Creating Strange Stories: An Interview with Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has been creating strange stories for a long time. It’s a passion project for him, borne out of a love for reading and an overwhelming desire to share the people, places and things that dominate his dreams and nightmares. His work has appeared alongside many genre greats in numerous anthologies and magazines, and now he’s looking to take his efforts to the next level with the pursuit of his very own Patreon. Recently I swapped a few emails with Kevin about his latest project (among other things—he is, after all, the Reviews Editor for Cemetery Dance magazine and Cemetery Dance Online). Enjoy!

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: Before we jump into your Patreon, tell us a little bit about you and your writing career.
KEVIN LUCIA: I’ve wanted to write since the 8th grade. My desire came directly from my love of reading. I don’t remember the exact moment I decided “I want to be a writer” but I can remember the growing desire to produce the stories I loved reading. I wrote a lot in high school, and actually finished a “novel” in a spiral notebook my senior year. I took a chance and slipped said notebook to my 12th grade English teacher one day. Along with a very insightful, thoughtful critique, she wrote: “You need to pursue this. You need to get published.”
In college I wrote primarily science fiction, which I was reading exclusively at the time. I wrote a huge sci fi novel, and even sold one short story for $15 (which, to a poor college student, bought A LOT at Taco Bell). But something felt off in my writing. Science Fiction wasn’t quite my voice. Eventually, after discovering Stephen King, I decided supernatural thrillers/horror was more for me.
But even then, I wrote in a closet and didn’t submit anything. I spent five years rewriting the first half of a novel. In 2007, after reading King’s On Writing for the first time, I started focusing my efforts into nonfiction—reviews and articles—and that helped me learn about word economy and finishing things. I also developed a daily writing discipline. Not long after, I sold my first story, a 10K novelette, “Way Station,” to The Midnight Diner. Two years later, I attended Borderlands Press Writers BootcampSince then, I’ve been very fortunate to see my short fiction appear in collections alongside Bentley Little, Tom Montelone, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, David Morrell, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker and Robert McCammon.
You’ve got a couple of projects coming out in the next several months: a short story collection, Things You Need, and a novella, Mystery Road, from Cemetery Dance. I don’t doubt you also have other novels and stories in various stages of development. So, why is now a good time to start a Patreon?
It seems I experience long periods of “drought” between projects, in which no fiction is available to readers. My first book, Hiram Grange and the Chosen One was published in May, 2010. My first short story collection, Things Slip Through, didn’t come along until November 2014. My last book, Through A Mirror, Darkly,  was published May 2015. It’s now 2017. Mystery Road has been several years in the making, and though I wrapped up final edits on Things You Need last spring, there wasn’t any room in Crystal Lake’s roster until Spring 2018. That’s a long time go “silent” on the fiction front. I want to see if writing stories through Patreon will help fill those gaps, preventing “dry periods,” so my fiction will still be available in between releases.
Did you talk to other authors or creators about the pros and cons of this kind of initiative? 
Mostly I watched what others were doing for a long time, getting an idea of what type of content folks were delivering through Patreon, which helped me decide what kind of content wanted to deliver. When I was ready to take the plunge, I chatted with several of my colleagues about it, Mary Sangiovanni and Maurice Broaddus, in particular.
Tell us about the Patreon—what are you charging, and what are you promising to deliver?
I’m promising to deliver fiction, pure and simple. $4 gets you some sort of short story each month—horror, speculative, literary, a vignette/slice of life piece…whatever has been brewing under my hat that month. For $8 a month, you get the short story, plus chapters from my serialized story, The Glasses. $10 a month gets you the short story, The Glasses, and chapters from another serialized story, The Last Pitch Before Nightfall. $15 gets you all that, and trade paperback editions of the short stories collected into one volume, and a paperback for each novella at the end of the year. A stretch goal: if I reach $300 a month, I’ll also start posting chapters from a serialized Halloween story, Zootown.
How do you expect putting the work in to meet your Patreon goals will benefit your writing in general?
I write every single day. Have been for the past ten years. But sometimes I feel as if all that writing doesn’t always go anywhere. I have a USB drive FULL of partial stories. I want these stories completed, and I want to bring a little more focus to my daily writing discipline. I’m hoping that monthly subscribers to my work will give me that focus (without killing me!).
Is the short story your preferred length when it comes to writing?
It’s so funny how that’s worked out. I love reading gigantic, epic horror novels. In fact, whenever someone starts complaining that the new Stephen King novel has “too much padding” I run straight to Amazon and order it. Because of this, I always thought I would write big epic horror novels. So far, the novel form has proved frustrating to me (another story for another time) but the novella format, and in the last four years the short story format have come very naturally. In some ways, I wonder if starting my Patreon is me accepting my fate as a short story writer—which is not to say I’m abandoning my attempts to write a novel, by any means. I guess it’s just me acknowledging that for right now, this is working for me, so let’s pursue it for awhile.
Tell us a little bit about your Clifton Heights mythos, which I understand your Patreon stories will all be a part of.
For better or for worse, I’m a product of my influences. Castle Rock (King), Greentown (Ray Bradbury), Oxrun Station (Charles L. Grant), Cedar Hill (Gary Braunbeck) are some of my favorite fictional constructs. I love the idea of stories crossing over and connecting with each other. It reflects my personal philosophy of the universe: everything is connected, both big and small. So I’ve always wanted to create my own little mythos, and I’ve always wanted to set it in the Adirondacks, where my family went on vacation every year when I was kid, and where my family goes on vacation now. So Clifton Heights is my Greentown, my Oxrun, my Cedar Hill. It’s a strange town which looks nice enough on the outside—and, mostly, it is nice. It has dark corners, though, where the edges don’t quite square. Really dark corners.
Another reason why I decided to start my Patreon: we all have stories. Those stories, especially in towns, schools, villages, or any contained universe, interconnect. When I think of all the different types of people who could exist in Clifton Heights—folks of all kinds of occupations, social classes, ages, beliefs—I think of unlimited stories to be told. That’s also why I was very specific in my Patreon header that I was writing “strange stories” (cribbed from Robert Aikman, shamelessly) and not “horror” stories. I have no idea what I’ll come up with every month. Something strange and weird. Maybe something reflective. Speculative. Maybe not speculative at all. Maybe a slice of life. There are all sorts of people “living” in Clifton Heights, so I want to write all sorts of stories.
Outside of your Patreon stories, what are you working on?
I recently sent off some requested edits to a novella called The Night Road, which I’m waiting to hear back about. I’ll also soon be returning to what I hope will be my first completed novel, The Mighty Dead, to figure out how it’s supposed to end. I’m also currently outlining a novel (for the very first time; which is another story for another time) called Legacies, which I’m imagining as a fun, ’80s horror novel which would’ve fit right in on the now-defunct Leisure Fiction line.

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