I previously had the opportunity to chat with author, Shane Hawk, on the Dead Headspace podcast when we celebrated the first year anniversary of the show. By the end of the show, my cheeks were causing me so much pain from smiling and laughing for practically two hours straight.
When Shane said he would be interested in jumping into another interview with me shortly afterwards, I couldn’t wait to host!
Feel free to check out the episode here:
Let’s dive in to the interview!
Interview with Shane Hawk, author of Anoka
Who is Shane Hawk?
I grew up in Southern California as a mixed-race kid. My dad is full Native and my mom is Italian, Finnish, English, and Scottish. I’m enrolled in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and have had my issues with identity. I find solace in horror. As with most 1990s weirdos who end up writing horror, I read Goosebumps and watched Are You Afraid of the Dark? as a kid. Always been infatuated with the weird and different. Love scaring people, love Halloween. Was drawn to outcasts, so I played guitar in metal and punk bands and wrote emotional, angsty songs. Yes, I’m new to the game, but I plan to stay here a while, to flip tropes on their head, and to make sure the world gets to experience more Indigenous literature, either by spreading my own or other talented folks’ work.
What is your first memory of writing for fun?
Back in third grade, there was a point in which Ms. Biggs gave us all AlphaSmart word processors. Now that I look back using Google, I see they were pretty darn new back then, so the school must’ve received some good funding! The AlphaSmart 2000 was essentially a portable keyboard with a small LCD screen for seeing what you typed. It gave you maybe three or four lines of visible text, so it encouraged you to continuously type and to not get distracted with your previous paragraphs.
Ms. Biggs asked us to write whatever story we’d like. I chose an alien invasion story because those are what nightmares plagued me throughout childhood, along with creepy dolls like Chucky. I can’t recall many of the story details, but it was more graphic than she had liked and she made me clean it up a bit.
When we finished writing our stories, we hooked the AlphaSmart devices up to some ancient printer and printed them out onto dot matrix paper. If you’re not old enough to remember dot matrix or continuous form paper, it has dotted strips on either side that can be torn at the perforated lines, and there are no single sheets. When fed into the computer, each form-length part was also perforated and folded into itself to make a stack. Whenever you were done printing, you’d have this small stack and lots of careful work to do. Striiiiiich. You never wanted to make a mistake when tearing at the perforation.
I remember making my story longer than others, as evidenced by the slightly thicker stack of printer paper. My creativity may have been sparked by my infatuation with science fiction movies and whatever creepy stuff was on television. It’s too bad. I didn’t write again until I’d turned 29.
How many books/novellas/short stories have you written?
When I claim I’m an “emerging” writer, I really mean it. Before my writing debut, Anoka, I’d only written three flash stories in 2019. Before that, I only had that alien invasion story from 1998. But since releasing Anoka, I’ve written three short stories, a comic book story, and a novella. One of my short stories, Deadwood, was written specifically for Gabino Iglesias’s Halldark Holidays open call. I was honored when I finally heard back from him a day before publication that he considered my story until the last minute, but it didn’t entirely fit the aesthetic. It was my fault: I’d never seen a Hallmark movie, and my story was barely cheesy. Next time!
What are some of your other interests outside of writing?
I enjoy cooking, hiking, lifting weights, playing guitar, rapping, and watching movies and shows that don’t belong to the contemporary industry. Oh, I also revel in telling my cat no.
Are you also a reader?
Yes, it’s an implicit requirement as a writer. I cannot write without having a joy for reading or without reading the market to see where I can place my next book. But? I didn’t always read, no. I read a bit as a kid for pleasure. Once middle school and high school hit, required reading made my eyes roll back into my stomach. I don’t often like being told what to do, and that’s especially so when it comes to reading. It’s an active pastime. If I’m gonna use all this brain energy on something, it’s gonna be with something I enjoy!
With that being said, I gave up any reading for pleasure. Wait, no. Somewhere in 2007, I read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Yeah, yes, I did. I made my mom buy it for me at Costco. This punker chick I was friends with was too rad not to try and impress. She was really into reading, so I asked for a recommendation. She told me to get Twilight as soon as possible, so I did. No synopsis, nothing. Wait, why is this super white mannequin holding an apple? Is she about to hit me with commentary on the fashion industry? Nope, it was sparkly vampires all the way down.
I didn’t read with any seriousness until 2016. My then-girlfriend kept bugging me to give reading another chance years prior. It coincided with getting back into shape, expelling self-conscious demons, and finding myself again. I did the keto diet that year and exercised like crazy. I became addicted to the written word and read about 50 books that year. Then 250 the next year, then another 200. I ain’t lookin’ back either!
What genres do you reach for the most?
I’m all about speculative fiction with an emphasis on horror and science fiction. Those two open up my mind and heart more than any others. Obviously with horror, I read it for both work and pleasure. I won’t act like I have a lifelong obsession for horror fiction because reading found me only five years ago. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, and man, what a treasure trove of transgressive, stupefying, and hard-hitting stories. I love it. With sci-fi, it stems from my childhood days of being obsessed with Alien, The Thing, Star Wars, etc. Can’t get enough of either!
Do you have an all-time favorite book or author?
