Blast of creativity sparks Shawn McHatton to debut novel

BRIDGTON NATIVE Shawn McHatton, who now resides in California, has produced his first novel, "Dead Man's Mask." In this submitted photo, McHatton is pictured in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, similar odd rock formations in a small New England town was the inspiration for his debut novel.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Shawn McHatton had dabbled with writing a novel for some time, but last fall, the ideas and “blast of creativity” all came together in the form of his first published novel, Dead Man’s Mask.

The Bridgton native now resides in California, and talked this week with The News via e-mail regarding what inspired him to be a writer and how he developed the plot of Dead Man’s Mask.

Background: I was born and raised in Bridgton (he is the son of Joe and Joanne McHatton, and nephew of Bob and Pat McHatton, and Lillian McHatton Andrews). I went to Lake Region High School and did my undergrad at the University of Southern Maine (along with a year on the national exchange program at CSULA) before moving to Boston and earning a master’s degree in Management at Lesley College. I have been in the Los Angeles area for the last several years.

Hobbies/Interests: Drumming is by far my favorite. I have come to love writing, but I still love drumming, a bit more. I learned snare drum from Mr. (Dick) Albert. He even recruited me to be in the town marching band when I was 12 due to a shortage in the percussion section. I took some independent lessons while in college. I played in some bands in Boston and studied under Mike Mangini (Extreme, Dream Theater, Berklee professor) for about six years.

Before you started writing, what did you do for employment? I have a staffing business that fills open positions for my clients.

Had you ever entertained thoughts about being a writer? I have been fooling around with writing off and on over the last 15 years. But it didn’t start coming together (writing complete, full-length projects) until about two years ago.

What inspired you to write? I think it’s just a way for me to channel creativity that I can’t do through music. My childhood was full of imagination, particularly when I became a teenager and started playing quite a bit of Dungeons and Dragons. When those days came to an end, the creativity within me still needed an outlet. That’s when writing blossomed.

How did you decide upon a genre? I love the option that writing in fiction offers. I have limitless options for plot points, themes, characters, etc.

Where did the idea for Dead Man’s Mask come from? I was on vacation with my girlfriend in Waterville Valley, N.H., one of my favorite places. We were walking along the river and were getting a bit out of sight of the village. We came across a strange rock formation, like something you would see in The Blair Witch Project. It was a little bizarre. I took a pic with my phone and we left. Later, I framed the pics from that vacation and hung them. One night, I stared at that particular picture and asked myself, “What would we have found if we kept walking?” About 10 weeks later, the first draft was complete, and the publisher used that picture for the book’s cover.

What challenges did you face in writing your first novel? Having a lot of ideas is both a blessing and a challenge. I needed to narrow my ideas into a point that moved forward at a captive pace while also going deep enough to create an interesting universe.

Any inspirations/favorite writers/past readings you may have called upon as you wrote the story line? When I started writing, the second season of Stranger Things had just come out, and the remake of It was just about to be released. I wondered if I could write about teenagers, since I am well into adulthood now. I saw it as a fun challenge and made one of the two main characters a 14-year-old.

Frustrations along the way? Getting people to learn about your book is a major challenge. That’s why I appreciate the opportunity to do things like this.

What were you most pleased with? I thought it was a great beginning for me. It’s like “Chapter 1” of my own writing career.

How did you go about having your novel published and getting the word out about yourself and the book? Focus to finish the book was the first step. (Taking) opportunities like yours (to do an interview) to get the word out.

What has been the response so far? People have told me it’s a fast, fun read. Can’t ask for better feedback than that.

What’s next? I have no shortage of ideas, and now, they are starting to take shape. I resurrected a fantasy project, the first original material I started writing 15 years ago, and I am making great progress with that. I’d like to write things in different timelines and genres that all connect either in obvious or somewhat hidden ways.

Any lesson learned from writing your first novel that will be helpful in tackling the next project? Seeing my ideas transform onto paper and being able to hold a physical copy of my book has motivated me to keep going.

Dead Man’s Mask
Cost: $17.99, paperback
The Book: 224 pages
Published: September 2018
Available: Lulu.com and for Kindle
Facebook: facebook.com/smchattonauthor, includes 60-second promotional video
Plot: Teenager Devin Hebbson just wants to build his Lego Millennium Falcon when his friends show up talking about a fancy new bass. All of them musicians, the chance for a new instrument at a great price gets them going, but in truth, Devin’s friends want to show him something much more macabre. They take him to a dead body in the woods, and although sickened, Devin is drawn to a mysterious object clutched by the corpse. Devin isn’t sure what it is. The object looks sort of like a worn-out slingshot, and yet, it calls to him, so he takes it home with no idea of its immense power. As Devin begins discovering the secrets of his newfound toy, Chief of Police Ted Hannon investigates who — or what — killed the unknown man in the woods. Each end up in a fight to save both themselves and the small town of Waterville Valley as monsters descend like a horror film come true.
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