Hunter's new novel, Island of the Forbidden, is available on Amazon.com
Gef: What was the impetus behind Island of the Forbidden? With this being the third appearance of Jessica Backman, was it simply an inevitability that you'd have to revisit her?
Hunter: I wanted to explore what would happen to a person as strong willed as Jessica after facing something so terrifyingly evil (in the book Sinister Entity). There was no way she could ever be the same person. But what happens when you have a gift, or a curse, and a situation calls for you to go back to face the very thing you now fear the most? In the beginning of the book, Jessica has isolated herself from her friends and family and the world. When she gets called to the island, she’s thrown into a new level of isolation, stuck in a place where there’s nowhere to run.
Plus, I absolutely wanted to write another book about Jessica and Eddie. And I feel that there still more tales to tell.
Gef: Is there any change to your approach to a story when revisiting a setting or character from a previous work? Do find any kind of gear shift between what might be called series work as opposed to a stand-alone?
Hunter: The best part is that I already knew these characters better than the back of my hand. It feels like coming home, in a way. So in that sense, the writing is easier because I’m not building characters and their world from scratch. The challenge I’ve presented myself with the Jessica books is writing each so it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel. I hate plucking a book from the shelf and midway through realize it’s part 3 of 7 and I’m utterly lost. Each book is its own story, from start to finish, with just enough backstory sprinkled in so you don’t feel like you have to stop and read the previous book before you can go on.
Gef: What kind of local folklore influences your taste for horror? Whether ghosts, monsters, or some other supernatural element, does your neck of the woods offer much by way of inspiration?
Hunter: I grew up in the Bronx in the 70s and 80s, so the horror that I experienced was real. There was no sense worrying about the monster under your bed. My biggest fear growing up was having people break into the house in the middle of the night. I was super aware of every sound the house made and quick to panic. It didn’t help that I was mugged at knifepoint when I was 10, two punks taking off with the bike I had just gotten for my birthday. So, with that kind of background, when I read horror fiction I wanted it to be something that could transport me to another world, where the scares could never bleed into my own. That’s how I got hooked on ghosts and monsters, my bread and butter now. Moving into a haunted house in the mid 90s solidified my fascination with ghosts and the afterlife. Adding to that has been my love affair with cryptozoology over the past several years. I’m a sucker for a Bigfoot or unknown creature story.
Gef: The Monster Men podcast is still going strong with Jack Campisi. Anything from that work that has helped or hindered your writing?
Hunter: We started the podcast as a promotional tool to get the word out about my first book, Forest of Shadows. We figured we’d do a couple of episodes and that would be it. We’re now 75 episodes in and getting requests from writers, publishers, directors and paranormal groups to be on the show. I can confidently say it’s only helped my writing. Fans of the show have gone on to read my books and have become my biggest advocates. They see that I absolutely love the genre and I’m not going to give them a load of crap. Plus it gets to show folks that horror writers are not monsters. We have a lot of fun!
Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of this genre?
Hunter: There are so many avenues a writer can travel in horror. First you can pick between ghosts, killers, monsters, demons, you name it. Then you dig down into subsections of each. Then you go even further, deciding the tone of the story. Do you want quiet, creeping horror (like Ron Malfi), in your face, cringing gore (think Edward Lee), horror with a bizarre twist (Joe Lansdale), historical (Brian Moreland), gothic (Jonathan Janz), balls to the wall (the late JF Gonzalez)? There are so many wonderful voices out there telling chilling tales with mad skills. I think people tend to judge horror solely by what they see in movies, and often what’s put out there is the worst the genre has to offer. If they decide to dive into the deep end, past the King and Koontz kiddie pool where most people linger, they’re going to discover writers and stories that will stay with them for a lifetime.
Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
Hunter: That you should attend as many writer’s conferences as possible to learn your craft and make connections. What a load of crap. You want to work on your craft? Read, then write. I went to my only writer’s convention in NYC on the advice I was getting from people and magazines devoted to the art of writing. The con cost me more money that I had to spend at the time, but I really wanted to do everything I could to break through. It was a day of talks by people giving lots of general advice, which I wrote down like a court stenographer. Then I went to listen to a talk by Joseph Finder. I found myself seated between Carol Higgins Clark and Elmore Leonard. I was numb. Elmore leaned over to me and said, “You don’t need this nonsense, kid. Just go home and write and keep reading and writing. 99.9 percent of the people you see around you will never become writers. They just like going to conventions.” Thank you Elmore Leonard! He saved me thousands of dollars and deserves at least partial credit for my being where I am today.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Hunter: I know I criticized awful horror movies in an earlier question, but I’m also drawn to them like a dog to a tree. Sometimes I think I enjoy the bad ones more than the good. I like to think this is how I hone my own writing skills. Like when it comes to management. I’ve been working in corporate offices for 25 years now. Starting out, I had some of the most mind boggling dummy heads as managers. I listened to their prattle, watched the asinine things they did and learned from them. When it was my time to manage, I did the opposite of everything that’s ever been done to me. And it’s worked divinely. So, do bad horror movies show me what not to do? I like to think so. If any movie producer wants to give me a shot to prove my theory, I’ll book my flight to Hollywood.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?
Hunter: Other than Island of the Forbidden, I have 2 other books coming out in 2015. July will see the release of my second Pinnacle paperback, Tortures of the Damned. Think of post apocalypse with a Roger Corman chaser. It’s bleak and scary because most of it can actually happen. Then, in the fall, Samhain will release my next cryptid novel, The Dover Demon. It’s about a creature that was seen in Massachusetts in 1977 and how it’s not only returned, but possibly never left. It’s a blend of scifi, horror and action and I believe one of the only fictional works about the Dover Demon ever written. I’m working on plenty more, so come on by my old blog and chain at www.huntershea.com to get the latest news. Thank you so much for having me here!