Hunter Shea is the author of the novels Forest of Shadows and Evil Eternal, Swamp Monster Massacre and the upcoming Sinister Entity. His stories have 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 Monster Men video podcast, a fun look at the world of horror.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The very first book I ever attempted to write (and finish) was so far from what I do now that people who know me and my work find it hard to believe. During the mid-90s, my wife was very, very sick and spent the better part of 2 years in the hospital and on life support. Writing became a way for me to escape the stress of everyday life and my chance to inhabit a world where things looked much, much brighter. So, I actually ended up writing a romantic comedy that was at turns corny, sappy, but at others crazy and funny. It was very therapeutic and I wrote the last chapter at the same time my wife was given a clean bill of health. Occasionally I’ll go back and read bits of it and I’m surprisingly not horrified, which makes me think I may have to do another one in the future.
What books have influenced your life the most?
Growing up a little horror hound, I absorbed any horror book I could find. Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and The Stand made me want to be a horror writer when I got older, if the whole radio DJ or Playboy photographer thing didn’t work out. They didn’t. The Sun Also Rises is as much a learning tool for how to write as it is an incredible story. I re-read Hemingway books every year so I can sharpen my own skills. Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series solidified my love of horror fiction and showed me how you can create stories on a grand scale that can live within a reader for a lifetime.
What are your current projects?
My current novella is called Swamp Monster Massacre, a battle between a small time crook, his tourist hostages and blood thirsty skunk apes in the Everglades swamps. I wanted to combine a B monster flick with a crime noir novel and just have fun with it. I’ve always been a big fan of the whole Bigfoot legend, so this was my chance to live in that world for a bit. Next up in April is the sequel to Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity. I’m working on being the ‘ghost guy’ at Samhain Publishing. Those two books follow the exploits of amateur ghost hunters who have a tendency to get in way over their heads. I’m also working on putting out a small collection of short stories soon just to give folks something to read between novels. All work and no play…
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The only thing I might change is the amount of time I took to write it. I had an insanely tight deadline that I saw as a personal challenge, so I couldn’t say no. I never had more fun writing a book, but some extra time to catch my breath would have been nice. Although, there is a chance that the pacing of the book wouldn’t have matched the frantic pace I had to maintain to write it, so it could change the entire story. Hmmm. OK, maybe I wouldn’t change anything after all.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That the titles I come up for my books aren’t good (laughing). With the Exception of Swamp Monster Massacre, all of the titles to my other books have been changed drastically. I have a very supportive team between my agent and my editor and they do a great job handling the fragile writer’s ego. But I take criticism very well and never personally, so when they suggest changes, I’m happy to do them if they improve the story. After years and years of rejection, you develop a callous to criticism. Writing isn’t for the weak or the sensitive.
What has been the best compliment?
Positive feedback from readers always makes my day. My book Forest of Shadows takes place mostly in Alaska. So many people asked me how long I lived there because I nailed it when I described the terrain and living in the interior. The truth is, I’ve never been to Alaska, but have always wanted to visit. That showed that my research paid off and gave the book an authentic feel.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Never, ever give up. The road to becoming a writer is long and arduous and you’re going to get more rejection than Peter Griffin at a super model party. You’ll get bad advice from well-intentioned people that could easily stall or kill your dreams. Follow your heart, read, write and do your homework.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I guess it would have to be my sense of humor. I look for the comedic silver lining in everything. It’s hard for me not to make my horror novels comedies, because no matter the situation, the joke or sarcasms is always at the tip of my tongue. I remember an Ed Asner movie where he was dying until he decided that laughter truly was the best medicine. He got better by watching The Three Stooges or something. So now I’ve devoted my life to the Ed Asner way.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
That I wasn’t born a billionaire. I wouldn’t be one for long, though. It’d be too much fun making millionaires all over the place. Truthfully, it’s probably the way I’ll pull inward when things get tough and keep a jokey exterior so I can keep others from my own pain. Most of us do this, which is why antacids sell so well. I’m working on this and haven’t had a Tums in months.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Swamp Monster Massacre has gotten a lot of great feedback and has me swimming into the deeper end of the Bigfoot pool. I’ll be doing more about our hairy cousins on my Monster Men video podcast and would love to go on an actual Bigfoot hunt some day. It’s safe to say you all haven’t seen the last of my skunk apes. I pride myself on being a writer of the paranormal who lives it as much as I write about it. I’m ready to be my squatch on any time.