Author, Hunter Shea graciously took time to answer questions about the characters, and inspiration behind his latest horror novels The Dover Demon and Tortures of the Damned.
The Dover Demon is available NOW from Samhain Publishing, while Tortures of the Damned is available NOW from Pinnacle Books. Both are available via Amazon and major online booksellers.
Francis Xavier: What is the first line from the Dover Demon?
Hunter Shea: On the nights of April 21st and 22nd, 1977, the town of Dover, Massachusetts played host to an unexplained creature that skulked along its darkened roads and piney woods.
FX: What inspired Dover Demon?
HS: Monster tales and cryptozoology are two of my passions. When I visited the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME, I met the owner, world renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. If a creature has popped its head up anywhere over the past 40 years, Loren has been there investigating. We got to talking about a book I was working on called The Montauk Monster and kept in touch after I went back home to New York. I picked up a few of his books while I was there and asked him what cryptid would make for an interesting book. I wanted it to be one that hasn’t gotten a ton of press, like Bigfoot or the chupacabra. He pointed me to the Dover Demon, which turned out to be one of the strangest creatures he’s ever investigated (and he was the one to coin its name). As I researched the actual sightings, I was hooked. Here was something that straddled the line between extraterrestrial and earthbound creature of unknown origin. I wanted to expose my readers to the true tale, then add my own unique spin on what it was and how it impacted the lives of the teens who saw it 38 years ago.
FX: Three words to describe your writing?
HS: Non-stop thrill ride!
FX: Which part of Dover Demon challenged you the most?
HS: Deciding which side of the fence to land on when it came to explaining what the Dover Demon was…and still is. If I went the E.T. route, the story would go one way, with the terrestrial cryptid route taking it in an entirely different direction. Once I resolved what I wanted it to be, the tale took off from there. People have been pleasantly surprised by my version of the nature of the Demon. When I dive into a cryptid story, I like to add elements that haven’t been introduced before. Old beasts need a new spin if you’re going to entertain people and, if you hit it just right, make them question their reality.
FX: How would you compare the experiences of writing Dover Demon with Tortures of the Damned?
HS: Those are two very different books, but at the core, they’re both about a family facing the impossible and having to overcome paralyzing fear in order to survive. Because I’m a monster geek, when I write books like The Dover Demon, I feel like I’m tapping into my young teen self – the kid surrounded by Famous Monsters magazines, bootleg copies of In Search Of and pages carefully torn from Fangoria on the walls. I’m having a blast introducing a lesser known creature and trying to scare myself as I write. Tortures of the Damned was me facing the fear we all have in an unstable world – what happens if terrorists attack again, this time with widespread, dire consequences? I also tried something different with Tortures, writing short chapters, ending each on a cliffhanger to keep the reader’s pulse racing. I know mine was while I worked on it! There were times I absolutely needed a drink to settle down.
FX: Which of the characters in Tortures of the Damned do you most identify with?
HS: I felt closest to the 14 year old son, Max Padilla, of all people. I wasn’t big like him as a kid, but I had a period where I was full of p*ss and vinegar and mad at the world. There’s nothing quite like teen angst. In this PC world, it can work against a kid. But when everything goes to hell, that inner fire just might save your life.
FX: What did you learn about yourself as a writer while working on Dover Demon?
HS: I lost my father a couple of years ago, and I wanted the heart of the book to be about this incredible bond between a father and son. They’re far from perfect, and they made some zigs when they should have zagged, but all that matters is that they have each other. It was tough, but I also felt my father standing over me when I wrote their scenes. There’s a lot of us in there, and some things on my wish list when I was a kid, like having my father buy a comic book store for us both to run. It was comforting and sad at the same time, but that’s the thing. If you want to write believable characters, you have to bleed a little on the pages.
FX: What elements make for good horror fiction?
HS: It’s about the characters. Like when I write a ghost story, the focus isn’t on the ghost. It’s on the people who experience it and how it changes their perspective. If you can’t identify with them or cheer for them, an apparition rocking their world will mean nothing to you. You also need a damn creepy antagonist that has a measure of familiarity and a heavy dose of the bizarre and pure terror. Putting your characters in vulnerable positions from time to time really amps up the scares. If you’re going to write horror, make sure you read a lot of horror. You’ll know what works for you as a reader. The key is to take that with you when you sit down to write.
FX: What are your thoughts on genre blending in works of fiction?
HS: Writing is art and there should be no boundaries for expression. Joe Lansdale is a master at blending genres. In Zeppelins West, he expertly blended western with horror, sci-fi and comedy. It was pure genius, like nothing I’d ever read before and more entertaining than anything I’d read that year. That said, it’s harder to find a publisher when you mix genres, but if that’s the story you’re dying to tell, go ahead and write it. If it’s good, it’ll find a home.
FX: Where can my readers find more about you and your work online?
HS: The best place to go is my website, www.huntershea.com. You can find information and links to all my books, social media, newsletter, video podcasts and blog. Everything thing is there but my baby pictures.
1. Favorite horror writer?
2. Favorite movie?
A. The Big Lebowski. For horror, Alien.
3. What scares you?
A. Anything that can rob my family of their health.
4. What’s one word you overuse?
A. Awesome. And I’m not from California or was ever a surfer. If you ask my wife, it’s f*ck. My excuse is that I’m a New Yorker. It’s mandatory to use it liberally.
5. Favorite place to write?
A. Lately, my kitchen table.
6. Title of your first published work?
A. Forest of Shadows. It was one of the 6 novels featured in Samhain’s horror line when it premiered.
7. What book do you wish you wrote?
A. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
8. What are you currently reading?
A. Tribesmen by Adam Cesare, a gory love letter to Italian exploitation films.
9. Coffee or tea?
A. Decaf green tea with one sugar, and only on cold days.
10. Favorite color?
A. Black. I know, shocker.
11. Beer or wine?
A. Beer. Lord, I love my beer.