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Interview with horror author Shaun Meeks

I’m participating in Blood Moon Rising – a month long tour of horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy authors hopping from blog to blog. 🙂 Today we’ll get to know writer Shaun Meeks and learn about the horrors he’s created. Shaun was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He owns his own company and is a former semi-pro skateboarder, but penning tales of terror is his true passion. Let’s pick his brain, shall we?

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Hi, Shaun. Thank you for joining us. I guess I’d like to start by asking: Why do you love the horror genre?

One of the main things I’ve always loved about horror, whether it’s watching it or reading it, is how good horror gets you right at the core and has a tendency to linger. We’re all afraid of something, and being able to tap into that primal fear is what I love to do. It’s also something I love to experience. Sitting in bed and reading a great story and feeling the need to put it down because it struck a nerve is something that most books just don’t do for me. A great example of that was when I read The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. I actually needed to stop and take breathers during it because I felt overwhelmed by what I’d just read. Not an easy thing to do.

Your novel, Shutdown, concerns one of my favorite topics: genetic experimentation! Can you explain a little about it?

Without giving too much away, the story starts with a dig in Egypt where a forgotten tomb is found. In it, there is something that is not fully human, but there are traces of what could be a man or woman there. A genetics company, GenCross takes the body and tries to replicate the DNA and give birth to a living specimen of the mummified corpse. In a way, using genetic experiments in a story is a way to play with the themes found in books like Frankenstein and many by H.P. Lovecraft, not to mention Stan Lee. The idea of how we “play God” and try to bring a new lifeform, find some missing key to evolution can be done in so many different ways, I think there are always fresh ways to build on the theme.

Your short stories are everywhere! Congrats. If you had to pick a short story to be read by someone who’s never read your work, which one would you choose?

My first thought is always to suggest Taut. It first appeared in Zippered Flesh 2 and is one of those stories that people really gravitated towards. Even Ellen Datlow added it to her list of honorable mentions in Best Horror of the Year 6. It’s pretty good at showing what I tend to do in stories, which is go inside the character’s head and draw out emotional as well as physical pain.

In the end though, it depends on what it is you like. For YA stories, there’s Angel in the High Tower, if you like ghosts, Despair. For people who like Victorian Steampunk I’d say Miriam and for war story lovers, The Soldier.

What is the hardest part about writing a novel?

Editing. I take as much time as I can with the editing process, but I tend to be the type of person who can go over and over a story and change it each time. Even if I read it ten times over, I will want to add and cut things.

What scares you?

That’s a tough one. I’ve spent my life trying to face many of my fears as best I can so they aren’t there, but if I’m sitting around and look over and see a bug crawling on my arm, you’d see a less than cool and calm Shaun freaking out to get the damn thing off. I think that is part of why the scene in Taut is so accurate. I know how parts of it feel.

As far as any other fears, I guess the idea of isolation to a point (as an introvert, a big part of me always seeks isolation, but not too far), failure and drowning. When I was a kid, I nearly died in Lake Ontario. I was three or four, and can still see it now. I managed to get my stubby legs tangled in seaweed, tripped and couldn’t get back up. I fought and fought and after swallowing four disgusting mouthfuls of water, I stood up. My parents didn’t even notice it, but I never forgot it.

Some of the “future works” listed on your website include screenplays. As an author, I’d love to discuss this with you because I, too, have an interest in writing screenplays. What drew you to the idea? Do you have any specific plans for the production of your scripts once they’re complete?

Sometimes, when I come up with an idea and start to play with it and see what is the best medium to use to make it come out right. Sometimes it’s a short story, a novella or a novel. Other times it might be a graphic novel. A few times, it’s been screenplays. I wrote my first screenplay back in 1992. It wasn’t a horror piece, but more of an ode to Hong Kong action flicks. A big shoot ‘em piece. Not sure what happened to it, but it was fun to write and I always promised myself I would write another one day. The one that I currently have partial done, is a horror-comedy. The idea is something more akin to Troma or old school 80’s horror and the only way it would work, in my eyes, was as a movie. I’ve been writing it to keep a low budget in mind so I could produce it myself, or with some friends. There are some truly insane scenes in this that I would love to see come to life and I think it would be one of the first times people would see the sense of humor I have, so fingers crossed.

What are your favorite horror movies?

That’s one of the harder questions. I grew up watching horror movies in the 80’s, so I’m always drawn to them. I loved the serious toned ones, the funnier ones and just bizarre movies. For that era, I’d have to say some of my favorites are Brain Damage, From Beyond, Night of the Creeps, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Fright Night, Nightbreed and Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead).

