Who is Shawn Burgess?
Shawn Burgess is a fiction author with a love for the dark, chilling, and unusual, whether that be in his own writing, or in his reading of the works of others. His debut novel, The Tear Collector, was published in 2019 and its sequel, Ghosts of Grief Hollow is due out in 2021. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and two sons.
How did you get into writing?
I started crafting stories at a very young age, and I always tended to gravitate toward the macabre, even in elementary school. I continued through high school, writing stories, poems, and songs. In my first two years of college, I completed my first novel. It was a mess but a terrific learning experience. The love of writing never really left me, though I did go quite a few years without putting pen to paper.
If you could co-author a book with another author, alive or dead? Who would it be and what would it be about?
Okay, dream time. I’d love to write a horror with Stephen King, alternating narratives, one of us writing the accounts from the monster’s point of view (perhaps something that always shared the Earth with us unbeknownst to humankind, but that human encroachment has forced it to defend itself and confront our species) and the other writing humanity’s account, while both writing a humanizing account. The awful deeds from one perspective may seem heroic to the other and vice versa. I’m not sure if it would work, but it would be a fun project.
Tell us about your biggest achievement or proudest writing moment to date?
The publication of my debut novel, The Tear Collector. It’s definitely a cathartic feeling to see something I worked so hard on find a publisher and make its way into print. I wrote it for my oldest son at his request, so initially, I never anticipated it to ultimately be published, but it quickly took on a life of its own. I love the characters in it, and had so much fun with the story.
Now tell us about your lowest moment and how you overcame it? Go on, be a hero…
I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a low moment, but when my debut was released into the world, I realized quickly that the book didn’t belong to me anymore. It’s an adjustment for a first-time author because everything is so new. People shared their praise and critiques. I know authors are all over the map on whether to read reviews left for their books. I typically read them, and while it can be deflating when you have a reader who didn’t particularly enjoy your book, it can also be illuminating to see your story through someone else’s eyes. A poor review can sting, but occasionally those reviews contain useful kernels that can improve future works. I also realized that one person’s bad review may be the precise reason someone else picks up the book, which points to the subjectivity of the reading experience and reviewing in general. That being said, I was very pleased with how well the book seemed to be received. I’m writing to entertain, so it’s very gratifying to know my words are out there in the world and that people are enjoying them. Writing is sort of a lonely endeavor in the sense we’re siloed off from our ultimate audience during the creation. Reviews are very helpful guides to knowing when you stuck the landing or what you might need to work on in the future.
What does your writing routine look like?
I typically write from around 10PM or 10:30PM to 1:30 or 2AM, and then I try to carve out some time to write on the weekends.
What attracts you to horror/speculative fiction?
I’ve always loved horror and speculative fiction. Anything is possible in horror, but for horror to work most effectively, readers have to care about the characters. I love that uneasy feeling and anxious energy that horror can generate. Plus, it plays so well with so many other genres. The Tear Collector is a paranormal thriller/horror, but also has a murder mystery vibe to it and even some elements of sci-fi. The possibilities with horror are endless.
What’s your all-time favourite horror movie and why?
I love so many horror movies, so that is a really tough question. This’ll date me, but I have two giant Case Logic soft cases with hundreds of horror DVDs in them. I think it would come down to John Carpenter’s The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness. Both are masterpieces in my opinion. In the end, I would give the nod to The Thing. The acting is great. The script fantastic. It’s one of the things I love about the horror genre in how it’s so versatile. It’s an utterly compelling and engaging story based at a research site in Antarctica so you have that foreboding element of isolation and all of that’s expertly woven into a Body-Snatchers-like theme with Lovecraftian elements and Sci-fi. Everything in that movie needs to be there for either character development or plot movement. It’s just a superb film in my opinion.
Dan: Ah, man! The Thing is one of my all-time favourite movies.
Who’s an indie author everyone should be reading?
I can’t limit it to just one, so I’ll talk about a few.
Dawn Hosmer. If you’re not familiar with Dawn, she writes psychological thrillers and suspense. Her debut Bits and Pieces is about a woman who experiences different color flashes from a simple touch since childhood. She can pick up glimpses other people, even other languages from these flashes. Mix in a serial killer and one of these flashes from a crowded gathering and her having no idea who she got the flash from, and you have the makings of a very intriguing thriller. Dawn’s a good writer friend and a big supporter of the writing community, but I’m also a big fan of her work.
Gabino Iglesias is another whose book I just read. Coyote Songs was very original and one horrific scene involving a box truck in the desert I cannot get out my head. It was masterfully done for maximum impact. That kind of staying power always impresses me. Plus, I like how he mixes more fantastical monsters with the ones that roam the earth wearing human skin. I already added his other novel Zero Saints to my to-be-read list after reading Coyote Songs.
