“Her words became the air they took as breath, suffocating them. To all those watching, they only saw the girl whisper, the men gasp, the bodies falling to the ground like speedbumps, tripping those who tried to run. All in all, it was easily in the top five most interesting parades I’ve been to.” – Hanson Oak
Hanson Oak has worked in film and television as well as publications such as Fangoria. Born to well-meaning parents in the badlands of New York, his imagination took hold early, leading him on adventures he documents for his stories. In short, Hanson Oak is the manifestation of decades of writing, experiences, travels, and dreams. He currently resides in the hills of northwestern Connecticut with his wife, two sons, and dog.
He currently has a novel with a publisher, and another almost complete. He also has a couple pieces published:
a featured Novella “Black Hen Witch” in Kyanite Press’ Winter Digest
and a short serial in the Halloween edition of Kyanite Press’ literary magazine
Hanson also claims
A shipping trunk full of short stories being shopped about at various outlets.
What Inspired You to Start Writing?
Mr. Oak says he wrote his first story in eight grade. At least the first story he considers a real story.
real meaning it had a clear structure –beginning, middle, and end
It was about a man who had robot shoes that gave him special abilities.
The reaction he received from friends and teachers is what gave him the motivation to continue writing.
I don’t remember much more than that but I clearly remember the reactions of my friends and teachers who read the piece. The connection it created with the readers was what resonated with me. I have been writing ever since.
From the story of robotic abilities, to a darker take on writing, Hanson continues to connect with readers, even on Twitter.
What is Your Goal as an Author?
He lived the writer’s dream for some time, making a career out of his writing. Hanson did web copy, infomercials and commercials. He even had a chance to work on some screenplays.
While it’s an exciting idea, the career side does have some drawbacks.
While it was exhilarating, at some point it just became a job. The thrill of it was overshadowed by deadlines and the mad scramble of travel and securing the next job. I was not telling my stories, I was simply writing words for other people. In the end, I became burned out physically, emotionally, creatively and quit. I didn’t write for a long time after that.
After taking a little hiatus from writing, he got hit with an idea one day and managed to sit and write 20,000 words.
A couple of years later my imagination came back online like the computer in the beginning of The Matrix, and a spark of an idea hit me.
He found the adventure in writing again, and he plans to hold on this time. Now he just wants to tell his stories.
I want to empty myself of all the stories I have to tell before I die, leaving a library full of work…
And it wouldn’t be the Hanson his Twitter fans know without a little taste of the morbid:
…and a corpse that looks like a deflated balloon.
What he really wants is for his stories to “find a home in whoever reads them.”
What Genre Do You Write?
Hanson Oak says that your genre chooses you, you don’t choose it.
Starting out as a writer, I think you choose the genre you prefer to read. As you mature, find your flow and voice, the genre you write chooses you and they’re not always the same.
Following this rule, he’s moved away from his original voice. Now most of his writing would fall into the horror genre.
I never intended to write horror, never called myself a horror writer or even a horror fan (though I like horror movies) but as time went on my writing became darker and took me down with it. Also, I find great joy in the dark recesses of my mind and dragging it all kicking and screaming onto the page.
He doesn’t just write horror though. He also likes to “dabble” in scifi on occasion, or anything else that catches his imagination. In fact, his current project is general fiction (with a little scifi/fantasy thrown in for good measure).
Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing
Hanson has published his work traditionally, but he also has plans to self-publish some of his future projects. One such project is a collection of some of his Twitter micro fiction stories.
He doesn’t prefer one over the other when it comes to how work is published.
I think the question of Self vs Traditional Publishing depends on the writer’s individual goals and work. All writer’s want to find readers, to have that connection to an audience and give their time and effort some validity. How they choose to try and find those readers is personal. Both options are valid, and while it’s becoming harder to publish traditionally, it’s never been easier (not easy) to be successful in the self-publishing world.
What Advice Would You Give When it Comes to Publishing?
Hanson’s advice depends on which publishing route you choose.
For people going the traditional route:
Writing is a business, and a tough one. The majority of people who work in the industry are good, decent folks who are here because of their passion. If you’re lucky enough to be accepted for publication it is because someone thinks they can make money with your work (not to say they don’t believe in it), not generally a judgment that the work is good or bad.
This should give some encouragement to people dealing with rejections out there. Receiving a rejection is not a reflection of your abilities.
A piece can be brilliantly written, but if the agent/publisher doesn’t see an audience, it will be rejected. Don’t get discouraged, keep submitting and eventually someone may take a chance. If not, shelve it and start the next one. Most “debut novels” aren’t the first novel those authors have written, it might not even be the fifth. Keep writing.
He does caution against vanity and “pay to play” publishers that play themselves off as actual publishers.
In reality they’re offering services on a self-publishing platform. For $3,000 (sometimes more) they will provide some editing, graphic design, layout services, etc. and put the book out under their imprint and take the lion’s share of the profits.
They prey on the authors that are losing hope in their publishing dreams. What can you do to protect yourself?
Do your research before signing anything, ask a million questions, and if you still aren’t comfortable, walk away. Again, publishing is a business, feelings have no subsection in a contract, and as the talent you hold a lot of the power in negotiations.
