Hello Dark Ones,
Today in the MADHOUSE, I have the pleasure of hosting my friend from across the pond, Erik Hofstatter, to chat with him about all things dark and unsettling. Erik is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. Other works include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds.
I recently read Erik's novella this past month, and was blown away by the story, not to mention the ending, so once I recovered from the shock of Aurel and his sweet (ha!) sister, I had to to find out more. Lock and load, friends! This is going to be a rare treat.
With blood-kissed secrets,
Stephanie M. wytovich
· WYTOVICH: Tell us about your novella, Rare Breeds. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process/research like?
HOFSTATTER: In a nutshell, Rare Breeds is about a nuclear family. It dissects a modern relationship and examines human complexities—both physical and psychological. Parental corruption and its inevitable consequences, personal greed and satisfaction, sacrifices in pursuit of desires—it’s all here. The novella focuses on Aurel, a man driven by need. A need for a family. A need to belong, to cosset. He foolishly marries an older woman (already burdened with a daughter) who refuses to bear any more children due to declining years. Aurel respects her wishes, but denial chews his heart. After consulting with his twin sister, events begin to escalate. The initial story slice was inspired by Hemoglobin, a cheap Canadian horror film (adapted from Lovecraft’s Lurking Fear) and it spoon-fed my thought process. My brain was suddenly pregnant with ideas and almost two years later—Rare Breeds was born. Research included human anatomy and DNA theories. I detested research in the past, but now welcome it like a lost lover. It’s fascinating to learn and discover.
· WYTOVICH: Who was your favorite character to create and explore?
HOFSTATTER: Aurel. He’s a victim of his past and peppered with multiple layers of wrong. The majority of his character defects were sowed by his parents. He was a product of their corruption and I enjoyed exploring his limits. To develop such a complex character required sacrifices of my own, though. I had to dig deep and visit places inside myself I never want to visit again.
WYTOVICH: In regards to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?
HOFSTATTER: Dialogue is a valued friend. The recipe for effective dialogue is simple—it has to be realistic but that’s about it. I enjoy that particular aspect of writing. Narrative on the other hand, requires skill. A skill I’m constantly honing. I also struggle to embrace my final drafts. What makes the draft final? When you’re finally (ha-ha) happy with it and no longer encounter problems? I have no such luck. I keep shuffling words and sentences until my final draft becomes the final draft of the final draft. I wrote the first part of my novel over a year ago and only recently read it again. It was atrocious. So I rewrote the part, but you know what? If I read it again next year—I’d feel the same. The pursuit of perfection is an illusion. Sometimes enough is enough. If only I believed that.
WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?
HOFSTATTER: Someone sprayed me with the “schlock horror” term and I carried it for a while. But to be honest, subgenres confuse me so I’m happy with the generic dark fiction writer title. I write about the darker side of the human experience so call me what you want. As for my style, I don’t really know. My first collection of short stories was described as “Poe influenced” even though my knowledge of Poe was minimal at the time. That’s a good thing, right?
WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?
HOFSTATTER: Primary influences include the kings of urban horror: Gary McMahon, Nathan Ballingrud, and Charles L. Grant. I connected with some gifted writers over the years, too. Karen Runge in particular. I view her as a mentor and consider myself lucky that she tolerates me. Rituals? When I finish a story—I bathe in mead. Cool, huh?
WYTOVICH: What books are sitting in your TBR pile?
HOFSTATTER: I’m constantly drunk on Gary McMahon, but these books dominate my bedside cabinet: The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis by Anne Rice, A Long December by Richard Chizmar, Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic by Douglas E. Winter, Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow and so on. You could built an igloo with my TBR pile.
WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?
HOFSTATTER: Last year I mentioned writing a debut novel: Toroa. A second draft is currently in progress. The story is epic and spans across two continents. Again, the protagonist’s temperament undergoes a major transformation—life can be a cruel teacher. I suppose Rare Breeds contained similar ingredients. I would describe it as dark fantasy with a horror edge—an unfamiliar territory for me but still paved with visceral reactions. I also penned a short story entitled Fountain of Drowned Memories, which has been short-listed for an exciting anthology. Fingers crossed.
WYTOVICH:If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?
HOFSTATTER: Persevere—there’s no recipe for success. Just keep doing your thing.
Aurel and Zora Schwartz are a married couple trying to make a modern relationship work. But an old secret is going to affect them in ways neither of them can imagine. And Zora’s daughter Livie may find herself caught in a trap built long before she was born. The ending will leave you stunned and speechless. Get ready to scream.
Blurbs for Rare Breeds:
“Gleefully twisted.”—Gary McMahon, author of The Concrete Grove Trilogy
“This tale of mounting dread and unusual horror creeps in like a night fog and wraps itself around your throat, and when its icy tendrils recede, what is left behind will shock you.”—Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower Trilogy
“Erik writes the kind of old school horror fiction that is rarely seen these days, making him a rare breed himself.”—Paul Kane, author of The Rainbow Man
“A haunting, and yet touching story, with plenty of tension, Rare Breeds will seep into your dreams, razor blade glinting in the moonlight, eager to claim new flesh.”—Richard Thomas, author of Disintegration
“I’ve read just over one hundred books this year and Rare Breeds has the best ending of the bunch.” – Frank Errington