DeathGroundWriter Spotlight: Interview With Author Shawn Burgess

Shawn Burgess is a dark fiction author, avid horror fan, and Halloween junkie. He has a BA in English from the University of Florida and focused on literature for his postgraduate studies at the University of North Florida. His stories often blend two or more of his preferred genres: thriller, mystery, horror, crime/police procedural, urban fantasy, and suspense.

In his fictional worlds, realistic characters collide with the strange, unusual, and sometimes frightening. Ghosts of Grief Hollow, the sequel to his Amazon international best-selling debut novel, The Tear Collector, is due out in late 2021.

Tell us a bit about your fiction. What does it mean to you, and why do you think readers will love it?

I’m a dark fiction writer with a tendency to blend several genres, so my stories may not always fit neatly into one box. I like to tell complex tales with fairly large casts—perhaps partly because of my propensity for ushering many of them to tragic and sudden ends. I’m a big believer in having at least some relatable main characters that readers may readily identify and empathize with. I’m also intending to ground a reader in a realistic feeling world before things really go sideways so that they’ll maintain a level of suspension of disbelief. You’ll uncover more about my characters through their dialogue, actions, interactions, and behaviors than anything I’ll ever outright tell you in a story, which is my preference for both characterization and pacing.

Looking at the bigger picture, I love the strange, unusual, and terrifying. The supernatural, paranormal, and the occult. Ordinary, every-day people confronted with the most extraordinary of circumstances and phenomena. It’s in those moments and all the ones leading up to it, that we really discover who these characters truly are. Despite modern society’s technological advances, there exists that kernel of doubt, the sense that we as human beings can’t possibly understand everything that coinhabits the Earth with us—and that’s where I like to play most as a writer—amidst all that fear and wonderment.

To me, fiction is pure, unadulterated freedom. I can go anywhere on the page, within the confines of my own story, of course, but the possibilities are truly boundless. I write with one overarching goal, to tell a compelling story that will hopefully entertain and thrill most readers.

If you like action, adventure, mystery, suspense, and horror with memorable characters, I believe you will enjoy my fiction. Like twists and turns as well? We’re probably reading from the same sheet of music in terms of taste for what we like to read and what I like to write.

Do you remember the first moment the horror/sci-fi genre attracted you?

My parents were part of an organization that built haunted houses for their biggest charity fundraising event each year. I was exposed to it at an early age. My father also had a love for Halloween and would build a home haunt to entertain and scare kids and parents alike. I naturally gravitated to these creepy things and found enjoyment in them.

Allowing yourself to get scared by putting yourself in these situations while knowing you’re not actually going to be harmed is exhilarating, fun, and reminds us we’re alive. It’s why Halloween has become a multi-billion-dollar holiday, and why events like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights seem to print money every year.

As I got older, I found that same enjoyment in books and movies. It was a natural extension of the things I already enjoyed, and my writing would quickly follow in the same path.

My copy of The Tear Collector! You can find it on Amazon!


What’s your creative process?

With my debut novel The Tear Collector, I began with three characters in a dialogue exchange. From that small scene, I got a very clear picture of who each character was. I built the rest of the novel around it. I mostly wrote it on airplanes at 30,000 feet and in hotel rooms while traveling for work. My soon-to-be-released sequel, Ghosts of Grief Hollow, was written during the pandemic. I started with an idea for how I wanted it to start and end, plus a few key scenes, and wrote it from about 10PM-2AM each night over the course of about five months, so it was really quite different for me as far as the execution of it.

As it relates to the creative process itself, I’m rather flexible, depending on the demands of the project. I don’t really have any set writing rituals I keep. I have a notebook of novel ideas and choose whatever sounds like the most fun for me to write. I don’t work from outlines but do tend to plot in my head quite a bit further into the manuscript than wherever I’m currently working in it. I always leave room to take enticing opportunities when they present themselves, and I’m not necessarily married to an ending I’ve selected at the onset. This rough structure works for me and likely leads to the books having more unexpected twists and turns.

What are some of your favorite books and movies?

