Kenneth Mark Hoover’s supernatural western, HAXAN, just came out in June, and he kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more! Please give him a warm welcome!
Congrats on the release of HAXAN! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?
First of all, thank you for inviting me to the interview! I have always been a big fan of Old Time Radio. I began to listen to the old Gunsmoke radio episodes written by its creator, John Meston. He wanted to bring adult sensibilities to the western and leave mythology and Hollywood clichés behind.
It wasn’t long before I was hooked and knew I wanted to write a story about the Old West along the same lines, but leavened with dark fantasy. Not a lot. I didn’t want the fantasy to overwhelm the Old West itself. Nor did I want the West to be nothing more than a backdrop.
I had also been a fan of the Jonah Hex comics. So using this as a starting point I began to write “Haxan” the first short story in the series. That was the beginning.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 9 years old. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. When I started there wasn’t a lot of research material in bookstores or libraries so you had to learn the profession as you went. I was lucky. I had two really good mentors, Marian Poe and Harold King, who showed me the ropes.
I’ve done other things besides, writing, of course. I’ve been a surveyor, a salesman, an educator, and I’ve delivered pizzas in college. But more than anything else all I’ve ever wanted to do was write.
Why do you think readers will root for Marshal John T. Marwood?
Because he is a flawed individual. People can relate to that, I think. He’s not a superman in any sense of the word. He’s not a particularly nice man, either, but he has his quiet moments. I honestly believe readers can identify with someone like that. Even if we don’t agree with some of his methods, we understand he’s doing what he thinks is right, from his own perspective.
There is a constant theme in the Haxan mythos. From time to time people will remark to Marwood, “The West is changing, but you never change. That will be the death of you.” Marwood knows this. He knows he is being left behind while the world moves on. But, he also knows he can’t be a part of that future. He has many abilities, but that’s not one of them.
HAXAN takes place in the 1870s. What kind of research did you do for the novel?
I took many trips down along the Texas/New Mexico/Mexico border. I also spent a lot of time around Mesilla, New Mexico, which the town of Haxan is modeled after. I also visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I did a lot of camping, too, in the process. I wanted to get a personal feel for the environment. I don’t think you can do this from an armchair. I really enjoyed the research a lot. I fell in love with New Mexico the first time I visited. I’ve been back many times since.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I guess I am a bit of both. I tend to have some sort of an idea how the story will be structured and how it will end. This doesn’t always pan out, of course. I do whatever is necessary for the story. I don’t let personal likes and dislikes get in the way of that. For me, story is all. It is supreme. I will do whatever it takes to always make a story better. Nothing is more important than that.
I often make a very brief outline, maybe a word or two, or a phrase, for each chapter or main theme. I write from there. I don’t make extensive outlines. I don’t like feeling boxed in that way.
I do this because I honestly feel writing is an organic process. All art is, I guess. I like that quality and do what I can go tap into it.
What authors or novels have influenced you the most in your work, and in life?
Well, I mentioned John Meston for the Haxan novel and stories, but many other writers have influenced me as well. I am a big Henry Miller fan. I like Hemingway in doses, along with Melville, and Nabakov. As for genre writers, I prefer Robert Heinlein, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, and my absolute favorite, Alice Sheldon. I believe Sheldon raised the bar in science fiction and everyone has been trying, and failing, to reach it ever since. I can read her work all day long.
What are you currently reading?
Mostly history. I’m slowly working my way through the Sagas as well. I’m very choosy about what I read now, which is why I often reread old stuff I once liked.
Even though this is your first novel, you’re shorter work has been published extensively. What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer and what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
Actually, Haxan is my second novel. Feverblau was published by Five Star Press in 2005. But Haxan is without a doubt my first novel in the western genre. I always tell new writers the same thing. There is no magic key to writing. If you want to be successful there’s one thing, and one thing only you must always do. You must persevere. Never give up. Never stop submitting your work. Never stop writing.
That’s it. That’s what you need to do. The writers who get published are the ones who don’t quit. It’s that simple.
As for me, I had a very big lesson brought home to me in a personal way. When I began to actually meet other writers I learned they were ordinary people like just like me. They were still giants, but they were no longer just names on books. That’s when I knew without a doubt if I kept trying I could do this, too. So far, I have.
What’s next for you?
Well, Quaternity is coming out from CZP around July, 2015, so readers have that to look forward to. I will continue to work with the characters of Haxan and write about them. I plan to start a brand new Haxan novel this fall. In fact I am headed to New Mexico again to do extensive research on that.
As I said earlier, I will never stop writing. At the moment I am working in the blood, and dust, and wind of Haxan. So far it has been a pretty nice place to visit.
Thermopylae. Masada. Agincourt. And now, Haxan, New Mexico Territory, circa 1874. Through a sea of time and dust, in places that might never be, or can’t become until something is set right, there are people destined to travel. Forever. Marshal John T. Marwood is one of these men. Taken from a place he called home, he is sent to fight an eternal war. It never ends, because the storm itself, this unending conflict, makes the world we know a reality. Along with all the other worlds waiting to be born. Or were born, but died like a guttering candle in eternal night . . . Haxan is the first in a series of novels. “Lonesome Dove meets The Punisher . . . real, gritty, violent, and blatantly uncompromising.”