Today I am excited to welcome one of my all-time favorite horror writers, Hunter Shea, to The Horror Bookshelf for an interview to celebrate the release of his latest novel Island of the Forbidden (review). We talk about Monster Men, the books in the Jessica Backman series, cryptids, new releases and a lot of other cool stuff! Also, if you have read any of the books, Hunter reveals how Island of the Forbidden almost took a much different path.
Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one signed copies of Hunter’s previous novels or an e-book! A huge thanks to Hunter for answering my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!
Aside from being a huge fan of your books, I also am a pretty avid follower of your Youtube podcast Monster Men. You and Jack do an excellent job introducing viewers to cool new books, movies and other horror related stuff. How did the idea for the show come about and do you guys have anything special coming up this year?
Jack and I used to work together and bonded over our passion for horror movies and books. When my first book was going to be published in 2011 (Forest of Shadows), we created Monster Men to help promote it. As you can see, it’s gone well beyond the scope of just promoting a single book. We’ve filmed close to 80 episodes now and have branched out into interviewing authors, cryptozoologists and even doing a ghost hunt in a cemetery. In 2015, we’re going to do much more interviews and get out in the field to show our viewers some truly spooky places.
Island of the Forbidden is the fourth story featuring Jessica Backman. Though they can be read as standalone works, did you ever imagine writing a series when you first wrote Forest of Shadows or did it happen organically?
This was never intended to be a series. When I ended Forest of Shadows, I did so pretty definitively. When Samhain asked for a third book, I got to thinking, what would become of a little girl who lived through what Jessica did in Alaska? How would that impact the course of her life? Sinister Entity was born from those questions. And from there, more questions arose. I mean, if someone can truly interact with the dead the way she and Eddie do, they’re not going to be normal, no matter how hard they try. I’m fascinated with the way our decisions alter the course of our lives. For me, as long as Jessica and Eddie have their abilities, I’m going to keep writing about them and watch them evolve.
Jessica is the only character that appears in all of the books, but Eddie’s story also plays a major role in Sinister Entity and Island of the Forbidden. How did you get the inspiration to incorporate a character like Eddie?
I was reading about a famous spiritualist, D.D. Home. He was the only psychic/spiritualist to have confounded the professional debunkers. I get the impression that if psychic powers are real, Home was our proof. Witnesses even watched him levitate out a multi-story window and float back in another. Accounts of what he was able to do will raise the hair on your arms. I started to think, what if these abilities are genetic? Would they wax and wane with each successive generation? Eddie in the books is a direct descendant of D.D. Home, a guy who just may be equal to the greatest spiritualist the world has ever seen. If he can communicate with the dead as easily as we do the living, imagine what would ensue if he somehow came into contact with Jessica, who unwittingly draws the dead to her and can banish them to a place neither of them can see? Talk about power couples, they’re it.
I know writers tend to become attached to their characters, so was it difficult for you to place Jessica and Eddie in dangerous situations?
Not at all. In fact, it’s fun. That’s when their true personalities come out. And I’m never sure what I’m going to do with them in the end. I realized midway through Island of the Forbidden that my subconscious was setting things up to kill Jessica. I had to pull back a bit and move the story a little to the left. Ormsby Island is a very dangerous place for people like Jessica and Eddie. They’re just two broken people surrounded by over 100 royally pissed off spirits. It was easy to imagine them being drawn under to a place of no return. But that would have been too easy. The power in the story is seeing how they face what is an unimaginable situation without buckling under.
Ormsby Island is a perfect setting for a ghost story. It has a dark history that has made it a legend among the locals in the novel and is completely cut off from the outside world. The description of the island and the house definitely gave me the chills! Was there any real world inspiration behind Ormsby Island?
When I set out to write the book, I wanted Jessica and Eddie to have put themselves in a kind of forced isolation – cutting themselves off from friends and family, even ignoring the pleading of the dead. For them at that moment, it seemed like the safe place to be. Now, let’s draw them to a location that is physically isolated. All possible lifelines are utterly cut off. If you’re like Jessica who likes to profess that she has no fear, that’s going to be thrown out the window in short order. Through that isolation comes a realization that you need to be a part of something larger than yourself – if you can survive.
What I like about the books in the series is that it shows a very realistic portrayal of how the events of the books would impact the characters. It seems like with each situation they find themselves in, Jessica and Eddie find themselves questioning their skills as well as themselves. Was that an important element for you while you were writing the books, to show that journey?
Exactly! That’s the impetus that compels me to write about them. The ghosts and hauntings are secondary. I want to explore the real impact interacting so closely with the dead can have on the living. I really don’t think it’s like the guys in a show like Ghost Adventures who seem to try to draw spirits into a bar brawl, then pick up and leave, moving on to the next haunted location as if nothing happened. To see beyond the veil has to rock you to your core. It would change you in an instant. From that point on, a conventional life is going to be pretty out of reach. Jessica and Eddie’s journey is what the whole series is about. The fact that I can add some scares along the way is gravy.
Eddie and Jessica both have a very unique approach to how they handle the situations they encounter in the books. How do you think their strengths benefit each other?
