With books such as All You can Eat, Muerte con Carne, Jacked, and Addicted to the Dead, just to name a few, Shane McKenzie is taking the horror genre by the horns and yanking. He's about as prolific as they come, barreling like an out of control freight train of blood n' guts and good reads. I recently sat around a virtual table and asked Shane a few questions. It went something like this:
Robert Essig: Your latest Deadite release, Muerte con Carne, is a horror novel that takes place in a shady American/Mexican border town revolving around Felix and Marta, a couple there to document the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, who stumble upon something horrific neither of them could have imagined. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to stop right there. Could you discuss where the idea for this story originated?
Shane McKenzie: It’s going to be hard to answer this question without giving away some things that I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about. But let me try. There are some authors. Three of them. You know who they are, but I won’t name them. Yet. Basically, we have all decided to collaborate on a novel. The novel will feature serial killers from these other authors’ previous books, killers that a lot of fans will recognize. Basically, the book will be about a league, like a fantasy football league, but they use the killers’ stats to get points. It’s going to be a fun book, let me tell you. Here’s the problem. I’m the new guy. I don’t have any killers in previous books that would have worked for this. So…I wanted to write one.
So that’s why I wrote it. My favorite horror movie of all time is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So of course, my favorite horror villain is Leatherface. I wanted to write my homage to the film, with a memorable villain like Leatherface. When I thought about Texas, my mind kept going to the border. Once I realized I could create a family of cannibals that was preying on illegal immigrants as they crossed the border, really the story wrote itself. I wanted my big character to be masked, so since I was already using the Mexican theme, the lucha libre mask just seemed perfect. This character was just so much fun to write about. As a kid, I was completely obsessed with pro wrestling, and writing about El Gigante really brought a lot of that out. I’m looking forward to writing about him again!
RE: Several of your books revolve around food. What makes food or the act of eating such great fodder for horror?
SM: You know, I get asked this a lot. It’s funny. I didn’t mean to write about food so much. I would just get an idea that I liked, and I ran with it. Turns out, most of them are about eating something. I have struggled with weight issues my whole life. I spent a lot of time at buffets as a child. I try really hard to be healthy these days, but I still get those moments when I just want to stuff my face with the nastiest, greasiest food available. Also, we can all relate to eating since we do it all day long every day. I can write a story about drug addiction, and some people may dig it, but someone who struggled with it will really connect. With eating, everyone can connect with it on some level. We are all addicted to food, and it’s the worst drug because we need it to live. And what makes it worse is that it’s cheaper to eat like shit than it is to eat healthy. It doesn’t seem fair. But when I really think about it…lots of horror stories are about eating, or fear of being eaten rather. The monsters are out to gobble us up!
RE: You may have heard about menudo soup as a hangover cure. In my part of town it’s sold in almost every greasy taco shop, but only Friday through Sunday, so maybe there’s something to this whole hangover business. Do you indulge in menudo? And if so, do you like it for the flavor or the hangover cure?
SM: I like it depending on how it’s made. I’ve had some that was really bad, and I would cringe every time the tripas would slide down my throat like congealed snot. But if it’s done right…it’s damn good. I’m not a huge drinker (except for at conventions) so I don’t have many hangovers.
RE: There’s a lot of buzz about your work and you seem to be producing books like a well oiled machine from such publishers as Deadite, Thunderstorm, and Severed Press with work forthcoming from Blood Bound Books, Eraserhead Press and many more. Where do the ideas come from and what inspires you to write?
SM: The ideas come from everything around me. Anything at all can trigger an idea. A lot of it comes from stuff I either loved as a kid, or went through as a kid. Or I might just get an idea out of nowhere. It’ll just pop into my head, and I’ll find some paper and jot it down. I guess I get so many ideas because I’m constantly thinking about writing. Another theme you will see often in my books is addiction. I kind of have an addictive personality I guess, which got me into some trouble along the way. Now…I’m addicted to writing horror. I got it bad, man. That’s what keeps me doing it…I can’t stop. I just love everything about it. If I got more than a day without writing at least 2,000 words, I start panicking. But besides that, it’s the readers that keep me going. I still can’t believe someone would want to spend their money on something I wrote. I love hearing my readers’ feedback, good or bad. The reason I’m putting so much out there is to get more readers. That’s also why I’m publishing with so many different presses. And even beyond that, I do this simply because horror is just in my blood. I love the genre, have always loved the genre. I knew to be truly happy, I would have to be doing something in the horror field. And I’m happy as a cannibal living by the border right now.
