Not only is Hunter Shea’s new novel, We Are Always Watching, a hit, it’s based on one of the creepiest true stories I’ve ever heard. So of course I had to find out more. Take it away, Hunter!
I hear “We Are Always Watching” was initially inspired by a really creepy true story. Can you tell us about it? You just gotta love New Jersey. In the land of Tony Soprano, there’s a million-dollar house in a quaint suburb that has stood dark and vacant. In 2014, a family bought what they thought would be their dream home. As soon as they moved in, they found cryptic and sometimes terrifying notes from someone who called himself (or herself) The Watcher. It appears this person is the third generation of stalkers keeping a close eye on the inhabitants of the house. Here’s just one of the notes: “My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. … I have be (sic) put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming.” Naturally, the family picked up their kids and left. They tried to have the house razed but the local zoning board forbid it. They then rented it to another family who recently started receiving Watcher notes as well. It’s really eerie that this keeps happening and the Watcher can’t be caught.
What made you to decide to write a book inspired by it? My agent (the force of nature better known as Louise Fury) brought this story to my attention. She thought it would be right up my alley. I ended up reading every article I could find on it. You could say I was instantly hooked. Being a New Yorker, I get a secret thrill when I see bad shit go down in Jersey. We’re very competitive that way.
What appealed to you, or got your brain churning? Growing up a child of the night, I loved all things horror. But what scared the bejeezus out of me was the thought of someone breaking into our house. I had more nightmares about prowlers standing over my bed than boogeymen. This story really freaked me out. Naturally, when I thought of how I would take it – a story about multiple generations of stalkers – and make it my own, I had to go even darker. What better way than to utterly isolate and trap the people in the house that is being watched? So, I moved my story to a remote, crumbling Pennsylvania farm and made the family so hard on their luck, there was literally no way to run from it when things went south. Not everyone has the financial ability to pick up stakes and head for the hills. That’s why you see people living in supposed haunted houses (we’re talking the negative, crap-your-pants kind of haunting) for years and years, beaten down by constant dread. This is coming from a guy who has lived in a haunted house for 25 years. Though the ghost of the boy who shares our home wasn’t scary, at least once we got over the initial shock of seeing him. Now he’s just part of the family, and one I don’t have to feed or buy iPods or new clothes for.
Do you think the truth behind your novel made it more powerful? Absolutely. I’ve been writing so many bat-crap crazy monster books, I wanted to tackle something more rooted in reality (though who’s to say the Jersey Devil isn’t real?) This can happen to anyone. All it takes is one crazy to focus their demented attention on you and the ones you love. Stalkers make people’s lives a living hell.
Was it more or less challenging to write fiction based on a real-life event? Why or why not? It was actually easier, because the real story provided a ready-made foundation for me to build upon. As I wrote, I just kept that feeling of dread the real-life family must be experiencing close to my heart. I hope that comes across in the story, because I really want readers to connect with this family and feel their confusion, fear and hopelessness.
What are you working on now? So much insanity. I’m putting the finishing touches on a summer release through Severed Press called Megalodon in Paradise. Yep, it’s as cheeky as it sounds. I was asked to write a Megalodon story, but I wanted to make it totally different than all the others out there. It was also supposed to be a novella, but by the time I was done, it was a full-fledged novel. I have a series of novelettes coming out every other month starting in June through Lyrical Underground. Each story is about the crap you could order from comic books back in the 70s and 80s and how they go terribly awry. I’m also working on getting my trilogy of connected ghost books (Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity and Island of the Forbidden) back into the world while writing a fourth installment. If ghosts are your thing, get ready for me to haunt your head! I call my fans Hellions, and I encourage everyone to become a card-carrying Hellion by joining my Dark Hunter newsletter or becoming a patron on Patreon. There’s lots o’ fun in store along with free books and more. Just click on over to www.huntershea.com and enter the madness.