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.
This sounds like a great read. I’m inclined to agree that I would be more scared with an actual person stalking me than having a ghost! Good luck with the book 🙂
Yes, ghosts are really limited in terms of being able to physically harm you, whereas people, not so much.
Fact is stranger than fiction! Sounds great, good luck!
True, Susan. Thanks for commenting!
I’d heard about that story. Perfect fodder for a book.
I also fear someone breaking in more than any monster.
Thanks, Alex. Hmm…where are you people seeing this story? I wish I’d seen it before Hunter’s agent. 😀
Sounds like that was a fun story to write. Living with a ghost boy, now, that might be a bit much!
No kidding. It sounds like they’ve gotten used to him, though. It’s probably just more fodder for Hunter’s twisted mind. 😉
A stalker like that would be terrifying.
The house I grew up in was haunted but unfortunately it had a menacing tone.
Oh no! Sorry to hear. That must have been so scary. I’d love to hear the story sometime.
Very interesting interview. Looks like another title to add to my “must read” list.
Thanks, Dave. I hope you enjoy it! I thought it was a great, spooky book.
Multi-generational stalkers…yikes! The note about the grandfather, father and son holding onto their stalking legacy is super creepy.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Agreed. I wonder what on earth is behind it. So bizarre.
I’ve really enjoyed the few Hunter Shea books I’ve read and this one sounds captivating! I love things that are rooted in true stories or reality, because it makes them all the more scarier to me. I’ve had thoughts from time to time about how easy it would be to catch the wrong person’s eye and become an object of their fixation, and not in a good way. Definitely going to have to pick up a copy of this one. 🙂
You’ll love it, Nikki! It’s right up your alley.
Whether the stalker is truly an otherworldly stalker, or just a 3rd generation psycho mortal, it is a very unnerving prospect!
Life & Faith in Caneyhead
I know, right? Very creepy and unnerving. That poor family!
Hunter Shea knows how to really throw a scare into his tales. I agree that having your house broken into would be worse than your run-of-the-mill ghost, so a home stalker – someone who is invading your personal sanctuary – would be absolutely terrifying. I’m looking forward to reading Hunter’s new book (I’m a Hellion, by the way).
Awesome! Welcome, Hellion. Any friend of Hunter’s is a friend of mine. I think you’ll love the book. I know I did!
I totally remember that news story! Creeped me out to no end. So, of course, now I’m going to have read this book. 🙂
That’s so cool that you’ve heard about this case. It was completely new to me! I think you’d really like the book. I’d love to hear your take on it.
Great interview! You guys have so much imagination. I think it would be easier to start from a true story as well, creepy as it is. Exciting stuff…
Thanks, Liesbet! I really loved this book, and the story behind it is so creepy. Glad you enjoyed the interview.
When a story–especially one about something this horrifying–is based on fact, it only heightens the horror for me.
Me too, Lee. It’s one of the reasons I was drawn to this one. The majority of the “horror” I read is actually true crime.
Wow, that is a super creepy story and I’m sure it made a wonderfully creepy novel.
It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.
Having been a victim of a stalker and a home invasion, this story might hit too close to home for me, but it still sounds like a good story.
Sorry to hear, Toi, but I totally understand. It is a creepy book.