ABOUT HUNTER SHEA
Hunter Shea is the author of the novels Forest of Shadows and Evil Eternal, Swamp Monster Massacre and the upcoming Sinister Entity. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. He is also half of the Monster Men video podcast, a fun look at the world of horror.
You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.
Q: Thank you for this interview Hunter. Can you tell us what your latest book, Swamp Monster Massacre, is all about?
A: You could say it’s is a muggy-swamp-thrill-ride where man accidentally stumbles into a den of monsters that are single-minded in their goal of murdering every single interloper. I’ve always wanted to write a book that dealt with the Bigfoot phenomena, but I wanted to take it on from an entirely new angle. The book opens up as a kind of crime noir where a small time crook accidentally kills the son of the Cuban mafia don. On the run, he hijacks an airboat full of tourists out to explore the Everglades in the dead of summer. When the tourists try to take over the boat, they hit a mysterious, small, hairy creature and crash onto a small swamp island. And that’s where the fun really begins. They’re about to find out that the myth of the skunk ape is very real, and very, very angry.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
A: The main character is a hulking bad guy named Rooster Murphy with a history of anger issues. His father was a big John Wayne fan, and the name has caused him all sorts of hardship in his life. It’s precisely what got him into his current deadly situation. He’s big, he’s mean, but he’s not necessarily evil. The airboat he hijacks has an odd assortment of people. The captain, Mick Chella, is a swarthy, 50ish old salt who most likely drinks every penny he makes in dive bars around Naples, FL. Among his passengers are a couple of empty nesters out for a fun tour, Jack Campos, a bookish market research executive taking a break from a boring conference, and a pair of true New York guidos who are more worried about their hair gel than seeing nature in the Everglades swamps. Rounding things out are a pair of twenty-something twins named Liz and Maddie. They’re total knockouts and are much more than they appear.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
A: I named every character in this book after someone I know, but their characteristics are nothing like their real life counterparts. In fact, I pretty much made them the complete opposite. This is the first time I’ve written a book where the name of every single character, Rooster is the exception, (though it would be great to know someone called Rooster) with the names of close friends. I’ve always loved people watching, and as a writer, I absorb all the nuances I see in the folks around me and inevitably they will become part of a story somewhere down the line. You could say every character is an amalgam of various people that I either know or have just observed over the years.
Now for the band of angry skunk apes, I let my imagination have fun with that. If any skunk apes read this, write me and let me know if I captured your essence.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
A: I know a lot of writers like to outline a novel before they get down to the business of actually writing it, but I’ve always been a ‘grip it and rip it’ kind of guy. I’ll have an idea of where a story should start and most of the main characters. I’ll do some research on the place or period the story is set, but not so much that I become so infatuated with the idea of writing a book that I’m neglecting putting words onto paper. Once I get started, I let the story take over. I’ve yet to write a book where the ending didn’t surprise me. I kill off characters I swore would survive and end up in situations I never saw coming. Sometimes it almost feels like I’m channeling someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m a vessel for some deceased mid-list writer who wants to get a second chance at writing. Our subconscious is a powerful tool. I like to let it do all the work and just open myself up to it as I write. Then the hard work begins of translating those ideas and images into a coherent form that will keep readers anxious to turn the next page, and the next, and so on.
Q: Your book is set in the Florida Everglades. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?
A: Knowing that I was going to write a Bigfoot book with a new spin, I turned to one of the many ‘wild man’ legends that are present in every state in this country: the Florida skunk ape. I liked the idea of dropping my characters smack into the depths of the Everglades during the summer. The swamps become as much an adversary as the bloodthirsty beasts. There are so many things that can kill you in the swamps, including the oppressive heat. That made this a story of not just man versus monster, but the elements as well. It makes the trek to what they hope will be safety that much more visceral.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
A: To stumble upon skunk apes, I had to get folks in the swamps in either Florida or Louisiana. In Bigfoot folklore, you have limited places that are supposed domiciles for skunk apes. The pitfalls and dangers that the swamp presents ratchets up the excitement and tension as the band of survivors slog their way through alligator infested waters and suck in gobs of mosquitos with every hot breath. It keeps people wondering, what will kill them first, the swamp or the skunk apes?
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
A:The survivors are making their way across an island when one of the twins, Maddie, shoots a deadly 5 foot long cottonmouth just as her sister steps on it. Rooster now knows the girl can shoot, a skill that is very much needed. He and one of the guidos carry John between them. John watched as 3 skunk apes tore his wife into pieces and tossed them into the murky water. He’s been catatonic ever since. Night is coming, and Maddie realizes she’s glad Rooster, their kidnapper, is with them because of his strength and the way he’s led them so far.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
A: I’d be happy to.
Rooster could hear Jack screaming but he couldn’t see a damn thing. He put his arm over Maddie’s chest to hold her back.
He felt the ground shake again, and another angry roar echoed in the darkness.
The entire forest had erupted in gator growls, Bigfoot howls, human screams and mad scrambling. When the next flash of lightning came, it was all Rooster could do to keep from running.
Four alligators faced everyone by the collapsed tree with open jaws. A heavy, ominous rumble purred from their throats. Liz, Jack, Mick and Dominic huddled together, scrambling for their guns.
Now normally gators were pretty timid, doing what they could to avoid interaction with humans, but it appeared they took great exception to being thrown about in the dead of night.
“Don’t move!” Rooster shouted. “And most of all, do not jump over to the other side of that tree. They’re trying to flush us out!”
Maddie gripped his arm so hard he was sure she was drawing blood. “What’s happening?”
“Those fucking apes just tossed four very angry gators at us.”
If possible, her grip tightened. “Oh, my God, what do we do?”
Q: Thank you so much for this interview,Hunter. We wish you much success!
A: Thank you very much. I had a tremendous time writing Swamp Monster Massacre and I hope people have as much fun reading it. I like to think that our planet is filled with many mysteries. Let’s just hope that if we discover skunk apes do exist, it’s not by Rooster and under much calmer circumstances.
The swamp belongs to them. Humans are only prey.
Deep in the overgrown swamps of Florida, where humans rarely dare to enter, lives a race of creatures long thought to be only the stuff of legend. They walk upright but are stronger, taller and more brutal than any man. And when a small boat of tourists, held captive by Rooster Murphy, a fleeing small time crook, accidentally kills one of the swamp dwellers’ young, the creatures are filled with a terrifyingly human emotion—a merciless lust for vengeance that will paint the trees red with blood.