In this month’s edition of “You’ve Got Read on You”, I want to introduce you to an up-and-coming author who I’m really excited about, Spencer Hamilton.
Spencer Hamilton hails from Northern California and now resides in the hometown of Morbidly Beautiful’s headquarters, Austin, Texas. There, he works as a book editor, in addition to showcasing his talent as a promising new horror fiction writer. To date, he’s written and published one short story, Promethium 147, a full collection of horror short stories, Kitchen Sink: Stories, and, most recently, his first full novel, The Fear.
The Fear uses the current backdrop of the horrific COVID pandemic to tale an all-too-timely tale of paranoia and disaster. Hamilton takes his lead characters through a whirlwind of tragedy and torment — incorporating the very real fears of those living through this frightening time and melding them with the traumas and conflicts of his complex and interesting characters. It is a claustrophobic read that evokes a great deal of anxiety, especially in the context of today’s real world horror. I highly recommend checking it out.
Spencer Hamilton is definitely an author you’ll want to keep your eye on, a talented storyteller with a promising future in genre literature. To help you get to know him better, I asked Spencer to sit down with me for a brief interview, and he graciously agreed.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SPENCER HAMILTON
Morbidly Beautiful: At the time of this interview, I’m still waiting to receive my copy of your book Kitchen Sink: Stories. But so far, I’m a huge fan of your work. I’m curious, how would you describe your writing style and the type of stories you are drawn to? And what do you hope readers take away from your work?
Spencer Hamilton: Well, if we’re taking Kitchen Sink into consideration, that can be a tough answer. KS is a collection of stories I wrote over almost 13 years, so a part of that book is tracking my journey and growth as a writer — or, put another way, tracking my attempt at answering the questions you just asked. As of now, though, I’d say that the stories I create grapple with the human condition. Why do people do what they do, and what makes them hurt and/or fight for each other? I’m constantly pulling stories from my own life, so sometimes I get rather autobiographical.
My ultimate goal is simply to pull the reader in and make them love these characters as much as I do.
MB: Has horror always been where your heart is? Have you always wanted to express these types of questions and stories, or have you tried exploring different genres as well?
SH: It hasn’t always been horror! I was a YA Fantasy devotee growing up, so my first writings were fantasy-leaning epics. You can actually see how I dabbled with many different genres in Kitchen Sink. One day, as I was compiling that book, shortly after I decided to focus 100% on horror, I realized that even though there’s many genres in Kitchen Sink, every story in that book plays with horror in some way.
I’m very happy with my choice to stick within the horror genre for the rest of my career, though. As soon as I’d decided, I just felt at home.
MB: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask what books (YA or otherwise) led you to wanting to write? What was that path like for you, and where did you start?
SP: My journey started from the very beginning. It sounds like a joke, but the truth is that writing was the very first thing I ever wanted to do…besides maybe being Spider-Man! I read all the time as a kid. Goosebumps, Redwall, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl…I specifically remember my mom coming home one day with a copy of Eragon and telling me a fifteen-year-old kid had written it. The idea of publishing a novel had always been a dream, but it became a real goal in that moment.
MB: So when did you pursue it seriously? With Promethium 147 being your first venture, what was the push that basically had you say, “Fuck it, I’m doing this.” And why self-publishing?
SP: There was a number of years where I’d set writing aside to pursue music. I taught piano and voice full-time and was trying to make it as a recording artist. Once I’d gotten that out of my system and realized writing books was where I wanted to be, it took a few years to settle on horror. I became involved with a publishing company that was leaning heavily into alien invasion sci-fi, and even though I ended up shelving those books, looking back on them now, I was still writing my own version of horror.
Horror has been this secret love of mine, stalking me in my subconscious, and I’ve finally given myself up to it.
As for why self-publishing? Great question! Most writers need a day job while they are first starting out, and mine has been as an editor. I’ve edited books full-time for about five years now. As a freelancer, almost all of my clients have been from the self-publishing world. I’ve learned a lot about the differences between self-pub and traditional publishing. And while there’s pros and cons to both, this is the route I decided to begin with. Notice I said “begin” — I do still plan on pitching novels to some publishing houses I admire sometime in the near future.
MB: I want to talk a bit about your latest novel, The Fear. It’s very timely and basically still set within the bubble of what’s happening today. What made you decide on exploring that subject matter. And how difficult was it to transition from short stories to a full length novel?
SP: Maybe not so much “very timely” as “way too timely, please stop, no”? Haha, I feel that. Going from short stories to a novel would be difficult in any situation, I’d imagine, but I had the crazy idea that my first novel-length work would be a pandemic novel that I’d write…while living in a pandemic. Furthermore, The Fear is about quarantine, and it’s very claustrophobic, so I was basically guaranteeing that I’d drive myself crazy in the process.
MB: Were you driven crazy? And if so when did you realize you were absolutely screwed? On a serious note though, I know you’re a Texas-based author, and the story is also set in Texas. How much of your own personal experiences infused the story you chose to write?
SP: Haha! No…in all honesty, I’ve been very fortunate. I’m immune-compromised, so I’ve been taking social distancing very seriously during COVID-19. I’ve been able to stay home and stay safe. It was my characters who were driven crazy, and I’d say they didn’t realize they were absolutely fucked until halfway through The Fear.
But you ask an interesting question. I literally set the novel in my own apartment in Austin. So The Fear’s sense of setting is quite vivid, and it feels very real. Some of the things that happen in the novle might have come across to readers as too weird and too unrealistic…that is, prior to 2020.
As for things that have actually happened to me, at the beginning of this year, I had a pretty bad scare with my feet. I was bedridden for a couple of months. I took that exact experience and gave it to one of The Fear’s main characters.
MB: There’s an event that happens partway through The Fear, shifting the narrative a bit. I don’t want to spoil anything, but as a fellow Texan I may have missed any occurrence of such a thing happening on that news. So I have to ask. Was that an actual event somewhere in Austin?
SP: OH! Without spoiling anything…yes. It didn’t happen in Texas, didn’t even happen in the US, but heartbreakingly, horrifyingly, that part of The Fear is indeed loosely based on real events.
MB: Holy crap. Well, that’s something to think on. To wrap it up, what are you currently reading, and are there any future projects we should be looking forward to?
SP: Yeah, no fucking joke, man. That’s what I mean about 2020. Some of the things that happen in my book would probably have come across as fantastical and/or ridiculous if readers hadn’t already lived through and seen how fucked things can get.
I’m currently reading Utopia Avenue, the new novel from David Mitchell, which is simply blowing my mind. I’m also listening to Stephen King’s IT, which in my opinion is the greatest horror novel ever written. And I’m about to read a book from the great indie press Silver Shamrock Publishing.
Future projects…I’m deep into a novel I’m calling Welcome To SmileyLand that will be given as a free exclusive to anyone who joins my newsletter at SpencerHamiltonBooks.com. After that, I’m cooking something up with the amazing Nick Harper, and I’m working on a novel-length follow up to the opening story in Kitchen Sink, “Hive”.
MB: Sounds busy and awesome, man! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into those. And for anyone willing to follow you on social media to stay caught up to date?
SP: The best place to find me is over on Instagram, @nerdywordsmith. It’s a great book community and I’m always open to chat!