There are so many fabulous books and movies I love. I’ll start with some books, but I’m going to give more of the love to some indie and smaller press authors because they’re fantastic and they don’t necessarily garner the attention of the King’s and Koontz’s of the world.

One of my recent favorite books was Ross Jeffery’s cosmic horror novel Tome. This is probably the most high-profile book I’ll talk about in regards to indies since it was nominated for a Stoker Award. Jeffery’s writing is terrific, and I was gripped throughout, even as some truly horrifying things were happening on the page. Think the old HBO prison series Oz meets cosmic horror and you have a recipe for an excellent read.

The Navajo Nightmare coauthored by Steve Stred and David Sodergren was a splatterpunk Western that was really a lot of fun. A supernatural tale of revenge about a gunslinger trying to make an honest go of it, and being dragged back into his old life and worse. It’s a true blood fest, but a really compelling read.

There’s a new novella coming out by indie author Dan Soule called The Jam that I got an opportunity to get an early look at, and I absolutely loved it. It was really a fun and unpredictable story.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few others, Dawn Hosmer’s Bits & Pieces, Angelique Jordonna’s Dani, Charly Cox’s All His Pretty Girls, Jotham Austin’s Will You Still Love Me if I Become Someone Else? and Barlow Adams’ Appalachian Alchemy—all of them excellent reads.

As far as big presses go, Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar was a recent favorite that I tore through, and I thought Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark was fantastic.

Some of my favorite movies are The Silence of the Lambs (also loved the book), Seven, The Lost Boys, Better Off Dead, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, A Quiet Place II, Get Out, Pumpkinhead, Beetlejuice, Jaws, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Jeepers Creepers, The Prophesy with Christopher Walken, and In the Mouth of Madness, just to name a few.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Superpowers are a slippery slope. As a dark fiction and horror writer, I imagine them in the wrong hands being used for very nefarious purposes. Take the thriller, The Invisible Man—no good can come from that. For my own superpower, I’d choose the ability to miraculously heal other people, at the cost of years taken off my own life each time the power was used. Every superpower needs some type of built-in guardrail. Otherwise, I could heal the countless masses, leading to an explosion of the Earth’s population, scarcity of resources, and most likely, my subsequent murder.

What advice do you have for the novice writer?

Write and read as much as you can. Fill up notebooks, even if you know it’s with stories and scribblings that will likely never be published. The more you practice, the better you will become. In my eyes, the most important thing about writing is having fun. If you’re having fun with your story, it’s much more likely to connect with a potential audience. If it feels like a chore, you’re probably writing the wrong story, or perhaps approaching it in the wrong way. Never put too much pressure on yourself. That’s not to say don’t be driven to accomplish your writing goals but remember that writing is only one part of this amazing life we’ve been given. Make sure you live it to the fullest.

What are your plans for the future? 

Right now, I’m just enjoying life with my wonderful wife and two amazing sons while writing on novels in the evening. In the next few months, my second novel Ghosts of Grief Hollow is set to release. I immersed myself wholly into this project during the pandemic. I’m really thrilled with how it turned out and can’t wait to share it with readers. In addition, I’m picking back up on a novel project I paused in order to write GoGH. It’s pretty different than The Tear Collector and one I hope readers will thoroughly enjoy. Other than that, I plan to continue putting out novels as frequently as I can write, revise, and edit them. Ideally, I’d love to see one of more them ultimately translated into film, which is also a medium I love.

Learn more about Shawn Burgess:

Website: shawnburgessauthor.com

Twitter: @ShawnBinjax

Instagram: shawnbinjax

Find his books on Amazon!

Author Spotlight: Interview with Dawn Ross

Dawn Ross is a daydreamer who has been perfecting her writing skills for over twenty years. With an imagination inspired by a few decades of fantasy/sci-fi books, movies, and television, she has created her own epic sci-fi full of rich characters in a vast universe. It all begins with StarFire Dragons, which Kirkus Reviews says is “A thoughtful novel that owes a debt to Star Trek but works on its own terms.”

Dawn has a Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude meritum, in financial management. She also self-studies history, writing, and various sciences including astronomy and physics. Her character-focused stories include scientific elements such as space travel, space battles, fascinating worlds, cybernetic beings, and more.

