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Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. Interview

Never Whistle at Night is a new anthology of macabre stories from 26 Indigenous writers including Kelli Jo Ford, Tommy Orange, Tiffany Morris, and Richard Van Camp. It has a foreword written by Stephen Graham Jones and was edited by Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.—and we here at Frightful had the pleasure of talking to the editors about the anthology.

Read the full interview below.

How did Never Whistle at Night come about? Did Vintage approach you or did you approach Vintage with the idea?

Shane: The simple idea of a horror anthology solely featuring Native writers was sparked by a tweet from our friend Bear Lee in December 2020. From there, the wheels started spinning and slowly but surely it seemed like me and Ted were most up for the task. But we didn’t really know where to start publishing-wise. We called on our homie Gabino Iglesias to maybe help us find a solid indie publisher, then even a literary agent to make it happen. We were on the edge of crowdfunding the tiny project when I contacted Cherie Dimaline to be an invited writer through her literary agent, Rachel Letofsky. Immediately, Rachel offered us representation for the project in order to bring it to the Big-5 level, which was unbelievable at the time. We drafted a short proposal and Rachel helped us shop it to the industry. The offers kept increasing until we reached a six-figure global deal with Vintage Books stateside and RHC and McClelland & Stewart up in Canada. I’ll add (only because it made my month back then) that Anna Kaufman at Vintage Books said our proposal was “the best short proposal [she’s] ever read.”

Ted: I had this idea to collect “those stories,” the stories we’d tell around the fire or in the hotel lobby at Native Lit conferences after everyone else had gone to bed. It floated around in folders as sketches in my laptop and then bam, one day it just came together when Shane put it out there. The response was more amazing than I hoped it would be, ‘cause we’ve all got “those stories,” yeah? Shiiiit. I remember a facebook group called “Native Ghost Stories” or something that had like over 10,000 entries. Shane and I talked and dreamed and put some things together and then our wonderful agent, Rachel Letofsky, brought the project to a number of presses, but Vintage by far was the most excited about it. And the cross-border release they proposed was exactly what this collection needed.

What’s it like editing as a team? Are there ways it is easier or more challenging than editing solo?

Ted: I like the multiple perspectives team editing brings. When you’re trying for the best, more eyes are better.

Shane: I highly recommend editing an anthology with another pair of eyes, and even more sets of eyes in the dark behind you once you think you’re “done.” At least . . . working with another person is rad as long as they’re an awesome human being, and I got that with Ted. At no point did I find it challenging to work with him, and it was all too fun going back and forth in text and phone calls about particular stories during the open call and making the choices. Well, it’s really all fun and games until you have to take that machete and mow down the longlist. Ouch. Like Ted said, I think having more eyes on a piece really helps bring it to its best polished state. If Beyonce can have multiple writers helping her make the best hits, so can horror authors haha!

When it comes to short story collections and anthologies, I am always interested in how authors or editors go about ordering the stories. What was it like arranging the table of contents for this anthology? Were there any clear openers or closers?

Shane: We looked at so many factors trying to compose this symphony of dread, heartbreak, and hope. I’ll be honest, Ted took the first crack at story order, and I don’t think I had any objections whatsoever. Early on, we agreed we should end the book with Waub’s story, "Limbs", and just a bit after that, we mutually agreed on Mathilda’s story for the opener. I like that even Kirkus Reviews highlighted it as the best story of the anthology—that’s amazing for Mathilda’s burgeoning career. Gotta love it!

Ted: I looked at region, rhythm, story type, length, tone. I sort of went with rhythm, which is really important to me in my own writing. Thought it would be helpful in a longer anthology. And I definitely wanted to lead with "Kushtuka", which seems to have been the right choice — lots of folks have commented on it. I felt it does on a book level what you want to do on a story level most times; hook that reader in. And yup, finishing with Waub’s story was essential.

There was an open submission call for some of the slots in this anthology. What was the reading process like for that? Were there any stories you read and thought “absolutely, yes, this!” immediately?

Shane: We opened the floodgates for open-call stories alongside our Publishers Marketplace announcement of selling the anthology which was in late July 2021. We set the deadline as November 1st and crossed our fingers for the stories to flow in. I created a spreadsheet to track every single submission and shared reading responsibilities with Ted, Bear Lee, and David Tromblay. It wasn’t super regimented like maybe some of the big mags do, but the idea was to have our slush readers (slush readers sounds so weird?) comb out the scene first and flag any definite eye catchers. But the reality was we all worked at our own pace and added comments to every story in our own individual columns so keep everything visible and organized. It hurt really badly to say no to some incredible stories, but such is the life of an editor with so many story slots. You can ask around, no one enjoys that part. For the open call, some stories that immediately jumped out as “keepers” were Mathilda Zeller’s "Kushtuka", Morgan Talty’s "The Prepper", and Carson Faust’s "Eulogy for a Brother, Resurrected".

Ted: lol. Again, "Kushtuka". But that wasn’t the only one. We were extremely pleased with the quality and quantity of open-call submissions, even though it made it really difficult when we had to choose the limited number we could accept.

It’s an incredibly diverse anthology and you cover a wide range of experiences with these tales. Was that an important component for you as editors in choosing the stories?

