Sunday, October 6, 2013

Author Interview: Leigh M. Lane

October is my favorite month of the year. I celebrate Halloween the entire month long with horror movies, decorations, and scary books. I thought that I would turn the blog over to some authors of the genre this month. Here is an interview with novelist Leigh M. Lane to kick things off.

Thank you so much for having me here.  I’ve been writing horror and dark fiction for over twenty years, with thirteen novels and a massive collection of short stories under my belt.  I have a deep passion is Gothic, dystopian, and psychological horror.  My Gothic novel, Finding Poe, was a 2013 EPIC finalist in horror.  I’m married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr., my biggest fan and greatest critic.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without his faithful motivation and deliciously ruthless critique.

How long have you been publishing?

I published my first works in 2008, when I landed a deal for my erotic horror trilogy, which I wrote under a different name.  Since then, I’ve published seven more novels and placed a couple dozen short stories in anthologies of varying genres

Tell us about your latest book.

I don’t want to give too much away as, at least at the time of this interview, I’m still shopping this work.  With that said, my latest book, The Private Sector, is a loose prequel to my dark dystopia, World-Mart.  The story is a stepping stone between the world as we know it and the crumbling corporatocracy of the future.  With a deeply psychological slant, it offers readers a glimpse into some of the more compelling evils that exist within humanity

Who are your major influences?

My biggest influences are Rod Serling, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, H. G. Wells, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I began reading horror and watching horror films at a young age, and I loved the immediate chill and extended reflection that came with some of the disturbing, horrifying twists I’d read in particularly King’s works.  I made my first attempts at writing by emulating the authors I enjoyed the most.

Do you invent your own types of characters, or rework the standard vampires, ghosts, etc?

I try to be as original as possible, although I have taken new twists to a few old tropes.  I also enjoy turning clich├ęs on their heads when I can.  Various manifestations of the human psyche intrigue me most, however; they have the potential to be the most terrifying of monsters because they can strike anyone in nearly any way.  An assault on the body, no matter how gruesome, can’t compare to an assault on the mind.

Are you a fan of horror movies, as well?

I love horror movies, although most fall short when it comes to being all that scary.  Maybe I’ve become too desensitized over the years and they’re just not scary to me.  At any rate, I still enjoy them and am always on the lookout for one that actually has what it takes to get under my skin.

If so, which ones are your favorites?

My all-time favorite horror movie is a low-budget art house film called Cube.  It’s a psychological piece, relying mostly on the unknown to drive its horror, but it’s also incredibly smart for a film of its genre.  Shadow of the Vampire is another favorite, not only because of its clever spin on Nosferatu; the acting and camera direction in it are brilliant.  Another is Alien.  The claustrophobic feel, coupled with a monster closed in with the protagonists that could turn nearly any one of them into a human incubator at any turn, is pretty freaky.

What’s the difference between horror books and horror films?

I suppose the difference would depend on the stories themselves.  For the most part, books require more of an active mind’s eye, which most movies are able to replace with different types of visuals.  Books have the ability to place their readers into their protagonists’ (or the monsters’) minds in a way most movies cannot.  Films are limited to what the camera and spoken language can show their audience, whereas books have the ability to be much more immersive.  However, movies have a sense of ambiance—creepy music, the sound of a racing heartbeat, the sounds of unseen threats—that offer a different value of their own.

Why has the genre enjoyed resurgence in popularity over the past few years?

I think vampires and zombies have made the biggest comebacks, although haunted house flicks also seem to have gained increasing popularity.  Genres are like styles of the passing eras, though: they come and go in cycles.  I’m sure werewolves and aliens will find their way back into the spotlight soon enough.

What’s the best part about being a horror writer?

The best part about being a horror writer is writing a scene that creeps me the hell out.  It’s exciting and unsettling at the same time, but the thought of sharing that moment with other fans gives me the biggest thrill.

What’s the worst?

It can be exhausting.  Writing a scene that is both original and immersive is no easy feat, and it can take a lot out of a person.  Sometimes I must walk away from the computer and take a breather, lest the monsters in my mind consume every last ounce of energy I have.

Do you think fans of horror are more devoted to genre?


Is there a difference in the type of stories you are telling, or the way you are telling them, than traditionally published horror writers?

