Author Assistants: How Iris and Salem Inspire Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea Headshot 2016Fun Fact: Hunter says, “I yearn to be a long haul trucker because I love motoring down the highway so much.”

When you have two cats, nothing in your house is untouchable or sacred. It’s virtually impossible to keep them off of anything. Thankfully, my cats are very different from one another, each with their own specialty. How do they help me with writing? Hmmmm, let’s explore.

IrisFirst there’s Iris. She’s a 12 year old Calico (at least we think she’s 12. She was a shelter cat, so we can never be sure). She’s very small and quite agile. I’ve watched her leap onto my top shelf from a sitting position with no problem. She’s also a home wrecker, as in she delights in destroying our stuff. I try to keep her out of my writing room, but she always finds her way in. And when she does, she spends all her time knocking all of my horror memorabilia off the shelves, scattering them everywhere. Sometimes, the anger I feel towards Iris is channeled into my writing, so in that sense, she’s quite helpful. She also likes to attack people, especially in the dark and when you’re asleep. She’s the real monster in our house. Walking down our pitch-black hallway at night, tense because you’re waiting to see if your ankles will be scratched, is real fear. You have to experience fear to convey it with your writing. Thanks Iris!

SalemOn the flip side is Salem, a black cat as big as a cougar who thinks he’s a dog. He plays fetch, rolls over to be pet on his tummy and is the most gentle, yet clumsy, cat you’ll ever find. After a rough writing session, he’s right there, purring, waiting to be pet. There’s no better stress relief than petting a beloved cat or dog or even hamster. He’s also great comic relief. Being such a big cat, it’s amusing to watch him try to leap up to the window. He has about a fifty percent success rate. Salem is my bud, so much so that I wrote him into my book, The Jersey Devil. And yes, no harm befell my fictional Salem. I couldn’t do that to the big guy. One very good thing about him – he can’t get onto my shelves and wreak havoc. He’s more floor bound, and that suits us both just fine.

So yes, my two ‘writing assistants’ are quite different and inspire me in their own way. I’ve written articles and blog posts about them in the past, and for that they are exceedingly helpful. Just watching the things they do can give me inspiration or a break from the insanity of ‘people life’. They both have it pretty good in the Shea lair, and we’re happy they’re members of our family. Even when Iris bites our toes while we’re sleeping.

 

Hunter Shea talks about his latest novel, Creature, here.

 

Creature cover

Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge and many others. His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays.

 

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Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

What if the scariest childhood stories you ever read were real? What if the horrors that haunted those pages stepped into your adult world and threatened to destroy your home and family – everything you’ve ever loved?

Would you have the courage to face your fears and find a way to conquer your fears and save the world?

51lydagc9rl-_sy346_I can imagine this being the driving concept behind Molly Tanzer’s Creatures of Want and Ruin. The story is told in three main parts; Susan’s, Ellie’s and Fin’s. While we start off with a snapshot of Susan discovering what’s happened to her friend, Ms. Depth, we’re soon brought into Ellie’s world. The enterprising bootlegger is independent, resourceful and soon forced to fight for her life when she tries to help a man who appears injured, who then tries to kill her.

Saying too much about the specifics of the women’s roles would risk spoilers. At it’s core this is a story about the high price of selling your soul to a demon, and the unintended horrors that ensue when people embrace evil. It isn’t just the horrific elements and supernatural aspects of the story that wreak havoc; embracing evil threatens families and relationships with tragedies that are all too real.

Creatures of Want and Ruin is a horror story about battling ancient evils. Tanzer takes her time to develop her characters and their dynamics as the plot unfolds, and the pace and intensity build to bring us to the climax. Tanzer blends the fantastical and horrific with the real world in a way that make you feel as though you could turn a corner and find one of those oily mushroomy things growing in the woods behind your home, threatening to erupt with demonic force or swallow you whole.

That alone is an accomplishment. Tanzer goes deeper, though. Like the strange growths networked beneath the earth on Long Island that she writes about, there are threads of other stories and themes that are also being told. Fin and Ellie are both strong women who must take heroic actions. I think one of the crucial things of note is that, although this story is set during Prohibition, it centers on strong women who are not inclined to run to a man to solve their problems for them. These women are learning to stand up for themselves and others and are not willing to be pushed around by the people who try to coddle or control them. They are characters that resonate in the wake of the #metoo movement.

There are other timely themes at work. Those who have embraced the demons are anti-immigrant and are responsible for assaulting anyone they don’t feel has an acceptable bloodline. Even those born in America are attacked if their parents are foreigners.

Fin’s husband and his entourage are also used to convey a message. They are the idle rich. Indulged. Unaware and unconcerned about anything other than their own entertainment.

There are a lot of important truths Tanzer’s story highlights. The real genius is that it never does this at the expense of the story. At no point did I ever feel like a character got on a soap box and preached to the reader (although there was a sermon, but it was part of the story). In fact, it was the forward thinking of these women that was a key part in addressing the threat the demons posed. Like all great stories, the core of the characters informed their choices, which had a direct bearing on the plot and its resolution.

