John Shupeck is a horror writer originally raised in...well, just about every area of Pittsburgh, PA and its outlying suburbs you could imagine: trailer parks, projects, downtown metropolitan area, in the country, in the gutter, in a palace made of chocolate...You get the picture.
At a diminutive 5'5 inches, Shupeck's first professional foray into story-telling was one of the most unlikely. At age 18, he began training to become a professional wrestler at the FNW Wrestling Academy in Plum, PA. After graduating, he went on to enjoy a very non-lucrative career in that, along with performing as a hip-hop artist under the alias “Whyt Bred” (No, I am not making that up). After getting bored with these ventures, he decided to try something he'd never done before: Write a novel. Somehow, some way, what came to be known as “Red Town Lost” was published by Dave Barnett of Necro Publications, and Shupeck hasn't looked back since, having written and published another novel, 12 Nights of Sorry, along with a henceforth unpublished book of short stories, and a new novel, currently in the works.
He is now currently enrolled in the Biblical Life Institute in Freeport, PA, pursuing a path to become a pastor in the Free Methodist Church.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I am a 26 year old horror novelist from near the Pittsburgh, PA region. Basically, I started loving horror from a very young age. I began to write my first attempt at a book around the age of 7, in which my father's house was the setting. There was this fire place in the living room with a creepy Mona Lisa-like painting hanging above. I decided to make this a secret entrance to a crypt beneath the house, where there were mummies, zombies, and many other incarnations of the undead lurking about. It received much critical acclaim from the most reputed critics of them all: my parents. (Although, I suspect at my wiser age now that they may have been exaggerating their compliments of my technical prowess just a bit...either that, or I was a self-made prodigy and genius. Vanity directs me to believe the latter, in the face of all facts and common sense.)
I am currently in seminary school to obtain my degree to be a pastor in the Free Methodist church. Due to this new found re-evaluation of my faith, future stories will be toned down a little bit in their harshness, but certainly not in tone and intention; honestly, I believe looking at things in this way will bring more substance and depth into the plot and characters, thus making the experience that much more terrifying and gripping. Time will tell, though.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I would prefer the word horror over anything else. In a world where we strive to be politically correct in virtually every aspect and any single possible venture we pursue has a subgenre we bog it down into, I think it's much more effective to just stick with the basics and use the words that are most simple in delivering the message of what we are trying to do. In my case, I want to scare people, no matter what means I need to employ in order to do that (psychological, supernatural, metaphysical, etc). I'm a horror novelist, and I accept and actually welcome all the connotations and predetermined judgements that come along with the word “horror”.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I am a huge, huge fan of Clive Barker, first and foremost. The thing that makes me excited about reading his work is simply this: He is completely different from me in the way I want my work to come across and affect people. Sticking to your own kind of “style” and being complacent in like-mindedness is dangerously close to delving into drudgery, in my opinion, and so therefore I want the fiction I read to be something that will always catch me completely by surprise so I can maintain excitement and anticipation throughout the work. Other authors that I enjoy are the usual suspects: Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Robert Bloch, Edgar Allan Poe, C.S. Louis, Dean Koontz, and probably a million more.
But Barker for sure can definitely throw me for a loop, which is what I prefer.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Currently, I am in the middle of reading C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, which so far has completely changed my way of thinking as far as what the human mind can perceive when it comes to sin and the internal (or in this case, external) forces that cause us to go against our conscience's better judgement.
Most disappointing book was probably Stephen King's Wind Through the Keyhole, the “8th” volume in the Dark Tower series. I know the guy probably isn't writing these just for the sake of cashing in, but through every page I went through, one word flashed in my mind like an obnoxious Las Vegas sign: FILLER, FILLER, FILLER!
How would you describe your writing style?
I am a 9th grade drop-out with a somewhat decent affinity for learning and picking up on things literature related. When I write my stories, I try not to veer too far off from making sure it is understandable to everyone who reads it, at least on a technical level. In an age where it is commonly accepted to spell “Your” as “ur,” and emoticons have replaced most adjectives for describing how we feel at any given time, I believe the best way to reach today's current generation and keep them interested is to keep it simple. Of course, I've been accused of going a little crazy with my punctuation. Also, I could probably write a book all on my own about how TO write sentences that will run-on till eternity, so I'm sure I sometimes fall short of my own goal.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
The best thing I've heard came from a word of mouth review from a buddy's wife who decided to read Red Town Lost:
“I have never felt so uncomfortable the whole entire time I was reading something.” (She finished it and loved it, by the way.)
