Please welcome Hank Schwaeble back to the blog! It’s been awhile since we caught up, but he has a new collection out, American Nocturne, and he kindly answered a few questions about it!
Will you tell us a little about your new collection, American Nocturne?
Happy to! Maybe a year and a half ago, I decided I had published enough short fiction that I could assemble a lot of what I’d written and put out a collection of short stories. I also had a couple of unpublished stories that I had never submitted anywhere, ones for other anthology projects that never came about, so I began to assemble them to take stock of what I had. Looking over the stories that I wanted to include, I found there was a connective thread of what you might call a dark, socio-cultural edge to them, that even though they were quite diverse in their respective settings, characters, plots and themes, they were all striking various chords on the same moody instrument. So I chewed on that a while, realized they all had a noir vibe to them in their sensibilities, their energy if not their conventions. They were also all very American, both as to geography and cultural explorations, which gave me the idea for the title and the title story, “American Nocturne.” I sat down and wrote the eponymous title story, then I wrote another that occurred to me as soon as I had finished. I knew then I had the collection more or less in place.
Is it more of a challenge to write short fiction, or novel length work? What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
The short story lends itself to horror quite well. I wouldn’t say it’s more of a challenge to write either one compared to the other, as much as a different set of challenges for each. What I like about short stories is that the rules of structure that govern a novel don’t necessarily apply. That’s the beauty of the form, and what allows it to be such a neat vehicle for horror. You can tackle a premise from so many different angles, so many different lengths and depths. You can leave things unresolved, you can give glimpses into fascinating situations, peeks behind a curtain of reality. Or you can tell a complete story with (hopefully) efficiency. You can do things with a short story that can’t realistically be sustained in a novel.
Do you have a favorite story in the collection?
That’s a tough one. I like each of the stories for different reasons. The title story, “American Nocturne,” probably represents what I like to write best. “Nurture” is probably the meanest of them all, but in a way it needed to be that I found oddly satisfying. “Cold Service” is something I would like to think of as being quite a creative premise. But I suppose the most fun of all of them is the Kolchak: The Night Stalker story, “A Murmur of Evil.” I received permission to use the copyrighted characters for that, and I had a tremendous amount of fun writing it. What matters more, of course, is that the readers like them, and I would hope they like them all.
You’re a pro at writing scary stuff, but what’s something that truly scares you?
There’s an eternity stretching out before us. Infinite time unfolding minute by minute. There is either something else other than this physical world, or there isn’t. Either prospect in the face of forever lying ahead is terrifying, if you think about it.
What do you like to see in a good story or novel? Is there anything that will make you put a book down unread?
Poor prose is something I just can’t tolerate. I like crisp, clean, polished writing. Lazy, clunky prose is a real turnoff. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and I don’t read the same way many readers do, but I have a hard time getting through a book—and I’m not talking about amateur hour or anything like that—that is not tight in its prose.
What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, horror and dark fantasy?
The ability to allow it to take your imagination on a guided tour of places you would never go, or even dream of, otherwise. Despite what many people may think, horror—good horror, at least—is not a celebration of darkness and violence and evil. Quite the contrary, it’s a celebration of light and life. When you emerge from the titillating thrill of exploring the shadows and walk outside, the sun is bright, the colors more vivid, and your sense of life is in a heightened state of awareness.
It’s been a while since we caught up. Have you read any good books lately?
Too many! Off the top of my head, I think the last few I recently finished that I can confidently recommend were The Son by Philipp Meyer, The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. And there are some authors who, in my book, always deliver. Lee Child, Dennis LeHane, Sara Gran, Jonathan Maberry. Not to mention my entire writing group—David Liss, Joe McKinney, Robert Jackson Bennett, and my wonderful wife, Rhodi Hawk. Fantastic writers, all.
What’s next for you?
The third Jake Hatcher novel, The Angel of the Abyss, is scheduled for release this summer. I also have novella-length fiction pieces in a few high-profile anthologies that I’m excited about: V-Wars: Night Terrors and X-Files: The Truth Is Out There. And there is one more project coming up that I’m not at liberty to discuss yet, but it’s also very exciting and one I’m greatly looking forward to.
About American Nocturne:
American Nocturne is a tour de force of dark fantasy from two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Hank Schwaeble, a collection of original, first-time stories of horror and noir alongside a select number of his published short fiction combined in what Edgar Award-winner Robert Jackson Bennett describes as “a hardboiled journey into the spectral nightscape at the edges of Americana.”
A merging of Sin City and LA Confidential, with a touch of Twilight Zone for added spice, American Nocturne includes what could be the LAST authorised Carl Kolchak/Night Stalker novella.
Featuring a rousing Introduction by NY Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry, AMERICAN NOCTURNE is a feast for the imagination, a smorgasbord of stories for those who like their thrills dark and dangerous.