They’re the embodiment of yin and yang. Their personalities clash, but that’s good. Jessica is brash, impetuous, defiant, wielding powers that she has no control over. Eddie in introspective, reticent, but braver than he thinks he is. He knows every nook and cranny of his abilities, thanks to his stint with the Rhine Research Center (an actual psychical research facility near Duke University). Alone, each will eventually step into something they can’t get out of. Together, by feeding off one another, they can succeed against impossible odds. They need each other more than they care to admit.
A few of your books feature cryptids (The Montauk Monster, Swamp Monster Massacre) and you talk about your interest in them quite a bit. What is your favorite, least recognized cryptid? How did your interest in cryptids and the paranormal begin?
I find myself becoming more and more entranced by the world of cryptozoology. I’ve always been a huge monster fan – hence the Monster Men – but imagine if some of those monsters are real? And living close by? I get goosebumps just thinking about it. One of my favorites has become The Dover Demon, so much so that I wrote a book about it that will come out in the fall of 2015. Is it an alien or an earthbound creature? The veracity of the witnesses is what makes it so intriguing. I owe huge thanks to Loren Coleman, cryptozoologist and owner of the International Cryptozoology Museum, for getting me hooked on The Dover Demon. It’s a really strange and chilling creature. We’re talking about what people today would call a gray alien years before it became an iconic image.
What is a typical day of writing like for you?
On weekdays, I try to get in an hour or so a night, after work and dinner and hanging out with the family. On weekends, like right now when I’m answering your awesome questions, I’ll get a few hours in in the morning. The key is to just keep moving forward. You’re not always going to hit the goal you set for the day, but that’s all right. If I get in 250 words instead of 1,000, so be it. I know I’m going to have another day down the line where my fingers are flying over the keyboard.
What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?
My father used to watch horror and scifi movies with me when I was a kid barely tall enough to turn the knob on a door. We watched all of the Universal monster movies, then the nuclear powered beasts of the 50s, and the straight up terrifying tales of the 70s. The odd thing was, I wasn’t scared. I loved watching them! Then he introduced me to this little known guy (at the time) called Stephen King and that was it. Stick in the fork, I was done. Horror hasn’t left my side since I was about 5. I’m a little jaded now, and it takes a lot to freak me out, but man, when something does, it’s like the greatest high ever. The movie Sinister did that to me most recently. It’s harder with books, I think, because I know how the sausage is made.
What horror novel has had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers?
Stephen King’s Night Shift was my first ever horror read, and I can honestly say it shaped who I was to become. To me, that is the perfect short story collection. There are so many modern horror writers doing amazing work, and some of them don’t get the recognition they deserve. Here are some of my favorites: Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, Jonathan Janz, Jack Ketchum, Brian Moreland, Joe Lansdale, Mary SanGiovanni, David Bernstein, Keith Rommel, Nick Cutter. I could go on and on. Hollywood, wake up! You want to make great movies? Read a book by one of these guys, and lady.
If you could choose any writer to collaborate with, who would you choose and why?
I’ve talked to Jonathan Janz about writing something together. We just need the time. I think we have a similar style and definitely have a lot of the same passions. Most importantly, we get along and really like and respect one another. Without that, I don’t think it’s possible to collaborate. We could create something truly dark and disturbing together. I’ve also been talking to Keith Rommel about a joint project. He’s just a great guy and such an intuitive writer. I’d create the monsters and he’d dive into the psyche of our characters.
What other stories are you currently working on?
I’m working on a new cryptid novel for Pinnacle. If all goes well, it should come out in 2016. I’m also putting the touches on a very nasty little novella for Samhain. Once summer hits, I have an idea for a Bigfoot book that’s never been explored before. I can’t wait to start that. I’m also contemplating self publishing a middle grade horror series. The first book is already written and I’m going to talk to a close friend about doing some illustrations. Fingers crossed.
Thanks for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Hunter, I am definitely excited to read your other releases this year!
Thank you so much for having me and for your wonderful reviews of my books!
Enter to win one of five Hunter Shea books being given away! Two signed copies of Montauk Monster, one signed copy of Sinister Entity, and two e-books of choice of his titles are up for grabs! One book to each winner, given in order of random drawing. Enter to win at the Rafflecopter link. Must use valid email that winners can be contacted by. Print books are U.S. residents only. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Any questions, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at email@example.com.
About Hunter Shea
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.
The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster was published by Kensington/Pinnacle. His second Kensington novel, Tortures of the Damned, will be published later this year.
He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls.
His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.
He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.
Raves for Hunter Shea
Forest of Shadows
“A frightening, gripping story that left me too frightened to sleep with the lights off. This novel scared the hell out of me and it is definitely a creepy ghost story I won’t soon forget.” —Night Owl Reviews
“This is the real deal. The fear is palpable. Horror novels don’t get much better than this.” —Literal Remains
“. . .Culminates in a climactic showdown between human and spirit that keeps you glued to the pages!” —Horror Novel Reviews
“Hunter Shea has crafted another knockout. At turns epic and intimate, both savage and elegant. . .a harrowing, blood-soaked nightmare.” –Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows
Swamp Monster Massacre
“If you’re craving an old-school creature-feature that has excessive gore. . .B-horror movie fans rejoice, Hunter Shea is here to bring you the ultimate tale of terror!” —Horror Novel Reviews