Soaking in Strange Hours: A Tristan Grieves Fragment is the latest short story release by Erik Hofstatter.

If this author is new to you, be prepared for rich prose, complex characters, and disturbing imagery. This is the type of writing you need to sip like a fine scotch, letting it burn away your conceptions of time and reality. And if that sounds like a good time, you’re going to love getting to know more about this immensely talented author.

J.A. Sullivan: Author Ray Cluley categorized “Soaking in Strange Hours” as a ‘strange noir’ which I think is a perfect description as the story blends the filthy grit of noir with odd twists and otherworldly imagery. Was it originally your intention to write in this genre or did you incorporate a stronger noir flavour in revisions?

Erik Hofstatter: In 2015 I wrote a novelette (Katerina) set on a seedy stage built from cobblestone blood, tired shadows, and a prostitute warmth on two-finger pillars bought with a borrowed smile. I breathe in an area where oxygen is pumped into me by colourful characters. In the original story, Katerina is a fire-kissed streetwalker and it’s a hybridization of twin genres. Since I read Gary McMahon’s “To Usher, the Dead”, I sparred with the idea of creating my own recurring character. Someone damaged, drifting, in the life flow. And so Tristan Grieves was delivered to my hospital for broken pages. I was also on a month-long Bukowski binge, so a lot of that grit seeped into Tristan. As I told his story, Katerina’s blueprint became evident. Human trafficking, loan sharks in a heroin sea, hookers juggling dream soot – that kind of thing. But the beating heart of the story is twisted love. Complex people have complex relationships. That’s the DNA of my fiction. 

J.A. Sullivan: Your writing is always so multilayered and forces the reader to construct the story themselves. How do you go about writing in this way? Do you start with a base concept and strip away or bury elements of ‘telling’ the story through drafts?

Soaking in Strange Hours by Erik Hostatter book cover

Erik Hofstatter: It’s like a 100-layer lasagna, innit?

I think ambiguity is a giant quality. So is misdirection and speculation.

My objective is not so much to “outwit” the reader but to build dark and uneven ground in their minds. A stratagem of the blind leading the blind in a treacherous verbal maze. Imagination and visualization are clever tools writers manipulate differently. I project juggernaut images, frames, punching the third eye of readers. The bruises change colours, depending on your mind habitat – my chameleon words will blend in eventually. The most convincing lie is hidden between two truths and I’m an architect of that theory.  

J.A. Sullivan: The full title is “Soaking in Strange Hours: A Tristan Grieves Fragment” which begs the question will there be future fragments set in this dark gritty world?

Erik Hofstatter: Absolutely, yeah. I broke off this fragment from a larger story. The purpose was purely experimental. To gauge audience reaction to a new lyrical style of writing, and if positive, an expansion into a novella. So far it’s been roses all the way. 

J.A. Sullivan: Your work always takes a unique approach to storytelling, shying away from the reader’s expectations. When did you first start experimenting with fiction? Or have you always been the type of person to draw outside the lines?

Erik Hofstatter

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Erik Hofstatter: The luxury of indie publishing is freedom of expression. I don’t know agent pressure. No deadline commitments. I don’t have to worry about what’s relevant or what the market wants. I don’t write for the market. I write to heal my heart. I’m in control of my vision and the stories I want to tell. I aspire to create something real. Something iconic, almost. I want to bridge a connection with the reader. Originality is dead but I still write with her bones and I surrender to evolution. My stories grow and I let myself grow with them. With “Punishment by Hope” the writing style became a poetical shapeshifter. A metamorphosis somewhere in my soul. Swimming against the current simply hurt too much. 

J.A. Sullivan: What authors (or other artists) have had the biggest impact on your writing?

Erik Hofstatter: Gary McMahon is a shogun in my book world. His voice speaks to me the loudest. But other pages I bury my head in belonging to Charles Bukowski, Anne Rice, Nathan Ballingrud, Stephanie Wytovich, Charles L. Grant, Clive Barker, and most recently Malanda Jean-Claude. He’s got such a unique way of manipulating language. “Because of a Woman” is a poetical holy grail. 

J.A. Sullivan: From the stories I’ve read of yours, including “Soaking in Strange Hours,” you tend to gravitate toward deeply flawed characters. Is it uncomfortable exploring the lives of these unlikeable folks?

Erik Hofstatter

Erik Hofstatter: An explorer of lives – I like that. The human-animal is an imperfect design. I write about my own flaws, or the flaws I see in others, or the flaws they see in me. That Johari window reflection. I learn about myself and others learn about me through my writing. I’ve always been a gifted empath. I feel deeper than most and my head is an open lounge for wounded souls. I can mimic their thought process. I am them. 

J.A. Sullivan: Which of your published pieces was most rewarding to write?

Erik Hofstatter: “Rare Breeds” was good to me, even scoring a Czech translation. I’m uber-proud of the plot structure and misdirection on every chapter. It’s like an alligator death roll. It bites and spins you. 

J.A. Sullivan: If you were invited to speak on a panel with other writers, who would you most like to share a stage with?

Erik Hofstatter: Public speaking is a hangman’s rope to me. With my dodgy accent, it’s best if I don’t speak. I’m more of a silent observer. 

J.A. Sullivan: And, of course, I need to know what are you working on now?

Erik Hofstatter: Nothing. Halcyon days lie ahead untainted by writing headaches. I’ll revisit Tristan country in 2022. I’m double-jabbed and all that.

J.A. Sullivan

J.A. Sullivan

Author

J.A. Sullivan is a Canadian horror writer and also reviews books and podcasts for Kendall Reviews. Her fiction has appeared in A Silent Dystopia (2021), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020).

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