RE: One of the strengths I found in reading your work is that your characters are very real. They have problems, they have wants and concerns, and that makes the reader interested in finding out what happens to them, even if the reader doesn’t necessarily like them. Where do they come from? What inspires the life you breathe into them?
SM: I suppose there are traits that come from people I know, or myself, whether I meant to do that or not. But no story will be good unless the characters are believable. I actually don’t think all characters have to be likable either, because not all people are likable. They just have to seem real. And real people are flawed. They have addictions and bad habits and can be assholes and have mood swings. Eventually, my characters just come to life, and writing them is easy because they write themselves. Something that’s very important to remember, and we’ve all heard this before, is to not make a character completely good or bad. Your hero should still be a dick or an alcoholic or prejudiced or something to balance out the good he’s trying to do. Because everyone has a dark side. Same goes with the villains. The things they do are awful, but in their mind, they are doing right. For instance, Cristobal and Gustavo are just trying to provide for their family. My absolute favorite characters to write about are kids. Getting to see the world through their unseasoned eyes is always fun. Monsters are scary, girls are even scarier, that kind of thing. I’m about to start a new novel that is best described as The Sandlot kids meet Jason Voorhees. Can’t wait to get started.
RE: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind of tunes do you prefer?
SM: No, I don’t. I need silence when I write or my mind will wander. Maybe if I listen to music with no lyrics it could work. Perhaps I’ll give it a try!
RE: What can your fans look forward to? Are there any releases coming up that you would like to mention?
SM: There is a lot. I’ve been a busy sumbitch. For the rest of 2013, I’ve got Fat Off Sex & Violence coming from Deadite Press, Escape From Shit Town (co-written with Erik Williams and Sam W. Anderson—the three of us are called Mondo Blood) coming from Thunderstorm Books, The Oak (the extended version of Infinity House) coming from Sideshow Press, Flesh of my Flesh coming from Blood Bound Books, and the paperback version of Addicted to the Dead (originally published by Thunderstorm) coming from Dark Regions Press. In 2014, I’ve got a new zombie novel coming from Severed Press, two more Deadite Press books (they have not been titled yet), and Toilet Baby and Pus Junkies (both bizarro) coming from Eraserhead Press. There is more, but that’s what is concrete at this point. Also, tons of amazing books coming out of Sinister Grin Press!
RE: What was it that made you a fan of horror?
SM: Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. I thought the zombies were so cool, and the werewolf of course. I watched and rewatched that, along with the making. After that, I wanted to watch any monster movie I could. And it just evolved from there. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I discovered the more hardcore side of horror. I watched Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie, Dead Alive, Nekromantik, and many others. That took my obsession to a whole new level.
RE: Who’s more frightening, a vegetarian or a meat eater?
SM: Whichever one is holding the chainsaw.
RE: Are there any subjects you find to be too taboo to write about?
SM: Anything involving children and sexual acts. I just don’t think it’s necessary to describe that kind of stuff. Of course, that kind of stuff happens, so I don’t have anything against an author writing about the subject, but there are ways to do it so that it’s not detailed. The scene from Stephen King’s It comes to mind. I didn’t think that was necessary, and I didn’t like how it made me feel as I read it. I don’t have an issue with violence toward children in books for some reason, but I will never describe in detail any sexual act toward a child.
RE: If you died today, what would you like on your tombstone?
SM: When I wake up, I’m gonna be pissed.
I want to thank Shane for stopping by and allowing me to interview him. I didn't have to bust out the chains and the gimp, so that's a good thing. For anyone out there who is a fan of horror and has not tried a Shane McKenzie book, you're missing out. You should seriously rectify that...NOW
Shane McKenzie is the author of All You Can Eat, Infinity House, Bleed on Me, Jacked, Drawn & Quartered, Muerte Con Carne, and Addicted to the Dead. He is the editor and co-owner of Sinister Grin Press. Shane enjoys steaming bowls of menudo with his wife and daughter in Austin, TX. Keep up with him at www.shanemckenzie.org. If you don't, he's got a figure four leg lock for you, followed by a plethora of flying elbow drops. You can also find him on Facebook or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org