This seems like a question that’ll elicit a different response as one ages. I’ll say for right now that Philip K. Dick is my favorite, and I can’t help but push his novel, Ubik, at anyone who’d listen. But hey, Stephen Graham Jones is right there behind PKD—and wouldn’t you know it? We are both fervent fans of PKD’s science fiction.
Book Related Questions
In your bio, you state, “I plan to stay here a while, to flip tropes on their head, and to make sure the world gets to experience more Indigenous literature, either by spreading my own or other talented folks’ work.” I’m pretty biased, but I feel like the horror community is one of the most wonderful crowds out there! What has your experience been like when promoting Indigenous lit online? What is something that you wish you would see others (readers, reviewers, publishers, creators, etc) doing more in order to help?
I have to agree with you in that I also think the horror community is one of the better crowds in the genre communities. I’m new to writing, and I’ve been accepted with open arms and smiles. I think my push for Indigenous literature has been well-received by many. It’s been cool to see a rising demand for writers like Stephen Graham Jones, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Cherie Dimaline. I’m only one voice and can only do so much. Reviewers and the like do an incredible amount of work to boost signals. They’re there to cheer us all on and hype up our work; it’s been great to see.
As for what others can do to help? They can continue to spread the word, hype up stories and books by Indigenous writers—not only because they’re Indigenous—but because they’re damn good.
Excuse me while I quote a recent tweet of mine verbatim:
One can seek out Indigenous lit for the lore, traditions, beliefs, and stories but ultimately: read it because of the fantastic writing. Shouldn’t just be some curtain you occasionally pull back to see somethin’ ‘different.’ -May 24, 2021
It’s choppy water to navigate, and I understand that. One thing I hear from many Indigenous writers is they don’t want to be a checkbox for “Indigenous month” or anything like that. No diversity quotas. Of course, reading one book is better than zero. We’ll take it. But in terms of online book communities, a lot of us feel like our work is only regarded when there’s a trending hashtag, or a literal box to check for people’s TBR list. Or when some atrocity pertaining to a First Nation is highlighted in the news, people reach out to us for book recommendations on said atrocity. Don’t do that.
I already think there’s a fantastic push toward filling TBR piles with work written by creative and talented people of diverse backgrounds and lives. There will be missteps, there will be unwanted labels, and there will be friction here and there. We are all trying our best, or at least most of us. The best thing I can say is: listen.
We got to speak about Anoka on the Dead Headspace podcast, but I gotta bring it up here as well! One of my many favorite things about this collection is the endings and how the “woah, what?!” types of conclusions made me go back and restart the story again immediately after I knew the full context. Was this formatting planned, or was it just how the stories turned out?
The only stories of which I planned the ending were Soilborne, Orange, and Imitate. I grew up on M. Night Shyamalan and The Twilight Zone. And even more recently, I’ve come to love the fiction of Fredric Brown. What I’m trying to say is I love a twist. And even with those endings in mind, the process of writing was still that of a “pantser” a.k.a. writing by the seat of my pants.
As for the twists themselves, I had the most fun with Orange. Shortly after release, I was always anxious to hear feedback from people who had read it. I love those reactions as you describe them, “Whoa, what?!” I live for that. And with Orange, I was able to hit several different things impacting my own life. There’s a little cut of me in every story. Someday I won’t exist from all the cuts.
I love that you’re selling the ebook and signed copies of Anoka directly through your site! Are you planning to offer your future works as direct sales as well?
Now that I have an agent, I don’t think I can exactly make calls like that anymore. That’s something you can do quite easily as a self-published author, whether through Amazon, IngramSpark, or others. But my eyes are set on bigger publishers with my agent by my side, and when one signs a contract with those, they get all the rights. All sales go through them and my agent—which sounds scary to self-pubbers, but hey, agents can help you reach some crazy heights not easily available to unagented self-published authors.
But whenever my future publishers and executive marketers request I sign some books or bookplates, you best believe I’ll do it! I look forward to the day when I can do live readings at bookstores and such, and sign books in person. That’s a milestone I wish to reach someday.
I am SO excited that you are slated to release Untamable Creatures as published by Death’s Head Press in 2022. Is there anything you can tell us about that project?
I really want to reveal some of it, but at the same time, I’d really love to surprise the heck out of everyone. It’s more fun that way. I didn’t do any ARCs for Anoka and just hit people with it in October 2020. For this one, I really want to keep even the beta readers close to me. It’s a really special book, and I hope people will enjoy it.
Here are some bits of info I’ve sprinkled on various podcasts: The title stems from an op-ed penned by L. Frank Baum (the creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) wherein he called for genocide of all Indigenous peoples. He referred to them as “untamable creatures” just days after the Wounded Knee Massacre. My splatterpunk western will be an alternative history of what followed the massacre, a revenge story for the Lakota, Cheyenne, and all nations at large. My story will be chock-full of violence, lore, and heart.
Just one last question; Where can readers find you?
All social media links can be found at my website, along with how to purchase Anoka directly, but for convenience’s sake, here are my most important links:
Thanks for reading!
And major thanks to Shane Hawk for taking the time to do this interview with me! I cannot wait to see what Shane does next. He’s an author you’d better keep an eye on!
And if you haven’t checked out his book Anoka yet, I highly recommend doing so!