Author Interview with Shaun Hamill

Welcome back to my author interview series. Many thanks to Shaun Hamill for taking some time to answer these questions. Without further ado, let’s get to the discussion.



1. What made you start writing horror?

I always read horror growing up (Stephen King was my first “big boy” author, followed shortly by Anne Rice), but I didn’t try writing it until I was in my 30s. In my teens and twenties, I saw myself as more of a Nick Hornby/John Irving kind of writer—tragic/funny/romantic stuff set in a recognizable real world.

But once I was in grad school and started reading some of the great early Weird Fiction writers (Lovecraft, Howard) something clicked in my brain and I was like, “This. I want to do this.” So, I tried to move that John Irving sensibility to the milieu of cosmic horror, and I think it worked. I felt like I’d finally found my “thing”—a mix of the literary/character-based story against a backdrop of dark wonder.


2. What is your favorite tool (vocabulary, commas, dialogue, flashback, etc.) in your writer’s toolbox? 

That’s a tough call, but if I had to pick one, I really love dialogue. It’s the most fun part of writing—watching the characters negotiate with one another. It feels very natural to me.


3. Robert E. Howard’s Conan faces off against H.R. Giger’s Alien in a ruined fortress. Can Conan win? If so, how? 

This is the best question I’ve ever been asked. Conan can win, but I think a couple of things would have to work in his favor. First, he’d need to know how fast and strong the Alien is. Second, he’d need to be aware that it bleeds acid. If he doesn’t know both of those things (or learn them very quickly after encountering the Alien for the first time), he’s screwed. But let’s assume he does know these things—either having seen the creature kill someone else, or by trying one-on-one combat before getting away.

In this case, if Conan can hide and find a vantage point over the creature, he could try to smash it with some debris (a crumbling stone or something similar). If he times it right, he can either kill the Alien outright, or trap it. If he traps it, he can either get in close to finish it off, or just get away. If I were writing the story, he wouldn’t run away, though. He’d get in close and set the Alien on fire. He wouldn’t leave until he was sure the thing was dead.


4. What should readers know about your most recent or upcoming work (or works) and where can they find your writing? 

I am not the most prolific writer, so tracking down my “collected works” is relatively easy. My first novel, A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS, it out in paperback from Vintage/Anchor. My new novel, THE DISSONANCE, hits on July 23, from Pantheon Books, in hardcover/ebook/audiobook versions. I also have a Conan the Barbarian story, “Lethal Consignment,” from Titan books, which you can get for $1.99.

There are links to all three on the Penguin Random House homepage, here:



If you’re still jonesing for some Shaun Hamill content, you can check out my rave review of his debut novel, A Cosmology of Monsters.


A Cosmology of Monsters

A Cosmology of MonstersWhile I love the film version of The World According to Garp, I’ve never read a John Irving novel. I should rectify that at some point, but I mention it here to illustrate that I’m missing what Stephen King cites as a significant influence on Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters. That being the case, I still loved Hamill’s book. A Cosmology of Monsters strikes a perfect balance between a literary and genre horror novel. Fans of works at either end of the spooky spectrum should appreciate this tale.

Before I talk about the story, I need to laud this book’s gorgeous exterior (pictured to the left). The cover stopped me dead in the store the first time I saw it. I loved the evocative illustration combined with the bright orange and blue hues. A special shoutout is owed to Na Kim and Kelly Blair, who are listed as being responsible for the jacket illustration and design, respectively. They, and Pantheon Books, did a terrific job on the eye candy. That said, I will now jump into the actual narrative.

Spoilers Below (although I try to keep things vague)

The idea of a horror novel based around a haunted house attraction is brilliant, and that alone might’ve been enough for me to enjoy this work. Yet, by the end of the story, that aspect feels like a minuscule part of the book. The opening pages follow the protagonist’s mother and father, a huge Lovecraft fan, as they start their relationship and marriage. Unfortunately, things take a tragic turn for the father, who dies of cancer. From there, the story focuses on Noah, the youngest son of the couple, as he grows up. His childhood is complicated by the appearance of a monster, who he befriends, and the disappearance of his sister. Eventually, after many twists and turns, Noah discovers a hidden world in which monsters are made, and he must make some horrible choices to save the people he loves. There are a lot of details I’m leaving out, but that was just a quick summary. You’ll need to pick up a copy of the book for the full yarn.

I enjoyed this entire novel, and I read it in only three sittings. There were two standout moments for me. The first was a sexual scene between the monster and Noah. This scene surprised and confused me, and I’m impressed anytime a writer does that to me. Eventually, the scene makes sense as it’s foreshadowing a later revelation, but in the moment, I was befuddled and couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and I just loved that feeling. The second standout moment of the book was the ending. It’s a gut-wrenching ordeal where the protagonist makes a Faustian bargain. I’ll let you discover the choice Noah makes for yourself, but I was impressed by how dark the story got in the end. Conclusions are where many tales fall flat, and I was happy to discover that A Cosmology of Monsters did not. I was left wanting more stories set in the universe of this book. Hopefully, one day Shaun Hamill will continue Noah’s dark journey or give us a new protagonist’s insight on the dark city at the heart of this narrative. That said, based on reading this novel, I’ll be happy to check out whatever Hamill does next. If I still haven’t sold you on A Cosmology of Monsters, you should give a listen to Shaun Hamill’s interview with the Lovecraft ezine for further enticement.

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