Barlow Adams’ Appalachian Alchemy is always a standout to me. His writing is excellent. I’m very interested to see what he’ll put out next.
Also, I recently read Jennifer Soucy’s Demon In Me, Angelique Jordana’s Dani, Steve Stred’s The Future in the Sky, D.M. Sheppard’s The Dark Land, all very enjoyable reads and very different from one another.
I’ve already put your newest release, Savage, on my TBR. I’m in love with that cover, and it has a very intriguing premise, which sounds right up my alley.
I’m constantly discovering new authors and great reads through interacting with other authors on Twitter. That’s the beauty of the internet and its ability to shrink the world and erase borders. I’ve made writer friends all over the world, and I love that aspect of it.
What’s the first horror novel you remember reading? What impression did it make on you?
I fell in deep end with Stephen King’s IT. It made quite the impression. I believe I was around fourteen at the time. Prior to that, I always loved scary movies and television, but that book solidified my interest in reading horror.
Which book by another author do you wish you had written, and why?
Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. He nailed the big idea, crafted a perfectly conceivable way for it to come into existence, and he really had an excellent mix of characters. The story was complex, and I enjoyed what I’ll call the Frankenstein aspect of it that we as humans think we can harness our creations with impunity without much forethought to the ramifications if it all goes wrong.
Which monster from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why?
Kiefer Southerland’s character in The Lost Boys because if you’re doomed to a fate of being a monster, at least they have some sense of community (twisted as that might be), ties to humanity and when they’re not “vamping” out, seem to be having a pretty good time. Plus, I’m a total night owl and also love live music, which there was a lot of in that movie. We took our kids on a California trip prior to Covid, and the boardwalk in Santa Cruz featured in the film was one of the stops I was most excited about.
Which one of your books would be best adapted into a movie? And who would you cast in the lead roles?
I only have The Tear Collector out at the moment. Ghosts of Grief Hollow is the sequel, which I’m expecting to be released later in 2021. I think both would translate extremely well into film. As far as casting, not my forte, but I think maybe Jacob Tremblay or Noah Jupe for Brooks Raker and Bradley Cooper or Matthew McConaughey as Detective Holt. It’s fun to think about even if it doesn’t happen. We’re living in a renaissance of entertainment right now with so much great television being made. There’s more opportunity than ever at having a fictional work picked up for production.
First paragraph challenge. I’ll give you the first line, and you write the rest of the paragraph. ‘After the car inexplicably died, Tammy guided it to the shoulder of the highway, which left her in her wheelchair waiting for the roadside mechanic.’
Her breath caught as the rusty brown tow truck crested the hill at the same time the large burlap bag in her backseat twitched. Was she really doing this? Her gaze volleyed between the bloody bag and the approaching truck, her fingers tightening around the hammer concealed at her side. Another whack or two would’ve sufficiently pulverized the contents in that bag into unrecognizable meat, but she’d stopped short to enjoy listening to his raspy gurgling on the way to Culver Canyon. A tang of copper filled her mouth as she bit her own tongue excitedly. As the man hopped out from his truck and strode up to assist, she sprang from the wheelchair. Startled, he spun, but the hammer outpaced his retreat and crashed down on the back of his skull. His knees buckled, plummeting him to the pavement. She stood smiling over his twitching body before removing the truck keys from his pocket. She only bartered one soul with the demon. A grin snaked across her lips as she wondered what it would offer her for a second. (Okay, I might have gone past a paragraph…)
Dan: I love it. You twisted the twist.
Where did the idea for your last book come from?
I actually started with some dialogue between a few characters. Once I had a strong feel for who they were, I built the story around them, but I usually work the other way. Create the central idea and build out around that.
What does the next year of writing and publishing look like for you?
Ghosts of Grief Hollow is slated for publication later in 2021. I expect to know more from my publisher on exact timing soon. I’m halfway through another novel that I would like to complete by summer and get it ready to query. Additionally, my goal is to write and sell a few short stories this year.
What book of yours should people start with?
I would recommend starting with The Tear Collector. That being said, I’ve written both books so that they can exist and be enjoyed as standalones. It was tougher to do on the sequel, more so because of characterization missed than actual plot. There are enough plot points sprinkled in for a new reader to infer most of what happened in the first book without having it be too much exposition as to slow down the pacing.
Have you got a newsletter/reader magnet?
I do. You can subscribe to it right from the top of the homepage of my website www.shawnburgessauthor.com I don’t have a reader magnet at the moment, but that may change in the future as I’m working on something in The Tear Collector universe.
Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at the handle Shawnbinjax, or you can link to any of those through my website.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m always interested in connecting with new writers in the horror community and writing community in general for that matter. I’d love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.