The most negative review didn't really bother me as it so much annoyed me. On my publisher's Amazon page, one person decided to give it a two star review, citing the reasons as being that I tried to “re-create Waco, Texas”. Unless the end result of Waco involved demonic entities speaking through a television set or an 8 foot tall dog chasing David Caresh through an ancient tunnel underneath the town, I'm going to say this person didn't even get halfway through the book and decided to figure out the rest purely by their own conjecture. Either way, they were wrong.
What’s your favourite food?
Oh, and I sometimes enjoy Mexican—you know, if there isn't a hapless victim around to decapitate and chop up into a nice stew.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
A little Mariah Carey...Missy Elliot...a healthy dose of Ted Nugent, the intervals hosted by the Village People and Wayne Newton...
No. Probably a mixture of Disturbed, Pantera, Creed and 2-Pac Shakur.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
Always be open to criticism from those who have come before you, but never back down if that criticism exceeds judgement on your work and begins judging you as a person. We shouldn't have to hide our own pasts, and we should not allow others to try to rewrite it just because it hurts THEIR egos or perceptions about how things should be done.
The importance of the story exceeds the importance of the author's story, always.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Describing the layout of settings. Some writers are so frickin' detailed with where their characters end up, I get intimidated by all the information I'm taking in and stop paying attention after the first page. On the opposite hand, there are people that barely describe anything about settings, which can be equally as boring. I try to find a happy medium where you know what you're looking at, but it's not insanely drawn out or tedious to the point it takes away from what's going on with the characters.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I definitely think from a technical standpoint I have grown leaps and bounds since the publication of my first novel. At the same time, I think there's a kind of unwitting creativity in there that may never be captured again in the same way, since it was my first book and I was much more open to letting my imagination flow and less concerned with proper formatting and all that other stuff authors focus on after they grow up.
I definitely can come up with more creative monsters and plot points compared to before.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
“Don't ever hide who you are for anyone. Your past is your past, and no one else has a right to keep that hidden.”
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favorite character from Red Town Lost would have to be “Kevin Richie,” who is featured in the “Spider-Arms” section. This reason for this is that he and his outward deformities are based off a real-life friend who was pretty upset when he found out I'd used an exaggerated version of him in the book. I find that incredibly funny. If people that know me in real life look in my books, they're almost guaranteed to find some version of either them or their names somewhere in there.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Hmm...I'd probably say my least favorite character would be “Zack Bennett, Sr.,” a local junkie who is featured in the section “River Road.” Drug addicts enrage me very badly; especially ones like the guy in the story who take their addictive aggressions out on their children. The un-Christian side of me might even go so far as to say they don't have a right to live. Of course, everyone can change and better themselves; it's just so sad that so few of these people don't.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Respect: Fame means nothing without it, and a fortune is only empty vanity when no one in the world even wants to be around to help you enjoy it.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Currently, it would actually be an unpublished project that I hope will find a backer pretty soon: The Isolation Anthology, Volume 1. 67,000 words of pure brutality and moral depravity, the short stories within sure to scare the living crap out of anyone who dares cast their eyes upon the pages!
I'm hoping all of you will get to see it very soon.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last published novel is called 12 Nights of Sorry, a gripping “horror-thriller” about an abducted little girl who fights back against her attacker, which you can purchase for E-book on Amazon.
My next current project is a novel called “Prayer,” where a bitter and angry man ends his own life just so he can have the confrontation with God that has been years in the making. Unfortunately for him, there are a few things he has to witness first before such a thing can happen...
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
“If I gave you just $50,000, could you make the greatest horror movie ever?”
(The answer, of course, is yes.)
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WHEN FRANKIE RED COMES TO TOWN...PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE!
It’s fall of 2012, and Dan Suppers is lost. Abandoning his broken down vehicle, he’s been walking through seemingly endless woods for hours looking for something — anything — that resembles civilization. What he finds is a smoking pit of Hell — a large building filled with what Dan soon realizes are the remnants of hundreds of human corpses.
And Dan thought he was having a bad day!
Red Town Lost chronicles the efforts of a terrified man to discover the secret of what happened the night the building burned, and in the process unraveling four harrowing tales revolving around four unforgettable individuals and their own unique trials and tribulations that are somehow connected to the burned out building. Unfortunately, the man will discover very quickly that the stories are not just connected with his morbid discovery, but in fact may hold horrifying implications for the man and his very soul!
WHO IS FRANKIE RED AND WHAT DOES HE HAVE IN STORE FOR DAN?
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