All right, I admit it. When I was younger, I was afraid of sharks. Okay, scratch that – I still am. Why? Well, because they're sharks. They're 100 million-year-old killing machines. They're enormous, some of them. They have teeth. Great whites have about 300. Did you know that? Scary. Imagine a person with 300 teeth? That's scary, too. But back to sharks. They're terrifying. The worst part? You never see them gliding up on you from the murky bottom, gaping maw ready to bite, rip, and feed.
I can trace my fear back quite easily – JAWS. I watched the movie on television when I was about eight, and even though it had been edited for content (probably), Quint's death scene still managed to warp my fragile little mind. The sheer terror of that scene shook me, sank its teeth into me. I can still vividly remember watching the gouts of blood spilling from that beloved character's mouth as the massive white shark chomped down on him. The scene spawned many nightmares, and in a way, it's responsible for prompting me to write a novel about a giant shark terrorizing a small group of people.
I read the book Jaws a few years later, then discovered all of Peter Benchley's novels. I read his works before I became obsessed with King, McCammon, Barker; my other heroes. Benchley's books were plain fun, the perfect “beach read,” and as someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore, you can imagine how much time was spent with my butt in the sand, catching some sun with a book in my lap.
Jaws influenced my new novel Sharkwater Beach, but so did other Benchley classics like Beast and White Shark. White Shark, while probably not his most known or best written novel, was a big one for me. The summer when I was twelve, I must have checked it out of the library every other week. Don't know why, but that one stuck with me and it gets a big nod in Sharkwater Beach.
But Sharkwater Beach isn't like a Benchley novel. Not really. A big shark, fishermen, and a few marine biologists are where the similarities end. It's unlike anything I've written before. A beta reader told me it was like “Jaws meets Aliens,” and I couldn't have said it better myself.
So, sharks. Yes, these ancient sea beasts are terrifying. But that's also what makes them fun. It's the teeth, I think. And we all know books that bite are the most fun.
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