The October festival of Samhain sees the veil between worlds growing thinner. What better time then to break the veil between horror author blogs and bring you a special guest interview with Hunter Shea. His paranormal horror ‘Forest of Shadows‘ is out now from Samhain Horror. Take it away Hunter!
Your novel ‘Forest of Shadows’ debuts as part of the Samhain Horror line this October. Can you tell us about the novel and the inspiration behind it?
Hunter Shea: Forest of Shadows is about a man who wins the lottery on the same day his wife dies in her sleep. The bulk of the story picks up 5 years after the eventful day and we see John, the main character, as a man plagued by deep anxieties who has used his financial freedom to delve into the paranormal. He’s been raising his daughter with the help of Eve, a family friend with an infant of her own. When he hears about a haunted cabin in Alaska, he uses it as the springboard to move on with his life and start a new chapter, so he moves his makeshift family into the literal middle of nowhere. Of course, he gets much more than he bargained for as the cold season approaches and the cabin is beset by every type of haunting known to man. He’s forced to face his deepest fears in a situation that could mean life or death.
When writing Forest of Shadows, I had a strong desire to do more than just write a simple ghost story. I wanted to tackle heavy issues like death and mourning, survivor’s guilt, anxiety disorders, and even discrimination. A haunted man, to me, is always a more fascinating subject than a haunted house, though there’s plenty of that in there as well.
A recent podcast on your website featured your overnight stay on a haunted ship. Care to reveal more about your clear fascination with the paranormal?
HS: That night on the Queen Mary, was, if anything, a total blast. I blame Leonard Nimoy and his creepy narration on In Search Of for my obsession with the paranormal. I hung on every word and image when I was a kid. Of course, I also devoured episodes of The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, you name it. My grandmother was, according to the family, a psychic, and I’ve been surrounded by people who believe there’s more around us than we can see. In fact, I’ve had two startling experiences of my own that have kind of changed my view on death and what lies beyond. One experience lasted for almost a year and involved a phantom boy that ran about my house and watched over my wife when she was very ill and on life support (she’s well now, in case anyone was wondering). Another happened briefly in a hotel room in Spain that scared the crap out of me. I used to say I like to think there are ghosts because that just makes the world a more interesting place. Now I say I know there are ghosts, and the quest for answers has only begun.
Samhain Publishing is a new player in the horror literature field. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has it been working with them?
HS: Forest of Shadows was initially offered a contract with Dorchester Publishing’s Leisure horror line. They and their editor, the amazing Don D’Auria, were, for my money, the gold standard of horror publishing. I only sent the book to Don and waited years to see if it made it out of the slush pile. I had no agent at the time and decided to take a gamble. Unlike most gambles in my life, it paid off, but the timing was horrible. Leisure imploded last year and Don left the company. Thankfully, the contract was never signed. My agent and I sat patiently, working on other things, and were thrilled when Don landed at Samhain and asked if he could publish the book with the new horror line he was developing. Everyone there has been a wonder to work with. I couldn’t ask for more. They have put together a great team and they are committed to promoting this line so much that other authors at other houses I’ve spoken to are quite envious. I have a strong feeling people are going to be banging on their doors wanting to get in in very short order.
|Hunter Shea – playin’ solitaire
at the back o’ the spook shack!
The spooky shack in the Forest of Shadows is open for business. Inside, on the table is a ouija board. Around the table are 6 chairs. Who’s invited, and why?
HS: I’m going to absent myself because I refuse to mess with the things. I’ll be in the corner playing solitaire. If I could invite anyone, I might as well assemble a group that will help prove or disprove the validity of the ouija board. So, I’d first get someone who is tops in the paranormal field, like, say, Alexandra Holzer (daughter of Hans Holzer). I’d invite three of the top scientists in the world today. It’s funny, all of these paranormal groups talk about wanting to take a scientific approach to the field, but no one is an actual scientist. Next, I’d add Stephen King to the mix, just because I’d love to see what book it inspires. Finally, I’d invite the CEO of Hasbro, who sells ouija boards in toy stores, to show him he’s either marketing something that’s dangerous or he’s selling kids on a line of b.s.
Another of your recent podcasts discussed the vampire subgenre, including your honest opinion on “sparkly” vampires. Where do you feel horror stands nowadays and what does your crystal ball predict for the genre’s future?
HS: I admit that horror, especially in literature, has been in a bit of a downswing. It was enormously popular in the 1980s, but then the bookstores were flooded with a lot of crap because publishers had to scoop up whatever they could to meet the demand. Leisure horror brought it back in the mid 90s, and it’s tailed off a bit the last few years. I do think we’re ready for another upswing as a ton of top notch authors are putting work out with myriad smaller publishers, who will only get bigger thanks to their new posse of writers. Horror for YA is huge right now, but I feel that will tail off a bit over the next few years. I hear YA publishers are looking for dystopian stories now. Some people say werewolves will be the next big thing. That would be cool. We’ve cycled through vampires and zombies. Personally, I’d like to see more original monster books and movies. All in all, I think it will thrive. There are too many people who love horror (just go to a horror convention and see for yourself) and too many talented men and women working in the field for it not to be successful.
What is your favorite work of fiction (horror or otherwise) and why?
HS: I love Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden because of its complete raw look at the disintegration of a love triangle gone to flames. It’s a powerful, painful, despondent work. I also read his novel, A Moveable Feast, every year as a sort of inspiration for myself to keep writing. With horror, I think Robert McCammon’s Swan Song is nothing short of brilliant.
|suffering for his art
Please give us an insight into the journey behind your recent tattoo (the words “Never give up” with an image of a quill pen).
HS: Ah, my newest ink. It had been a few years since my last tattoo and I wanted this one to commemorate my book. I kept thinking, what writerly type image will work here? I type on a laptop, but I sure as hell don’t want a laptop tattoo. So I went traditional with the quill pen, but to show my love of horror, we added a skull at the top, made it black and orange and put my initials in the pen itself. The words “Never Give Up” have been my motto all these years working at the craft of writing, many of the earlier years filled with nothing but failure and obstacles. I truly believe what separates the successful author from the one who never ‘makes it’ is sheer determination. You have to tirelessly work, learn and improve if you want to succeed in this field. Like Alex Baldwin said, coffee is for closers, and dammit, I wanted my coffee!
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?
HS: Have you ever seen the movie Trick ‘r Treat? They have an awesome Halloween parade in the town and every house is decorated to the max. That would be fun to do with the family. When it’s time for the adults, I’d like to pick a different haunted location each year and explore (that is, after a few cocktails and a round of ghost stories). Then we head back to my place for a party and classic horror movie marathon, with Elvira hosting the event in the wonderful flesh! On Samhain, you should have fun, get scared and let your freak flag fly.
Thanks to Hunter Shea and all at Samhain Horror.
Be sure to check out Hunter’s novel ‘Forest of Shadows‘!
Look out for more Samhain treats around the publication of my novel ‘The Lamplighters‘ on 1st Nov ~ and here’s to a happy, haunty Hallowe’en for all!