Creature is the story of a couple worn down by chronic illness searching for a small piece of heaven in an endless hell. Kate has a host of autoimmune diseases that have left her bedridden, reliant on painkillers and weary. Her husband Andrew, worried that her time is running out, rents her dream cottage along a Maine lake. Once there, the night is filled with odd sounds, rocks being thrown at the house and animal bodies strewn about the property. All the while, Kate’s illness refuses to let her leave the cottage, which has become just as much a prison as her battered body. There’s something out there, but does it want in, or does it want to prevent them from leaving?
First memory of reading horror
It was one of my father’s paperbacks, Stephen King’s Night Shift. That was a game changer for me. Before that, I was all about horror movies and the few horror-themed TV shows that were out there in the 70s. I had tried reading Lovecraft but my young mind couldn’t get past the long, clunky prose. Poe was someone they talked about in school, so that wasn’t cool. Then came King with all these incredible stories that were fresh and modern and downright terrifying. That was it. I was hooked for life.
For readers new to horror which 3 books would you recommend they start with?
That’s a tough one to answer because I could easily name a top 100! Okay, we’ll start with Stephen King’s The Stand (the extended version), Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. Those are three sprawling, powerhouse books that will make any reader an addict for sure.
Do you have a favourite horror sub-genre, and why?
I love monsters. Anyone who reads my work knows I have an affinity for cryptids, but I’ll take a monster of any flavor. Growing up, I was all about the atomic age beasts like Them! and Godzilla and The Day of the Triffids. Of course, I was weaned on all of the Universal monsters. The Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon is my all time favourite. The theatre three blocks from my house showed a lot of bad Bigfoot movies when I was a lad and that started my desire to learn more about the legendary creatures that were supposedly roaming the world, not just the frames in a film. I think monster stories are just a hell of a lot of fun, both to read and to write. A perfect example is Guy N. Smith’s Night of the Crabs (and the whole series). It’s perfect escapism horror and it’s brilliant!
Most terrifying book you’ve ever read.
Definitely, hands down, Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door. The reason – it could be happening right now to the girl next door to you. It’s a hard book for some people to get through, but the things that truly scare me are what people can do to other people.
Your favourite Stephen King book.
Funny enough, it’s not one of his many horror novels. Joyland, about a young man working at a seaside amusement park, holds a special place in my heart. I remember reading it five yeas ago in a Maine town where King had once lived. I was in the hammock down by the lake when I finished it, and for the first time in my life, a book made me cry. The fact that it was written by the man who has made my spine tingle for decades is pretty incredible.
New horror authors you’d recommend.
We are in a golden age of horror once again. There are more great new voices than I can count. Some of the folks that people should be checking out are Jonathan Janz, Brian Moreland, Ron Malfi, Jason Brant, Kristopher Rufty, Russell James, J.H.Moncrieff, Catherine Cavendish and so many more.
Who do you consider the King and Queen of horror fiction?
The king is obvious. I mean, he has King in his name! I know a lot of people would say Anne Rice is the queen, but I would have to give it to Shirley Jackson. She may not have come close to King’s output, but what she did pen is beyond stellar.
Your favourite horror film (adapted from a book) & why?
And we’re back to Shirley Jackson. My family watches The Haunting (based on her book The Haunting of Hill House) every single year. It’s one of the creepiest horror movies ever made, using hints of what’s lurking around the old mansion to let the terrors in your mind run free. Both the book and movie are unique experiences and the top of the form when it comes to ghost stories. Now, as for the 1999 remake of the film, we’ll just forget that even exists.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
I would love to see Gord Rollo’s The Jigsaw Man on the big screen. That book is just bonkers!
Best horror TV?
For five years, my favourite horror TV show was Bates Motel. And this coming from a guy who had to be forced to watch the show. I thought they were going to eviscerate a classic. But those performances of Norma and Norman are some of the best you’ll ever see in the genre. I bailed on The Walking Dead in season 6 and only liked the first season of American Horror Story. Right now, I think Channel Zero is the best horror show around. Each season is a new story and they’ve all been excellent.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
My plan was always to write horror, but I wanted to see if I could even sustain an idea for an entire book first. So what did I try my hand at out of the gate? A romantic comedy, of course! I followed that up with a black comedy. Feeling like I’d had enough practice, I moved over to horror and have been doing it ever since, with stops at children’s books and thrillers.
Tell us briefly about your route to being published
It started way back in the mid-90s. I was inspired by a friend who was writing a horror novel and it just became a compulsion. The internet was a new thing and I wrote stories – for free – for several online horror zines. I spent years getting rejected by agents and editors for short stories and bad novellas. I then wrote my first full length horror novel and had it set in my mind that I only wanted to work with editor Don D’Auria over at Leisure (Dorchester). They were the king of the horror publishing world, and I devoured every book they published. So I sent a query letter to Don and only Don. It took over three years of sporadic communication before he sent me an offer. That was one of the greatest days of my life. It’s been a total dream ever since. But I do tell people, don’t do what I did and put all your eggs in one basket. I was very, very lucky.
Tell us about your fans
You mean my Hellions? I’ve been calling my fans Hunter’s Hellions for years now. They are exceedingly loyal and funny as hell. I answer everything that comes my way and love to interact with my Hellions. I wouldn’t have a career without them. I’d just be scribbling away, chucking completed manuscripts in a drawer. I can’t thank them enough for always being there for me.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as well respected as other genres of fiction. Why do you think that is?
I think people see it as a cheap thrill. And, of course, a lot of people don’t like to be scared, so it’s easy to dismiss an entire genre rather than face your fears. The slew of terrible horror movies that come out don’t help the cause, but so what? Those of us who love horror don’t need everyone joining the club. Name another genre that has hundreds of conventions all over the world. People who are into horror love it and live it. I’ll take that over any other genre any day.
Do you think horror is ready for a renaissance?
We’re in the middle of it. Horror has become mainstream and is even winning Oscars. It’s never been this huge before. The Walking Dead has been appointment TV for years now and you’ll never in history find so many horror novels to read. Enjoy the ride, because it won’t last.
Tips for new writers of horror fiction.
Read horror. Read the classics, what’s new, novels, novellas, short stories, even poems. You can’t write horror (or any genre) if you don’t read it and know its origins and what makes it tick.
Do you believe in evil?
Of course. It’s impossible to ignore its presence in the world. When you see a story about a woman drowning a baby or a murder suicide in a family or a country torn apart by war, you’re looking right at it. Now, is evil something separate from man, an entity that manipulates us like pawns on a chessboard? I think not. We are evil, and some people choose to embrace it more than others.
What scares you?
Cancer. Disease. Aneurysms. The real evil that robs you of loved ones and your own life. My wife’s health has been a tenuous thing for two decades now, and the things that happen to her frighten me more than any monster or killer.
3 most scary words in English language?
Wanna go shopping?
Do you celebrate Halloween?
Big time. We get a minimum of 600 trick or treaters every year. The whole family gathers in one house, dresses up and doles out goodies all night. There’s plenty of cocktails and pizza, scary music and movies. We are a Halloween family through and through.