Halloween Interview with Horror Author Lucas Mangum

UPDATE: Check out Lucas Mangum’s podcast!

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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

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MANIA on Amazon

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.

 

 

First Draft Climax = Total Trash

Maybe you have this problem too. It’s a trend in my process that I’m just beginning to come to terms with. The rest of my manuscript will be generally logical, clean and coherent, but the climax is a giant, raging mess.

It’s all over the place. It doesn’t follow a rational path. Motivations, descriptions, tone and setting are sloppy at best and there is often some long info dumps revelations that DRAG it down. So over all, my climax is just awful.

Usually by the time I get to the climax, I’m in full blown writing mode, so I have two choices. Power through, let it come out as it is, or beat it into submission.

Now I have to admit I’ve frequently tried to beat it into submission. After all the climax is pretty much the most important part of the novel, the part I have been writing toward the whole time. But pounding away at it has a tendency to sap my motivation. To be completely honest, I love writing, and when I don’t love it, well, I don’t really want to do it any more.

And the truth is, even when I do get through it in this fashion, it’s still pretty bad.

So my newest method is to let it suck. Let is be the heaping pile of hot trash that it wants to be for now. I’m going to have to go in there with a bulldozer during edits anyway, what ever gets me to the end of the story is the method I should take. I will have a clearer idea on what it needs to be concise and effective after the story is done, the theme has emerged and I’ve had time to identify specific problems.

First drafts aren’t supposed to be good. They’re supposed to be finished.  Even something as important as the climax isn’t going to be any good to you if you can’t finish the book.

Finish the book. Let it be trash. Trash can always be cleaned up.

 

When you have writing momentum DON’T STOP!

You will scrape and toil, pecking out a few horrific words and deleting them for days, weeks, months, years. You will stare at blank pages in utter horror as the words in your mind shrivel, unwritten, into dust. Then one day you still start to write and it will flow.

When this happens, my best advice for you is don’t stop.

Your words are a boulder that is rolling down a hill. Let it roll! Let it crash over cars. When it hits a plateau let the force it built up rolling, keep it moving forward,until it hits another hill.

Do not stop the rolling boulder! It was was hard to get moving in the first place.

Skip the Game of Thrones finale, if you have the writing momentum. It’s on Demand. Your words are not. Let them roll out or they will stop.

Skip the early bedtime that you wanted to get. You can hazard through a tired morning if it means you spilled two thousand words onto a page.

Even skip the night out, unless you have amazing tickets, already hired the babysitter, or your meeting a friend who’s only in town for the night. Then, do the night out, but get home and get writing as soon as it’s over.

Skip everything you can skip. Work. Dinner. Bathroom. Life. Just don’t stop!

Okay, well, you may have to stop, sometimes. It’s very hard to pull off mad artist these days.

But put off all the things you can, at least for a couple weeks, if you can keep the momentum going that long. Because it is a gift, and it does not last, especially if you don’t get on that big rolling rock and ride it as far as you can.

Other people will have great advice for you on how to finish a first draft. It all can work, but for me, from me, this is the only fool proof advice I have.

Don’t stop. Keep writing, until the well dries up or you finish the draft.

Things you learn when you’re a writer

You might have gone to grad school for creative writing. Or maybe you’ve just joined your first crit group. You might have written twenty eight novels or still be pecking away at your first short story. Regardless of where you are, there are some things that you need to know. I am going to tell you these things. In fact, many people may tell you these things, but it’s likely you’re going to have to learn them through experience before they really sink in.

So if you’re just starting out, this is just a heads up.

  1. Everything about writing takes time. The writing part, that’s the short part. Editing, submitting, waiting for response, publishing, everything takes time. Lots and lots of time.
  2. Everything about writing takes patience. See above.
  3. Your first works won’t be that good. You can fix them or you can move on.
  4. Sooner or later, you’re going to need to redraft. You may think by editing as you go you are saving yourself time or effort. You are not. Just get the first draft done so that you can get to that second, third and fourth draft.
  5. You are a writer for a reason. Even if you’re struggling to find your voice, it’s there and with time and practice it will emerge.
  6. Not everyone’s suggestions are valid to you. It’s your story. When people try to start rearranging it, they’re trying to turn it into their story.
  7. Most of them time “They just don’t get it” is not a good excuse. You may use it alot when you start to get critiques on your work. The thing is, if the people reviewing your work just don’t get it, neither will your readers.
  8. Only JK Rowling is JK Rowling. We’d all like to have that first manuscript we punched out during a hard time in our lives become an international sensation, but the truth is even JK Rowling’s idea took seven hard years from conception to publication.
  9. Your ego will be crushed. Again and again. Just say goodbye to it. It’s not serving you anyway.
  10. You can do this. Yes. It takes a lot of work and even more perseverance. No one can do it for you, and for a long time, there won’t even be anyone to do it with you, but if you have been gifted with the burning desire to write stories, to share your mind with the world, then there is a reason for that, and if you keep moving it will come together for you.

What are some lessons you have learned about being a writer? Please share!