Dentro Del Monolito - September 27, 2019
By José Luis Pascual
You are a well-known author but only a small handful of your works have been translated into Spanish. Therefore, I'd like you to introduce yourself to Spanish readers. Who is Shaun Hutson?
Shaun Hutson is the man who has, over the years, been nicknamed “The Godfather of Gore”, the “Shakespeare of Gore” the “Emperor of Excess” and the man who has had more than 60 books published under my own name and also under my six different pseudonyms I used to use. It's a mystery to me too why I haven't had more books published in Spain. Especially after the success of Slugs the Movie which was made by a Spanish company (the same company are now trying to get a film adaptation of my novel Spawn off the ground). More of my pseudonymous work has been published in Spain than my own books but who's counting?
Tell me about your beginnings. When, and under what circumstances did you decide to become a writer?
If I'm perfectly honest, I would probably never ever have decided to write had I not read a book when I was a teenager that I thought was so bad I decided to try and write for myself! I'd always loved scribbling little stories when I was a kid but it had never occurred to me to be a writer and certainly never occurred to me that you could make a good living from it which I was lucky enough to do. I wrote my first book when I was 18. A truly appalling novel that was a rip-off of Straw Dogs and, quite rightly, never found a publisher. However, I got the writing bug and, after seeing the magnificent film “Cross of Iron” in 1977, I wrote a war novel called “Blood and Honour”. It was accepted just before my 21st birthday and I did five more war books for the same publisher. However, there was no money in war books and I think my natural leaning was always towards horror. My first bestseller was Slugs in 1982 and, with the publication and huge success of SPAWN the following year, I turned professional when I was 23 and, in fact, became the youngest professional author in the world for quite a few years.
Since you began your career, you have published at least one novel a year. Do you consider yourself a hyperactive person? Could you briefly explain what is your daily writing process?
When I first started I used to work full time and then write (like most budding authors) but, as I became successful I earned my living solely from writing so, obviously, it was easier to turn books out more quickly because it was literally the only thing I was doing. People who want to be writers usually have to juggle a “proper” job with their writing so it takes time to write. I didn't have that problem. I loved writing and creating stories and books and I had a publisher who supported me and who also offered me other subjects to write about. One year I wrote five books. One under my own name and four under pseudonyms. One of those was completed in five days!!! A 40,000 word war book called Sabres in the Snow. But I loved what I did so much it was easy. It was all planned out to the smallest detail before I sat down to type. Things are different now. I find that a more “instinctive” approach suits me better. I don't plan things nearly as intricately as I used to. It's almost as if even I don't know what the fuck is going to happen!!!
Speaking of the horror genre, did you always wanted to write horror? What were your major influences?
As I said to you earlier, I started writing war novels. But horror was always my love when I was a kid. It seemed natural I should write it too. My major influences were, and still are films. I used to go the cinema two or three times a week when I was a teenager (my first job was working in a cinema!). As far as reading goes, I read all of James Herbert's books when I was a teenager and loved them. I also read the early Stephen King novels and enjoyed those too but my real introduction to horror writing was collections of horror stories published by Pan back in the 60's and 70's. The Pan Books of Horror Stories were brilliant and they were a huge influence on me and my writing.
Why is gore so important in your work?
It isn't the gore that's important, it's the realism. I've always believed in describing things realistically and if that means sex, language or violence then so be it. I was massively influenced by the films of Sam Peckinpah (still am), films like “The Wild Bunch”, Straw Dogs, Cross of Iron and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia which depicted violence realistically and I wanted to do that in my writing. If someone gets shot or stabbed then it's a revolting thing and I wanted to show that. I hate it in films and books when violence is treated trivially and as a joke. I would never do that. Violence is fucking appalling and if reading one of my books makes people feel sick then even better. No one would ever put down one of my books thinking violence was a good thing.
I understand that Heavy Metal, especially Iron Maiden's music, is very present in your work. You usually include many tributes to the band such as street names or characters. What does Iron Maiden mean to you?
I always used to say that reading one of my books was like going to a heavy metal gig. It was like being hit round the head with an iron bar, but in a good way ha, ha. I was also lucky enough that the band members of Iron Maiden (and other rock bands too) read my books. The cross over between the two “art forms” has always been there. Iron Maiden, to me, are one of the bands I grew up with and they have that same kind of intensity, ferocity and power in their music that I put in my books (hopefully). They're superb musicians and they're very down to earth guys. I'm lucky enough to have been on tour with them a few times and on stage with them thirteen times back in the 80's and 90's. I've even got a lengthy mention in Bruce Dickinson's autobiography which was very flattering.
You are also a great supporter of Liverpool (congratulations for the last Champions League, by the way). Are there any nods to football in your works?
One of my most enduring characters, Sean Doyle (first introduced in Renegades and featured in four other books) is also a Liverpool fan and there is a scene in Renegades where he's at a match but other than that football is more of an escape for me. I was a season ticket holder at Anfield for 20 years and never missed a match home or away. Liverpool winning the Champions League in Madrid was brilliant but actually being there and seeing them win it in Istanbul in 2005 is one of my greatest memories.
Is it true that you have received death threats for some of your novels?