Author Interview: How a real-life ghost town inspired Stuart R. West’s Ghosts of Gannaway

Fun Fact: “I’m a firm lover of extraordinarily bad films. Give me the hilarity of botched sixties and seventies low-budget genre films over today’s blockbusters any day. My wife doesn’t understand.”

Note: Stuart has shared many photos from the town of Picher that he took himself, which are interspersed throughout this interview.

GannawaySR: Where did your idea for this book come from?

SRW:  The tale is based on the true trauma that destroyed the town of Picher, Oklahoma, a true “ghost town.” Driving through it one day (on the way to visit my wife’s folks), the sheer devastation of the town, along with the looming “chat piles” behind it, made me curious enough to follow up on it. What I found was tragic. I just decided to sprinkle ghosts and supernatural hijinx on top.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

SRW: Yep, environmental issues, corporate greed, and the plight of the Native American all figure strongly in my tale. All are still relevant today, now more than ever.

Sorry ClosedSR: If you were the right gender could you have a romantic relationship with your protagonist? Why or why not? Would it be a good relationship?

SRW: Okay, I have two protagonists: Dennis in the ‘60’s and Tommy during the depression era. If I was a woman… Hmmm (not exactly the kinda question I thought I’d be answering today, but sure, why not, let’s go with it), Tommy might make a good mate, even if he is a bit head-strong at times. Dennis, absolutely not! We’re talking damaged goods here. He packs so much baggage, he really oughta be a baggage handler at an airport.

SR: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?

SRW: Probably fear. Which is crazy, because I keep trying it over and over. I think it’s hard because writing/reading isn’t a visual medium. It’s much easier to be spooked over a movie than a book. I love the challenge! If it scares me, I hope it scares the reader. (And, usually, the all-too-human villains in my book are scarier than any supernatural doings.)

SR: Did you set yourself a specific writing challenge with this book? What was it, and what was the reason?

SRW: I wanted to shed some light on what happened to the mining town of Picher, Oklahoma. And maybe draw attention to the fact that it can—and is—happening again in other towns.

Chat PilesSR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

SRW: I have webbed toes. No, I don’t. Yes, I do. Shut up, you so don’t! Back off, man, I do, too!

Okay, forget that! How about I have multiple personalities?

SR: Now for fun, if you were stuck on a deserted island and found that magic lamp with a genie and the genie had the power to bring any character in any of your books to life to be your companion, who would you pick and why?

SRW: Um… I really don’t think I’d want ANY of them stuck on an island with me, good or bad guys. I mean…have you SEEN the type of characters who trawl through my novels?

SR: And if the genie would only bring characters from works by another author to life who would you pick to spend eternity on that deserted island with?

SRW: Let’s see… Does the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue count?

 

Stuart also talks about his book Secret Society 

and

in this author assistant feature he shares photos of his four-legged friend, Zak

 

_MG_0556 - Version 2Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because…well, it’s Kansas. But it’s great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

If you’re still reading this, you may as well head on over to Stuart’s blog at: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/

Review: Terror is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors

Terror is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors is a collection of short stories that follow the investigations of supernormal investigator Dana Roberts. The first stories in the collection were written by Joe R. Lansdale and use an external narrator to frame the stories. It’s a simple but effective technique that draws the reader right in to the narrative.

One of the things I appreciated right off the bat is that Dana Roberts is something of a skeptic. She doesn’t consider her work to involve the supernatural; she is firm in her use of the term supernormal because she maintains that what is happening is just something we can’t explain yet. She strives for a more scientific and logical view of her investigations. In that respect she’s more Scully than Mulder and one of the reasons this is very effective is that when she is scared the reader has the sense that things are very bad. She isn’t reckless but she’s always prepared for a very normal explanation to reports of possible supernormal events. I think my own healthy skepticism about ghosts and such is part of the reason I immediately clicked with this approach to the stories and I imagine that a wide range of readers will find these stories immeasurably entertaining, even if they aren’t die-hard horror fans.

In spite of her insistence that most of her cases turn out to be bats or mice living inside the walls, Dana has some incredible experiences she does share with us. Each story contains its own surprise in the discovery of the culprit and the resolution of the problem.

Lansdale suggested that readers enjoy one story at a time and I employed that approach while reading this collection. I was thoroughly immersed in Dana Roberts’ world and the rhythm of Lansdale’s stories when Kasey Lansdale introduced us to Jana.

I had been wondering how such a great collection of stories would be impacted by the introduction of a co-author and sidekick for our protagonist.

In Dana Roberts and her adventures, Joe R. Lansdale gives us storytelling greatness. When Dana and Joe join forces with Jana and Kasey great stories become supergreat tales that provide a whole new level of entertainment for the reader.

Formal, proper, logical, rational… these are all terms I could use to describe Dana Roberts and all are meant as compliments. By contrast Jana is irreverent, impulsive and often inappropriate. She thinks all those things that you dare not say, only sometimes her thoughts slip out before she reins them in. She’s the spice Dana Roberts didn’t know she needed in her life.

She’s the spice I didn’t know I needed, but when I started reading Blind Love I looked up at my husband and said, “Oh hell, yeah.” And then I kicked him out of the room so that I wouldn’t be disturbed.

I have a feeling that as a reader I’m about to suffer a long period of withdrawal while waiting for more Dana and Jana stories to keep me awake at night.