A lot of people hate on the new horror out, but I can think of some real gems over the last few years. I’ve tended to look at more foreign horror as well, since there seems to be some real gold coming from all over the world. I think some other favorites would be Clive Barker’s Dread, Martyrs, Ichi the Killer, The Babadook, Oculus, May, Three Extremes, The Descent, and if I keep going, this would go on forever.

Favorite authors?

This is another list that could go on and on, but over the years I’ve always tried to keep it to a list of ten. One of the best things about this list though, is how it’s always changing. Depending on what I’ve been reading as of late and the mood I’m in, the list can vary. For right now I think it would be as follows: Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Ray Bradbury and Caitlin R. Kiernan. I’ve had it pointed out that Elmore Leonard seems to be an odd choice in the group, but I’ve learned a lot from him as a writer and he has played a role in how I’ve developed my own style.

I have to mention the anthology Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror because you and I both have stories in it! I really enjoyed yours, entitled “Perfection Through Silence”, and one part in particular made my toes curl because I could almost feel the character’s pain from his injuries. The story had a nice balance between gore and suspense. My question is: Do you decide beforehand how much gore a story will have (a lot, a little), or do you just let the bloody details work themselves out?

Thanks for the mention of Perfection Through Silence. That was a fun one to write and is a great example of the process I go through. When I’m writing a story, much of the details like gore, violence, suspense and even how it ends, never come into play until I’m writing. I tend to be one of those people that will start off with an idea or just an opening sentence and I go from there. I explained that to a friend once and he thought it was strange, told me it sounded too much like the story writes itself, and in a way, he was right. I think if you go into something, meaning to make it over the top and super gory, it could backfire. At least that’s how it is with my process. Everyone is different. I tried to write a bizarro piece for a magazine, the only idea was to make it really over the top and it just didn’t come out that way at all. I learned a long time ago to just let things go the way they want, to let the blood run free.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever written?

That is actually an easy one. Whenever someone mentions my story Treats from At the Gates of Madness, they usually add in “what the hell were you thinking/smoking/drinking?”. To be honest, it was a story that got away from me. Originally, it was only supposed to be about a lonely man on Halloween night, watching humans disguised as monsters running the street when in the end he was a monster disguised as a human, hiding in his house and memories. Somewhere along the way, I decided to go down another road and there was Treats. If you’ve never read it, it’s not an easy one to get through as there is some very strange, disturbing and disgusting subject matter in it. That’s all I can say on it, hate to be one to spoil it for anyone curious.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on the edits of a new novel called Maymon. It’s a crime/occult/end of days horror novel full of monsters, demons, zombies, killers of the human kind and mayhem. Should be fun.

I also just started the second novel in the Dillon the Monster Dick series. This one, Earthbound and Down is a follow up to the soon to be released The Gate at Lake Drive and continues the story-line of Dillon, a monster/demon hunter.

On top of all that, I’m putting the finishing touches on Dark Reaches, my third short story collection due out in August, and seven different short stories. I tend to write 3000-5000 words a day and go back and forth between projects to keep it all as fresh as I can.

Where can we find you on the web?

My website is www.shaunmeeks.com
I can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Shaun-Meeks/106128562748355
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShaunMeeks
On Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100357493474555506507/posts
On Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5818641.Shaun_Meeks
On Amazon: www.amazon.com/Shaun-Meeks/e/B007X5KZLO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1430468112&sr=8-2-ent
On Tumblr: http://shaunmeeks.tumblr.com

Thanks so much for the great questions. This was a blast!

My pleasure, Shaun. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Most Disturbing Moments In Horror

Today’s topic is The Dirty Dozen, twelve of the most disturbing moments in horror. The selections in my countdown are based on two things: scares that made me jump or shift uncomfortably in my seat and scenes that stuck with me long after the credits had rolled. WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN A TON OF HORROR MOVIES, THIS LIST MIGHT BE A *SPOILER OVERLOAD* FOR YOU. I can’t make this list without including some spoilers. You’ve been warned. Now onto the countdown….

#12: Candyman – chest full of bees

In this dark urban nightmare, main character Helen tries to uncover the truth behind the legend of Candyman. A hundred years ago, a young black man was tortured for his love of a white woman.  His hand was hacked off with a rusty saw before he was covered in honey and thrown to the bees. Slowly and miserably, he died. Now, if you look into the mirror and say his name five times, you’re dead meat. Or so the story goes. But what’s really going on? Helen wants to find out. Soon she finds herself in a game of cat and mouse and discovers exactly what Candyman’s got beneath that wicked trench coat.

