Author Interview: Mike Thorn

“A terrifying descent into suburban addiction and male shame, Shelter for the Damned is a gripping, uncanny tale cut from the same cloth as Stephen King and John Carpenter.” -Daniel Goldhaber, director of Cam

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

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What inspired Shelter for the Damned

Like most creative projects, Shelter for the Damned took inspiration from numerous places. I wanted to write something in the suburban horror tradition, and I wanted to write something with adolescent characters. I drew a lot on the novels of Hubert Selby Jr. and Jim Thompson, specifically their pessimism and their unblinking commitment to disturbed protagonists devoured by their own demons. Those authors’ work informed the psychology or “pathology” of my own protagonist, Mark. I was also influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King (especially ChristineRageIt, and two of the novellas in Different SeasonsApt Pupil and The Body). I tend to enjoy fiction that focuses on the corrosive power of obsession (Melville’s Moby-Dick is my all-time favorite), which definitely bleeds into my own creative interests.

Who is your favorite character in Shelter for the Damned and why? 

I love Madeline. In many ways, I think she’s the most well-adapted and put-together person in the novel. She knows who she is, and she knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to be honest.

Did you have to do any research for Shelter for the Damned

I set the novel in 2003, because I wanted to depict some horror-infected version of the suburbs I remember from my own adolescence. I didn’t really have to do any research for the setting, because it’s a world I know.

What genre do you primarily write in? 

I write primarily within the horror genre, and Shelter for the Damned is no exception.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

My instinct is usually to take the pantser approach, although that has got me into trouble from time to time; it can bring me lots of grief in the editing stage. For future projects, I’m interested in forcing myself to try out the plotter’s approach.

What are you working on next? 

I’m developing a proposal for a non-fiction book on two horror filmmakers. I can’t say too much about it yet, because it’s in the very early stages, but I’m hoping it gets off the ground. Wish me luck!

Is there an author who inspired you to write? 

As a young kid, I was very excited by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and R. L. Stine. As an older kid, I discovered Stephen King and there was no turning back. As I mentioned above, Hubert Selby Jr., Jim Thompson, and H. P. Lovecraft all had a massive impact on me, too. There are too many writers to name! I’m inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, Kathe Koja, Herman Melville, Eden Robinson, Thomas Ligotti, and Georges Bataille. Here are some other contemporary folks who are keeping me excited about new fiction: S. P. Miskowski, Erin Emily Ann Vance, Niall Howell, Gwendolyn Kiste, Randy Nikkel Schroeder, Farah Rose Smith, Joshua Whitehead, Robert Dunbar, Todd Keisling, John Claude Smith, Daniel Braum, Sarah L. Johnson, Zadie Smith, and Don DeLillo.

Any advice for other writers out there? 

Read. Read nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Read novels, novellas, and short stories. Read the classics. Read the new stuff. Read the esoteric. Explore.

Author bio
Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including VastarienDark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast, and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe 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.

Author Website



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3 thoughts on “Author Interview: Mike Thorn

  1. Pingback: Candace Robinson Interviews Mike Thorn – Mike Thorn

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