed a number of years ago.
The editing process mainly entailed editing for grammar, style and formatting, mainly designed to close it up at a certain length. Unknown Authors did not make changes without Hansen’s permission, instead identifying problems or ideas and sending them to her for confirmation, something Hansen said she appreciated.
“If someone can show me how to improve my writing, I’m fine with that,” she said. “I’m very detail-oriented.”
But she said she wouldn’t simply want someone to rush in and alter it without getting any consent or advisement.
Hansen said that there was no singular moment of inspiration for “Roses and Moonlight” and rather that it is something that was drawn from her own experiences. While the story and events are entirely fictional, the interests represented reflect her own.
“The characters were just inside my head,” she said.
It’s set in rural Pennsylvania and centers on a protagonist who appreciates the rural environment and fights within the story to preserve that way of life and sense of history.
Hansen plans for certain to write a sequel to “Roses and Moonlight,” which she has just started writing, and is thinking of doing at least a trilogy with more installments possible depending on the general response.
Beyond that, the possibilities are as endless as her own varied tastes in literature. However, she said that she’d really like to write a historical novel because she enjoys research and thinks that the subject matter is important. While she has no specific plans in this regard, she indicated that she likes digging into Civil War history, as well as the British literature regency era, which she finds interesting due to its very specific societal and cultural restraints and its potential for an intriguing period romance. However, a historical novel written by her could potentially be set in just about any time or place.
To purchase “Roses and Moonlight,” one can contact Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org  or (814) 752-2051 or go to the online store at unknownauthors.org.
Unknown Authors encourages buying directly from them or the author in order to cut down on middle man costs.