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#11: The Amityville Horror – dead guy in the bathroom

Remakes are widely criticized (and often by myself!), but when it comes to tired, old movies I never cared for in the first place (i.e the original 1979 Amityville Horror), I’m all for a revamp. I thought this one was well done, and there was a particular scene that made me jump an inch from my couch cushion. The little boy needs to pee in the middle of the night, and… and… BAM! DEAD GUY IN THE BATHROOM!

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#10: The Haunting – whose hand was I holding?

Certain classics hold a place in my heart, and this 1963 film is one of them, not to mention that it’s based on a novel by one of my favorite authors, Shirley Jackson. In this scene, Eleanor begins to hear frightening voices, wicked laughter, and crying children through the walls at night. She holds her friend’s hand for comfort as this goes on for a few minutes. When she can’t take it any longer, she screams, the lights come on, and she’s shocked with the realization that there is no one beside her holding her hand as she’d thought.

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#9: Hostel – holy shit… her eye!

I’ve only watched this scene twice. That was enough. The Hostel movies are a bit much for me because I get so darn MAD at the bad guys. What a bunch of sickos, eh? The cherry on top was the scene in which a pretty young female loses her eye. Sure, it’s fake as hell and the puss (yellow slime?) wouldn’t really ooze from that wound, but this knowledge doesn’t stop the bile from rising as you watch it. Sometimes corny gore is still quite effective. It’s like a Dead Alive moment for me, and I love it. I’ve included a rather tame picture of the “after” wound here, as I don’t want anyone tossing their cookies.

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#8: The Wicker Man – those bitches!

What else can be said about those evil bitches at the end of The Wicker Man? Yikes!

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#7: The Sentinel – man in the bedroom

In this 1977 film, a young woman’s apartment is the gateway to Hell. That being said, I’ll be honest: the movie tends to drag on in parts and might not hold every horror fan’s attention, but some of the imagery, like the old, dead, mostly naked man power-walking across her dark bedroom, simply cannot be beat.

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#6: Mirrors – that moment when a relaxing bath turns brutal

I think what makes this scene in Mirrors so creepy is the loss of self-control. The victim becomes a puppet to herself, or rather, to her evil reflection in the mirror. She is forced to grab her own jaw and yank and yank until…

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#5: The Devil’s Rejects – I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work

Few modern horror movie scenes compare to the intensity in this one. Every time I view it, I am forced to picture myself on the other end of this murdering psycho’s wrath and wonder… what could I do to escape him? How does a person summon dignity and hope in the face of a killer as vicious and uncaring as Otis Driftwood?

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#4: Night Of The Living Dead (1990) – opening scenes

Hey, looky there. Bill Moseley has back-to-back roles on my countdown, as he plays the annoying brother in the graveyard scene of this cult remake. But this time it’s not Mr. Moseley who brings the terror to life, but the freshly risen zombies who begin to shamble on scene, attacking him and running our heroine’s car into a tree. From there, all the fun begins.

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#3: Insidious – the red demon appears

I don’t even want to spoil this one by saying where or when the demon pops up. Rest assured, it scared the crap out of me when it did!

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#2: Juon – the ghost’s descent down the staircase

Listen to me, Americans… FORGET THE GRUDGE. The Grudge SUCKS compared to Takashi Shimizu’s original Japanese version, Juon. There are so many wonderful scares in this movie, but the piece de resistance is the bloody woman on the staircase. Her broken, sketchy movements and relentless eye contact seemed to go on FOREVER the first time I saw this scene. Brilliant.

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#1: Pet Sematary – meet Zelda

Over the years, I have made jokes about forming a Zelda support group for all the people who were under 14 when they first saw Pet Sematary. I’m not sure if the imagery of Zelda has the same scarring effect on the fully developed adult brain as it does on the adolescent brain, but one thing is for sure (and I’m not exaggerating here), I’ve met at least twenty people who suffered from crippling Zelda fear during childhood. If you’re one of them *HUGS* you’re not alone. You’re not alone.

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So there you have it. My Dirty Dozen Top Twelve Horror Movie Moments. Feel free to share yours in the comments below or contact me personally. I might do a reader-submitted version of this blog if I get enough feedback! Thanks for reading! Keep it ghastly!

Because horror can be funny!

Hey there! This is post #2, and things are rolling right along. Tons of new followers. Woot, woot! I’ve got some great stuff lined up, but in the meantime: have you noticed the “Horror Humor” section on your top menu bar? This will be an ever-growing collection of hilarious horror pictures to keep you chuckling… because horror can be so funny! Here are a few of my favorites so far. Make sure to check them ALL out at: www.dirtylittlehorror.com/horror-humor and check back often. More will be added all the time!

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