Interview: Kevin Lucia, Author of THINGS YOU NEED
Yesterday, author Kevin Lucia brought his blog tour here with the tale of "The Man Who Sits in His Chair," as a warm-up for the release of his upcoming linked short story collection, Things You Need, out tomorrow (September 28) from Crystal Lake Publishing.
Today, in a quasi-Part 2, I share with you, dear readers, my interview with Kevin that touches on his most recent release, as well as other things writing. Enjoy!
Joe: Let’s begin with discussing your release of a second linked short story collection (the first being THINGS SLIP THROUGH, also out by Crystal Lake Publishing) - what influenced you, or inspired you, to put together another collection? Did you know what stories you were going to use, or write, beforehand? What inspired your choice of the framing device for this one - a desperate man happening upon a Pawn & Thrift?
Kevin: So, a bit of useless bit of information about me: I collect knick-knacks, odds and ends, stuff only a kid would probably find interesting. The kind of stuff you find in thrift shops. I’ve collected them over the years on a shelf in my office. As I started selling new stories after the release of Things Slip Through, I realized that, for whatever reason, many of those stories featured objects. My original thought was I title my next short story collection The Shelf, and, in similar fashion to Al Sarrantonio’s short story collection Toybox, the things on “the shelf” would all have a “story.”
Problem was, I couldn’t come up with a workable framing device for delivering those stories, and one thing I wanted for the second collection was a framing device with higher stakes, in which the framing device narrator had more to lose. My desperate magazine salesman actually came from a novella I was writing that had stalled, and when I was ready to start the new collection, I realized he’d be a perfect fit as the framing narrator. That, and my daughter and I love thrift stories, so…
On a side note - who knows if I’ll eventually sell enough short stories for another collection, but I’ve already got the title and framing device in mind: The Man Who Sits in His Chair. A man who sits, every day, in a chair outside the cabin he rents at The Motor Lodge. Why does he sit there? Because somehow, he sees everything that happens in Clifton Heights, and somehow, him sitting in that chair holds the town together, protects it from some incomprehensible evil, so long as he sits in his chair. I haven’t worked out the exact details yet, but the premise excites me.
For readers of your Clifton Heights tales, it’s becoming clear, through a slow unraveling, that many characters, events, and places are linked (family members of the Ellison clan, for example, and Sheriff Baker, appear frequently throughout your works). In devising your stories, how are you keeping track of what characters you are using, or mentioning, in order to keep the continuity straight and of who knows who, and how? Do you have an ultimate plan for (many of) your characters to all meet up in one story - a novel, perhaps? Will you always write in Clifton Heights?
At this point, I’m mostly operating on instinct, and where my gut directs me. On one hand, I love the idea of this connected universe – some of my favorite authors, such as Charles L. Grant, Gary Braunbeck, Mary Sangiovanni, Ray Bradbury, and of course Stephen King, all had theirs, so getting the chance to create one of my own is a dream come true.
On the other hand, I’m trying to keep the interconnections light, and as I go forward, keep them even lighter. I love writing in Clifton Heights, and will continue to do so – I can imagine unlimited stories for all the kinds of “regular folks” living there – but I also want don’t want folks to get the idea that this is a series which needs to be read in any certain order. So the burden is there to make every story as standalone as possible.
For example, the two novellas I’ve sold to Cemetery Dance, Mystery Road and The Night Road, are essentially standalone stories. There are clear references to the mythos, which I hope won’t prohibit new readers. I recently finished outlining a huge, sprawling, Boy’s Life-esque coming of age novel taking place in the late eighties, but through the eyes of Kevin Ellison, who, thus far, has experienced Clifton Heights apart from Gavin Patchett’s vision, the “author” of my other books. I’ve also been toying with an outline for an old-school, eighties-flavor horror movie novel about a cursed school called Legacies, and I want very few references in that novel, only ones recognizable to hardcore fans.
Probably the closest thing to what you’re talking about is my first novel, which I’ve recently finished the second draft of, The Mighty Dead. It’s main characters are Father Ward, Gavin Patchett, and to a lesser extent, town sheriff Chris Baker, and it’s this weird metafictional thing that I hope readers will like, but I also want that novel to close the door on Father Ward and Gavin Patchett for a while, though I still want to write a solo novel for Chris Baker.
I’ll always continue to write Clifton Heights stories – again, I see limitless possibilities there - but lately, I’ve been thinking about a Repairman Jack, Jack Reacher type character, roaming the countryside, fighting monsters. We’ll see if that gets any legs.
What was your writing schedule like for THINGS YOU NEED? Do you stick to a certain number of drafts? At what point does a story feel done to you?
Considering that I just forced myself to turn in the final draft, it never feels “done” to me. I guess, when I get sick of looking at it? Really, I eventually have to come to a point in which I realize I’m editing for editing’s sake, and that I need to make myself let it go.
The ending of THINGS YOU NEED (no, it won’t be spoiled here) felt much more confident, and bold, whereas most of your previous books have ended with the main characters facing some internal sense of uncertainty - that, perhaps, there was still more to come from them. Was this intentional?
Yes. I love that haunting sense of uncertainty – that, though this story is finished for now, who knows what’s going to happen next? – but I sometimes wonder if that’s a cheat, and also, it only reflects part of what I feel about life. Yes, life is filled with uncertainties, and we’ll never get all the answers to our troubles (not in this existence, anyway), but I also believe that, despite those uncertainties, we can find a sort of resolution, too. We can make peace with our destiny. I wanted to write something which reflected that truth, also. Any other projects in the pipeline, and how can people find you online?
Right now I spend all my time at www.facebook.com/kblucia, so add me there, and my blog – which I’m dusting off – is www.kevinlucia.blogspot.com.
Far as projects, there’s my first novel to get back to, The Might Dead, and I’m prepping a Halloween novella for release on Halloween, a Twilight Zone-esque story called Long Night in the Valley. I’m hoping to make this a Halloween tradition.
Some random writerly questions for fun:
Have you ever considered writing something in a genre far out of your comfort zone?
Not right now, no. Generally, I write the kind of stuff I’d like to read.
Writers all have trunk stories that they know will never see the light of day. What are some of your trunk stories, and do you ever feel the pull to revisit them?
I once wrote a 178K space opera that was only part one of an “epic” space opera trilogy. It reads like bad Star Wars and Star Trek fanfiction, so in the trunk it stays!
What book(s) have you read that you wish you had written?
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury.
Stephen King has always said you should write for yourself and your Ideal Reader (because you can’t please everyone). Who is your Ideal Reader?
Oddly enough, I think my Ideal Reader (don’t know if I’ve found them, yet) is that person who doesn’t think they like horror, until they’ve read my work and realized, “Oh, this is considered horror? I guess I do like horror?” I’m not sure what that says about my future in the horror genre, but I know that I want to write stories and characters full of enough substance to attract readers who like those things, period.
Things You Need is available tomorrow, September 28 at all major book retailers.