Shane: I’d say it’s the most important part of what we set out to do. Indian Country, as we see it here on Turtle Island, is not the monolith that Pan-Indianism will try to convince you it is. We are not homogenous, hell, even folks within your own Nation may feel a different way about the way, know what I mean?

Ted: It’s hugely important. Indian Country is about as diverse a place as you can get, but that fact usually gets by general audiences; they don’t realize just how many tribal nations and traditions there are out there, and how very different they can be.

Is there anything you want readers to know about the anthology that they might not know from the synopsis alone?

Ted: Lots of guts went into, around, and on top of this collection. It was important to us to get new folks, and the best of folks who’ve been around into this book, cause, yeah. We want there to be more of them!

It looks like there’s going to be an audiobook as well, though no narrator is listed at this time. Is there anything you can say about the audiobook? Are you excited to hear it?

Ted: Had a meeting about it today (August 4th) that has us excited for the approach Penguin / Random House is taking. And all the voice actors will be Indigenous. I’ve done the narration for my previous two collections from UNM Press, and Tommy Orange said, “both are also incredibly performed audiobooks,” and that means a lot to me, so I know how important it is to get it right. I’m sure we’ll have that same level of care for Never Whistle at Night.

Shane: This week (as of August 15th) we were briefed on the full process in how our narrators will be chosen. We still don’t know who all will be in the final cut, but essentially PRH sent us a folder with audition clips from a large handful of Indigenous VO actors. We all are then asked to choose our top three favorite narrators for our specific story, and they are hoping to land with anywhere from two to five narrators total. We are beyond excited for the audiobook to be produced, and it will be available on publication day just like the paperback and ebook (September 19th!).

The cover art is striking and features all kinds of little details around the border. Who designed it and what were your thoughts when you saw it finished for the first time?

Shane: We absolutely adore the cover art, and I think we did a collective WOW when it hit our email inboxes. As you said, it’s visually striking. I particularly love how the smaller details are all taken from the stories within. It is inviting for new readers who don’t particularly enjoy Horror, or they think they don’t. We cast a wide net by using the “dark fiction” moniker and this cover art only helps send that message. Colors! Surely nothing dark and scary can be found inside. Ope! They’ll see. I will share that we strove to have an Indigenous artist do the cover, but after a couple artists didn’t work out either for aligning with PRH’s expectations or time constraints, we had to have Vintage Books’ in-house designer, Perry De La Vega, design it—and we are by no means upset about Perry’s design. We only wish we could have made our original vision, using Indigenous-made art, come to fruition. In the end, dang, l want to make a foam board print for my wall!

Ted: Perry De La Vega. And wow. We had looked at a few different sketches from other artists, went back and forth with the press. But we had an idea that we shared with the team and they came back with what we’re looking at right now. Then the press turned it into a gif. And I’m still wow. Looks like other folks are, too. Lots of reviews mention the cover.

Do either of you have any other work coming out this year you’d like to tell people about?

Shane: I don’t have much of anything coming out to be honest! It’s hard to balance being a high school history teacher with this Horror writing stuff. But, I do have a little creepy story coming out through an anthology titled Morbidologies on October 24th. I wrote that one in my hotel room at StokerCon 2022 in Denver. Other than that, I’m writing my debut novel every day—just checked in with my agent about it and trying to stay on track to maybe finish it by the end of this school year or sooner!

Ted: I’ve got a Southern Gothic called Pour One for the Devil coming out from Lanternfish Press on March 5th, 2024 that horror folks and friends seem excited about, and the third part of my series about growing up in Chicago from University of New Mexico PressSacred Folks out Fall 24. Just signed for that one today.

What are your favorite recent reads? Any genre or category. It doesn’t have to be horror.

Shane: One I really liked recently was Tiffany Morris’s Green Fuse Burning, out October 2023 from Stelliform Press. She asked me to blurb it, and I just loved her eco-horror novella so much. It’s fantastic.

Ted: Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova, These Bones by Kayla Chenault. Halfway through Mother Howl by Craig Clevenger and just past the middle of Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones right now. Wow to both. Oh yeah, and a big shoutout to Civilizations by Laurent Binet, an amazing alternate history where Europe gets colonized by us.

Thank you so much for talking to Frightful!

Shane Hawk (enrolled Cheyenne-Arapaho, Hidatsa and Potawatomi descent) is a history teacher by day and a horror writer by night. Hawk is the author of Anoka: A Collection of Indigenous Horror and other short fiction featured in numerous anthologies. He lives in San Diego with his beautiful wife, Tori. Learn more by visiting

Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. (enrolled Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians) is the author of award-winning mosaic novels Sacred Smokes and Sacred City as well as the editor of The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones. He is an Active Horror Writers Association member whose work has been published in Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Chicago Review, The Journal of Working-Class Studies, Apex Magazine, Red Earth Review, Electric Literature, Indian Country Today, and The Massachusetts Review, among others. Upcoming books include Sacred Folks from University of New Mexico Press and the Southern Gothic novella Pour One for the Devil from Lanternfish Press, both available in 2024. You can find him online at IG/FB/Twitter/Bluesky at @TVAyyyy.

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