Yes it is! I've also been physically assaulted because of one of them! A guy read Slugs when it first came out and was so outraged by it he attacked me physically. It's funny looking back on it but it wasn't funny at the time!!! But, when you put something out for public consumption you have to be prepared for things to happen. The death threat (or the most frightening one) came from a guy who was in prison and was convinced that the same thing had been done to him while he was in there as was described in a novel of mine called CAPTIVES. He was convinced a microchip had been implanted in his brain (like the prisoners in the book) and he wanted to meet up with me to discuss how I knew about this. When I refused he threatened to kill me. I wasn't too scared until he told me he was due for release very soon!!! I was due to do a signing session in London around that time and, after another threat from him, I had to have security guards!!! It made me feel like a rock star..ha, ha. Needless to say he never carried through with his threat...well...not yet anyway!! Writing the kind of stuff I do you just know that someone, somewhere is going to find something in it they can relate to, maybe in a bad way. However, I can't stop writing what I write just for the sake of one nutcase every now and then.
When it comes to creating a story, do you think is more important the visual impact than the depth of characters, or there should be a balance?
There has to be a balance. A reader won't respond to a character if they're one dimensional. Describing violence is pointless if the reader doesn't give a shit about the person it's happening to. You have to get readers to care, even if it's about so called bad characters. Violence for the sake of violence doesn't work in books or films. You have to see some consequences. You have to care about the people it's happening to.
Speaking of "Slugs", how did you come up with the idea of using such a rare animal in literature as the slug, and turning it into a flesh-eater threat?
Believe it or not I never intended writing about slugs. I always wanted to do a book about leeches. I thought there was more material there. However, I did a book called Death Day and there was one scene with a huge slug. My agent and publisher both suggested a book all about slugs. I thought it was a stupid idea but, once I did the research, I realized it had legs (unlike a slug!!!). The biggest problem was getting people into a situation where they could be attacked and eaten by something so slow moving! However, I managed it and then did it again in Breeding Ground five years later (Breeding Ground is being re-issued by my publishers Caffeine Nights before the end of this year). Originally there was supposed to be a third slugs novel but that never materialised, mainly because I wasn't sure about writing it. It might happen one day. You never know.
As a creator of dark and terrifying stories, do you believe in the supernatural, things like demons or dark forces that act upon us?
To be honest I've never really thought about it that much. I suppose if there's good there must be bad. It's more of a philosophical question and I've never been one to look too deeply into things I must confess. I'd love to give you some well thought out, intellectual argument but... I can't.
In Spain, sadly, horror is a minority genre although there seems to be some resurgence because of the work of small publishers. Speaking of horror, how do you see the literary scene in the UK?
Horror is a minority genre everywhere! It's only the work of independent publishers as you say, that keeps it going. It's as if publishing has got no balls anymore. Everything has to be nice and safe and mainstream. Books are manufactured as much as films and music these days. The entire business, with a few exceptions, has no characters like it used to and I'm not just reminiscing and looking at things through rose coloured glasses. I've been in this business for more than thirty years and the changes that have taken place are huge and, mostly for the worst. Authors used to be given time years ago. A publisher would support an author through maybe two or three books and help them build a style. That doesn't happen anymore. Everything is very formulaic and if a book isn't successful immediately then the publishers just drop the author. It's very sad but, thank God for the independents like Caffeine Nights (my publishers) who seem to care more about authors than they do about just making money. Obviously, everyone wants to make money but you have to have the right product and marketing to do that. You have to blame publishers I'm afraid. The so called “big boys” are all looking for the next Twilight or the next this or the next that. They don't want originality. They want something they can drop into a nice safe little box and market. Twilight and garbage like that helped to destroy the horror genre when Silence of the Lambs had begun that demise back in the 90's. Horror is sneered at by publishers now. I think it frightens them ha, ha. Which is a shame because there are so many loyal fans out there who want it.
And what do you think about the current British horror film scene? Any favourite film or director?
Have we got one? I love cinema but, as with horror books, it's independent films that are trying to make headway in horror films.
I'd like to know what are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
I don't know enough about self-publishing to comment to be honest. I know some people do very well with it. A mate of mine, Matt Shaw, who writes horror too, self publishes but he is very clued up about marketing and publicity and he's done very well. Maybe it's my age but I just prefer the thought of a publisher looking after my product and me! I think that's just because I don't understand the intricacies of self publishing though. Good luck to anyone who does it.
Please, could you recommend three little-known novels that you think the world should discover?
Well, they should discover ALL of my books obviously ha, ha...Others I would recommend would be The Totem by David Morrell, The Keep by F. Paul Wilson and Headhunter by Michael Slade. I think they're still available but if not, track them down anyway. They're brilliant.
If I'm not wrong, "Slugs" is your only work adapted into a movie. Will we see more adaptations of your novels shortly?
You're quite right. At the moment, Slugs is the only adaptation. I would love it if more of my books were filmed but, to make good adaptations, I think there would need to be more innovation needed than Hollywood usually displays when making horror films ha, ha. And a willingness to tackle subjects they don't normally touch would be necessary. Horror is very formulaic in Hollywood so I think it would take someone with real balls to film one of my books properly. I'm not holding my breath but it would be nice.
Chase (2017) is your latest novel. What are you currently working on?
I've got a new novel TESTAMENT, coming out in October this year. CHASE is released in paperback this year too and four more of my older books HEATHEN, BREEDING GROUND, DEADHEAD and WHITE GHOST are re-issued by Caffeine Nights with new covers and introductions by me. I've just finished another book, PROGENY, which is due for publication next year and I'm currently working on a collection of short stories so I've got product on the way. I've got some ideas for my next book but it will be a case of sitting down and thinking it through. I have to wait until there are issues and subjects that I feel strongly about before I can get started on a novel. I don't think I've ever lost that drive I had at the beginning but I seem to have so many ideas whizzing around in my head it's difficult to nail them all down sometimes. When I finally do, watch out!!!