Monday, November 1, 2010
Kevin Lucia and the Chosen Interview, Pt. 1
Sigh…Halloween is over. I’ll allow you a moment to lament its passing… :(
But, don’t fret! ‘Round these parts, the monsters remain active year round! Case in point, it’s November and I’ve got the first of a two-part interview with horror author Kevin Lucia!! Kevin stopped by to kick off his November blog tour for his monster hunter/occult detective novella Hiram Grange and the Chosen One—which is actually the fourth book in a mini-series of Hiram adventures, published by Shroud Publishing. Read on to learn more of Hiram and his battles with the things of the night, and if you like what you hear, Kevin is offering giveaways at Goodreads! Also, dig out the killer art by Malcolm McClinton…
Greg Mitchell: Kevin! Welcome! Let’s start off with Hiram Grange. Here we’ve got a pretty unique project in that, it’s a series, but developed and written by different authors. Usually a series like this is created and written by a single author. How did this sort of “series by committee” start? How does it function?
Kevin Lucia: It's really the brainchild of Tim Deal, owner of Shroud Publishing. He wanted to create a unique series that would feature the same character, written by different authors, each of whom would bring their own style and flair to the series.
He posted a call for submissions on the Shroud Forum. People showed interest. Eventually from those folks, “The Hiram Five” arose: Jake Burrows, Scott Christian Carr, Rob Davies, myself, and Richard Wright.
We brainstormed for a LONG time on WHO Hiram should be. Was he a drug-addled misanthrope who cared about nothing but his perversions? Or would he possess a strange code of honor? Maybe throw in personal traumas that would endear him to audiences. Should he grow? Develop? But also fall back and regress? Was he an atheist? Or did he believe in – and hate – God?
For two years, we wrote our novellas simultaneously. The crisscrossing emails were fast and furious and spasmodic. We'd confer by email for a week – sometimes 20-30 messages a day – then would fall silent for awhile as everyone feverishly wrote. And sometimes rewrote, when the need arose.
GM: I’ve not read the other books, I’ll admit, but I found it fairly easy to jump into your book (Book Four, for you guys keeping score at home). I was really pleased that it felt like a really fleshed out world—it seemed to be very organized, which, again, is something that’s pretty neat considering the creative process that brought Hiram to life. Talk about your contribution to the Hiram Grange Mythos—Hiram Grange and the Chosen One. Was this a mapped out story in the life of Hiram that you were assigned to write, or were you just given a book number and you created the story based on what you thought needed to be told of Hiram at that point in his literary life?
KL: All the stories are originals developed by the authors. We did collectively decide on a very LOOSE background arc to connect the stories, and we had to edit Hiram's behavior in each novella for consistency, but for the most part, Tim let us have at it.
I specifically requested a later title. I have to be honest, my original gut instinct upon reading the submissions call was: “Nah. I'll pass.” But as the conversations progressed, I saw Tim very much wanted Hiram to grow, so I thought: “I'd love to write about this character down the road. After he's lost people close to him. After he's racked up enough miles to start asking some really BIG questions about himself and...well...his destiny.”
Hiram is an antihero, make no mistake. He saves the world on a daily basis, but might be just as dangerous as the monsters he hunts. He has terrible, degrading habits. Yet, I wanted to focus more on the internal causes of this. On how Hiram views HIMSELF. On the things he's suffered – and DONE – that makes him see a monster staring back from his mirror.
Also, my style leans towards subtle suggestion. Innuendo. I'm a “less is more” kinda guy, and the great thing is Tim let me be that guy, while still writing Hiram. I think Tim even referred to my rendition of Hiram as “elegant” - which pleased me to no end.
GM: Yeah, I caught that. I’ve read my share of Steve Niles’ Cal MacDonald series and some old school Constantine comics, so I get the whole “hard boiled drug addict occult detective”, but you managed to write that without glorifying it. It seemed like a legitimate struggle in his life, rather than something to make him look all cool and anti-hero-y. Aside from those seedy addictions, what’s Hiram Grange all about? Give us the skinny on this guy.
KL: Hiram Grange is a covert operative working for a privately funded woman named Mrs. Bothwell who runs an organization that combats supernatural monsters. Hiram hunts down all manner of monsters and demons, investigates “confluences” - supernatural breaches that serve as portals for these monsters – and closes them. Through any means necessary.
He knows his guns. Martial arts. The occult. Likes to play with explosives. And, though he distrusts it, he knows a smattering a magic. Everything is tool. Except technology. He hates it.
He's also terribly alone. Though he possesses a kind of “animal magnetism” that attracts all manner of odd, strange women, he's ugly, repulsive, addicted, obsessed, guilt ridden and conflicted. All the important women in his life have died before him. His father disappeared after his mother committed suicide, never to be heard of again. Even Mrs. Bothwell – the closest thing he has to family – routinely and callously sends him into the worst kinds of danger.
