Hunter Shea has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, earning my attention rather quickly with his weird western novel Hell Hole [review]. The fact that Hunter is one of the most reviewed authors on this site speaks both to my love for the man's work and also just how damn prolific he is. I haven't read all of Hunter's books just yet, but it's pretty damn close. Over the last few years, Mr. Shea has become inextricably entwined with creature features, oftentimes of the cryptozoological nature, and his particular brand of horror is all about fun. While the monsters are certainly important, the human element is equally well-crafted and vital to the success of Hunter's works.
This summer and fall, Kensington Books is releasing Hunter's One Size Eats All trilogy. Like last year's Mail Order Massacres, each title will be a stand-alone novella tied to one another by a common theme. First up is Jurassic Florida, which released this past Tuesday (you can read my review here). To mark this new release, Hunter was kind enough to join the High Fever Books blog for a few questions. Welcome to the blog, Hunter!
Favorite beer and favorite scream queen or Final Girl?
Oh man, favorite beer? It’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. For many, many moons, it was Sapporo, but lately I’m digging 914 by Yonkers Brewing. Love their place on the Hudson River, too. As for my favorite Final Girl, if we’re going old school, it’s Julie Adams from Creature From The Black Lagoon for damn sure. In more modern times, I would have to say Sharni Vinson as Erin in You’re Next. That little waif of a woman was a total bad ass.
It looks like your first published book was 2011’s Forest of Shadows, and over the last seven years you’ve built up a hell of a catalog of titles. How long were you writing prior to becoming a published author and tell us a bit about your writing process. What allows you to pump out so many consistently good and entertaining books so quickly?
I got bitten by the writing bug in the mid-90s. I spent years working on short stories, tried my hand at a couple of novellas, then dove into the deep end and wrote a romantic comedy as my first novel. I just wanted to see if I could sustain that passion and momentum for a whole book. Once I proved to myself I could, I wrote another, this one a pretty dark comedy. All of it was prep work to write my true love, horror. I didn’t want to do it until I felt I was ready. Forest of Shadows took years to write because my kids were babies at the time, and years sitting in one editor’s hands (Don D’Auria) before it got accepted. But it was worth the wait. When I’m working on a book, I try to write at least 1,000 words every day, trying to double the output on weekends. That way, I know I can get a book done and edited in 4-5 months. Novellas I attack like a sprinter. They key is to just sit my ass down and write. There are so many distractions out there, but if you want to be a working writer, you have to learn to ignore them. There’s no shortage of ideas, just time to get them all out of my head.
You don’t just write about the paranormal and cryptozoological, but you actively seek it out. In your Monster Men YouTube series, you’ve discussed all things supernatural and have taken the occasional visit to a haunted cemetery or two. Where did this fascination come from, and have you had any encounters with the supernatural? Tell us about your monster hunting!
Growing up, one of my grandmother’s was a psychic. Not the kind that had people pay her money to read their palms or tell their future. My grandfather said she would hold séances and he’d seen their table levitate a couple of times. By the time she was just grandma to me, she looked a lot like Mrs. Butterworth. She was an amazingly sweet lady who never talked about her gift. Cut to my getting married and my wife and I moved into what we now know is a haunted house. We see a boy walking around from time to time. Not like a pale ghost, but an actual boy. You get this very calming feeling when he’s around. It’s hard to describe. I’ve had several other odd experiences, including one the night my father passed, that make it impossible for me not to believe there’s more to death than just THE END. I haven’t done much monster hunting simply because there aren’t many monster sightings in lower New York. LOL But, I have gone on many, many UFO hunts in Orange County, NY.
Jurassic, Florida just came out earlier this week and revolves around the sleepy little town of Polo Springs coming under attack by enormous prehistoric iguanas. What do you have against iguanas? What made them the perfect monstrosity to base a story around in your latest creature feature?
I hate reptiles. I love animals, just not snakes and lizards. My kids have been asking for a pet iguana since they could talk. I tell them they are free to get as many iguanas as they want when they move out. My editor and I wanted to do this big, Bert I. Gordon inspired novella with giant reptiles. Watching Floridians get eaten by them just seemed like a lot of fun (no offense to Floridians – I get joy out of all people being terrorized by prehistoric beasts). Now I can tick killer giant iguanas off my writing bucket list.
Jurassic, Florida is also notable for being the first in a series of novellas for Kensington Books that are united under the One Size Eats All banner. Last summer you wrote the Mail Order Massacres novella series for them. How did these trilogies develop? What’s the creative processes like in bringing these works to life?
I have a great editor there, Gary Goldstein, who, like me, is just a big kid warped by comic books, B movies and bad television. We had so much success with the Mail Order Massacres series that we wanted to tackle a new one, but shift it from comics to nature gone wild. The original series title was Hunter Shea’s Don’t Fuck With Nature, but naturally we were turned down on that one. Gary and I trolled for stories on the Internet for inspiration. Living in NY, we read a news article about how rats were becoming resistant to rodenticide, so in comes Rattus New Yorkus. Another story about swarms of tiny iguanas got us to Jurassic Florida. The Devil’s Fingers came from I think Gary seeing a horrid picture of what they look like. Once I saw it, I ran with it. Those things look like they’re either from outer space or hell.