Tell us a bit about the stories you write and why?

I’ve always been attracted to fantasy and science fiction stories. I love how they spread beyond the boundaries of reality and into worlds of endless possibilities. Not only do they provide an escape from reality, but they also spark my imagination.
I’m drawn to tragic characters who’ve had the odds stacked against them their whole lives and yet still manage to rise above them to become better people. It gives me hope that others can do it too. I’m also inspired by stories where the good guys win and bad guys get what they deserve.
All these things together have inspired numerous stories in my head, but none as epic as this sci-fi series I’m writing now. StarFire Dragons: Book One of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles was initially inspired by an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled “Suddenly Human”. The story has a Star-Trek-feel, but it doesn’t end there. I have dozens of novel ideas following this one, most of which follow the life of Jori, a ten-year-old warrior with amazing and sometimes deadly abilities.

What is your writing routine? How do you schedule your time to write?

That’s an easy one to answer: As a stay-at-home mom, I spend the first half of my weekday volunteering, running errands, and/or cleaning house. After lunch, I generally have 1-3 hours to write before my child gets out of school.

What’s your creative process like?

Many of my stories have been partially daydreamed in advance. I don’t just keep them in my head, though. I keep a ton of notes. I have notebooks all over the place, including in my car. I sometimes use the notes app on my iPhone, and I have several documents on the cloud and saved on my desktop and tablet.
This might seem very unorganized, but in truth, all my notes eventually end up on the cloud and on two separate external hard drives. My notes are very well organized in specific folders, making it easy for me to find individual stories, specific characters, and certain worldbuilding details.
Every year in October, I pick one novel-worthy story and outline it. I start with the basic Plot Dot method, then flesh out the details chapter-by-chapter. By November, I’m ready to hammer out the story. I do this with a group of other writers, both online and locally, through an event called NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and can be found at NaNoWriMo.org. The goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. Even though the story is outlined in advance, I’m not afraid to veer off track. Sometimes I find interesting subplots and sometimes I realize the story won’t work as originally planned. After November, my tasks are as follows: write the second draft, get feedback from beta readers, write the third draft, self-edit, edit using ProWritingAid, send to a professional editor, then fix the final draft.

What are some of your favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy movies and books?

This is always a difficult question to answer because there’s so much great stuff out there. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek so even if some aren’t great, they still have a special place in my heart. Firefly is one of my favorite TV shows. The movie that came after it, Serenity, is fantastic. Regarding sci-fi books, I’ve always loved Isaac Asimov. I’ve recently enjoyed James S.A. Corey’s series as well. And since I’m a sci-fi Indie author, I want to mention some great sci-fi Indie Authors: Elysia L. Strife, Craig Alanson, and E.J. Fisch, just to name a few. Frasier Armitage also has a novel that I love. It’s not published yet, though, but he’s a sci-fi author you should look out for. Allen Huntsman isn’t a sci-fi writer, but his horror short stories always give me chills.

Thanks Dawn! That’s very generous of you. Have you ever imagined writing in a different genre? If so, what?

Writing sci-fi/fantasy has always been my passion. The great thing about this genre is it can easily incorporate other genres such as horror, mystery, or suspense/thriller. No holds barred in sci-fi/fantasy!

What other things are you passionate about besides writing?

I love animals and nature. Growing up, my family frequented the Cascade Mountains. We went to places with no amenities like well water, bathrooms, or cabins. We hiked, explored, and camped far from civilization. It was an exciting time for a curious child to discover the spectacular facets of nature.
My love for animals and nature led to my love of art. I enjoy drawing mountains, trees, birds, and mammals using vibrant colors. My favorite subjects are carnivorous animals like eagles, wolves, and tigers.

I also enjoy drawing pets, especially dogs. You could say dogs are also my passion. My mother was the unofficial rescue lady of our town, so we always had them around. I’ve rescued many myself over the years, and have worked at or volunteered for animal shelters, boarding kennels, and veterinary offices.

You can find Dawn Ross’s epic sci-fi series on Amazon in paperback or as an e-book. Read her blog at DawnRossAuthor.com and find her on Twitter @DawnRossAuthor.