And…he's the only thing standing between the world and its destruction. He's terribly lonely. Open to temptation. He's lost so much. What would happen if offered the power to bring all those things back? And there you have the crux of The Chosen One.
GM: Plus you have lots of shooting slimy tentacled monsters! The book was never boring! So, Hiram Grange and the Chosen One is your first novella, but you’ve written a ton of short stories, right? It seems like, wherever I go, I see the name “Kevin Lucia” attached. How many short stories do you have in circulation? It’s got to be at least a hundred, right?
KL: HA! A hundred. I wish. Really, I've had only six GOOD short stories published, and I say good because I had quite a few stories “published” my first year of writing in “4theluv” collections that only offered “token” payment – or maybe no payment at all. Those stories are very, very bad and will hopefully never be read by anyone.
I have been fortunate to sell just as many nonfiction, personal essays as short fiction. So I guess in total, there are about twelve stories I'd be happy if folks found and read.
GM: Ah, a dozen. I was close. Which one are you most proud of?
KL: I'd say my best two stories – the ones I look back on and DON'T hate – are “The Water God of Clarke Street”, featured in Shroud Publishing's Abominations anthology, and “Lonely Places”, featured in the most recent edition of The Midnight Diner.
GM: Which also includes my short story "Flesh and Blood", featuring the Arbigast Group. There you go, folks. You can get both stories for the price of one! :p Okay, Short Fiction versus Long Fiction: Do you have a preference? I’m actually finding that, as I grow older, I enjoy writing short stories a lot. That might have to do with how busy my life is now that I have kids. Or maybe my attention span is shortening. I don’t know, but I certainly see the appeal in doing something on a smaller scale and just getting it done.
KL: I enjoy short fiction. A lot. But the question I've yet to answer for myself is this: am I really any good at it? Money isn't everything, but I still haven't managed to crack the pro-rate market (5 cents a word). It seems like right now, longer stories suit me better. I'm really a “character development guy” over “slick plotting guy”, so that makes sense. I need room to really make readers care about my characters. Maybe this will change with growth and experience.
Right now, I've decided to take a break writing short stories. The problem I found is the brutal turnaround on rejections. Totally diving into Hiram, however, and just writing every day for months on end, getting completely engrossed in the story and not worrying about getting dinged by yet another short story rejection felt awesome.
I have three stories out there right now, waiting on a final word, and I've decided not to “cold” write any more. The markets are too thin, and I write so much better when asked: “Hey, we're putting together a collection centered around X-theme. We'd love to see a story from you.” Sounds arrogant, but I'm holding out for more of those and just concentrating on long fiction right now.
GM: I can’t help but mention this, as I’m a sucker for this in my own work, but readers might notice that a lot of your works reference each other. What’s the genesis of that “connected universe” feel for you?
KL: Oh. You know. That's the whole: “OOH! Look how clever I am; I'll create a whole mythical town that's a connected universe and it'll be SO unique because NO ONE HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE!”
Then you read King's Dark Tower series. Get into Brian Keene's Labyrinth mythos. Stumble across Gary Braunbeck's Cedar Hill novels and short stories and realize that Ray Bradbury did the same thing with his mythical Green Town YEARS ago. And then at every Con, every newbie writer you meet has their own connected universe mythos they're working on, and you think:
In all seriousness, I'm doing what all writers do at some point: writing what I like to read. I'm a sucker for those things and while some folks don't like them because they think they're marketing ploys, I love 'em. I'm a “big puzzle” kinda a guy, and I love thinking that I'm only looking at one part of a puzzle, and this novel over here or that short story in that collection over there adds another piece.
But also, I like the idea that even though I've brought a story to its most logical close...it's not over. It's never over. This character might pop up somewhere else as a supporting or bit character. Why? Because LIFE IS STORY, and all of our stories – lives - are interconnected. Seems very natural to do that with fiction. Probably why so many authors do it.
GM: I agree. I always find it exciting to catch up on old characters, even if it’s just for a while. I like to see the characters grow with the audience (or, in my case so often times, the writer).
KL: My very first horror novel crashed and burned halfway through about six years ago, never to be resurrected…but I was left with tons of cool character vignettes. Fodder for smaller stories. And that's where a lot of them have come from.
GM: So is all this clever story-connecting headed somewhere? Does Kevin Lucia have some maniacal scheme?
KL: A direction? Not sure. That sort of thing can get too premeditated. Feel too arranged.
GM: I agree, totally. That’s something I have to remind myself as I’m a “connector” all the way :p
KL: The novel I'm working on right now is the first full length work in my “mythos”, but any connections to other stories I've written will be incidental: a name here, a bar or shopping mart there.
GM: Sounds very cool, indeed! I’m ready to read it already!
Well, folks, this draws Part One of our in-depth chat with Kevin Lucia to a close. Tune in tomorrow for Part Two. It will. Blow. Your. Mind.
Maybe… : p
Goodreads Giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/6421-hiram-grange-and-the-chosen-one-the-scandalous-misadventures-of-hiram-g