A Celebration of Rick Hautala

Rick Hautala was an author and teacher from Maine. A graduate of the University of Maine in Orono, Rick published more than 30 novels and dozens of short stories, often through small presses, such as Cemetery Dance and Delirium. Rick was recognized with several accolades over the course of his career, which spanned over 30 years. Full Moon Press chose Rick’s novel THE WILDMAN as their first limited edition title. Bedbugs, a collection of short stories, was chosen as one of the most distinguished horror publications by Barnes & Noble in 2000. He was awarded the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Rick also served terms as vice president and trustee for the Horror Writers Association. Rick died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2013, and is greatly missed by friends and fans alike. His life and career will be celebrated at an upcoming event at Southern Maine Community College at the end of March. We spoke to his wife, Holly Newstein Hautala, about Rick’s life and legacy, and the upcoming event.

Rick-Hautala

The Event

Southern Maine Community College will host A Celebration of Rick Hautala Evening March 27, 2014. Friends, fans, students, and faculty will get together at the campus community center to read and reminisce about Rick, and discuss the many contributions he made to the community and to the horror genre. The event starts at 7 p.m. The student center is located at 2 Fort Rd, South Portland, ME 04106.

Rick’s Career

“Rick was one of the pioneers of the horror resurgence in the ’80s,” Holly says. “He worked hard, and never stopped evolving as a writer. He was also a loving father, an inspiring teacher, and loved mentoring up-and-coming writers. I think his greatest legacy is in the people whose lives he touched with his wit, kindness and work ethic.”

“He taught people to never give up, to believe in themselves, and never trust authority.”

“Rick was driven to create,” Holly continues. “He originally wanted to be an artist, but on the encouragement of one of his teachers at UMO, decided to be a writer. He spent several years writing his first novel, MOONDEATH, and when it was done, his classmate Stephen King helped him get a publishing deal. He wrote several more moderately successful books, and then his novel NIGHTSTONE sold over a million copies and hit the Times bestseller list. He signed a six-figure deal with Warner Books — but made the mistake of telling his current publisher to whom he owed two more books. Zebra retaliated for his disloyalty by publishing short runs of the following books, so fans who wanted to read more Rick Hautala books couldn’t even find them. So he lost readers, and meanwhile public tastes were changing — horror was no longer as wildly popular as it was. Warner published WINTER WAKE and then Rick had to go back to Zebra. Zebra didn’t pay him well for his books, and he worked at Borders and Southern Maine Community College to make ends meet. Finally, the small press resurgence of the ‘aughts, and the rise of e-books, brought him a whole new crop of fans. At the end of his life, he was experimenting with screenplays, historical fiction and young adult books, even a paranormal romance. His writing was getting more and more interesting as he progressed.”

On Teaching

Rick was also a teacher for many years, and helped mentor many young writers. His favorite piece of advice? “‘Illegitimati non carborundum,‘” Holly says, “which, loosely translated, means ‘Never let the bastards get you down.’ He had many ups and downs in his career — he had it all, lost it all, and found it again in a different form. Through it all, he persisted and never stopped believing in himself. The other piece of advice he gave was ‘Writers write. So write.‘ He wrote almost every day, and read every day too. He was always open to new ideas and approaches to his writing, and the only way a writer can hone his or her craft is to practice it.”

Rick’s Favorites

We asked Holly what Rick’s favorite books were, either his own or from other authors. “I think his favorite book that he did was FOUR OCTOBERS, a collection of novellas published by Cemetery Dance. His story Miss Henry’s Bottles is included, and he was fond of that story. It was his first foray into writing a story that did not depend on supernatural elements. He also was fond of the Little Brothers books and stories, which most of his fans bring up as his most terrifying.” “His favorite fiction writer was James Lee Burke,” Holly continues. “Rick didn’t write crime fiction, but he enjoyed reading it, and had so much admiration for Burke as a prose stylist. I have to agree – Burke writes wonderfully, and is exquisitely descriptive in so few words. Rick was also a history buff, and read many historical books. He thought what happened in real life was often much more interesting than fiction!”

On Being A Writer in Maine

“Maine in particular, and New England in general, are great places to be a writer,” Holly says. “People like to read up here — I guess it’s something to do during the awful winters. So writers get great support from the community in general, and we writers all support and help each other. I belong to a loose group of horror writers known as the Vicious Circle, which meets periodically, as well as the New England Horror Writers Association. Once a year, we all meet in Rhode Island at the New England Writers Conference, affectionately known as Camp NECon. I can honestly say that my fellow writers are some of the most wonderful people I know, and we have a lot of fun together and inspire each other to keep pushing. Writers write!”

Holly Newstein Hautala will be featured in the June issue of LAMPLIGHT magazine, with a new story, Shadows and Light. She also recently published a story in ANTHOLOGY: YEAR TWO. The story, which Rick “had a lot of input in” is entitled Eight Minutes. It was released in October 2013, and is based on the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. Rick and Holly’s first and only collaboration, Trapper Boy, was published in January in DARK DUETS, an anthology edited by Christopher Golden. Visit Rick Hautala’s official website here.

This article was originally published on Our City Radio.

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