Noah Turner and his family see monsters. While they deal with them in different ways, Noah is the only one who chooses to let them in. Written by alumnus and Arlington native Shaun Hamill (’08 BA, English), A Cosmology of Monsters is a sprawling family tale infused with a Lovecraftian horror that had reviewers raving when the novel was released last year. Among those reviewers was the master of horror himself, Stephen King. “If John Irving ever wrote a horror novel, it would be something like this,” he said. “I loved it, and I think you will, too.”
Let’s start with the praise. How does it feel to have approval like that coming at you?
The short answer is that it didn’t feel like a ton of accolades in the moment. A few weeks ago, however, one of my editors showed me some ad copy that cherry-picked all the best quotes from every professional review or write-up the book received. It was the first time I’d seen them all together like that, and that was a powerful experience. So much praise—from so many artists and critics I admire—all in one place recontextualized the book’s reception for me.
The Washington Post called the opening line of your book “the most compelling opening sentence of the year.” Opening lines can be the bane of a writer’s existence! It seems like they either come together like magic, or they’re labored over again and again. What was the process of writing that sentence like for you?
The opening sentence was definitely a “magic” moment. It came to me while I was daydreaming in my early 20s, and I spent 10 years waiting for the rest of the story to follow. I wish I could craft a sentence that good on command. I’d never have trouble writing anything again.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I always wanted to be a storyteller, but the ambition took a few different shapes over the years. What I eventually realized was that writing the stories was my favorite part of any creative endeavor, and after that, I focused on the craft of fiction. Although I grew up loving horror, I didn’t think of myself as a horror writer for a long time. It wasn’t until I decided to incorporate horror elements into my fiction that I wrote something interesting and unique. Now that I’m here, though, I’m happy to wear the label of horror writer.
How did UTA help shape you as a writer?
UTA has a wonderful English Department and a terrific creative writing program as well. I got a solid grounding in the classics from my academic studies and learned a lot about the world of MFAs and modern literary fiction from my creative writing classes, especially my Advanced Fiction class with Laura Kopchick.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m working on a couple of novels and a TV pilot. Hopefully, I’ll be able to talk about at least one of those things in a more official capacity soon!