Author Stephanie Ellis maintains she has always been an avid reader. She, nonetheless, began writing as her children got older and when her return to work involved jobs in primary and secondary school libraries. ‘Reading those works made me think I could write my own stories though not necessarily for children!’ the author says with a smile, speaking with the Literary Tribune in an exclusive interaction. ‘I started submitting formally around 2014,’ she adds matter-of-factly.
There is something pleasantly mysterious about Andrew McDowell’s demeanour. Despite having Asperger Syndrome, which is largely characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction, the American author answers each of my questions with ease, sporting a smile that is nothing less than impressive. Currently residing in Maryland, the United States of America, the author begins the conversation by sharing the synopsis of his debut novel Mystical Greenwood, which is about a teenage boy living in a remote village.
Aleister Hanek started writing fanfiction when he was about sixteen years old. ‘I usually wrote a thousand words a day – three thousand on a good day- and uploaded my story in approximately 20,000-word instalments once a month,’ the 36-year-old author begins, speaking with the Literary Tribune in an exclusive interaction. He tells us that two of the characters he wrote about were original characters who appear in his new series, Revenant Coaduna, which he has begun to self-publish on Kindle.
A resident of Bloomington, Indiana, the American writer lets us know that as a husband, father of an autistic child, and owner of a needy whippet, he writes at every opportunity he gets throughout the day with no schedule whatsoever. ‘Sometimes I can write while I eat breakfast before going to work in the morning; sometimes I can write for a stretch at night after the kiddo is in bed, but I usually get little snippets of writing done throughout the day on my phone with my google doc app,’ Aleister shares, adding, ‘I prefer to type on a keyboard as it is more efficient than typing one-handed on a phone, but very often there is no other choice.’
Becoming an author, however, was not a conscious decision Aleister made. ‘It happens that prose writing is my thing, and I think I alone can write the stories I have come up with. Being an author is a natural thing for me,’ the writer, who is also an avid cook, lets on.
Unborn Survivor’s Account
Stavyah Bron August: It is an honour to make your acquaintance, Mr Hanek. Could you first let our readers know about your published works? Also, what is your latest book?
Aleister Hanek: A few years ago, I published the horror short story, The Gestational Puppeteer. It is about an unborn person named Veronica Conrad who, as she gestates, gradually gains more and more control of her mother, who wants to abort her. To survive, Veronica controls her mother’s health, impulses, feelings, and eventually, her actions. I wrote this story partly as an exercise in understanding the point of view of my ideological opponents. If it makes any sales, I intend to donate them to Planned Parenthood or similar organisations.
I have also started a series of seven short stories to introduce my dark fantasy series, Revenant Coaduna. It is set in a secondary world where Shades can permanently possess people to become revenants with powers derived from the circumstances of their deaths. Revenants get support from a powerful mafia called the Wolf Council, which wages war against the Divine Crown, the theocratic empire that rules an entire continent with its army of psychic knights called paladins. The first short story in this series is Officer Fiocca, in which a young prodigy named Poesie Vella Fiocca aspires to transcend hierarchy on pure merit and must learn the hard truth of life as a paladin. The second short story in this series is in the beta reading stage at the time of this writing, and I have begun writing the third. As soon as this series of short stories is over, I will start writing novels set in this secondary world.
One last piece of fiction I have published is a serial novel called Astrakinesia on my substack account. The first three chapters are free to read, and the other seven posted thus far require a subscription. Astrakinesia is about Daphne Dahlia, an ageing geek who has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Not long after her diagnosis, Daphne discovers that her dementia is causing her to astral project into another dimension as a fledgling sorceress. In the first arc of the story, which is called Repudiation, Daphne is in denial about the experience she is having.
My substack account, Writing With Blood, is also a place for my essays on writing. My essays are free to read as they are meant to be educational. I cover various subjects and consistently oppose censorship.
I have also started a series of seven short stories to introduce my dark fantasy series, Revenant Coaduna. It is set in a secondary world where Shades can permanently possess people to become revenants with powers derived from the circumstances of their deaths.
Stavyah Bron August: Quite impressive, I must say! And I look forward to reading your essays on the subject of writing besides, of course, your books. Moving on, I would like to know if you plot out your stories or fly by the seat of your pants.
Aleister Hanek: I always start my stories with a loose outline. I know a lot about the characters; I know the meaning of the story, and I always have some particular scenes I have imagined that motivate me to write the story in the first place. Although I tend to start my stories knowing a lot already, most of my narrative material comes to me when I am writing.
