UPDATE: Check out Lucas Mangum’s podcast!
Based on some of the lessons I’ve been learning recently, and sharing here, I really wanted to pick the brain of dark fiction author Lucas Mangum. Lucas has been kicking ass and making a name for himself as a unique voice in horror and dark fiction and has some great insights on writing, creating, and scaring the hell out of people this Halloween.
Hello Lucas. I know you are actually reading this on your computer, well after I’ve written this, but I’m going keep this conversational… like a weirdo
So, to start out, Please tell me a little about your work, your style, and your genre.
I write mostly horror, but have also been known to dabble in crime and the downright bizarre. I tend to write mostly about human darkness, as it’s something that I’m very fascinated with. I’ve been told my style is lyrical, but even if the things I’m describing are vulgar. That’s pretty neat, I think, because that gives the reader a juxtaposition.
Why do you think you are compelled to write horror? I have a theory that writing horror is an attempt at controlling your fears. Any validity with you?
-The concept of controlling or, in some cases, even exorcising my fears by writing horror is certainly part of it, but another huge part of it is just a pure love for the genre. I grew up on horror movies. I think they’re a lot of fun, and a desire to create something that is just as fun, while also talking about the darker side of life is probably my primary reason to write horror. We all have this in us. By the time this interview is posted, we would have just celebrated Halloween, a holiday where even your most straightlaced relative is compelled to dress their children up as devils and ghosts. It’s fun to play on the dark side. I just tend to enjoy it all year long, whereas the rest of the world indulges in it for one month.
What are some of the works that have inspired you?
-While I seriously doubt we would be friends, the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft are a huge touchstone for me. Conceptually and stylistically, his work speaks to me like no one else’s. If we’re going to continue talking about short stories, I’ve also got to give major shout outs to Bradbury’s The October Country, Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, Wrath James White’s Book of A Thousand Sins and the collected works of Richard Matheson. For longer works, It, Interview with the Vampire, Clive Barker’s Imajica, Poppy Z. Brite’s Drawing Blood, Sara Gran’s Come Closer, Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow and the Preacher comics really stuck with me. Film was my first love though, and I think Night of the Living Dead, Carnival of Souls, Phantasm, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the work of John Carpenter, and Cemetery Man are all huge touchstones for me. Marilyn Manson taught me to be fearless as an artist, to always say what I want to say with confidence and not worry about whether or not a subject is too taboo to explore. I try to continue to be inspired too. Recent books that have really spoke to me are Black Gum, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, Mr. Splitfoot, Ekland, Shallow Graves, and Ecstatic Inferno
And your favorite authors?
-Other than the authors of the above-mentioned works, I’ve got to give huge props to Jonathan Maberry, Carlton Mellick III, the poet Stephanie Wytovich, and Gabino Iglesias.
So you are a pretty prolific author. How many pieces did you publish this past year?
-From April of 2016 until now, I have published Flesh and Fire, which was part of a flip book with Dark of Night by Jonathan Maberry; Mania, a novella; A Killing Back Home, a ten-thousand word murder mystery; and Engines of Ruin, a collection.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to this point, where you can produce so much clean work?
-Oh, wow, so, I actually don’t consider myself that prolific. I think prolific and I think, Maberry, Mellick, Keene, Bradbury and Matheson, but I suppose it’s all relative. A lot of factors go into being prolific. Really, it just takes practice. Don’t be afraid to suck. It’s all part of the learning process. I’ve written ten books, five of which I won’t publish, and that’s not counting all the other books I decided to abandon. Also, you’ve got to make the time to write. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you just sit down and do it. Does this mean you’ll be three years behind on shows to binge on Netflix? Yes. Does it mean you’ll miss out on social occasions and those podcasts everyone keeps talking about? You betcha. But if you really want to do this thing, you’ve got to make sacrifices. I’m not saying live like a hermit. I mean, I’ve at least seen Stranger Things and G.L.O.W., and I do have people over from time to time, but the point is to make time to write. It’ll get done when you let it get done.
Just for fun, tell me a little bit about the first novel you completed.
-The first novel I completed really wanted to be Stephen King’s It. It featured an evil shapeshifting court jester, instead of an evil shapeshifting clown. I was fourteen at the time.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned since then?
-Ha, well, you can actually learn a lot by imitating, so I recommend doing it. Not publishing it, mind you, but doing it in your free time. Seriously. If I’m having trouble starting, I’ll retype a bunch of my favorite first lines. If I’m having trouble finding a rhythm, I’ll re-type a favorite chapter from something.
What would you say are the biggest factors in improving your work?
-Either hire an editor or find someone you trust who’s willing to do it for free. Make sure they have the mind of an
editor though. If they’re also a writer, you don’t want them giving you notes saying how they would do it. It’s still your book and they need to be objective. Other than that, I think it goes back to not being afraid to suck. It’s part of the process. Unavoidable, really. I just wrote a really shitty chapter on my work in progress that I plan to go back to and fix in the re-writer. It happens. Get it down and move on.
What has been your favorite project to date? Why?
-My favorite project to date has to be my forthcoming book, Gods of the Dark Web. It hits all the notes I wanted it to hit. I even have a hard time choosing a single passage from it when doing a reading, because there are so many passages I’m proud of.
And last of all, what is in the works for you?
-Aside from Gods, I’m also shopping a small-town horror novel called We Are the Accused, and I’m working on my first collaboration with bizarro author Michael Sean Leseuer. It’s called When We Don’t Sleep, and I think it will be very scary. It deals with sleep paralysis and demonic visions and creatures from the other side. Exciting stuff.
Thank you, Lucas.
And Happy Halloween to you all. Check out all of Lucas Mangum’s work on Amazon and keep an eye out for his upcoming books.