Shane is a disabled non-binary trans author and artist from Ohio. They live with their two cats, and they spend way too much time exploring liminal space voids. They started writing stories at the age of seven and haven’t stopped since. Having grown up with depression and a panic disorder, writing was often the best way to cope with early symptoms of trauma and agoraphobia. Later having been diagnosed with several mental health conditions, they made it their goal to raise awareness for these diagnoses, as they are often misunderstood.
What is your absolute least favorite horror novel cliché?
“Satanists are evil/violent/the villains of the story.” I can’t stand that because not only is it over-used, it’s punching down to a group of people who aren’t evil to begin with. It’s a tired trope from the Satanic Panic era that we should just all leave behind. I tend to DNF [Do Not Finish] a book when I see it.
If you were locked in a room with your biggest fear, what would you be staring down?
I’d be staring at a big black void because my biggest fear is not knowing, or the unknown and what lurks in it. Death would probably be standing there somewhere.
Where’s the creepiest place you’ve ever been?
Equally creepy and cool, years ago I went to the Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio, which is where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption. They aren’t joking when they say that place is haunted. I stepped into a cell to start taking photos of the second floor rooms, and two brand new sets of batteries drained instantly. On the bottom floor heading toward solitary confinement, my mom and I were the only ones in the room and I kept hearing shuffling footsteps behind me. I got the feeling I was being followed. When I turned around to see if another family was behind us, there was nothing there. I really want to go back to have more experiences.
What do you think it says about people that we like to be scared?
I’m not sure generally, but as someone with an anxiety disorder, it’s a safe way to be scared that I have control over. It’s probably similar to why people like going on roller coasters. When it’s safe it becomes fun, and it makes you feel alive in a way.
Why do you write horror?
To cope with my nightmare disorder. I’ve had chronic nightmares, night terrors, and occasional sleep paralysis episodes since I was an infant, according to my mom, and I’ve carried it into adulthood. I became used to it for the most part, but you never get used to the terrors that stick with you. I have very vivid, sometimes lucid, nightmares that have a definite message or a full or partial coherent narrative. In order to gain control over them and give them a purpose, I turn them into short stories and include some in my longer books. I also just love horror and it’s basically a lifestyle because it’s so close to home, haha.
If you could build a Frankenstein’s monster – a Shane Blackheart monster, I guess – what celebrities would you steal body parts from to make the ultimate creature?
This is a really hard but super cool question. I’d say Johnny Depp’s head, Vincent Price’s brain, and for the rest, I’m not really sure but someone who has a bunch of tattoos because it would make a pretty sweet looking monster, plus it’s just my whole aesthetic at this point. I wish I could be covered in tattoos, if money ever permits.
What would you say is your greatest strength in your writing?
I’ve been told it’s two things: my natural and realistic flow of dialogue between characters, and my unconventional and weird way of storytelling. I don’t really stick to any formulas, and while I understand the writing rules, I set them aside for the most part because I don’t like to hinder my creativity or the honesty of the story I’m writing. My editor says it works well with what I do, so I’ll stick with it.
Share a photo or art of a character inspiration.
I’m an artist myself, and I often draw my own stuff. I can share some art I did of a main character in my current WIP.
When you write an emotionally draining scene, how do you prepare? How do you repair yourself afterwards?
The best way to explain is to bring up a scene I chose to intentionally trigger myself for to write authentically. I put on headphones and turned up a dark ambient album that reminded me of my worst days, and I let the dread just sort of take over as I let the words flow. It was an emotional and intense scene because it had to do with overcoming my worst fears related to trauma, and it drained me big time. Afterward, I surrounded myself with comfort stuff, like my favorite music, foods, and shows. I gave myself the time to come down from it for a few days. I didn’t really prepare because I’m impatient and just like to get it over with, so the recovery afterward is just as important.
What famous author, living or dead, would you want to be your mentor? Why?
There are a few, but I have to say Anne Rice. Her books were everything to me as a teenager, and growing up, I read more and more of her work. I just admire her mind and how it works, and I feel like I could learn so much from her. She has a lot of advice and videos still up about writing because she loved to help other writers, and one of her messages always kept me going when I felt down about myself and my talents. She always said that if a story had a burning need to be told, and you really loved it and wanted to tell it, then it deserves to be told and it’s important to get it out there.
How do you feel about banned books? What would be your response if one of your books was banned?
If one of my books was banned, I’d know I did something right. I go out of my way to read wrongfully banned books from the past, and I will continue to do so now. Book banning is dangerous, and it concerns me with what’s happening right now in America. If we’ve learned anything, it’s the books they don’t want you to read that you should be reading the most.
Would you rather be in a room full of snakes or a room full of spiders?
My arachnophobia is so bad, I’d have to say snakes. Hopefully they’ve been fed beforehand.
Share a link to a favorite song or playlist you always listen to when writing.
I make playlists specifically for everything I write, but while I’m writing I can’t have anything with lyrics. My favorite dark ambient album to put on repeat is one that’s been perfect for writing psychological horror: Atrium Carceri and Cities Last Broadcast.
Would you be willing to share a scary scene (no spoilers!) for a book you’re working on now?
Sure! I’m not sure if it’s scary in the usual sense, but it is unsettling.
A dark doorway came into view, and I stepped past its threshold much sooner than I’d realized. Time did not exist there in any way that mattered.
The space grew dark as night washed over it, and a blood moon beamed through from an open balcony at the end of the room. Large open windows that stretched from floor to ceiling lined one of the walls, and red streaks of moonlight painted the floor in slatted patterns.
I approached the balcony and looked out over the expanse of the now red desert. The mountains were closer, but they weren’t stationary.
They began to writhe slowly as if they were exhausted. Human-shaped spirits the size of titans rose from the mountains and sunk back once more, and a distant wailing that grew louder became a droning chant. The titans were in agony, and more joined the desolate cries that surfaced from a Hell they could not escape. I turned to see my void partner backing me against the railing, and beside me stood my shadow man. Around us gathered the cloaked shadow figures in waiting for the intimate ritual to come, and hovering above, the giant eldritch eye reappeared to complete the gathering.
Where can readers find you?