Some Thoughts with ... Josh Hanson

4 Apr 2024

The Author/s

Josh Hanson

Josh Hanson

Author of King’s Hill, the Woodcutters, and Cymbals Eat Guitars. Fortress and Caliope Street are both forthcoming in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

Josh Hanson lives in Northern Wyoming with his family. He is a graduate of the University of Montana MFA program and teachers high school English. His work has appeared in the Horror Zine, The Chamber, as well as various anthologies.  

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to the readers of the blog?
In my normal life, I’m a high school English teacher, and for years that took up most of my creative and intellectual energy. But for the last few years I’ve been dedicating myself to carving out that time to write every single day, and so far it’s paid off. 

2.- When did you start writing?
I’ve been a “writer” for most of my life, but I never quite had the self-discipline to produce work that I was proud of or that I could actually see to completion. But sometime in 2022, I dedicated myself to it, getting up early every morning, 365 days, and just getting those words on the page. So, despite pushing 50 and receiving an MFA twenty-five years ago, I feel very much like a young writer, still feeling my way along. 

3.- Could you tell us more about your novel King’s Hill?
King’s Hill is my debut novel, and it revolves around Sadie, a young woman whose body has betrayed her. Her autoimmune diseases have made all the things she’s taken for granted suddenly impossible for her, so she has a certain amount of grief and rage in her, which she mostly deals with through a dark sense of humor. Sadie takes a job at the local prison, teaching writing to inmates, and soon she’s found herself being drawn into the narrative of a convicted killer in her class. 
So, the story kind of splits into two narratives: Sadie’s investigations and the killer’s story of ritual occult killings in the 1980s. Obviously, these two narratives converge, and things get pretty strange. 

4.- Why would you say writing horror is attractive as an author?
It’s amazing how long it took me to come around to writing horror, because I am a lifetime reader and fan of horror, cutting my teeth of Stephen King at a young age, like so many did. What I love about horror as a genre is its breadth, which is nearly infinite. There’s no story that can’t suddenly veer into horror. 
But horror is really about getting at the meaty stuff: everything that’s taboo, that’s uncomfortable, that’s roiling underneath and in between our day to day. 
I have very little patience with so-called realism. I write the kinds of books I want to read, and what I want is surreal, fantastical darkness. I want to see who my characters are when they face that darkness. I want to see them tested, and horror offers a highly charged place to see what they’re made of. 

5.- Which one of your books would you say you have a soft spot for it?
Of my published books, King’s Hill is certainly the closest to my heart, as it comes from my own experiences witnessing my wife struggle with sudden, disabling illness. So, creating a fictional avatar for that struggle was important for me, and it also allowed for a portrait of disability that I wanted to see in horror fiction. 
Of my forthcoming work, my novel, Fortress, comes from a place very near my heart, as it’s set in an alternative high school, with young people facing a savage monster, so it allowed me to speak about the ways our children are endlessly endangered in a country (the US) that is needlessly petty and cruel. Obviously, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. 

6.- You also write reviews at FanfiAddict, would you say being an author influences your style of reviewing?
I hope so, but I’ve also been a reader my whole life. I mostly just try to do the books justice. Not to sound too much like an old man shaking my fist at a cloud, but I think the nature of reviews has been cheapened by so much influencer culture. I want to get at what makes the books work (or not work), tease out the themes. It’s important to me to treat horror fiction as worthy of serious criticism. 

7.- Which authors/artists would you say are your biggest influences?
An endless list. King, Straub, and McCammon were huge when I was a kid, but they didn’t really prepare me for what contemporary writers are up to. Paul Tremblay, Catriona Ward, Clay McLeod Chapman, Tananarive Due, Victor LeValle. These writers are doing things that genuinely stretch the possibilities of what horror can do. I don’t know that I can draw a direct line between any of them and my own work, but they all challenge me to rethink what the novel can do. It’s a wildly exciting time to be part of horror fiction. And that’s not even taking into consideration the wild world of indie horror. 

8.- From all the writing process, which parts would you say are the most challenging?
I’m a certified pantser (not planning much of anything at all), so that first draft is always a process of discovery. Some days that’s glorious, and some days that’s torture. Being willing to backtrack, to reimagine, and to discover that the story I’m telling isn’t necessarily the story I thought I was telling when I started out. Sometimes that can feel impossible, but then, when it comes together, it’s genuine magic. 

9.- What can we expect from Josh Hanson in the future?
Well, Fortress is forthcoming from Off Limits Press next year, and I just sold my latest novel, Caliope Street to Moonstruck Books, so it will be coming out in 2026. And then there’s always the next project. Long term, my goal is to just keep putting words on the page, keep seeing where the stories take me. I also just self published a short horror fantasy story called Marshbank, which is a bit of a departure for me.