The Deep End interview…with Kevin Lucia

  Crystal Lake Publishing   Mar 20, 2017   Blog   0 Comment
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Joe: Tell us a bit (or a lot) more about your childhood. Primary school, high school, etc. How do you think your experiences benefited or influenced your career?

KL: Growing up my parents indulged me only one thing: books and comic books. Every week I got to buy a new comic book at the mall, when Dad went on business trips he bought a book for me as a gift, I made lists every Christmas for the books I wanted. My mother volunteered for our local RIF (Reading is Fundamental) chapter, so when they visited our school for book fairs, I got first pick, and I also got books on discount after the fair was over, because she volunteered.
Reading pretty much defined my childhood. Over the summers, when I’d exhausted all my play options, I bunkered down in my cool basement and read for hours. When I was in sixth grade, having read through almost everything in the elementary library, I received special permission to walk across the parking lot to the high school library and sign books out from there. By the time I was senior, I’d read through all those books—even teen romances. If it was fiction, I read it.
My great grandmother had a whole library of cloth-bound pulp novels. When I was fourteen, she started giving me one a month. When she passed, they were all given to me. I devoured those over and over (really vague titles, like The Black Glove of Darkness and The Tree That  Screamed), and I still have them today.
I also have fond memories of doing things with my family. Camping trips, walking in the woods, roasting hot dogs over a fire on a summer night, while listening to reruns of The Shadow on public radio. Roaming all over the countryside, riding my bike up the road, walking along the railroad tracks. My mother loved to restore furniture, so over the summers we’d spend a whole morning searching garage sales, and we’d always get books or toys for a quarter.
My childhood wasn’t a perfect one, but I certainly enjoyed it. Would be fair to say that, like a lot of writers, I suppose, they still stand out to me as purer, simpler times.

Joe: Can you recall a moment where you had to choose between being an author/artist and another career? A decisive moment where you decided to go all out?

KL: Fortunately for me, my career teaching high school English has meshed well with a writing career. They complement each other nicely; my writing career has informed my writing instruction, and there’s no downside to spending my days pouring over literary classics and more modern works with my students. I get a lot of work done over the summer, which is also a good time to attend conventions.
I can say other sacrifices had to be made, however. Since getting serious about this ten years ago, I’ve had to choose what I’d rather spend my time doing—watching my favourite TV shows, playing in basketball leagues, hanging out with friends—or writing. Fortunately also, I’ve always lived somewhat of a simple life, so it was really no contest, honestly.

Joe: How did you respond to your very first success as an author? Was it just rewarding, or did it motivate you even more? Or, did it perhaps feel underwhelmed, which motivated you to even greater heights? 

KL: I sold my very first short story for $100 in 2007, and then sold several stories after that for semi-pro rates. I thought I’d “made it”. I paid $300 for a dealer table at Horrorfind (convention formerly held in Gettysburg, PA), spent a ton on author copies, and expected to sell out. I learned pretty quickly, though, that most folks aren’t interested in buying small press collections just for a story by some guy they’ve never heard of.
I went through something similar with the publication of my first novella, Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, the fourth instalment of Shroud Publishing’s Hiram Grange Chronicles. Here it was, at last—my first solo work. Finally, I must’ve made it! And when the reviews started rolling in and they were mostly positive, I figured success was coming my way. Of course, this was before eBooks. Hiram Grange hit Amazon, and I think mostly sank. To this day, I don’t think my sales ever eclipsed the token royalty I received for it. Even so, I had something which was mine alone, something I could show to folks which didn’t suck.
What this has all taught me is there is no “making it”. You keep working, you keep writing, keep striving to get better, keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Enjoy whatever successes come your way, but a writing career isn’t about making it. It’s about producing work you believe in, and trying to get it to more and more readers.

Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family? 

KL: I’d be lying if I claimed no effect at all. I’d like to think my college friends and I have slowly separated over time simply because of that: time. Most of them have moved away, and we all have our own lives now. However, something kind of wonderful has happened attending conventions the last few years, and connecting with speculative fiction writers in my own area: I’ve gained a whole new batch of friends, folks who love genre stuff just as much as me, who labour right alongside me in this craft.
There have been bumps, however. When you get married and tell your intended “I want to be a writer someday” neither of you have any idea what that means. Abby and I have wrestled with the distance which can develop between spouses when one is pursuing an artistic career, especially when I was attending so many conventions. Adding a special needs child to the equation (my youngest is high-functioning autistic) only complicates things. Abby and I basically had to agree on some things, and while she’s amazingly supportive of my writing and would never ask me to quit, we did decide to take time off from conventions and for me to only write one hour a day Monday through Friday. I take the weekends off, and why not? I have a full-time job, and right now only write for the small press. The only deadlines I really have are short story deadlines, and my own. My kids are 11 and 9. I don’t want them to look back on these formative years and wonder where Dad was. And I don’t want to lose touch with my wife. Writing is awesome, but it’s not worth that.

Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does?

KL: Without a doubt, Stephen King, and honestly, he still does. What gets me about King is his ability to create characters I care about, and believe in, and empathise with. He creates characters who are like the guy living down the road, or, sometimes more frightening, live in my mirror. I for one love his big “bloated” novels (as some of his critics call them) and love learning everything about a small town or minor, secondary characters, and don’t ever consider that stuff distracting from the main story. I’ve always found it enhances his stories. He’s got a wonderful narrative voice, and I don’t think any of his works have ever disappointed me (with the exception of Gerald’s Game. Never got past page one of that).
Stylistically, however, Charles L. Grant’s work has impacted me, also. His tight, lyrical poetry, and his vivid, creeping atmosphere sings. I think I’ve tried to mash the two together—a compelling narrative voice and creeping atmosphere. I don’t know if I’ve accomplished that, but I’ve tried.

Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?

KL: There’s a lot of me in my novella A Night at Old Webb. It’s not horror at all, simply a coming of age tale of a writer (not me, at all, cough, cough) trying to find his way. I just wrote it to write it, not worrying about genre, or where I’d try to submit it.

Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day?

KL: I’ve never had any specific number I had to hit. I simply write for an hour a day, and then I’m done. I might get some extra words in during library study hall coverage at school, or before I go to bed, but once I get that hour done, I’m good to go. In my experience, if you wrote an hour a day, five days a week, all year long, you’re going to generate a lot of words.

Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write?

KL: Anything having to do with autism or special needs children. My son is autistic—high functioning—and it basically defines our lives. I’ve tried to write about it in the past, but I ended up just writing long spiels about life with autism, not interesting fiction featuring autism. I’ve recently started something, however, which I may be able to turn into something compelling.

Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing?

KL: Well, to me, writing is relaxing. Abby likes to joke that she’d never make me quit writing, because that would make me unbearable to live with. But if I don’t feel like writing and I’m just taking some “me time” (because the first thing I’d do to relax from writing is something with the family or my wife), I’m reading. I fell in love with reading before I ever became a writer, and my desire to write came from my love of reading.

Joe: Tell us a bit about the people you met while researching a book. Are you still friends with some of them?

KL: To be honest, I’ve never really “met” anyone while researching a book. I’ve borrowed elements from friends and people I’ve known over the years, but we’re all still friends, if only because I don’t believe they’ve read my work.
Yet...

Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author? 

KL: Time management. If you want to write a short story or novel, you sit down, do a little bit every day, start to finish, until it’s done. There are many other ways to go about doing it, but this is the one which makes the most sense to me, and works. You want to do this big thing like a novel? Do a little bit every day, until you are finished.

Joe: How did being author change you as a person?

KL: Well, first of all, it’s given me a greater appreciation for anyone who’s written a book and published it, either traditionally or self-published. This stuff’s hard work, man. I no longer think of any writer as a “hack”. They’re basically people who believed in something others didn’t, and they sat down every day and did it, until it was done.
Other than that, I’m not sure how much it has changed, but it has reaffirmed values taught to me at a young age by my parents:  you want something, you work hard until you get it. Once you get it, you don’t stop; you keep working harder, every single day.

Joe: Which response/comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career?

KL: As a Christian who prefers to communicate his worldview through thematic fiction and art, it’s always reaffirming and a little startling when strangers read my work, then approach me and ask me if I’m a Christian, because they could “just tell by my work”. That’s what I’ve always wanted. But I work so hard at focusing on story first, trying to get out of the way and let the story tell itself, I’m always amazed when someone says that.

Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author?

KL: Inspirational answer: to keep writing work of substance which is true to me and my values, which will hopefully continue to find readers in all walks of life.
Crass, self-serving answer: I would love to someday write at least one book for someone like Medallion, Angry Robot, Titan Books or Kensington. The thought of signing a big contract with an actual, for-real deadline scares the dickens out of me, but I also want to push myself to meet a deadline like that, just once.

Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind?

KL: Being a loving father and husband who put his family first and did his best to serve them. A teacher who tried his best to meet his students’ needs. A writer and editor who acted professionally and kind at all times, and performed his best on every writing endeavour. And to always be thankful for everything God has blessed me with.

 
Author: Kevin Lucia
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