Ten Knives Interview with Rick Hautala

martedì 10 aprile 2012

Ten Knives Interview with Rick Hautala

Ten Knives Interview with Rick Hautala, Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Knife 1) Please name at least three contemporary authors who write generally better than you do and why.
[Rick Hautala] The easiest answer for at least one is: Stephen King. But the fact is, for years – and I mean this with all due respect – Steve is a much better “storyteller” than he is a “writer” His imagination has always amazed me, but sometimes a sentence or phrase of his doesn’t quite ring true. (I know; I should talk!) Another easy answer: Joe Lansdale. Joe’s style is so amazing and downright weird – scary and funny and involving. The third and final one is James Lee Burke. He’s a great storyteller and a great writer – probably the greatest living writer. His plots and characters are involving and distinctive, and his word-craft … his dialog and style put every other contemporary writer to shame.


Knife 2)  Has ever something happened in your life that made you think give up writing?
[Rick Hautala]  Writing a book or story is hard enough, but the writing “business” is enough to make anyone want to give up. And many do. Lousy editors – low pay – bad (if any) promotion and publicity – a readership that ignores your work … it can become all too much. I might have quit years ago … if I could, but I’m hard-wired to tell stories. I think it was Harlan Ellison who said: “It’s easy to become a writer. The trick is staying a writer” (or words to that effect). There are so many frustrations that surround writing, but for me, the true beauty is when I sit down and let my imagination pour out of my fingertips onto the keyboard and screen.
Knife 3) Which compromises did you have to accept for commercial reasons?
[Rick Hautala] I’ve been lucky. I can honestly look back at my career and say that I have never compromised my writing for commercial reasons. I’ve had arguments with editors about the direction a book should take, but I have always written the book or story I wanted to write whether it will sell or not. Thankfully, in most cases, the publisher liked what I had written. In a very few cases, the book or story was rejected. And in all but one case, the work later sold to someone else. In general, I’ve dealt with very reasonable and creative editors who liked what I wrote and took the time to edit me faithfully to make it better.
Knife 4) Is it very important to win literary prizes? Does it help to sell?

[Rick Hautala] I’m dubious about literary awards … maybe because I’ve never received one. My short story collection Bedbugs was selected by Barnes and Noble as a notable book, but I didn’t see any burst in sales. I’m also dubious about awards because I think they usually reflect a preference for style over story, and I’ve always placed my emphasis on telling a story. Receiving HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is a wonderful thing, but in the greater scheme of things, I doubt it will influence sales. It’s not about sales. It’s about recognition from my peers for what I’ve written … so far.

Knife 5) When you have no ideas for writing, how do you bring down yourself and whom do you phone to?

[Rick Hautala] Usually I stew and fret that – finally – the well has run dry. But the problem isn’t getting new ideas. Ideas are everywhere. The next-to-impossible trick is taking (or making or forcing) the time to develop the ideas into stories. I like tossing ideas around with people. My wife Holly (also a writer) and three friends in particular – Chris Golden, Matt Costello, and Mark Steensland – are especially helpful because they have better skills than I do. Still, what it comes down to in the end is me alone … in my office … with my computer …
Knife 6) What do you think when you read your country’s best seller rankings?
[Rick Hautala] Well, I used to think: “I ought to be there. I’m better than that guy!” I also see writers who are churning out what the editors and vast readership want. Nothing wrong with that. I won’t name names, but some writers who regularly appear on the best seller list are terrible writers. My defense is: the general reading public is stupid and lazy. But that’s bullshit. These writers are filling a need for publishing houses (making tons of money) and readers (entertaining them). I have to accept that what I write might not reach a mass audience … for whatever reasons. At this point in my career, I’m thankful I can write what I want, and usually an editor will buy it and a readership will find it.
Knife 7) What do you reproach to American publishing? What are its limits?
[Rick Hautala] The problem with American publishing is that it has become like the Hollywood star system. There are the “million-copy-best-selling writers,” and then there are the rest of us. There’s no “mid-lists” anymore. You’re either a major best seller … or you’re all but ignored. Publishers no longer carry backlist titles. Your new book comes out, and it’s treated like grocery produce. After its expiration date, it’s gone … to be replaced by other writers’ books. There is no sense in America that a publisher wants to develop an author’s career. Your book is either a best seller … or it’s gone in a month.
Knife 8) How many times have you refused to participate to a no-profit project?
[Rick Hautala] I’ve only been asked a few times to contribute to a non-profit project, and in all of those cases, I approved of the cause, so I accepted and “gave away” some on my work. Do I regret not being paid? Sure. A writer needs to be paid. But if the cause is good, I’ll donate my work. The fact is, no one’s clambering for me to give them something. (And this is not an invitation for people to start!)


Knife 9) What did you do right after signing major book deal?
[Rick Hautala] The same thing I did before. I got depressed because I am usually filled with self-doubt about my ability to do a satisfactory job. I have went out and got crazy buying new cars and boats and toys. I grew up lower middle class (read: “poor”), and writing is such a precarious vocation I have always been concerned about saving for those rainy days … because – especially in a writer’s life – the rain will come … usually in torrents.


Knife 10) Final question: Whom to (or to what) would you throw a knife?
[Rick Hautala] Literally? No one. Figuratively? Anyone who intends to harm anyone who is helpless and needs defense from the plutocratic powers that rule this wicked, wicked world.
Rick Hautala has more than thirty published books to his credit, including the million copy, international best-seller Nightstone, as well as Twilight Time, Little Brothers, Cold Whisper, Impulse, and The Wildman. He has also published four novels – The White Room, Looking Glass, Unbroken, and Follow – using the pseudonym A. J. Matthews. His more than sixty published short stories have appeared in national and international anthologies and magazines. His short story collection Bedbugs was selected as one of the best horror books of the year in 2003. A novella titled Reunion was published by PS Publications in December, 2009; and Occasional Demons, a short story collection, is due in 2010 from CD Publications. He wrote the screenplays for several short films, including the multiple award-winning The Ugly Film, based on the short story by Ed Gorman, as well as Peekers, based on a short story by Kealan Patrick Burke, and Dead @ 17, based on the graphic novel by Josh Howard.
A graduate of the University of Maine in Orono with a Master of Art in English Literature (Renaissance and Medieval Literature), Hautala lives in southern Maine with author Holly Newstein. His three sons have all grown up and (mostly) moved out of the house. He served terms as Vice President and Trustee for the Horror Writers Association. Rick Hautala received in 2012 the Bram Stoker Awards for Lifetime Achievement.

Short Films

Lovecraft’s Pillow
Buy “Occasional Demons” by R. Hautala on Amazon