read my interview with Sally Hanan

Soon to be release: Sally Hanan’s Joy in A Box

1. What was the reasoning behind the title “Joy in a Box,” and how does the title of your book intertwine all of the stories within the collection?


I’ve noticed that most writers choose the title of one of their stories to represent the whole collection, and I couldn’t use “The Collection,” as that would definitely have been a bit boring. I chose “ Joy in a Box” because most of the stories are inspiring and speak comfort and hope into difficult situations.



2. In the title story “Joy in a Box,” you began by writing– “I stepped inside as he was hanging the last painting–it was somehow a comforting place to be . . .” What created this feeling of comfort and warmth in the character, drawing her and encouraging her to appear transfixed by each painting and the art work, yet wanting to form her own conclusions about them and not wanting to hear what the creator of the paintings was trying to say? What motivated you to write this story, and what was the reason behind creating this woman’s character? Why did you use this story as the title story in the book?


The character in “Joy in a Box” had pushed her aching emotions deep down inside her heart, and she had hoped that trying to ignore them would result in being free of pain, but what drew her to the paintings was the one thing she was pushing out of her life—the celebration of love and life. When we push our emotions out of the way, we also tend to push others away in the process. It’s not a deliberate thing, but rejection of ourselves leads to rejection of others.


As a lay counselor, I meet women on a regular basis who struggle to control everything in their lives. Control is based on fear, and we can never control fear; that’s just an illusion. Fear controls us. I wanted to show readers a way out of that fear.


A book is, in a way, a box—a collective storage facility for the unknown presents inside. When we open up the box of the past and look inside, in spite of our fear, we get the present.


3. In “A Gift-A Friend-A Foe,” you can tell from the opening sentence that the character is nervous and upset about something from her movements and actions. From the way you describe her hands and body, you can see she is tense and needs to calm down. What is the true meaning behind the title? How does the reader find out the motivation behind the character’s performance and actions in the courtroom?


I was sitting in front of my computer one day trying to think up a story, and I started inspecting the backs of my hands. Then I checked my nails and noticed a white smudge on one of them. I decided to write down what I saw and hoped that inspiration would follow. It did. The school rhyme, “a gift, a friend, a foe, a true lover to come, a long journey,” helped to develop the story along those lines.


There’s been a lot in the news over the last few years about relatives trying to get what they think is their fair share of money left in a will, and I’ve read about moochers, who never want to work but expect weekly checks from Mom and Dad. I knew it would bother my M.C. enough to develop a plan to get them off her back and keep the money for herself.


The story took an unusual twist, even to me! I won’t give away the end, but when the thought struck me to write what I did, it made me smile, so I just went ahead and wrote it in. When writing, I always try to hint rather than give outright facts, to show rather than tell. I think I pulled that off with this story.


4. “The Collection”: In this story, you once again begin with artwork of a different type– this time it belongs to a child who is making a special card for her grandfather, who she never sees. He is referred to as her “meanie grandfather,” and she wants to send him this card to give him love and lots of kisses? How does this child’s innocence and love, for someone she obviously is not supposed to care about, teach adults a lesson about life and a child’s unconditional love? What message did you hope to convey to your readers in this story?


Children have such great faith in people, and, as adults, we have missed out on this aspect of trust in the fact that others carry good things in their persons. All the little girl had ever known was love and acceptance. It did not even cross her mind to not send the same to her grandfather, despite her dad calling him a meanie.


Again, the meaning behind the story plays to some degree on what I’ve found when working with more difficult people. Everyone has pain. Everyone believes a certain thing about herself that is not true. She also jumps to assumptions about what others think of her, based on past experiences. I wanted to take a peek into a bitter old man’s heart and try to reveal what might be true, rather than what was assumed.




5. “Prosperity”: Why did you title this story “Prosperity,” and what link does it have to the couple huddled together on the ship and described in the opening paragraph of the story?


Our family came to America in the ‘90s on a lottery visa with hopes that life would be easier. During the potato famine, the Irish came to save their lives and those of their children. Prosperity was a secondary dream, not the primary one. In this story, the couple made it to New York harbor alive, so they achieved their primary goal. It was a natural fit to then bring prosperity into the story.



9. In the last story about the little girl who starts out blind, what does the line “Because of your faith it will happen” mean in relation to her, the outcome of the story, and all of the stories in the book?


People risk their lives every day to show the “Jesus” movie to Indian villagers who have never heard Jesus’ message of freedom. They believe that faith in Jesus brings freedom to the heart. Everyone puts their faith in something or someone. The one they choose to believe is the one who will help them to the best of his capabilities. The girl chose to put her faith in Jesus, and the results speak for themselves.


In the same way, the other stories in the book show what happens based on where one’s faith lies. In “The Collection,” the old man put his faith in his fear; in “The Star of Troy,” the ex-husband is still investigating before he makes his final decision; in “Joy in a Box,” the woman places her faith in the older man’s testimony. We all have reasons to believe the things we do, but the main question needs to be: Why do I believe these things? Are my beliefs based on hearsay, truth, fear or testimony? Fear and hearsay have never led anyone to freedom.


As an aside to this, I am stil looking for reviews on the book before I publish it. If any of your readers are interested, they can e-mail me via this address: inkmeister at;


10. Are you going to write more books? What motivated you to write these stories? What will be the next book be–stories or a novel?


I will definitely write more books. I have a novel in the works—a suspense based on an apparent cheating husband and a wife’s quest to find out the truth. I also have some thoughts in my mind about other short stories. I might put some stories together about one couple’s marriage and let the years of circumstance and choices speak the story.


I write two to three time a week on my blog. I have some tips on writing, a few interviews, and anything else on writing that sparks my interest.;



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