Stavyah Bron August: Are there any authors from whom you derive inspiration?
Aleister Hanek: My first literary influence was Poppy Z Brite. Brite was known for writing horror novels and short stories, and most of his protagonists were gay men. Brite’s style is beautiful, nicely streamlined, and unapologetically explicit. His novel Exquisite Corpse falls into the same category as novels like American Psycho and The Wasp Factory. These stories not only taught me that art has no limits – that all content is acceptable – but also made me realise that upsetting material can be beautiful in its own way. Even the most obscene content can be wondrous and layered with plenty of meaning.
Another influence of mine is Salman Rushdie. Sir Rushdie, like Brite, also has a highly streamlined style that allows him to layer as much meaning as possible in as few words as possible. He is also one of the best examples of how blurry the line is between literature and genre fiction. Rushdie very often writes magical realism, which is a fantasy for people with subscriptions to The New York Times. He also writes realistic literature and full-on fantasy like Two Years Eight Months & Twenty Eight Nights, a sweeping, romantic epic about genies. Rushdie’s prose is splendid, and he also writes about the subject of love in a variety of enlightened ways, acknowledging that love is not always a nice thing.
One more major influence of mine is the underappreciated Michel Faber. Faber is a fantastic author because the only thing consistent about his work is the weirdness. Virtually everything he has published has been weird, and when it is not weird, his work is sincere and emotionally raw. He has covered everything from interplanetary aliens desiring the teachings of Christ to the lives of prostitutes in Victorian England. He has done short stories, novellas, average-length novels, two tomes, and one book of poetry. Reading Faber will make you feel like you have the licence to be as supremely strange as you like.
These are the authors whose value I feel the need to describe. Besides, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Ursula K LeGuin also influence me.
ENGAGE WITH LT!Do you look forward to reading author Aleister Hanek’s books? Well, you can click on the cover image of the book you wish to read and buy yourself a copy right offthe bat!
Stavyah Bron August That is an exhaustive list, and thank you for sharing it with us! Now that I gather you are a voracious reader, I wonder how you juggle writing and other tasks. Also, do you have any hobbies you pursue passionately?
Aleister Hanek: I write in snippets on my phone most of the time. Frankly, this is the only thing that makes the juggling you are asking about possible. I would not say I have any other hobbies. I am also an audiobook producer, but since I have done that for money, I do not think it counts as a hobby.
Brite’s style is beautiful, nicely streamlined, and unapologetically explicit. His novel Exquisite Corpse falls into the same category as novels like American Psycho and The Wasp Factory. These stories not only taught me that art has no limits – that all content is acceptable – but also made me realise that upsetting material can be beautiful in its own way.
Stavyah Bron August: Glad to know you are an audiobook producer! Based on what you have said, I can only strongly assume you have a tight schedule. And that brings me to my next question: Do you have any works in progress?
Aleister Hanek: Yes. The two upcoming short stories in Revenant Coaduna will be entitled Parasite Kiss and Carmen’s Croquembouche. Parasite Kiss is an erotic tragedy about a bisexual girl named Joselyn Abgestossen. Joselyn lives in an orphanage funded by the Divine Crown, which is run by a sect of anti-queer fundamentalists. While she gets punished for having seduced one of her bunkmates, Joselyn finds a squatter hiding in the orphanage, and she makes a deal with the squatter that devolves into an erotic haze of coercion and secrecy. In Carmen’s Croquembouche, a clueless young man takes a job as a cook at a prestigious restaurant run by an ornery chef who favours revenants over normal human beings.
Stavyah Bron August: Impressive! It is about time I wished you all the best in each of your future endeavours. Now that we have neared the end of the interview, is there anything you would like to tell budding authors who lose motivation if a few of their works do not do well?
Aleister Hanek: You should keep writing. Making a career out of writing is a worthy goal for us all, but writing is good for you, so you should keep it up even if you never make any money doing it.
Stavyah Bron August: I second your thoughts. And here goes my final question: If you possessed the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Aleister Hanek: Only one thing? I suppose I would unite all world leaders on the issue of climate change. If we can sort out that issue, we can sort out all of our other issues as a species afterwards.
You should keep writing. Making a career out of writing is a worthy goal for us all, but writing is good for you, so you should keep it up even if you never make any money doing it.