This week I'm interviewing fellow writer Shaun Horton. I was a guest on his blog back in June, and it is time to return the favour. He's an American writer, and his first novel was The Unknown Neighbor, a slow-burn piece with a twist. His new novel is Class 5, a fast-paced alien action story. You can read the first chapter here.
Hi Shaun, welcome to my blog.
Thanks for having me. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here.
Here’s a slice of red velvet cake. Before we get onto all this book talk, what would you like to drink with it? Tea? Fruit tea? Hot chocolate? Beer? Some other beverage?
Lovely, thanks. Iced tea is my regular preference.
And do you partake of cigars, a pipe, or gentleman’s snuff, perhaps?
Thanks, but I'm a non-smoker. You certainly know how to treat your guests though, I must say.
I don’t get many guests, so I try to keep ‘em happy. [Karl goes off to make iced tea.] Okay, now we're settled: books. In my opinion your last novel – The Unknown Neighbor - was a psychological suspense drama, aiming at a slow build up. Whereas your new novel, Class 5 - which I finished reading today – is a more traditional horror adventure tale. Do you agree with that? If so, what made you change tack for novel two?
Yeah, I would agree with that. Well, there were several reasons for that. One is that ever since I decided to take my writing seriously, I knew I wasn't going to be just a one-genre author. Horror has always been my main interest, but I've also always been interested in fantasy epics and a little bit of science fiction. Of course, that makes different varieties of a genre well within limits too.
As far as Class 5 goes, there were several things which led to the story the way it is now. After the feedback from The Unknown Neighbor, I wanted to tackle something faster paced. Originally, it was also just a short story - the first chapter, and I was going to leave it at that - but then I finished that bit and I just kept going. On top of all that, there was the inspiration I had from another book I had recently finished. One of those instances where I finished the book, closed it, and thought "I can do better than this". Whether I did or not is certainly up for debate, as they are two separate, different works, but I think Class 5 stands well enough on its own for that.
That’s interesting about the first chapter – the prologue for Turner was originally a separate piece, but then once I started planning the novel I realised it worked well as an element to incorporate. I wonder how many other novels grow from a separately-written seed like that?
Well, at a certain point, I realized I had enough down that readers would probably want my head on a pike if I didn't write the rest of the story out. The most common question I get on my short stories is "Where's the rest?"
Were there any other inspirations for Class 5? A clichéd question, but where did the idea for the story come from?
There was an episode of The X-Files that popped into my head for one aspect of the book. Also, I don't know if you would call them inspirations as much, but there are three small nods to a few of my favorite shows/movies in the book. I'm not giving them away, as I'm considering running a contest to identify them later on. We'll see how that works out though. Hey, did you hear that hissing noise?
[Shaun looks worried; Class 5 springs to mind. We both rush to the window. I breathe a sigh of relief.] Ah, it's okay, that's just my cat, Dolly, having a hissy fit because I forgot to fill her biscuit bowl. I'll be back in a minute. [Biscuit sounds rattling in a bowl.] Sorry about that, back to the interview. Did you have to do much research?
Absolutely. I knew as soon as I knew I would be having military in the book I would have to get them right. Squad layout and terms, to the firearms they carry. I'm also not a big car guy, so anytime you see a specific car make or model in any of my works, it either means I've owned that vehicle, or there was research involved.
Do you believe in aliens? Would they be like this?
I believe in a lot of things. Aliens, Bigfoot, Ghosts, Giant Cave-Dwelling Spiders. Life is just more exciting that way, and new discoveries in nature and the way the world works are being made every day. I think that's one of the great things about horror is that so much of is could simply be real events that haven't happened, or that already did and nobody's talking about it.
I think it is only arrogance and religious propoganda that makes people believe there isn't anything else out there. Just here on Earth, life has surprised us with where it can survive and what kind of forms it can take. To say it can't exist on other planets is pure egotism. Do I think aliens are like they are represented in my story? I think it's possible. Depending on how deeply you want to dive into current extra-terrestrial theory (I swear, I'm not as bad as the unshaven guy with the frizzy hair), some would say absolutely there are aliens like that.
Ah, I remember your ambitious series of blog posts on cryptids, it all makes sense now! Back to Class 5: I liked the cover, the colours, the arrangement. Did you have a lot of say in its design? Who created it for you? The fact that it includes the non-human antagonist is interesting, since it is something that can be referred to, but also maybe gives something away about its nature. Did you debate whether to show the alien or not?
Oh, God, the cover. Well, the easy part, I used Paul Beeley of Create-Imaginations.com. He's done the cover for both my books now and I have no doubt he'll be doing more in the future. As for the cover of Class 5, I commissioned it before I had any idea what I wanted. We worked back and forth through a few ideas and then settled on this. I had to send him a picture of what the Arizona desert looked like, as the first few tries were your more expected, fantasy wasteland types, but he nailed it right away after that. Having the alien on the cover was a choice that worked for me for a few reasons. First, he pops up in the very first chapter, and through the title and book description, you knew an alien was going to be there, so it's not really a spoiler of any kind. Still, you don't usually see an antagonist on the cover of a book unless it's a fight scene, so having the alien on the cover of Class 5 makes you wonder what else is going on in the book and if there might be more to the creature than first appears.
Lastly, what are your plans for the future? Is there another novel in the works?
Plans for the future, include a lot more writing. I've actually got several projects I'm working on currently, including a short story collection, a horror novel for authors, the first book in my own fantasy series, a mountain of spiders, and the idea has been bouncing around lately for a sequel to Class 5. So, you can see I'm at no loss for ideas for the time being. Also, a lot of reading.
Well, once again, thanks for having me, and thank you so much for the tea and cake. It was delicious. I may have to come back for more. Hey, what's that weird smell? It's really sweet. You do remember that bit in Class 5 where -
Oh, that's just the toffee apples I'm making, something I like to do in October. Not as good as chocolate, but at least you're getting some vitamin C. I'll go and get us one. Thanks for being my guest!