For people going the Self-Published route:
While self-publishing gives you more control over your work and gives you an opportunity to publish more experimental work, Hanson cautions that there is still a stigma associated with self-publishing.
There is a reason the stigma is there and, if we’re honest with each other, it has nothing to do with big publishing houses trying to make indie-writers look bad. Most indie-writers do a great job doing that themselves and drag the others down with them. If you choose to self-publish, you have to realize that while you have all the control, you also have all the responsibility. This is where the wheels tend to fall off for many authors.
The problem comes from work that hasn’t gone through all the work necessary for a professional publication.
You need to hire an editor(s), graphic designers, proof copies, design and have promo materials made, press releases, local papers, etc.
The problem is, this all takes time and money. And that’s the difference between a professional indie-author and an amateur.
A professional indie-author knows this and can put out a quality book on par with any publishing house, but many writers don’t go through the process and put out poorly written, edited and designed books. You can easily upload your (first draft) writing, throw together a cover from a template, and have your book for sale (plot holes, grammar and spelling problems, and all the other warts included) in a few hours, and many do, flooding the sea of self-publishing with raw sewage.
The good news is you can have success as an indie-author. If you’re willing to put the time, effort, and money needed you can gain respect as an author.
What Does it Take to be a Writer?
The only thing you need to be a writer is the voice inside you telling you to write. Most people who want to write quit when the reality of the writing process presents itself. There is no glamour in the solitude of writing, the months and years trying to get a piece just right, the sleepless nights, the editing, falling in and out of love with the work (and your own abilities) constantly. It’s hard. Only someone writing for the love of writing will see it through.
What is the Most Rewarding Aspect of Writing for You?
Hanson has three areas of writing he finds rewarding in different ways.
First is printing out that first draft to read through and mark up, to begin the transition to the second draft. Writing is done 100% digitally for the vast majority of writers. We’re no longer surrounded by piles of notes and pages, so holding that first draft (though I’m becoming the minority of physically editing it) becomes the first time the weight of my idea is tangible. Having the first pass complete should give every writer pause to consider that achievement before drowning themselves in editing hell. Many people who set out to write don’t make it even that far.
The second milestone is seeing the work published (traditional or self, online or in print). It is the end point, the finish line, you’ve gone from a spark of an idea to a completed story. It is a long and exhausting journey, but in that moment it is all worth it. You hardly remember all the times you wanted to quit and it inspires you to move to the next project.
The third, but most fulfilling part of writing for me, is hearing how the work has impacted the reader. I’ve heard and read some words so kind they invoke tears (and words so cruel they do the same) but hearing how my stories have helped someone escape the real world and stayed with them is the most satisfying part of the process for me.
What’s the Most Challenging Aspect of Writing?
The answer may not be the one you expect, but it’s a common answer among authors.
The writing. People who don’t write have no idea how difficult it is to create a real, convincing, thought out manuscript, especially a novel. It is akin to building an apartment building using only grains of sand and your own saliva to piece it all together so seamlessly that, when people move in, they don’t notice the effort and just enjoy their stay.
What Advice Would You Give to an Aspiring Writer?
Of course the first answer is to write. The only way to get better at writing is to do it.
But start small and learn the process in your own way. I have no “formal education” when it comes to writing, just a baseline of talent, so had to figure out structure and all that as I went (though I worked with some soberingly talented folks along the way who shared so much about technique and method) Start with shorter pieces to learn how to finish with a succinct beginning, middle, and end.
The second piece of advice is to give yourself time to get better.
You will not find your voice or your rhythm in your first piece. It is a journey to discover how to properly translate the amazing stories your brain conceives into words that you can arrange in such a way to come close to doing it justice. It takes time and the road to your goals will be paved in abandoned writings, terrible stories, and rejection letters.
Who are Your Favorite Authors?
To be honest, I asked for one author, but I should have known better. Who can really pick just one right? Hanson was nice enough to get it down to his top five though.
Michael Crichton for his ability to keep his science fiction understandable and relatable while maintaining authority on the topics.
John Scalzi, The Old Man’s War series is an all-time favorite. His humor and imagination are incredible.
Charles Dickens for his timeless way of telling a stories that resonate still (Muppet Christmas Carol is the best rendition of the work)
Richard Matheson by far has had the greatest impact. His ability to create mood and tone, plus his plotting/pacing are amazing. The pacing of I Am Legend is gut wrenching.
Rod Sterling for his ability to tell a short form story, to build so much tension and character development.
“Famous” Last Words
Trying to catch market trends is a losing proposition. What is popular now has been in the works for years, it takes a long time to release a book, so by the time you show up to the race the crowd will have left and the janitor will be sweeping the halls. If your goals are strictly fame and fortune, you’ve chosen a really poor career for it.
Write your stories without fear of what will come of them. Just write.
He can’t give a lot of details about his current projects, but he did hint at some big announcements coming soon. All he shared was two books and a podcast are included.
If you’d like to keep up with Hanson Oak, you can check out his website.
You can also follow him on Twitter: @HansonOak and Instagram @HansonOak
Would you like to see more interviews? Check out the Entrepreneur page.