Erik Hofstatter is a self-described ‘schlock horror’ writer. His short stories make you feel like you’re sitting beside him at a bar as he buys you another drink and shares his tall tales. But like most vagrants who preach at the bar, his easy charm is a cover for a complex mind that suddenly takes a dark turn, unsettling you in your seat.
His first collection of short stories Moribund Tales, released in 2013, touches on the Gothic and ghostly with flashes of black magic, a collection about betrayal and revenge.
He followed this up with the short novella The Pariahs, a carefully constructed chilling thriller that demonstrates his versatility as a story teller. Next came Katerina, a fun and quirky read about the unusual romance between two likeable outcasts, a medieval arms dealer and a prostitute. This year he released Amaranthine and Other Stories, tales that entertain, creep you out and, at times, disgust!
I enjoy Erik’s work, it is sharp and clean writing with just the right hit of weird and dark. He has been working hard at perfecting his craft and has another novella coming out very soon.
I was thrilled when he agreed to sit in my reclining leather chair and let me pick his brain.
Welcome Erik! Now just relax, let us begin…
Tell us about your writing process, how and when do you work , do you have any weird writer quirks?
Hold on, lemme take a sip of rum first! Right, that’s better. My writing process is fairly simple. I outline each scene, develop characters etc. Many authors prefer to just write and let the magic happen. Sadly, I’m not one of them. I need to know where I’m going every step of the way. Planning is important to me.
As for when, time is precious. Most writers have full-time jobs, families and other commitments. I try to squeeze in a few paragraphs whenever opportunity permits, usually Friday nights or Saturday mornings.
What attracts you to the horror genre rather than any other? What compels you to write dark tales?
You know, I tend to ignore genre and themes. I write what I feel. I simply bleed out my feelings on the page and the readers can decide which blood group they belong to. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to write what you know. And I do. I draw inspiration from life experiences and most of them are dark. I was baptised by pessimism and can’t scrub it off.
Who are your influences as an author? Whose work makes your jaw drop in awe?
One of my current favourites is Gary McMahon. I worship his characters. They’re beautifully flawed, world-weary and instantly relatable. Gary is known to be the king of urban horror and rightly so. I own copies of most of his books and can’t praise them enough. The man writes pure gold. I was so smitten that I got in touch with him, confessed my love, and he agreed to read Rare Breeds (my upcoming novella from Dark Silo Press). He enjoyed it enough to provide a blurb. I almost fainted.
How do you deal with writer’s block and self-doubt? How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?
The entire creative process is emotionally rewarding, I find. Holding the finished product in your hand is an incredible feeling. Life is full of misfortunes, people come and go, but this is yours and yours alone. No one can take it away from you.
And then there are the readers, of course. They are my anchor. I’m plagued by self-doubt just like any other writer. All those endless hours sacrificed behind a laptop and for what? That’s where the readers come in. When I finish a good book, I seek the author out (usually via Twitter) and I’ll let them know how much I enjoyed their story. Positive feedback is a powerful motivator and trust me, they’ll appreciate it! I’m often drowning in self-doubt, it’s pulling me under, and I struggle to breathe. But then I receive an e-mail or a tweet from someone who enjoyed my tale and their words are like a lifeline—they make it all worthwhile.
I’ve been fortunate enough not to be stricken by a writer’s block just yet. Ideas are shoaling in my brain constantly and I’m always scribbling something down. Inspiration comes in many shapes and guises. A conversation with someone, an article I read, a film I watched, a song I listened to, or a situation unfolding on the street—anything! The faintest spark can burst into a flame.
Yes, I try to keep an active presence on social media (Twitter in particular) as I enjoy interacting with readers and fellow authors. I conversed with some fascinating people over the years and formed lasting friendships. As far as self-promotion goes, yes, I agree—it is a necessary evil. It’s also thin ice. No one likes spam so you have to be savvy about how you market yourself. It’s perfectly acceptable to announce new projects and tweet about them for the first few days, but if you’re constantly spamming people with links to your books you’ll end up alienating them. The best promotion is word of mouth. When people read your story and like it enough to tweet/post about it. That’s what you want. If you spent hours tweeting about your own book and how fantastic it is no one will take you seriously. I won’t anyway.
It’s also important to bear in mind that your readers might be interested in you as a person, not just your books, so share fragments of your daily life, too. What film did you watch? Where did you go on a trip? Which band do you like? Etc. No one wants to read a timeline filled with Amazon links.
Your stories touch on all kinds of subject matter. Do you do a lot of research for your story ideas?
That depends on the subject. If I’m stepping into an unknown territory then yes—meticulous research is vital. But at the same time, I dread it because I’m losing valuable writing time. The setting and culture I chose to tackle in my debut novel for example, is unlike anything I’ve ever written before. I’ve spent hours perusing various articles.
As a writer, what do you think are your strongest points and which areas do you feel are the weakest and would like to improve?
My main disadvantage is English. I’ve lived in the UK for many years but English is, and always will be, my second language. I can’t change that. This means I have to work twice as hard. Because of this curse, I accepted that my prose will never be good enough to be regarded as high-lit. Hence the term Schlock. I’d like to think that plotting is one of my stronger points and that it compensates for flawed prose. I enjoy toying with the reader and my aim is to keep them guessing (and entertained) at all times. I also like to think that I improve with time and repetition. I want my next book to be better than the last—in all areas!
I’ve noticed that your Eastern European heritage creeps into your stories often, in characters, locations and themes. Tell us about your background and how it influences your writing.
I was born in the Czech Republic but subsequently lived in Austria, Ireland and England. I travelled across Greece, Spain, Malta, Germany—most of Europe, in fact! I’d love to visit other continents someday, too. I think it makes a nice change to read a story that’s based in an exotic location or unusual surroundings. Diversity is important. I was raised in a different cultural background and my parents emphasized morals that seem to be forgotten in other cultures. Still, England is my home since puberty so I’m a bit of a hybrid!
I hear you have a few new releases coming up soon, including a novella? Tell us all about it!
Crystal Lake Publishing released a third volume of their popular anthology Tales from The Lake recently, which I wrote a story for, but missed the deadline due to my tardiness! The editor, Monique Snyman, got in touch and informed me that they would still like to buy my story and use it as an extension of the anthology on their new website. I was chuffed! Crystal Lake is one of the leading indie publishers and I’m a huge fan of their books. The story is entitled Symbol of Beauty and should be out soon.
As for the novella, I couldn’t be more excited! I wrestled with Rare Breeds for two years, re-write after re-write after re-write. Then when I deemed it ready, a publisher accepted it and then strung me along for months so I was forced to withdraw. Eventually, I found a loving home for the story in the arms of Brian Kaufman of Dark Silo Press. We aim to release it on Halloween. I’m very proud of this one.
Well, for me it’s all about baby steps. I started writing flash fiction, then shorts, then novellas and now I’m gearing up for the big one—a short novel! I began writing last year and have about 40k so far. It’s a mammoth of a story and I’m excited but equally terrified! Wish me luck!
Excitement and terror make a good pair, I think! Thank you so much for your time Erik, it’s been great talking to you!
Thank you for inviting me! Always a pleasure, Magenta.