The Gore Spotlight

An Interview with Shana Festa
a.k.a. The Bookie Monster

HMS: I’m sure you get asked this question all the time, but would you mind telling the readers of Horror Metal Sounds how you got into writing and why you decided to start professionally reviewing horror novels?

Shana: It’s actually kind of silly. No one in my inner circle likes horror. So I had no one to gab with. One day, instead of just leaving a star rating on Goodreads, I wrote a review. That review got tons of likes and the idea of The Bookie Monster was hatched. Within an hour I had a functional blog and my first review published. That was six months ago. In that time The Bookie Monster has progressed by leaps and bounds and is home to 130+ book reviews. I’ve amassed a small, but incredibly talented, team to help with the overflow and at any given time the site has over 100 book submissions.

HMS: What were your influences growing up in the horror genre?

Shana: My father used to get a kick out of scaring me, so there was always some terrifying movie on the television after dinner. I grew up on a healthy diet of Nightmare on Elm Street, American Werewolf in London, Child’s Play and Poltergeist. Well, terrifying to me at least. Watching these classics as an adult, I’m ashamed at how scared they made me. Now I just find them campy and hilarious. Of course, my father added fire to the flames of my fear by doing things like sneaking outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night and scratching the window panes and howling. Or asking me to get things from his truck at night and turning off the floodlights when I had gotten ten feet from the front door and yelling “watch out for Freddy!” at me.

HMS: I take it zombie lore is your favorite part of the horror genre, could you tell us why?

Shana: My love for the zombie spawned from necessity. I always felt drawn to scary movies, clearly a glutton for punishment. I had seen all the “of the Dead’s” to date, including the original 1977 Dawn of the Dead. I was a fan of the 2002 Resident Evil movie. Sure it gave me that increased heart rate and I watched it through a small gap in my fingers, but I discovered I could watch scary stuff during daylight hours and not be as terrified. When the sun went down all bets were off.

Then, March 19, 2004 rolled around and I insisted my husband take me to see the new Dawn of the Dead on opening day. I made a critical mistake…It was daytime when the movie began, but when we emerged, shell-shocked, from the theatre the sun had long faded.

Dawn of the Dead affected me like no other movie had done in the past. For three months I would make my husband, then fiancé, move the dresser in front of the door to our bedroom before I could go to sleep. Our doorknob didn’t latch all the way and the door wouldn’t click closed, leaving me with the same slightly open door where we see the first child zombie in the movie.

The bathroom light would illuminate the room, I couldn’t close my eyes in the shower, and I couldn’t go outside alone in the dark. Who would have thought a single movie could cause me such trauma?!

Three months later, I decided to watch the movie over and over again to desensitize myself, a sort of immersion therapy, I guess. And thus began my addiction to the genre. Books, Movies, TV Shows, Videogames. You name it, I found it. And, now nearly 300 zombie books later, I can’t get enough of the undead. I’m slicker now. Instead of covering my eyes with my fingers, I hold my tiny dog up and peek between her ears.

HMS: What’s a typical day in the life of The Bookie Monster like?

Shana: Quite boring actually. I left bedside nursing last year and accepted a position in Nursing Informatics as a Data Analyst for the ICD-10 National Testing Platform. It really was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I work from home in sunny Florida and my passion for healthcare and technology merge to make perfect position for me. Every morning I wake up I grab some coffee and take my laptop out to the pool to start my work day.

It works out well because my husband also works from home. So if anything, this experience has shown that we can be together 24/7 without killing one another. When the workday is over, I switch gears and either work on bettering the website or reading a scary piece of fiction. Some days I even remember to make us lunch and dinner!

Most of the time I feel very lucky to live such a charmed life. Hard work and excellent networking has opened a lot of doors for me and I feel blessed to have such a wonderful group of friends and family that support me.

HMS: Who are some of your favorite authors, whether they are in the horror genre or elsewhere?

Shana: Before zombies it was supernatural. My favorite all time author/series is Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. I also find myself pre-ordering Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, as well as Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. In fact, I’m waiting impatiently for the final book in The Hollow’s series to be released in three days.


"My love for the zombie spawned from necessity."

As far as zombie fiction, this is a hard one. If one were to analyze my book collection, they’d find my taste is very much in line with Permuted Press titles. I’ve read nearly fifty percent of their titles and there has only been one or two that I didn’t love. There have been some real standout authors in the zombie genre for me as well. Mark Tufo, David Moody, Jesse Petersen, S.D. Perry’s Resident Evil series.

HMS: What is your favorite part about reviewing books, and what’s the hardest part?

Shana: The hardest part is having to tell an author that I didn’t like their book. I try not to reject too many submissions, but there have been a few that I just couldn’t put my stamp of approval on and knew any review I attempted to write would be harsh. I feel bad when a story doesn’t hit the mark, and do my best to not offend an author or dampen their spirits.

My favorite thing about doing reviews is getting to give a book five stars and sing its accolades. It warms my heart when an independent author does well and I feel invested in their success after reading and reviewing their work. At the end of the day, the best feeling for me is when I see news of an author I’ve reviewed get picked up by a publisher.

HMS: If you could interview any author in the world, dead or alive, who would that be and why?

Shana: Mark Tufo. I want to know where he comes up with such outrageous fiction. Seriously, the stuff that comes from that man’s brain is sick and twisted…and I love it! But I fear for his wife should he someday come home in a clown costume…

HMS: As well as being a reviewer, you are an author, what are you currently working on? Are you able to tell us a little bit about it?

Shana: More appropriate, I think, is that I’m a novice writer. I am stuck on the last chapter of my book Time of Death. I have rewritten it three times and all three have made it to the recycle bin on my desktop. Time of Death is a great mix of fiction woven around some true to life experiences I’ve had. I’ve done my best to show my snarky sense of humor in the main character, Emma.

In the midst of a hurricane, Emma's world falls apart at the seams as infection spreads all around her. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse, Emma and her husband, Jake, encounter the walking dead while trying to get to safety and avoid joining their ranks. When no one or nowhere is safe, where do you go to escape the monsters?

HMS: I’ve asked this question to others before so now it’s your turn: The zombie apocalypse is happening RIGHT NOW! The object directly to the left of you is your only weapon! What is it?

Shana: A roll of scotch tape…I am so screwed!

HMS: Thank you so much for interviewing with us today Shana, one final question. If you could give any advice or words of wisdom to any other horror writers, reviewers, or aspiring authors, what would that be?

Shana: Surround yourself with a great group of people. Having various people to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of is priceless. Sometimes we get stuck inside the box and having the wisdom of someone outside the box can bring a fresh, new perspective to things from a different angle.

Check out Shana’s website.

Stevie Kopas, Associate Editor HMS

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