Chilling Chat: Episode #214 – Dana Hammer

chillingchat

Dana Hammer has written several short stories, novels, novellas, and screenplays. She is the author of the short story, “Mow-bot,” featured in the anthology, Kill Switch. She also co-wrote the novella, The Retreat, with Joanna Ramos. Their screenplay of this novella won the 2020 13Horror.com Film and Screenplay Contest. 

Dana Hammer

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

DH: So young I can’t remember the age. I used to stay up late watching Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt. My family and I used to tell stories about Betsy the Child-Killing Doll. I was like, five at the time. It’s always been a pretty big part of my life, which is a good thing.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

DH: That’s a hard one! It, The Hole, The Stand, Hannibal.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

DH: Again, so hard to pick! The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Get Out, The Bad Seed.

NTK: Favorite horror television show?

Tales from the Crypt!

NTK: What inspired you to write your story, “Mow-Bot?”

DH: My husband is very into automation. I am not. He purchased a robot vacuum cleaner, and it was bad news. It kept trying to get my feet with its little flippers. Sometimes it ate electrical cords. Sometimes it didn’t obey me at all. It had an “accident” and now it is gone from my life forever, thank god.

A robotic lawn mower is the logical extension of these kinds of terrifying home automation appliances.

NTK: You’re not only a writer, you’re a screenwriter. What is the process of screenwriting like?

DH: It’s like writing a novel, but faster, and neater. In many ways it’s easier because you don’t have to get bogged down with descriptions and interiority – you just tell the story in a series of scenes. It’s actually more suitable for a writer like me, who dislikes flowery language, descriptions of the sky, etc. I’m best at writing dialogue, so performance pieces come more naturally to me.

Except when they don’t. Because sometimes I really WANT to get into someone’s head and write their thoughts. Especially if a character is super compelling or interesting. A novel or a short story allows me to take my time and really explore my character’s perspective.

Screenwriting is more collaborative than other types of writing, and you aren’t necessarily the final authority on the script, because you have to rewrite it over and over to fit the budget, please the director and producers, work in new actors, etc. Novel and short story writing are more solitary, and you are the master of what you write.

NTK: What makes a good screenplay? 

DH: Like a novel or story, it should be a compelling read. It should not contain lazy dialogue. It shouldn’t be overly proscriptive–it needs to allow for creativity on the part of the director, actors, etc. It should at no point contain a scene that cuts away to children acting shocked when they see adults kiss.

NTK: How do you feel about directors?

DH: I LOVE directors. Seriously, I haven’t met one I didn’t like. I’m sure there are terrible directors out there, but in my experience, they are all smart, competent, interesting people.

NTK: Could you tell us about your new book, The Cannibal’s Guide to Fasting?

DH: Of course! It’s about a reformed cannibal named Igor. In this world, viral cannibalism has spread throughout the world, and the infected are sent to rehab centers, where they are trained to avoid human meat. They are then sent to live in government-regulated containment centers, where social workers check in on them, to make sure they’re staying on the straight and narrow.

Igor is a disgraced scientist who is also a gigantic bodybuilder with a tattoo on his face. He wants more than anything to find a cure for viral cannibalism, but there’s not much he can do about that, since he is unemployable, due to his condition and history.

When he discovers that his brother is running a cannibal rights cult that is doing some seriously evil stuff, he knows he has to intervene.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

DH: Right now I’m working on many projects!

I’m in the process of trying to get my middle-grade fantasy novel published. It’s called My Best Friend Athena, and it’s about an eleven-year-old girl who finds out that her best friend is the reincarnated goddess Athena. It’s a light comedy. I’m in the process of writing a sequel to that book, as well, where her brother, Dionysus, tries to enter an extreme eating competition.

I’m also working on a dystopian screenplay where the world is overpopulated and depleted of natural resources, and so the government drafts a certain number of people each year to go into “hibernation”, a state where they use no resources, and are kept in pods for a year. My main character is drafted for this, and is not happy about it.

I also just wrote an outline for a novel called Blister Girl, but I haven’t started it yet. We will see.

I have a short story coming out in an anthology called Literally Dead, which will be published in October of this year. My story is called “A Halloween Visit” which is a stupid title, but a good story! I hate coming up with titles.

My short play “A Helping Hand” will be performed in Hollywood, by Force of Nature Productions. It’s part of a series called “Tales from the Future: Origins” and it features futuristic origin stories for several classic monsters. My piece is about mummies. September 9-11 and 16-18th at The Brickhouse Theater.

My full-length play, The Devil’s Buddy, will be given a reading on October 26th, 8pm, by Skyline Productions, at Oh My Ribs! It’s about a young homeless man whose fortunes change when he becomes the Devil’s errand boy.

My one act, “Spotless” will be given a staged reading on August 27th at Newport Theater Arts center, as part of the OCPA Discoveries even. It’s a serious play about two families who must decide whether or not to wipe a teenage girl’s memory, after an attack.

My short story, “Meteorite” was just published in an anthology called Blood Fiction: An Anthology of Challenging Fiction. Available now on Amazon!

My screenplay, Red Wings, has been optioned by EMA Films, and will hopefully begin filming this year. It’s a hyper-feminist revenge story about a woman whose tampons turn into murdering bats. It’s amazing, though I do say so myself.

Jesus. I’m busy.

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