Today, I am happy to have Hunter Shea make an appearance on my blog for an exclusive interview. I’ve just finished and enjoyed his book and I was excited to ask him some questions. Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity, Hell Hole and Island of the Forbidden, which are all published by Samhain Horror.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What propelled you to start writing?
I’ve lived in New York all my life, though my heart belongs to Maine. Sometimes I feel more at home up north, even though I’m only there for a week or two a year. I’ve always been an enormous reader and after a while I wanted to try my hand at writing. I had a ton of crazy story ideas floating around my brain. My good friend Norm Hendricks is the one who finally got me off my butt, or actually on my butt, and started writing.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? How does that infuse your work?
When I’m not writing, I’m with my family, reading, watching movies, going to horror cons and checking out places infamous for ghosts or monsters. I bleed horror. Everything thing I see or hear about becomes potential fodder for a new story. I’m so lucky that I get to work in the genre that I love.
What do you love and hate about writing?
I’ve found that I really enjoy the research process and finding ways to blend fact with fiction. This is why I’m starting to write a series of cryptid books. So much fun. Doing that first draft has highs and lows. I just love buckling in for the ride. I don’t do a lot of advanced plotting. I like to let the tale weave itself. I’m just as surprised by the twists and turns in my books as my readers are. There’s nothing I hate about the writing process. After all, this is something I spent well over a decade struggling to break into, so I’ll never be one to complain. The promotion part is the one most authors struggle with. All that time on social media can be spent writing, but it’s all part of the business of being an author.
What’s coming next and where people can buy your stuff?
My next book, Island of the Forbidden, was just released. It’s a ghost story set on the Richter Scale. I brought Jessica Backman and psychic Eddie Home back from Sinister Entity to get stranded on a haunted island off the coast of South Carolina. It’s available anywhere ebooks and trade paperbacks are sold. In July, my next Pinnacle paperback comes out. It’s called Tortures of the Damned. I know, my editors have a thing for dramatic titles. Torture focuses on a family in NY that survives an apocalyptic bombing. When they emerge from a neighbor’s bomb shelter, they have no communications with the outside world and zero idea of whats’ been done, the extent and by whom. A couple of months after that, my next cryptid book comes out with Samhain called The Dover Demon. It’s a mash-up of sci-fi and horror, all based on actual sightings of a strange creature in a small Massachusetts town in 1977. A novella I’m finishing up will fit somewhere in there in 2015, too.
How much research is required for your books?
If I’m writing about an actual event or place, I’ll do a few weeks of research so I can get the lay of the land. I sometimes make field trips, which are the best since I discover places and history that you can’t necessarily find on the web or in a book. That said, 9o% of my books come from the old brain pan.
Who are you favorite authors? Which author(s) had a significant impact on you growing up?
I think Anton Chekhov was the best short story writer of all time. Hemingway taught us all how to tell a story succinctly but powerfully. I’ve been a Stephen King disciple since I was 8. Robert McCammon is probably one of the best horror writers of all time. Richard Matheson was an absolute master, as are Clive Barker and Jack Ketchum. I also love mysteries, devouring CJ Boxx, Craig Johnson, Tess Gerritsen, you name it. I think every good book has influenced me, as a reader, writer and person.
How did you come up with the title?
Truth be told, most of the titles I come up with are struck down by my editors. We’ll then brainstorm on a few and pick the winner from the bunch. The one title I just knew was going to get rejected because it sounded so silly was Swamp Monster Massacre. Of course, that’s’ the one that wasn’t changed at all – and for the better, I think. Look, my editors know this business way better than I do, so I completely trust their judgment.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
I hope readers can feel how close I am to the strange creatures and ghosts I write about. I don’t do this for a paycheck. If only 1 person were reading, I’d still write. Lately people have been calling me the ‘action horror’ guy, since my books tend to get utterly insane midway through the second act. That works for me. I also try to give an entirely new spin to the classic ghost and monster stories. When you read my books, you’ll come away with a few scenes that will stick with you for a long time. Hell, some of them even disturb me.
How does your writing process work?
When I’m working on a book, I try to write every day. During the weekdays, I write for an hour or so a night, after dinner. On the weekends, I’m up early anyway, so I bring my laptop to the kitchen and write for a few hours. I don’t do outlines. The story has to unfold organically for me. I find myself being far more creative when I just let it flow than when I try to follow predetermined plot points. If I have music on in the background, it has to be on low with no lyrics. Hearing other words jams me up. I have a lot of movie soundtracks and CDs from Midnight Syndicate to keep me going.
What books have most influenced your life most?
That is so hard to say. Too many to count. I will say that Stephen King’s Night Shift got me hooked on horror fiction for life.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I think my Samhain brethren are my mentors now. We all support one another, which has been pretty amazing. Guys like Jonathan Janz, Brian Moreland, Russell James, David Bernstein, Kristopher Rufty, Frazer Lee, Tim Waggoner and so many others are great sources of support, friendship and inspiration. We’re all cheering each other on as we work to make Samhain the #1 stop for horror.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading E.B. White’s essays from his Maine farm in the 1940’s called One Man’s Meat. I just finished King’s It (I stopped at pg 800 when it first came out and my brother-in-law insisted I see it through). I’m also reading Eric Red’s It Waits Below and loving it. An awesome monster story set on the ocean floor.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Absolutely. Finding the time to write all of the stories I dream up. Until writing becomes my full-time gig, I have to steal time here and there.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Ernest Hemingway is a divisive writer/character, and I think that’s what drew me to him in the first place. The man single-handedly changed the way people write and read. That is no small feat. His books can be brutal, raw, tender and sometimes downright bizarre. Short, declarative sentences are the way to go.
Can you tell us a little about your current/latest book?
As I said earlier, Island of the Forbidden is the latest book about ghost hunter Jessica Backman. Her view of herself and the paranormal has changed dramatically. She’s no longer this cocksure kid who thinks she can conquer anything. Her partner Eddie is in even worse shape. I strive really hard to make them real people, not cardboard heroes. When real people face what they have, they’re changed dramatically. The fun is finding the motivation to make them do what they wish never to do again and how it affects them, forcing them to change once again. The island they venture to is haunted by the souls of over 100 murdered children. Needless to say, it’s not for the faint of heart.