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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Meet Horror Writer Shaun Meeks

Shaun Meeks was born and raised in Toronto, and still lives there with his partner, Mina LaFleur. Shaun was formerly a semi-pro skateboarder. Now he enjoys sharing his nightmares in his writing--and scaring the hell out of his readers! His short stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Smart Rhino's ZIPPERED FLESH 2, SOMEONE WICKED, and INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS. He is also the author of the books SHUTDOWN, THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE, and DOWN ON THE FARM.

Thanks, Shaun, for hanging out with us for a few minutes!

Your novel, THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE, is a great monster story. (And the cover is super, too!) What's your recipe for a great monster?

I’ve been writing a lot more monster stories as of late, and part of that has to do with this new series I’ve started, "Dillon the Monster Dick;" THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE is the first book in the series.

What makes a good monster? Really depends on what you’re going for. Making one scary--the stuff of nightmares--is just fun. To do that, I usually think of what frightens people. Deep-sea life, spiders, demons, the dark--these are things I’ll splice into a monster so that, on a deep level, the elements strike a chord of fear within the reader. I love the idea of monsters with slimy tentacles, coarse hairs, a multitude of eyes, and a nest of sharp, deformed teeth. The trick is making the reader imagine what it’d feel like to be face to face with the monster. The idea of feeling the repulsive skin touching your own, the overwhelming odor of rot that lingers on the thing's flesh. That's what I want readers to be thinking as they read.

But what about the monsters that truly hate or can't change what they are, the ones that you pity? I enjoy playing with that theme--the monster that is hunted and feared, yet proves to be the character with which the readers relate. The humans who shun or hunt the creature prove to be the real monsters. Having a reader relate to the monster isn’t always easy, but it’s great when it works!


You've published a collection of your short stories, AT THE GATES OF MADNESS. Your stories have also been published in Smart Rhino anthos. What's your strategy for writing a short story? What would you advise a new fiction writer concerning tailoring a tale?

When I’m writing a new story, most days I have no idea what it’s going to be about or how it’ll end. Often all I have is an opening, just a line, or maybe a full paragraph--and the story is born from there. People think that everything I write is plotted out and outlined well in advance. It’s really not.

When I wrote "Treats," which appears in AT THE GATES OF MADNESS, the story was simply going to be about an older man on Halloween night, reflecting on his life and his loneliness. A group of vicious teens were going torment the man until he snapped, and he would attack those harassing him. What I ended up writing was a bizarre, very different monster story that many have said is one of the vilest things they’ve ever read. I remember, when writing the story and it took a sharp turn, thinking I didn’t see that coming.

From time to time, I write something for a themed anthology. "Taut," which appeared in ZIPPERED FLESH 2, is a good example of that. I knew the theme was about body modification, so I sat down with the intention of writing a story about suspension. That was as much as I knew when I started. I had no idea who the characters would be, where the story was going, or how it would end. That’s the way I prefer to write a short story--allowing the story to become what it wants to be.

Whenever a newer writer asks me for advice on writing a short story, I tell them four things. Number one: Grab the reader right from the start. Whether it’s jumping into the action or simply writing something that’s striking, you really need to give them a good punch right off the bat. Hook ‘em and reel ‘em in.

Number two: Give the reader a great punch at the end. Don’t end the story with a cliche like and then he/she woke up. Nobody likes that.

Number three: Make sure your characters' actions make sense. Don’t ever make a character do something that nobody would do in real life. We see it all the time in movies, those moments where you think, Why would they go in the basement! Get out of the house! If you can explain the reasoning behind the action though, then do it. But re-read that section and, if it sounds forced, cut it.

Number four: Don't over-explain! All too often, I see writers over-explaining things, especially through dialogue. It’s sloppy writing to have a character explain the cause of some unexplainable event when there’s no way he/she could possibly know the cause. Use scenes, actions, and descriptions to push the plot, and let the reader take it from there.

What horror novel by another writer do you wish you had written ... and why?

Oh, so many, but if I had to pick one, I’d say IT by Stephen King. It’s an epic novel, one of those books you just don’t want to end. The characters are beautifully fleshed out, each of them having a perfect voice that never wavers. It moves flawlessly back and forth through time. King is a master at that. Not only that, but Pennywise is one of the best monsters ever. Whether it manifests in the form of a clown, blood-filled balloons, a teenage werewolf, or even its true form, Pennywise sends chills through me. I can only hope to write something on that level one day.

Thanks, Shaun, for a great interview. We look forward to reading more of your work!

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