Over the course of your career so far, we’ve had books about Loch Ness, Orang Pendek, a megalodon, the Montauk Monster, chimera fish, and so, so much more. How do you decide what creature to feature from book to book? When you set out to write, does the creature come first, or do you develop a story around the creature first and plug in a threat? Do you have a list of cryptids you’re working your way through?
It’s crazy how I’ve fallen down this cryptid hole. And I love it. I’m a huge fan of cryptozoology, so yes, I do have a list. I always start with the monster and flesh the story out from there. Even though they’re creature features, getting the humans just right is most important to me. People don’t walk away from Loch Ness Revenge wanting more Nessie. They want more Nat and Austin and Henrik. That makes me happy. Plus, I’m just having a ball writing about all the beasties that have fascinated me since I was a kid.
What’s your personal favorite cryptid (and why)? Is there a creature you haven’t written about yet, but that you’re dying to tackle in the future?
Growing up, I was a huge Nessie lover. I wanted to move to Scotland and just live on the Loch. Back then, I loved any aquatic creature. My fascination went from sharks to whales to Nessie. Now, to me, the most fascinating cryptid and backstory belongs to the Mothman, hands down. Everyone should read John Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies. We are talking some wild, weird stuff. It wasn’t just about a winged creature terrorizing people. We’re talking ghosts, UFOs, men in black and so much more. I really have to get my butt to the annual festival this year.
You’re perhaps best known for writing really fun, humorous, off-the-wall works of horror that are high on action and adventure. But you’ve also got a few works that are more serious in tone, like We Are Always Watching. In the fall, Flame Tree Press will be releasing its first wave of horror titles, including your novel Creature, which sounds like it’s one of your more serious works with its heroine, Kate, suffering from an autoimmune disease. What can you tell us about Creature and how your own life inspired this book?
I love character driven stories, and Flame Tree gave me a golden opportunity to explore some dark and scary issues. It was very difficult to write because so much of it is drawn from my own life. My wife has a series of autoimmune diseases that have nearly taken her life more times than we can count. I took all that fear we’ve experienced and laid it out on the page. Sure, it’s set in a cottage in the Maine woods, but it’s not a teen slasher romp. I want readers not just to be scared by the antagonist, but to also understand how tenuous their own health and lives are. Nothing is more frightening than that. People who loved We Are Always Watching I think- I hope - will devour this one.
Creature also sees you working again with famed horror editor, Don D’Auria. You worked with him previously when you both were with the now defunct Samhain Publishing. How was it working with Don again?
I love Don. He was the only editor I sent my very first book to because I only wanted to work with him. And by some magical twist of fate, here we are years later, not just editor and writer, but friends. Don is great because he values the writer’s vision. If he’s chosen to work with you, it’s because he loves your work and trusts your instincts. He’s just there to tighten things up for you. It’s incredible creative freedom. With Don, I can try my hand at just about anything, so long as it hits certain marks and has characters people give a crap about. Without that, you have nothing.
Do you prefer writing the pulpy creature features, or the more serious horror novels like We Are Always Watching? Do you find one style to be more rewarding?
The more serious toned books are much, much harder to write and like all things in life, more fulfilling. It’s just a different experience. I almost feel like when I write the creature features, I’m a kid who can’t believe I get to do this for a living. When I step into a book like Creature, I have to put my big boy pants on and be an adult. Both are extremely satisfying in their own ways.
What comes next for you? Pimp away!
After Jurassic Florida, the next in the series, Rattus New Yorkus will come out in August, followed by the series ender, The Devil’s Fingers in October (just in time for Halloween!!!). Right now, I’m working on a ghost writing project that is a whole new world for me. Once that’s complete, I have a new novella for Severed Press to work on that people who dig The Thing will salivate over. Then it’s on to my next book with Don and Flame Tree. Speaking of that, I have to get the synopsis over to him!
Where can readers find you? Share you links!
FLORIDA. IT’S WHERE YOU GO TO DIE.
Welcome to Polo Springs, a sleepy little town on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a great place to live—if you don’t mind the hurricanes. Or the flooding. Or the unusual wildlife . . .
IGUANAS. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.
Maybe it’s the weather. But the whole town is overrun with the little green bastards this year. They’re causing a lot of damage. They’re eating everything in sight. And they’re just the babies . . .
HUMANS. THEY’RE WHAT’S FOR DINNER.
The mayor wants to address the iguana problem. But when Hurricane Ramona slams the coast, the town has a bigger problem on their hands. Bigger iguanas. Bigger than a double-wide. Unleashed by the storm, this razor-toothed horde of prehistoric predators rises up from the depths—and descends on the town like retirees at an early bird special. Except humans are on the menu. And it’s all you can eat . . .