All right, Ragers. As promised yesterday, here is my conversation with Hunter Shea. It was a rare, but welcomed, opportunity to pick a brain that could produce such twisted goodies as The Montauk Monster, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, and Evil Eternal. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Hunter Shea is that, unlike most authors, doing his research for a book does not stop at what he can find online or in print. Shea pushes the boundaries of what is safe, and often sane, in order to experience the true horrors in life. Check out what he had to say when he sat down with me to talk all things horror.
Ira Gansler: What is your earliest horror memory?
Hunter Shea: My father used to let me stay up and watch old monster and sci-fi movies on the weekends. He learned early on that movies didn’t scare me or give me nightmares, so I was his sidekick for Chiller Theatre. The first movie I can recall was one with these trees that came to life and kidnapped a woman. The movie is called From Hell it Came. It’s truly awful, but in all the right ways.
IG: Where do you find the biggest inspiration for your writing?
HS: Growing up fully immersed in all things horror, I find inspiration everywhere I turn. Great movies and books inspire me to sit down and write. Seeing the pride on the faces of my wife and daughters keeps my butt in the chair tapping away on my keyboard. The ideas for my stories come from everywhere : the news, dreams, long drives to work, the odd turn of a phrase. The problem for me has always been finding the time to write down the ideas that flit through my brain.
IG: If you could have one film of yours turned into a movie, which one would it be and why?
HS: Oh man, that’s a tough one. I’d love to see The Montauk Monster on the screen because, to me, it’s such a big book. I don’t mean big in terms of pages, but in the level of absolute mayhem. It would need to have a good budget behind it so it looks and plays out right. I think The Waiting could give people some serious misgivings about looking into the shadows of their homes. Quiet, tension-building horror always has a place in film. No CGI needed for that one.
IG: Which do you find scarier, ghosts or monsters?
HS: Hands down, ghosts. You know why? Because they exist. I don’t know what the hell they are, but they’re here whether people want to admit it or not. I’ve seen a ghost. I live with one. I’ve never seen a monster (though I would love to!). If anyone wants to take me squatching, give me a shout.
IG: As someone who does so much real-life investigation of scary things all around him, what is the most frightening experience you have ever had in the name of research?
HS: I think being the only person on my side of the Queen Mary after doing an intense ghost investigation where we were communicating with something from the other side wins that one. I was fine when I was just one of a dozen people traipsing through the old engine rooms and pool in the pitch black. At one point, a teen in the crew placed a flashlight on a table and it would turn on and off in answer to our yes and no questions. When we were done, the flashlight was ice cold. Very strange. Going back up to bed after midnight knowing no one was anywhere near me was…unsettling to say the least.
IG: What authors would you consider to be “must read” for horror fans?
HS: Any horror fan needs to pick up everything they can by Robert McCammon, Richard Matheson, Jack Ketchum and M.R. James. You can’t go wrong with anything they’ve written. Oh, and don’t forget that King guy.
IG: If you were to be stranded on a deserted island, what three books would you hope to have with you?
HS: OK, if I’m stranded, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I need 3 big books to keep me company. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon, The Stand by Stephen King and Curfew by Phil Rickman.
IG: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but you do leave the ending to The Montauk Monster somewhat open. Any chance of a follow-up?
HS: My editor wanted me to leave the story a little open ended. My original ending was, believe it or not, much darker and very final. We figured we’d see what the reaction would be and decide if we’d go with a sequel. So far, everything has been better than we could have dreamed, so I hope to get a chance to dive right back into that shadowy, monstrous world.
IG: Horror, like any other type of entertainment, seems to go in cycles. In my lifetime, I feel like it has been slashers and serial killers, then vampires, and now zombies. What would you hope to see next?
HS: I can tell you what I’m starting to see as the next wave : witches. I think by this time next year, you’re going to see a lot of books and TV series and movies that involve witchcraft. I think that’s great, even though I’m personally not into them, well, other than Charmed.
IG: How do you manage to keep your ideas original and fresh when so much of horror seems to be going in the direction of remakes and rehashed story lines?
HS: Seeing all the remakes compels me to take my stories in places where others haven’t gone. Look, everything’s been done. A writer’s job is to take a concept and give it their own unique twist. I see everyday things in a different way. You can verify that with my family. So when I see Bigfoot, I look at more than just a hairy beast in the woods. I see vengeful cryptid families who use live alligators as weapons. When I first viewed pictures of the strange animal that washed up dead on a Montauk beach, I dreamt up a town invaded by living beasts from your worst nightmare. I’m just glad I got to exorcise that particular story and cram it in a book.
IG: Do you think there is such a thing as “going too far” in horror?
HS: In a word, nope. Horror is about bursting through our boundaries and facing the things we’d rather not even think about. Anything that elicits a reaction, even if it’s absolute disgust, is fair game. Check out some of the truly great and strange work in Bizarro horror to see what I mean. I strongly urge people to read Apeshit or Razor Wire Pubic Hair by Carlton Mellick. I envy his imagination and guts.
IG: There seems to be a push lately to provide “trigger warnings” about things that people may find overly disturbing or upsetting. What is your view on this as an author and as a fan?
HS: We’re getting dangerously weak and touchy as a society. If you need a warning, there are plenty of old episodes of Barney you can watch or My Little Pony picture books. Maybe horror isn’t for you.
IG: Well, thank you for your time, Hunter. It has been a pleasure to talk to you. One final question that all Rage Circus guests get to answer. In your view, what is horror?
HS: Horror is a feeling, a twinge in the gut, an emotion that leads to a physical reaction. It doesn’t have to come from monsters and ghosts and serial killers. I just read about yet another child that died in a locked car because his criminally stupid father left him locked into his child seat in the summer heat. The feeling that punched me in my soul when I read that is true, unflinching horror.
If you want a further glimpse into the dark mind of Hunter Shea, you can follow his page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/huntershea1 or Twitter @huntershea1. You can also check out his website at www.huntershea.com.