Musa Author Interview: Stan Hampton

Today I’m pleased to introduce Stan Hampton, one of the most interesting authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my time at Musa, and the author of one of my favourite Penumbra stories, The Globe Theatre in Moonlight. He’s not just an author though–he’s also an American war veteran and a grandfather.

1. You have a variety of short stories coming out with Musa. Can you tell us about each of these in two sentences or less?

“Second Saturday” is about a Las Vegas university art student seduced by an older woman, who happens to have a secret: she is descended from an ancient European tribe called the Neuri, the Wolf People. The student is startled by this truth, and though it opens a future she never dreamed of, it is their mutual attraction to one another that determines their future together.

“The Lapis Lazuli Throne” – A horror story involving soldiers who were wounded while escorting a supply convoy in Iraq. The majority of the story takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada where one soldier is on medical leave, and he realizes something ancient reawakened in Iraq, may be hunting him.

“Dancing in Moonlight at 36,000 Feet” – Aahhh, kind of a Goth mystery or pseudo-romance, or ? A Marine returning to Iraq discovers he is haunted by a Goth girl he met while on R&R leave in Boston; over the Atlantic he discovers her aboard his plane, and she encourages him to follow her, to leave the war behind.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Probably when I was 15 years old. That was the year that I decided I wanted to photograph, and write, for a living. The idea sounded better than spending my life working at some dead end 9-5 job.

3. Your story, The Globe Theatre in Moonlight, was published in the February issue of Penumbra. It’s definitely one of my favourite stories in the issue. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write it?

I’m not really sure. I liked the challenge of writing something about Shakespeare, though I find reading his work difficult. I’ve seen photographs of the recreated Globe Theatre, and I would like to visit the Theatre (and London) someday. After I thought about it I settled on the idea of a war-weary would-be playwright visiting his personal shrine, and encountering the ghost of William Shakespeare. The dialogue then took on a life of its own.

4. How long does it usually take you to write a short story, and what does the process look like for you?

It depends. First, everything begins with a thought, a news headline, or even a dream. Then I list Beginning, Middle, and End. Then I work on a bit of character history for a short story, and if it’s longer story, or even a novella, more detailed character histories. If research is needed, I browse the Internet, go to the college library, or even buy books and magazines if they’ll be useful for other stories. After I’m satisfied with the basic outline and research, I’ll start writing – when the mood strikes me or when a deadline is looming (my great weakness). If it’s a short story of around 2,500-3,500 words or so, I’ll write it in 3-6 hours (I tend to do some editing during the initial process), and take an additional week for editing. For longer stories, such as 6,000-8,000 words or so, I’ll usually write those entirely in one day. Editing might take another 1-3 weeks, depending on my mood.

5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Editing. It can take me 3-4 hours to edit a short story of 3,000-5,000 words the first time around, because I’m pondering commas, grammar, and even the flow of the story. Unfortunately, I tend to write the way I speak, rather than being grammatically proper when writing. (My thanks to the MUSA editor I’ve worked with – I’m sure I’ve driven him up the wall with my writing.) There really isn’t a way to make it easier for me, other than deciding I can’t put the editing off any longer. Of course, having a pot of coffee, plenty of French Vanilla or Irish creamer handy, and plenty of cigarettes available, always makes the process easier.

6. You also serve in the Army National Guard. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to serve the military and how being a part of the military has influenced your writing life?

In the early 1970’s I was living in Muskogee, Oklahoma. First, I hate tornadoes. Second, I didn’t see any future in living and working in Muskogee. Military service offered a future. I served for 11 years, and was in the Army Reserve for 10 years (volunteered and mobilized for Desert Storm, though I never made it out of the country; I wrote for the post newspaper during the war), had a 10-year break, and then joined the Army National Guard in 2004. I joined the Guard mostly because, as I felt during Desert Storm, that I couldn’t believe my army was going to war without me. And, being a grandfather during this war, I wanted my grandchildren to understand someday that I once did more than take them to Toys R Us. The military influence is evident in the number of military related, past, present, and future, stories that I write. Even if a story is not directly military related, one or more of the characters have often served.

7. How do you balance army work, writing, and your love of painting?

As stated previously, I’m unemployed, so balancing is no problem. I only serve one weekend a month (traditional Guard Soldier) unless I’m on temporary orders for a special project for a day or two or a week. The rest of my time is divided among looking for a job at Ground Zero of the Great Recession (Las Vegas, NV), working on two college classes on-line (with an ultimate goal of a degree in underwater archaeology), writing, and painting.

8. What do you think the most important advice for aspiring writers to remember is?

Actually, I believe in two of equal importance. Read and read for the pleasure of it – especially the great writers like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck, to name a few – and in the process, you’ll start learning a few things about how the great writers of the 20th century produced great literature. And write. Write every day (unfortunately, I don’t; I usually write when the mood strikes, or when a deadline approaches for something that I want to submit a story to).

9. Is there any question I didn’t ask that you wish I had, and if so, what’s the answer?

Not that I can think of.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

Well, let’s see. I haven’t mentioned these possibilties to MUSA yet, even to determine if Celina and crew might be interested. But I do love the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s creation, the Cthulhu Mythos. I also like zombies, regardless of whether past, present, or future. ‘Nuff said on those at this time.

You can purchase Stan Hampton’s stories here.

Bio: SS Hampton, Sr. is a full blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He is a divorced grandfather, a published photographer, and a published photojournalist. He is also a budding painter, and someday, hopefully, will be an archaeologist. He serves in the Army National Guard and is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom. His fiction has appeared in MUSA Publishing, and in anthologies from Melange Books, Ravenous Romance, and Dark Opus Press. He has a short story forthcoming from MuseItUp Publishing, another story in an anthology from Edge SF & Fantasy, as well as an anthology of his own stories forthcoming from Melange Books. His fiction has appeared in Lucrezia Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada, he technically became a homeless Iraq War veteran.

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