Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pick Six with Hunter Shea

"Pick Six with ________" is a variation on the traditional interview, as the subject gets to choose whichever six questions he/she would like to answer from a list of nearly forty items (questions and prompts pertaining to the writer's own work, as well as his/her thoughts on the world of horror).

Hunter Shea was born and raised in the Bronx, New York.  His short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines over the years.  Forest of Shadows, his first horror novel, will be published this October by Samhain Publishing; his second novel, Evil Eternal, will be out in spring 2012.  Hunter has been a book editor, reviewer, blogger, op-ed ranter and anything else that can keep him happily ensconced in his room with his keyboard and his overactive imagination.  He currently lives in New York with his family and a savage cat that was rescued from a shelter.  He's working hard on his next novel and can be found at, where he's always happy to hear from you.

Here are the six questions Hunter picked:

1.Which person in your life has had the biggest influence on your writing career?

First, I have my parents to thank for getting me hooked on reading, even if it was comic books, the back of a cereal box, you name it (and for not stopping me from reading Stephen King when I was still years away from growing my first pubic hair).  I truly believe that you cannot strive to be a writer without a love of reading.  The real desire to become a writer was planted by my good friend Norm Hendricks.  We were working a complete crap job for the phone company, a place where dreams went to die.  At the time, he was writing a novel and I was just blown away by his passion and dedication.  I'd never met someone before who was actually writing a book.  This was stuff for professors with pipes and smoking jackets, right?  With his guidance, I took it up, both as a creative outlet and something to aspire to, because I did not want to work in an office all my life.  Norm and I have very similar tastes and sensibilities, so it's fantastic to have him as a mentor.  We both write and share in each other's successes, and he continues to influence me.  I'm reading his latest work, The Forgotten Sleeper, and I'll see the way he turns a phrase and say, "Damn, that was good.  You have to strive to write like that."

2.What is the best writing advice you ever received?

I went to a writer's conference in New York in the late 90's and was fortunate enough to get some alone time with one of the biggest agents in the industry.  He told me two things: first, if you want to be a real writer, someone who gets paid and published, you have to work at it like it's a full-time career, and never, ever give up.  There will be plenty of times when you'll want to throw in the towel.  Don't.  Keep pressing, keep working, and it will come.  I've heeded that advice for close to thirteen years and I'm living proof that he was right.  The second piece of advice was to look into what was going on with the Internet.  At the time, it was a brave new world.  No one was even sure what to do with the Internet in terms of serious writing and reading.  The Internet became a great training ground for me, and I published work in paying and non-paying online magazines.  It gave me writing goals, mini successes, and helped get my name out there.

3.What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you at a book signing?

Oh boy.  Now this isn't exactly my worst book signing (the one at a B&N on the Fourth of July--where no one was around to even look at me--holds that title), but it was the strangest and, in retrospect, the funniest.  I had a signing at a B&N in the Bronx where I was told I was just going to sit behind a table and sign books.  When I got there, they had set up a podium and about forty chairs and I was supposed to do a reading.  To say I was unprepared is like saying the economy is struggling a wee bit.  The only people who were there to hear me read were my wife and her friend.  A good portion of the other chairs were taken by a dozen very sick-looking people who turned out to be a hepatitis support group.  They gazed at me like I was a public nuisance and I was completely distracted by their conversation.  They seriously did not look well, and I could only imagine how trivial my little book seemed to them.  I stammered my way through a few minutes, then promptly sat down.  The B&N folks looked at me wondering why I didn't feel compelled to talk for an hour.  I sold one whole book that night, to a family friend who came just before I left.  It was a total disaster in every sense of the word.

4.What is your greatest phobia?

I'm not very original with this, but I have a fear of flying.  It's made worse by the fact that I have a job that requires me to fly several times a year.  I know it's a whole control issue thing, but I just can't shake it.  And, the more I fly, the worse it seems to get.   Maybe if I had five picture-perfect flights in a row, it might lessen.  Dare to dream.

5.What do you consider the most disturbing scene you have ever watched in a horror film?

I've been watching horror movies since I was in a cradle, so I'm pretty jaded.  Don't get me wrong, I love horror movies above all others, but it takes a hell of a lot to frighten or disturb me.  That is, until The Human Centipede came along.  When the crazy doctor had connected the trio, ass-to-mouth, and was shouting at the poor guy in the front to feed the woman attached to his rectum, I actually cringed.  That scene wasn't necessarily graphic, but just the thought of what was going on was enough to make me lose my lunch.  I guess what made it even more palpable was that I felt there was a remote possibility some total nut job with a medical degree could pull this off.  It's the monster inside men that scares me most.

6.What did you enjoy most about writing your latest book?

Forest of Shadows took me just under four years to complete.  It was long, grueling work, the largest book I had ever attempted to write.  It originally came in at over 500 pages.  As I was writing it, I thought I was putting a little bit of myself into the story.  As I neared the end, I had a moment of absolute self-discovery.  Without consciously realizing it, I had completely filled those pages with my fears, fantasies hopes, love and hate.  Life wasn't easy when I started it, and I put a lot of things I wanted to get away from into it, delving into a character who was living at least part of his life the way I wanted.  Going into the rewrites was a kind of therapy where I got to know myself better through the people and situations I had typed into my computer.  When you're writing and in a zone, it can take you to places you never imagined or intended.  Somehow, I stayed in that zone for four years and the payoff was far greater than just having a published novel.  For the first time in my adult life, I had come to terms with myself, and I had managed to write a novel I was very proud of, to boot.

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