Write Here, Write Now: The Envious Flood by Steve Hanson

In Season 2 of Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast, host Erica Wagner interviews winners of the Vocal+ Fiction Awards

By Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal PodcastPublished 2 months ago 4 min read

A familiar scent is a surefire way to catapult the mind back into memory, to a particular moment in time. Decay, a sea breeze, wine. Three smells that tie this story together, and propel the protagonist down a west coast highway. Steve Hanson’s “The Envious Flood” resists the pull of nostalgia to level a clear-eyed gaze at the past.

What was the impetus for your winning story? Walk us through your initial act of creation.

My story, “The Envious Flood,” was initially inspired by a random news item that I came across while scrolling through the news app on my phone. The story detailed a small beach town in California that saw the carcass of a large blue whale wash up on the beach. In these types of situations, whale carcasses are infamously difficult to get ride of (cue the famous story of the town in Oregon that tried to deal with a washed-upwhale carcass by blowing it up with dynamite—to disastrous results). Of course, a massive mound of rotting blubber poses its own problems when left alone—not least of which is the stench. Thus, the news item that I came across took the angle of framing the whale carcass as a kind of existential threat to the town itself, with the various community members spending endless time debating exactly what to do while the whale itself merely continued to decompose into nothing but bone. That image—the skeletal remains of what was one the largest animal on Earth, now nothing but bones left on a beach and framed against the sun setting across the ocean—stuck in my mind, and stayed with me as I wrote the various drafts of the story.

Oftentimes, I come across ideas for short stories just through random news itself that I come across in my day-to-day life. My first draft of the story was quite different from what it ultimately became. Initially, I had the story focused on the town itself—in my imagining, an artist’s colony that had been set up along the shore as a kind of utopian social experiment. However, in rewriting it from different angles, I saw a greater potential to frame it more as an older man looking back on this experience from his youth, with the rotting whale running parallel to the passage of time, and the meditation on all he had lost to the distant past. The line from Richard III seemed to jump out at me as I read it, and eventually provided the title of the story itself. Influence from beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and magical realists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez helped me add a layer of transcendence and irrealism to the final draft that I think helped it quite a bit.

What does it take for a story to grab you? How do you grab your audience?

Stories can grab me in a number of different ways. Usually, I look for engaging characters with significant psychological depth, intriguing conflicts and plot constructions, an arresting setting or world, or even evocative, enthralling language. In general, I try to emulate these qualities when writing my own stories, though how successful I am in terms of grabbing the reader’s attention is still a work in progress.

Who are your favorite writers and why? Do you have any favorite Vocal Creators?

Favorite writers include (in no particular order) Vladimir Nabokov, Denis Johnson, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Don Delilo, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henry James, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Maria Luisa Bombal, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Joyce Carol Oats, Flannery O’Connor, David Foster Wallace, and William S. Burroughs. I have enjoyed and been inspired by all that I’ve read from my fellow creators on Vocal, though the Fiction, Poets, Horror, Wander, and Journal communities in particular have provided me with exceptional and inspirational content.

How has sharing your writing in life and on Vocal affected you as a Creator?

Sharing my work to such a broad audience can definitely be intimidating, given that something of yours that is so intimate is exposed for all the world to see. But the positive feedback I’ve gotten, and the knowledge that I’m part of such a talented community of fellow creators, helps me get over the anxiety and inspires me to create new and more daring projects.

What advice do you have for other Creators?

My biggest advance would be to write about what interests *you* rather than what you think will “play” to a particular audience. Your best work—being fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography, recipes, whatever—will also be authentic to you as a creator. Readers, even if they do not approach the subject matter from the same interests or frames of reference, will read your own passion and engagement in the subject matter. This will allow you to become a more firmly entrenched part of the community of creators you are in, and pay back the inspiration that you have gotten from others.

Stay tuned for new episodes of Write Here, Write Now Season 2 launching weekly.


About the Creator

Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast

Sex, death, relationships, nature, families... If you like to stop, think and consider things a little differently, join host Erica Wagner as she introduces a new Vocal creator’s story each week.

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Comments (3)

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  • Kingsley Osevwe2 months ago


  • I enjoyed reading this! A lot of excellent information

  • Mohamed Jakkath2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this insightful interview with Steve Hanson, winner of the Vocal+ Fiction Awards. I appreciate his honesty in discussing the inspiration behind his story, "The Envious Flood," and how it evolved from its initial draft. It's fascinating to learn how a news item about a whale carcass on a California beach could spark such a poignant reflection on the passage of time and loss. I also appreciate Steve's advice to other creators to write about what interests them rather than what they think will appeal to an audience. It's essential to stay true to one's authentic voice and passion, as that will shine through in the work and resonate with readers. Thank you for sharing this interview with your readers, and I look forward to reading more from Steve and other Vocal creators.

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