Friday, October 14, 2011

Interview with Horror Author Hunter Shea

Today, I'm excited to announce that I am expanding my blog to interview authors and find out how these writers of horror have successfully written novels and gotten published. I also love getting to know the people who write the scary novels I enjoy reading. To kick things off here in October, my first interview is with a new up-and-coming horror author everyone should be reading: Hunter Shea. His debut novel, FOREST OF SHADOWS, is already a huge success, topping the Samhain Horror best-seller's list at #1 several times.

Brian: Hi, Hunter, it’s great to have you as a guest author on my blog. Your debut novel, FOREST OF SHADOWS will be out with Samhain Publishing’s new horror line this October. You’ve written a frightening modern-day ghost story that had me hooked from the prologue. Tell us about the story.

Hunter: Forest of Shadows is about a man whose wife dies in her sleep on the same day they win the lottery. He’s left to raise an infant daughter on his own and struggles for 5 years with crippling anxiety. He becomes obsessed with the paranormal, creating a website that is a basic library of all things odd and unexplained. He also fancies himself a bit of a ghost hunter. In an effort to overcome his anxieties, he moves his new makeshift family to a haunted cabin in the heart of Alaska where he’s met with hostility from the locals (he’s one of now only 2 non Native Americans in the town). The haunting in the cabin at first turns out to be a ghost hunter's dream come true, until the cold season makes an early entrance and all hell breaks loose.

Brian: Great premise! Have you ever encountered any real ghosts or supernatural phenomena? And is your novel based on any true events or do you just have an active imagination?

Hunter: I’ve actually had 2 experiences that I can’t explain. There is a part in the book that is most certainly based on one of them. Back in the 90’s, my wife was very ill and spent a year, at home, on life support. During that year, I kept seeing a boy walk past me into our room where she was in bed. I chalked it up to stress and never told her because I felt she had enough to deal with. When she got better, one day she looked at me and said, “You know, when you left for work, it was nice having that boy sit with me and keep me company.” Needless to say, I was floored and my view of life and death and the beyond has forever been changed. I couldn’t resist adding our phantom boy to the book. Aside from that, the rest is from my overactive imagination. It was an issue when I was a kid, but now it’s finally coming in handy.

Brian: A phantom boy visiting your wife's bed ... now that's spooky and at the same time it makes me wonder if spirits really do guide us to the afterlife. Speaking of children, you also write children's books under a different name. Tell me a little bit about that writing career and what got you into writing horror.

Hunter: I just kind of fell into the whole children’s writing gig. My goal was always to be a horror writer, but while waiting for a deal to come through, my agent asked me to send her any manuscripts I had in the old writer’s drawer. I had written a story for my girls when they were young and to my surprise, we sold it within 2 months to one of the top book publishers in the world. Just crazy, but I’ve found I really love writing for kids. I have several more projects completed and in the works.

Horror has always been my true love, ever since I was a small kid and got to watch scary movies from the back seat of the family car at the local drive in. The first ‘grown up’ book I ever read was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I love how horror can play with your deepest emotions and let your darkest fantasies take flight. And good horror deals with some heavy subjects as well, which is why I tackled anxiety disorder, survivor’s guilt and discrimination in Forest of Shadows.

Brian: My love of horror was first influenced by watching scary movies and reading comic books, then later as a teen I discovered the joy of reading horror fiction. What are some horror movies, books, and/or comics that influenced you most?

Hunter: I was a comic book fiend (I have a Captain America tattoo to prove it) and loved both super heroes and the different horror comics like Creepy, Ghostly Tales, and Man Thing. I read everything by Stephen King and Brian Lumley I could get my hands on. The movies that really hooked me were Dawn of the Dead, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (directed by Bob Clark of A Christmas Story fame) and An American Werewolf in London. Plus, I loved the classic monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula. I made all the famous monster models and had posters, you name it. I’ve been surrounding myself with horror all of my life.

Brian: I love all those classic movies. I saw Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things last year. Funny, I had no idea that was the same director who filmed the classic A Christmas Story. Dawn of the Dead, especially the 2006 remake, is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. In the world of horror fiction, the genre is new to Samhain Publishing. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has the experience been?

Hunter: Well, I was originally going to publish Forest of Shadows with Dorchester Publishing Leisure horror line. It had always been my dream and it almost came true. But, the company kind of fell apart, along with the deal, and the biggest part of that dream, working with editor Don D’Auria, had to be put on hold. When I heard he had joined up with Samhain and wanted my book, I jumped at the chance. To be able to be on the ground floor of a new horror line with an editor who is a legend in the business is just too good to be true. Samhain horror is going to be huge. I can feel it like a storm coming on in my arthritic shoulder.

Brian: Writing a book is such a complex exercise. Can you summarize your writing process for me?

Hunter: I hear a lot of people say you have to write every day, which is great, if you’re a full time writer with very little in the way of family or distractions. When I’m working on a project, I set weekly goals for myself. It could be a certain number of words or pages, but I always make sure it’s something attainable. What can be worse than missing the bar you set for yourself? On the first pass, I just write. I don’t worry about anything but getting the story out of my head. When it’s done, and I reward myself with a cigar and a stiff drink, I start the rewrites. This is where the hard work comes in. The story is there, and now I have to get it in shape. I’ll do as many as ten revisions before I even let anyone see what it is that’s been taking up all my time.

Brian: I know that you have a family and a day job to balance time with, how do you make time for writing? What are your work habits like?

Hunter: You know, it was very hard when my kids were small because they demanded a lot of my time and heck, I wanted to be with them. That’s part of the reason that Forest of Shadows took 4 years to write. Now that they’re teens, they understand and it’s much easier. I just make sure I set at least an hour for myself on weekdays, and as much as I need on the weekends. It takes a lot of discipline to go in that room and write after a long day, but I have a compulsion to write and I’m not happy unless I’ve gotten it in. When I’m deep into a book, I’ll even use my lunch break to work on it and any other free minute I can find in a day.

Brian: As many people will know, Samhain Publishing is named for the ancient tradition that became every horrorhead's favorite festival of Halloween. What would make for your best ever Samhain celebration?

Hunter: I actually had it a couple of years ago. We took the kids out trick or treating for about 4 hours. The weather was perfect; crisp, clear, with autumn leaves crunching under our feet. My wife and I dressed up, of course. Then we went back to the house to hand out candy and talk to the neighbors, having a few drinks, just enjoying the night. We finished it off by pouring all the spoils onto the floor while watching a slew of horror movies. It doesn’t get any better.

Brian: Hunter, thanks so much for being here. I’ve really enjoyed having you as a guest on my blog.

After talking with Hunter Shea and watching his show "Monster Men" on Youtube, I am certain this author is sure to make a name for himself. Readers, check out Hunter Shea’s new novel FOREST OF SHADOWS.
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Author Bio: Hunter Shea was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. His short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines over the years. Forest of Shadows is his first full length horror novel. His next novel with Samhain Publishing, Evil Eternal, will be out next spring. He has been a book reviewer, editor, blogger, op-ed ranter and anything else that can keep him happily ensconced in his room with his keyboard and overactive imagination. He currently lives in New York with his family and savage cat that was rescued from a shelter. He’s working hard on his next novel and can be found at http://www.huntershea.com/ where he’s always happy to hear from you.

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