Nathan Hystad is an author of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and other weird fiction. He and I have been crossing paths, albeit virtually, since last fall when Whispers from the Past: Fright and Fear was released through North 2 South Press. His story, “The Attic,” appears in the horror anthology as does my tale, “Black Door.” But that’s not the only time we’ve shared fiction space. We corresponded after he read one of my stories on Saturday Night Reader, an online magazine where he’s been published multiple times. For anyone who’s had the privilege of reading his work, it’s clear Nathan Hystad is a serious up-and-coming writer, and I was quite excited to talk with him about his craft early last month.
A few icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I think I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a little kid. I have a box full of stories I wrote when I was 6 or 7 years old. Maybe one day I will share with the world these hilariously awful adventures. My mom was a reader, so I picked up on it at a young age. When I was around 15 or 16 I was introduced to Raymond Feist, and my love for the genre never looked back. These days I would say Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson are the two authors I am the most excited to see new books by, if that is an indication of my favorite authors.
Many of your stories have dark elements. What made you want to delve into the world of horror, and how has your perception of the genre evolved as you’ve continued to write?
It’s actually kind of funny. When I was a teenager I had started a few projects and they are long buried, and for the next fifteen years, life got in the way of that dream. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I decided I wanted to give it a go again. I started a fantasy novel…it was horrible. Okay no problem, I thought I would try some short stories to improve and practice. Most of the calls I saw were for horror or science fiction. I tried a couple horror pieces and found myself really enjoying them. I have a tendency to go to that place first when working on a story. I want to be writing and giving myself the creeps as I do it.
My perception has changed a lot. Horror is hard to write because there are only so many themes out there, and you really want to tell a story that hasn’t been told before. So if you are writing a ghost story, you have to ask, what can I do differently? I have had three ‘ghost stories’ published, with two more due out this year and they are all so different than each other. Whether that is from setting, characters, motivation, you just have to have a new take on it each time.
As a horror, paranormal, and science fiction writer, do you ever find yourself looking to films or television for inspiration? If so, what movies or series in particular have stayed with you over the years?
I am sure films and TV do influence most authors whether we want them to or not. I will create a character and have a vision of an actor/actress who would play the role. It helps visualize your story and characters as your write them (or they write themselves)
Sometimes I see a great character on a TV show and grab a couple traits that I like for one my stories.
For my short stories, I think, would this make a good Outer Limits episode?
Out of your published works so far, do you have a personal favorite piece?
That’s a tough one. I have a soft spot for most of my stories and I am so happy when any of them find a home out there. My first published piece was “Central Park in the Dark,” and I wrote this after a trip to New York. I loved Central Park and had an idea to write a series of stories set there. Kraxon Magazine picked it up and for a new writer, it was amazing to see something I wrote out there.
Then I got a yes for “A Haunting Past” for an anthology and it has some amazing stories from many great published authors. So to be part of that was so great.
But my favorite piece is coming out this year in The Ghost Papers. (See below)
What upcoming projects are you working on?
I’ve been busy working on year one of a three-year designation program for work. My writing time has been almost nothing, so when I have a chance to spend time on it, I’m working on my novel Sleepy Grove. It started as a short story and I loved the idea and character so much that I wanted to keep it going. Writing a book is so much different than doing shorts, but it’s a very fun challenge. I hope to make enough time to complete the first draft by the end of the year, and with the help of the awesome beta’s I know, I think this book can be something I’ll be proud of for a long time. The short story, which has basically become Chapter One is in the Upcoming Emby Press anthology, The Ghost Papers Vol 1.
Other than that, I’ve started a short story from an idea that my neighbor sparked last summer. She collects storage unit’s contents, kind of like Storage Wars, and she told us she had just found an urn with ashes in it. So that is a story that needs to be written!
Big thanks to Nathan Hystad for being part of this week’s author spotlight! Be sure to check out his blog where he spotlights his writing process as well as cool interviews with other writers. You can also follow him on Twitter at @NathanHystad.