Monday, 29 August 2016

Men in Horror: SHAUN MEEKS

Shaun Meeks

1.     When did you start writing horror?
I wrote my first short story when I was in grade 4. I did a book report on The Shining (something that didnt go over well in the Catholic School I attended) and then wrote a story called Cannibalistic Vampires. It was a cross between The Hills Have Eyes and Near Dark. From there, I wrote about two stories a year, most of them terrible. I still have a few of them and they are my secret shame.

2.     Have you written in any other genre?
Not that Ive published as of yet, but I have a few that will be released in the near future. Many of them lean more towards crime stories, but there are also a few science fiction and fantasy stories too. I do have a book series planned that will have touches of horror to it, but will be aimed at a younger audience.

3.     What makes you uncomfortable?
Questions that ask what makes me uncomfortable, for one. Aside from that, there are a few other things. Being on sketchy rides at travelling carnivals never make me feel good, nor do unsafe heights. Where I used to work, Id have to go to the roof of this thirty-three story building and it had no real ledge to it. It just sort of dropped off. It was so windy up there and nothing to hold onto. It was a place of nightmares. Ive been tempted to write about fears of mine like that, but they havent come out right, so maybe later.

4.     Does your family read your work?
Some of them do, but not all. One of my most vocal fans in my family is my son, Kaleb. He loves and promotes almost everything Ive written. My partner, she has read a lot of what Ive written, but is more of a Jane Austen fan than a Stephen King one. Shes had some tough reads with my work, especially a certain zombie erotica story I wrote. As far as the ones who dont read it, it could be that horror is not their thing, or reading isnt. Who knows? Im sure all writers have some family that just think the whole writing thing is really just a hobby of sorts, nothing to take serious. I dont get offended by them, you cant please everyone.

5.     Does your writing make you uneasy?
Not at all. Well, I did write part of a novel a few years ago that I had to put down. I managed to get about 55,000 words into it, but the subject matter was getting too hard for me and was actually giving me nightmare. The book is called Memoirs of a Serial Killing and even though the subject matter is fiction, I did add fair amount of reality to it. Most of it has to do with some personal experience I had growing up that haunt me. I grew up in a very abusive home, so when I go into some of the killers past, I used things I saw and lived through as fodder. It was had to relive them, but I feel like they add a pretty good punch to the story, so I kept them in. Only thing is, it was so hard to keep going that I need to put it aside and do other work. One day the book will see the light of day.

6.     Who would you say you write like?
Ive heard comparisons coming up in reviews now and again, but Ive never really thought I write like any one person. Ive been heavily influenced by people like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Elmore Leonard and Joe R. Lansdale, but Im not sure I write like any of them. If it was any of those though, I think the influences I picked up from Leonard are the most easy to spot. Im not big on painting set pictures; overly describing how someone is dressed, what the colour and texture of a carpet is or all the other minute things some feel are essential. For me its more about the story, the characters and the action than the small stuff.

7.     Who are your favourite authors?
Thats a hard one. There are so many, but I recently posted a top ten of some of my favorite writers. So here it is again, in no particular order: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Joe R. Lansdale, Chuck Palahniuk, Joe Hill, Tim Lebbon, Christian A. Larsen and Richard Matheson. The list always changes though. For me, the list changes depending on who Ive been reading more of lately, but these writers can usually be found near my night table.

8.     Who influences you as a writer?
Over the years this has changed because Im constantly being inspired by new writers that come out. Growing up though, some of my biggest influences were some mentioned above like King, Barker, Ketchum, Lansdale, as well as H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton and Shirley Jackson. Some newer ones would be Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, Wrath James White, Chuck Palahniuk, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Edward Lee and Joe Hill. Sometimes when I read them, I feel like such a hack, but they also make me want to continue to strive to be a better writer.

9.     Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?
The first horror novel I ever read was Stephen Kings The Shining. It was grade four and I saw it in my brothers ever expanding book collection. I remember the cover too. It was all silver with a face in the top center, but the face was blank. I had no idea what it was about, and I admit that I really didnt get every aspect of it when I read it back then. Some of it was way too over my head, but it made me want more of that kind of writing. I already loved horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, Eerie, Tomb and a few others my brother had, so I started to look for novels at the library. After that I think the next horror-type novel I found was Ray Bradburys Something Wicked This Way Comes which became even more of a staple for me, something I really grabbed onto and influenced some of my writing.

10.  How old were you?
I would have been around nine at the time. Clearly not a good age for something as heavy as The Shining, but Im sure thats why I like what I like.

11.  Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?
Not really. I used to say that I would never kill a child in any books I wrote, but as long as its part of the story and its not graphic or written just to shock the reader, I would and have done it. Instead of subject matter that I steer clear of, its more a tone I stay clear of. Torture porn is not something I care to write, nor are rape scenes. Will I include them in the story if its called for? Yes, but its all about writing it with the proper intentions. Having a hateable character do or say something horrible is important if thats what they would believable do. I wrote a novel where an abusive husband said things and did things that made one editor uncomfortable, saying that it was too over the top, and nobody, even someone evil would say things I made him say. Since I had heard the very words come from the mouth of an abuser, I left them in because it something that character would say.

12.  What was the best advice you were given as a writer?
Dont let rejections get you down. I can never say that enough. Rejections are all part of the learning and growing process. When you do get a rejection letter, take it for what it is. Read over and rework the story as it might need and submit elsewhere. Never, and I cant stress this enough, NEVER send an email back to the editor. Even if its to thank them for their time, just let it drop. Editors have enough to deal with without having to read thank you letters from everyone they reject (which can be in the high hundreds for each anthology). Just let it go.
Editors reject stories for all kinds of reasons. Sure some of them are bad, but there are plenty of stories that get rejected because your writing style might not appeal to the editor, the story you wrote might not have clicked with them that particular day or it simply did not fit in with the anthology and the editor having to make a hard choice. Some of my most successful stories were rejected several times before finding a home. The easiest one to mention is The Soldier which was rejected a few times before being picked up, and that made it on to some of the years best short story lists.

13.  If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?
Not take some of my rejections as hard as I have. Also, I wouldve taken more time with some of my releases. When I first put out At the Gates of Madness, I left it up to my editor to do things right. I was in such a hurry to get it out that I never looked over the final draft sent in to be printed, so I personally missed the fact that the file sent in was not the final corrections but the original first draft. Quite a few copies of that got out before it was caught and it was and is one of the most embarrassing things that I would love to go back and change. I dont usually mention it either because its so embarrassing, but maybe itll help other writers. Do not rush a release!

14.  How many books do you read a year?
I try to read anywhere from 3-4 books a month, so anywhere from 36-48 a year. I would love to read more, but I still have to write and work myself.

15.  Do you write every day?
I do, for the most part. Unless life so rudely steps in and stops it, I write every day. I used to have a two hour window whered I write, but decided to do it with word count instead. Now I write 3000 words a day, more or less. I give that so I dont just sit at my desk looking at social media or staring at Mina for the two hours. Some days I will write more than the set amount though, in the case where the flow is good and I have thoughts I need to get out, but I never force it. If Im working on a novel and Im not at 3000 words yet, but it feels like an uphill battle, I just close it and work on a short story. Usually I have two novels and about eight short stories in the works at once, so finding something to turn to pretty easy.



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