I think so.  Most traditionally published authors cannot take the kinds of chances Indies can.  The gatekeepers like to play it safe, whereas most Indie authors have little to nothing to lose.  As a result, Indies are able to take a gamble on risky subjects, styles, and plot twists.  I like to challenge myself with my writing.  I find great satisfaction in taking an idea that is nearly impossible to pull off and nailing it.  I like pushing boundaries as far as I can and taking my readers to the edge and back in the process.

What does your family think of your writing career?

That would depend upon whom you asked.  Like I said before, my husband is my biggest fan.  Where my extended family is concerned, I’m sort of a black sheep, and many of my relatives have never so much as cracked open any of my books.  I have a couple of family members who’ve taken an interest—after finally reading one of my books and realizing the weirdo in the family actually can write.  I take it all in stride.  I write because I’m driven to do so.  It makes me happy and keeps me sane; my readership, as much as I do appreciate it, is secondary, and that includes my family.

Can you give an example of something you would have to change about your work if you were traditionally published?

I would have to be less eclectic, forced to choose a specific genre and adhere more strictly to it.  I prefer to add a literary slant to my horror and sci-fi, and the traditional publishers don’t see that as a big selling point.  They want Stephen King, not Kurt Vonnegut.

What does "success" mean as an indie author?

To me, it’s a matter of being read and knowing my writing has had an effect on its readers.  It’s also a matter of standing the test of time, of eventually contributing to the literary canon and reaching the types of people who will find meaning in their texts.  I believe horror can hold just as much literary value as any other genre.  Most of my books’ reviews are very passionate—in one extreme or the other—especially those for World-Mart.  To know it’s stirred so much thought, so much controversy among its readers, tells me I’m doing something right.  To know it’s left its readers in horrified reflection is more gratifying than any potential fortune.  (Many readers have told me it’s a difficult read, painfully disturbing, but they’re glad they read it.)   It would be nice if my writing paid the bills, but for many Indie authors, that kind of “success” comes and goes.  Finding Poe was an Amazon bestseller for two weeks, but most months it barely makes enough money to buy one dinner out at best.

What advice do you have to aspiring indie authors? Anything you'd say specifically to horror authors?

I recently published a short piece on my blog titled 5 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 5 Years, which addresses just that.  Blog post aside, the best piece of advice I can offer is take your time and do it right.  There is currently a scourge of inexperienced “authors” self-publishing their first stabs at novel writing, unaware that they’re putting out low-quality, poorly edited books, and this has hurt Indies across the board. We all want to see our babies in print, but rushing to realize that dream is a terrible mistake.  First novels are rarely as good as their writers think they are.  Trust me when I tell you to put your future award-winning Great American Novel on the back burner for a while—because, after you’ve gained a little more experience and honed your craft, you’ll go back to it and realize just how awful it is.  A dozen novels ago, I was there.  I thought I’d written an unparalleled gift to literature, a true masterpiece.  I’m mortified that I’d subbed it to every agent on my list.  Mortified.

To aspiring horror authors, I’d advise you to write what you like to read, not the current hot topic.  If you write zombies because zombies are in, you might miss out on the next trend when it comes.  Try to work ahead of the trends.  Moreover, if you’re not writing what you love, it will be apparent in your work, especially if you’re inexperienced.  Also, if you’re going to write gore, make damn sure you have a reason for all the blood and guts.  Even splatterpunk stories need solid storylines.

Is there anything going on with your genre that makes you roll your eyes?

There is an issue of politics, mainly revolving around claims of misogyny, currently in both horror and sci-fi publishing circles.  Many will say there are fewer published female authors because there are fewer female authors writing in these genres.  I happen to know a woman who sent a short story for an anthology call, was rejected, and then had that same story accepted when she submitted it under a male pseudonym.  Is the problem as big as some allege?  I don’t know.  I just know there’s been a lot of controversy on the matter, especially as of late.

Have books like Twilight helped or harmed your genre?

I think there is a lot of YA out there that has been damaging to multiple genres and subgenres—simply because they claim to fall under a specific category but fail to meet its full definition.  I haven’t read Twilight, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not horror.  The bigger offender is the recent barrage of YA “dystopian” novels, which are actually watered-down versions of the subgenre.  They give readers the false impression that dystopias ought to have happy endings, for example, which really destroys the meaning behind the genre.  Dystopias are dark, with bleak or uncertain endings for a reason; they’re political and social commentaries.  Their message is don’t let X continue to occur or you’ll end up living Y horror yourselves.  Don’t get me wrong; there is a place for YA, but its writers and publishers have an obligation to classify them in a way that doesn’t attempt to redefine longstanding, important genres.


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