Interview: Yvonne Millar Talks Horror With E. C. Hanson
Today we are joined by E.C. Hanson – a renowned playwright and horror author. His first collection, 'All Things Deadly (Salem Stories)' is being released by D&T Publishing and is out on August 6th.
(YM = Yvonne Miller , ECH= E.C Hanson)
YM: Welcome and thank you for joining us today. Firstly, I wanted to talk a little about your new collection, 'All Things Deadly (Salem Stories)'. What was the highlight of writing the book and conversely, what were the challenges that you faced during the journey?
ECH: The highlight was sticking to it. When COVID started, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I had a few short plays lined up for productions. They were all cancelled. My go-to publisher was let go. I basically had nowhere to send material. So I crafted an outline for this book. I went back and forth about whether or not it should be an anthology film or a book. I have had a few screenplays optioned, so I knew how long projects could be stuck in development hell. I wanted to try something new and see what would happen. I had no delusions of grandeur here; I simply wanted to write a book of fiction and send it out. If everybody rejected it, I would survive.
As for challenges, there were two of them. It was working on this every night. I write whenever I can, but my inside voice was reminding me that I had never taken a stab at fiction. So I had to block that internal devil and proceed. The other challenge was knowing what to do when I thought the collection was finished. I cared more about submitting like a professional than agents or publishers not accepting it. Jonathan Maberry was a huge help to me. No surprise. He’s a saint to those in this community. Kendare Blake, Alan Gratz, and Leah Franqui (a former classmate at NYU) gave me additional pointers along the way. This would not be getting released less than a year after I completed it without their guidance.
YM: Was the writing process different and what challenges did you face writing a horror collection as opposed to a play?
ECH: The process is so much different. Even though many NYU professors were against free writing, I would say that many of my plays come from that type of process. I can go to a coffee shop, stare out the window and just start cranking on something. I live in the moment and hope for organic moments to end up in the final product. I’ll stop and go, “And there’s a ten-minute play” or “This is going to be a full-length.” As for fiction, I had everything outlined. I don’t mean every single moment of each story. I mean titles, characters, and a logline for each story. The logline is everything to me. If I can write down in a sentence what the story is about, I will write it. If I can’t, I won’t. That’s my litmus test for everything.
YM: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
ECH: I hope they see how you can use a single location as a thematic link. Yes, the Frost storyline is crucial. There wouldn’t be a book without those stories. But all of the other ones use Salem in different ways. Now, I will offer this cautionary note: Do not write a collection as your first work. They are rarely accepted. I can’t tell you how many places say, “NO COLLECTIONS!” on their website. That was a valuable moment for me. I had to consider breaking these stories up and/or self-publishing. Fortunately for me, a few places liked it. And D&T went for it. They are an incredible company with a bright future. Just look at their upcoming roster! I am thrilled I joined forces with them.
YM: What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
ECH: Read a ton. Novels, poems, manga, collections, poetry, plays. Examine structure. See how a writer starts and ends a story. See how they use dialogue, when they use it. Also, I would advise them to write. Don’t judge. Just crank it out. Get to the finish line for every project. I am friends or acquaintances with writers who hit walls and never push through. They live in this state for such a lengthy time that it scares me. I want to save them all! The reason it bugs me is that they are so much more talented than I am. No material is that precious. Yesterday’s rejection could be today’s acceptance. Read, write, polish like a pro, and submit with confidence.
YM: How do you handle writer’s block?
ECH: I don’t believe in it, to be honest. People might want to punch me in the face for this statement. I’ve never had it or I won’t let my brain do that to me. And I’m no Zen master! However, I think there is a phase called “writer’s crap” or something. This is where you hate everything you throw on the page. But when this happens, I snag a book to take my mind off things or push through knowing that a particular section of a story is bad. A shower or walk or ride on the Peloton frees my mind up, and then an idea will hit me. It doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. It just means it gets me through the mud and onto the next section. You can always go back to fix the crap. Just know that it is crap.
YM: What is your favourite story in the collection and why?
ECH: Aside from the Frost storyline, I am partial to two stories: 'Regress' and 'The Five-Day Fisherman'. Both handle the power of alcoholism in a different way. The former taps into how the outside world fails to see how difficult sobriety is while the latter presents a unique relationship between a man and young girl. I can’t help exploring how kids become adults in many situations, and how unfortunate this is for their future. It teaches them about the “heavy stuff” at a young age: an age where they should be protected from such dark realities.
YM: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
ECH: I recently completed Wicked Blood. It’s a dark and ultra-violent novella about three siblings stranded in a farmhouse. I had a devil of a time with the ending, but it seems to have paid off. It feels like a mature version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I am currently in talks with a publisher about releasing it in 2022. I will hold off on the specifics since I haven’t signed a contract yet. At present, I started drafting the first book in a YA series called 'Esther Fitzgerald & The Underground Witches'. The scope of it, more so than the page count, is rather large. I will be writing and rewriting that throughout the fall. If that reaches a healthy state, I will try my hand at a splatter western.
YM: Where do you draw inspiration from?
ECH: It comes from everywhere. It can be from my brother and his insane work ethic. It can be from my wife and her unparalleled devotion to our new daughter. It can be from said daughter when her expression morphs from total moodiness to one of elation - I have Elmo to thank for that.
YM: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
ECH: I like to go on walks with my wife and daughter, hike on abandoned trails, watch old Westerns, consume stout beers and Japanese whisky, and wolf down a bag of waffle chips.
YM: Something just for fun – Coke or Pepsi?
ECH: Tough one. Coke…by an inch.
YM: Ebook or Paperback?
Movie or book?
Foreign film. Preferably Scandinavian or Korean.
YM: Thank you for taking the time to join Hellhound Magazine today. We hope the release of your new collection is a roaring success.
E. C. Hanson's first collection, ALL THINGS DEADLY (Salem Stories), will be released by D&T Publishing on August 6th. Find his work on amazon here
Instagram - @haddonfieldhanson