Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to A Cosmology of Monsters author Shaun Hamill.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Shaun Hamill: Superfudge by Judy Blume. I probably read it at least a dozen times in grade school.
BM: Favorite re-read?
SH: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s got that perfect mix of magic and danger, and its world feels rich and realized. I would give my left arm to create a world half so wonderful.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
SH: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. It’s a novel narrated by a villain who wishes he was a hero, and tries to show you how he tiptoed down the steps to Hell with the best intentions. That confessional/justification narrative was a big influence on A Cosmology of Monsters.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
SH: Tinkers by Paul Harding.
BM: Last book you read?
SH: The Books of Blood, Volume 5 by Clive Barker.
BM: A book that made you cry?
SH: The only book that ever made me cry was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It was a surprise—while I enjoyed the entire book, the closing passage grabbed me by the heart and clenched hard.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
SH: The Return by Rachel Harrison. It was published in March of this year and it’s a fantastic horror novel about millennial women and friendship at a creepy hotel in the Catskills. Aside from having a wonderful narrator and great atmosphere, the climax is a genuine heart-stopper. I’m so excited to share this book, and to see what she does next.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
SH: The Water-Method Man by John Irving. It’s his second novel, but I think by far his funniest.
BM: What’s one book you wish you had read during your teenage years?
SH: I wish Lev Grossman’s The Magicians had been published while I was still in school. I loved it as an adult, but I think teenage me would have been obsessed.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
SH: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s always a slam-dunk with casual reader friends.
BM: Classic book you hate?
SH: I had to read The Scarlet Letter in high school. I hated it so much I considered giving up AP English just to get away.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
SH: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, which I bought because Guillermo del Toro named his house after the book
BM: What’s a book with a really great sex scene?
SH: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice has several (I’m not talking about all the incest, but the love scenes between the romantic leads in the book).
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
SH: I feel like I’ll insult whoever I choose to shout-out. That said, I love S.P. Miskowski’s I Wish I Was Like You, as biting and funny and sexy and sad a grunge-era ghost story as you could hope for.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
SH: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
SH: Boring-ass answer: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Shocking, I know.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
SH: I always have a few books going at once. Right now I’m reading:
Books of Blood Volume 6 by Clive Barker
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Little, Big by John Crowley
Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melany Anderson
The Big Book of Modern Fantasy edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
BM: Favorite children’s book?
SH: I just finished The Golden Compass last week and I’m still in awe over that one.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
SH: I’ve been making my way through Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and I think this series would make an amazing anthology series. (I also wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to take a crack at my own book!).
A native of Arlington, Texas, Shaun Hamill holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in the dark woods of Alabama with his wife, his in-laws, and his dog. A Cosmology of Monsters is his first novel.
Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters is out now in paperback from Vintage