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Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2014



An Interview With

Kenneth Mark Hoover

By Melissa Lenhardt

 

   

Kenneth Mark Hoover is a professional sci-fi/fantasy writer with over 60 published short stories and two novels to his name. His most recent novel, HAXAN, is a dark western published by CZP in June 2014. Below he talks about writing, the inspiration for HAXAN, gives us his casting ideas for John T. Marwood and tells us what's next for the HAXAN universe.


Book Giveaway — Leave a comment below to be entered to win a signed copy of HAXAN.

MELISSA LENHARDT: You've known since you were 12-years old that you wanted to be a writer. When did you start believing it would really happen for you, that it would go from being a hobby to a profession? Was there a rejection or acceptance that clicked for you?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: Writing was never a hobby to me. It was always first and foremost in my mind. I never viewed it as a hobby or an affectation because I never wanted to be anything else. Every book I read, every movie I watched, I dissected it and tried to learn from it. I am still doing that every day.

I think I began to realize this could be a reality by the time of my third sale. You might expect your first sale to be a fluke. The second is coincidence. By the time I sold my third story I started to realize I might actually know a little something about how this process works. But the one sale, more than any other, that truly hit home for me was "Phaedra" to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. I had already sold many stories to professional magazines before then, and was a member of SFWA and HWA, but that's the sale where I felt, "All right, I honestly can do this. I am a writer."

MELISSA LENHARDT:You've been writing for 30 + years, mainly sci-fi/fantasy. What made you decide to set Haxan in the past instead of the future?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: Has it been 30 years? My goodness, I believe it has. That's depressing, haha. I don't think the historical context of Haxan is as important as the ability of the western genre to tell so many different stories, about so many different things. With me, story comes first. If I thought the Haxan stories would be better served set in the future, I would place them there.

Prior to this I had written other stories which took place in the past. But it's true Haxan is set exclusively in the Old West. I do this for a specific reason. I don't use the Old West as a backdrop. It's not furniture to me which can be switched out for another generic setting.

   

The reason is this. I often get labeled as a Weird West writer. I don't agree, although I do understand the need to pigeonhole authors. But, to me, Weird West does nothing more than use the Old West as a simple backdrop for vampires, werewolves, aliens, or Cthulhu-type monsters. I purposefully come at it from the other direction. In the Haxan mythos I use supernatural elements to tell stories and explain things about the Old West. So, for me, the West is not a cliched backdrop but a living, breathing character.

In my stories, the West itself has to be there or the story can't be told.. I'm not saying I am always successful doing this. But that's my goal. Finally, I never have typical "monsters" in any Haxan story. As far as I am concerned, and history bears me out, the worst kinds of monsters have always been human. Those are the monsters you see in Haxan.

MELISSA LENHARDT: I know when you think of an idea for a story you ponder it for a while before you start writing. Walk me through your process, specifically for Haxan and the character of John Marwood. Have you always written this way or has your preparation evolved as you grown as a writer?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: I have always prepared and researched as a writer. It's true, I have occasionally sat down and written an entire story seemingly in one afternoon. But I view all the books I read and history I have studied prior to that part of the preparation. Process is very important to me.

Haxan had a very interesting genesis. I've always loved Old Time Radio. One day I started to listen to the old Gunsmoke episodes written by John Meston. He wanted to bring adult sensibilities to the Old West and get away from the cartoonish and cliched aspects which dominated at the time.

I immediately fell in love with them because they were so unlike anything I had heard before. In the radio episodes Matt Dillon is as hard and violent as the men he goes up against. He's damn near a psychopath. The only difference is he carries a badge. It wasn't long before I was hooked and I knew I wanted to tell similar stories. I've always held an interest in dark fantasy so bringing that to the mythos was, for me, a natural thing to do. I just want to say that John Meston, more than any other western writer alive or dead, influenced the birth of Haxan, and my current work in the western genre.

MELISSA LENHARDT: You have over 20 short stories and novels published in the Haxan universe. What's next for HAXAN?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: I have always said Haxan is my own little dark corner of the universe where I can play with matches. That world lends itself to any genre, any story I want to tell. CZP has already accepted the next novel, Quaternity, which will be published in May 2015. Meanwhile, I think I want to explore more of the characters of Haxan along with Marwood's inchoate past. There's a lot of material there, I think, and it should be interesting to see what I discover.

I have become somewhat invested in Haxan of late, so I want to be careful about what stories I write. I only want to add what I think is necessary to the canon and not pad out the series for the sake of word count. I also have one or two other projects on the horizon, non-Haxan related, but science fiction in scope. I hope to get to those soon.

MELISSA LENHARDT: Dream casting, past or present actor, who would play Marwood in the movie?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: I have been asked this before. I'm very careful about providing description of Marwood in the stories. I believe nothing can trump a reader's imagination on that score. I've talked to readers and they've told me what they think Marwood looks like. I'm always fascinated how different the descriptions are. I have my own idea what he looks like, so do readers, and I think it's better that way.

But it's a fair question, and I will try to answer it. Given the kind of man Marwood is I think it would be someone who conveys a presence cut from sheet metal, but with a strain of barely controlled violence boiling underneath. Marwood is as dangerous and violent as the men he goes up against. He's damn near a psychopath. He is a reflection of the brutal, blood-soaked environment people are struggling to survive in. The only difference is he carries a badge.

Not surprisingly, Randolph Scott, especially from the old Bud Boetticher movies, (which, by the way, are the few Hollywood westerns I can watch without wincing) had that ability on the silver screen. I once saw Robert Lansing portray a bounty hunter in an old Gunsmoke television show, and he just about nailed it, I thought. For more contemporary actors, Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger or Willem Dafoe have that presence. To be honest, casting Marwood would not be as difficult as casting Magra. She would have to be someone who can stand up to Marwood and meet him on his own level. Magra is many things, but she's not subservient. A young Katy Jurado or Anna Magnani whose earthy, beautiful presence shines like a beacon, would have been perfect in that role.

MELISSA LENHARDT: If you had to distill all of your years of experience in writing and publishing down to one piece of advice, what would it be?

KENNETH MARK HOOVER: There's only one bit of advice that endures for me. Perseverance is the key. You have to keep writing, you have to keep sending your work out, you have to keep trying even when it seems everything is against you. The unsold story is the unread story. That's a hard fact. I know a lot of writers. Some are measurably better than others. But the reason the others who are not as good still get published is because they never give up. They persevere. They don't get frustrated and quit.

Talent alone can't get you published. But perseverance can. If you keep trying, and find the right market, it will happen.

 

    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."


Book Giveaway — Leave a comment or answer the question below to be entered to win a signed copy of HAXAN. The contest will run until 11:59 PM on August 20, 2014.

What is your favorite story or character by Kenneth Mark Hoover?



   
Melissa Lenhardt's childhood dreams did not include becoming a writer. In fact, she would have disputed the idea there was a creative bone in her body. Until one day she had an idea and started writing. She hasn't stopped since. Melissa writes mystery, historical fiction, women's fiction. Her historical fiction manuscript won the Frisco Public Library First Chapter contest and her mystery manuscript is a finalist for the Whidbey Island Writers Association MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest. Her short fiction has appeared in the Western Online and FuckFiction.net, and will soon be seen in the mystery magazine, Heater.

 

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