Interview With Mike Thorn, Author of Shelter for the Damned

Mike Thorn’s debut novel, Shelter For the Damned was just released from JournalStone on February 26, 2021. It recently received a 4-star review from IndieMuse. He is also the author of Darkest Hours, a short story collection.

His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage and Vague Visages.

He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. He currently lives in Calgary, where he teaches English Composition and Introduction to Literary Analysis virtually.

We cornered Mike in the days leading up to his first novel release to learn a little more about him and his latest book.

You’re now officially a published novelist…has this always been your goal as a writer, to produce a full book-length story (compared to short stories)?

I think I started backwards—I wrote novels before I began writing short stories. I intend to continue working in both forms, while also developing my interest in criticism. 

Everyone at IndieMuse loves the cover for Shelter For The Damned. Tell us about the process for coming up with that particular cover.

I knew I wanted Trevor Henderson to do the cover. I love the way his art combines nostalgia with dread. Thankfully, both Trevor and Journalstone were also into the idea.

Working with Trevor was an absolute pleasure. He sent me lots of different sketches with various color palettes and compositional styles. In exchange, I emailed him visual references (mostly photographs and film stills). Eventually, we decided on something that evokes the atmosphere of a Halloween haunted house attraction: a luminous, blacklight blue with fluorescent green lettering and incandescent pinks glowing inside the shack’s windows.

How did you choose the setting for your book?

I deliberately left my novel’s setting ambiguous. There’s a title card at the beginning of the book that states SUBURBAN SOMEWHERE, 2003.

While I was writing a horror-infected version of the suburbs I remembered from my own adolescence, I wanted to maximize on the story’s potential for “universality.”

Do you write listening to music?

When I write, I like listening to music that is either spare and minimalist or noisy and abrasive. Lately, I turn to John Carpenter film scores or JK Flesh albums.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

There are too many to name… As far as I know, all of these novels have been very well-received, but I think they deserve even more readers and even more love: Hubert Selby Jr.’s Waiting Period, Jim Thompson’s Heed the Thunder, Robert Bloch’s The Scarf, Nelly Arcan’s Breakneck, Kathe Koja’s Kink, Niall Howell’s Only Pretty Damned, Randy Nikkel Schroeder’s Arctic Smoke, Erin Emily Ann Vance’s Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers, and Don Robertson’s The Ideal, Genuine Man.

I guess I named more than one… Oops! Well, there’s my recommended reading list.

What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book is Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Inevitably, I’ll forget some very important folks. This is not a list of favorites (although I love all of these writers), but rather a list of the people who have consciously influenced my work: Robert Aickman, Clive Barker, Georges Bataille, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Bloch, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Don DeLillo, Stephen King, Kathe Koja, Thomas Ligotti, H. P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Herman Melville, Yukio Mishima, Joyce Carol Oates, Edgar Allan Poe, Eden Robinson, Hubert Selby Jr., and Jim Thompson.

Favorite artist and favorite song?

Alice Cooper is my favorite musical artist.

My favorite piece of music is probably “Gymnopédie No.1,” by Erik Satie. Ask me tomorrow and you’ll get a different answer.

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or live in a un-haunted cottage?

I would absolutely love to live in a haunted mansion. Where do I sign up?

What about the house on the cover of Shelter For The Damned? Would you live in that house?

The cover depicts the Shack at the center of Shelter‘s plot. I like to believe I could resist the Shack’s seductive pull, but I’m not sure I have that kind of mental fortitude. It would probably swallow me whole. 

Tea or coffee?

Coffee. Although I like both.

Thank you, Mike, for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Best of luck with the book’s release and we hope readers will flock to it!

You can order Mike’s debut novel now!

More to explore…

“A Dying Moment” by Gavin Gardiner

He’d come to believe that however he did it would result in this final, stretched second. The pull of a trigger would warp into hours, the leap in front of a train would become a Hollywood slow-mo sequence, and the moment of the concrete’s ferocious arrival—as this woman was experiencing—would stick like a broken record.

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