Once again, we have another great interview. This week, the one and only Hunter Shea drops by to talk about his new book, The Jersey Devil, advice for writers, and other fun stuff. Followers of the blog will know I’ve read Hunter’s latest monster masterpiece and enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s completely insane! And I mean that in the best possible way. The Jersey Devil is now available wherever books are sold. Go grab yourself a copy!
Enjoy the interview!
TIM MEYER: Hey, Hunter! Your newest book, The Jersey Devil, is one of my favorite releases this year. And it’s been a hell of a year for horror fiction. Before we get started, tell everyone a little about your version of the Jersey Devil.
HUNTER SHEA: Howdy Tim! Thank you for having me. Well, you know me. My monsters can never follow the traditional legend. I like to take mine up to 11. This book is set in present day NJ, deep in the Pine Barrens. Just like in real life, sightings of that old Devil have been tailing off for decades, until now! Enter the Willet family, three generations of farmers who had an axe to grind with the pride of Momma Leeds. Unlike most books where everyone is running from the monster, the Willets run to it. And, of course, I can’t make just one Jersey Devil. Expect a lot of bad stuff to go down.
TM: I live about forty minutes from Leeds Point, so I’m familiar with many of the places referenced in the book. The Pine Barrens. Smithville. The good ole Garden State Parkway. Did you visit the area to get a sense of the land? Or, much like I do, did you “Google Maps” it?
HS: My brother in law, who’s from Joisey, took me on a road trip through the Pine Barrens. I’m very familiar with NJ, since I live so close in NY, but actually walking around where the creature is said to live was eye opening. You can get just so much from research. Sometimes, it’s best to actually walk around. You’ll come across sights and sounds that will definitely make it into the book.
TM: How much research went into this book? What about your other monster books?
HS: I collect monsters. Or, actually, monster stories. I’m an avid cryptid dude, so I already knew a lot about the Jersey Devil. In fact, I know more about the monster than the hockey team. Full disclosure, I’m an Islanders fan. But I did read up a lot, both online, in libraries and books I found. I like to get the core of a legend like the Jersey Devil accurate, and build from there. And since I was dealing with actual places, I needed to make sure that rang true as well.
TM: What attracted you to the Jersey Devil story? Why choose this monster?
HS: I have my little bucket list of cryptids I want to write about and JD was next on the list. Simple as that. Plus, after the success of The Montauk Monster, I wanted to keep the scares in the tri-state area.
TM: There have been a slew of Jersey Devil movies over the years. Most of them I find unwatchable. Did you watch any prior to penning your novel? Was there a stinker you favorite?
HS: There are? Huh. I only watched The Last Broadcast and the episode of The X Files starring their own, strange interpretation of the Jersey Devil. I try not to watch too much fiction because I don’t want it to bleed into my subconscious when I write. But now that I’m done, please let me know the names of some of these flicks.
TM: What’s the best thing about a good monster story?
HS: It’s just good old pure escapist fun. I like my monsters to be big and scary and relentless. Funny, I love the Universal monsters who were all sympathetic creatures. Guess being a product of the 80s with Jason and Michael, I tend to gravitate to the whole ‘force of nature’ thing.
TM: Let’s talk writing! Do you have a particular writing process or does it vary depending on the scope of the project?
HS: I just try to write every day. I have enough projects to keep me busy for the next 20 years, so there’s never an excuse to be lazy. I always try to hit 1,000 words a day, but I’ve been known to get between 5 and 10k in a sitting. That’s when things are really cooking.
TM: Do you believe in outlining a story or do you consider that a sin against creativity?
HS: Whatever works for you is best. I’m what they call a ‘pantser.’ I just sit down and let the story write itself, in a way. I spend a lot of time thinking about a book before I actually start writing, so many times, at least 50% of it is already in my noggin just waiting to get out. I once wrote a book based on a pretty detailed outline, and that worked, too. But I just prefer the organic process.
TM: Do you listen to music while you write, or do you require complete silence while banging away on the keyboard?
HS: If and when I do listen to music, it can’t have any lyrics. The words in the song screw up the words in my head. So I listen to a lot of soundtracks, like It Follows or the new John Carpenter Lost Themes.
TM: Name some writers that influenced your writing?
HS: Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King (of course), Elmore Leonard, Robert McCammon, Clive Barker, Pete Hammil, just to name a few.
TM: Best advice for beginning writers?
HS: If you plan to write, you better read a lot. If you’re not an avid reader, please don’t write. You can’t do one without the other. When you finally decide it’s time to write, just sit your butt in a chair and write. Don’t stop until you get to The End. Then move on to the next thing. And go back and edit. You just need to always be writing…and reading!
TM: What’s next on the monster agenda? A Sasquatch novel? Chupacabra? Jackalopes? Dinosaurs? The anticipation is killing me!
HS: I have a book about the Loch Ness Monster that will come out with Severed Press before the end of the year. Yeah, I do terrible things to Nessie. LOL. I have some others I really want to tackle, but I want to keep it hush hush for now. If you meet me in a bar, I’ll tell you then.
TM: Where can people find you on the Internet?
HS: Just Google the word ‘awesome’. Hahahahahaha! You can find all you want, and don’t want, at www.huntershea.com
TM: Thanks for stopping by, Hunter!
HS: Any time! You, my friend, kick ass.
Praise for Hunter Shea
“Shea delivers a tense and intriguing work of escalating tension splattered with a clever, extensive cast of bystanders turned victims…An otherwise excellent, tightly delivered plot…Fans of cryptid creatures are likely to revel in this love letter to a legendary menace.”– Publishers Weekly
“Bloody good read! This guy knows his monsters!”- Eric S Brown, author of Bigfoot War and Boggy Creek: The Legend is True, on Swamp Monster Massacre
“Hunter Shea is a great writer, highly entertaining, and definitely in the upper echelon in the current horror scene. Many other writers mention either loving his work and/or having the man influence their own, and for just cause. His writing suits anyone with a taste for the dark and terrifying!” –Zakk at The Eyes of Madness/The Mouth of Madness Podcast
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