What Screams May Come: When the Lights Go Out by Kevin Lucia

banner What Screams May Come by Rick Hipson

When the Lights Go Out by Kevin Lucia
Cemetery Dance, May 30, 2024

The Synopsis

cover of When the Lights Go OutWhen the lights go out…that’s when things change. When masks are put aside, and eerie truths are laid bare. It’s when towns grow extra streets and cul-de-sacs which don’t exist in daytime. When whispered wishes and fantasies become reality. When our deepest fears and most powerful longings become flesh. When ambitions become obsessions which overpower us, and leads us to our ends.

But it’s also when our imaginations run free, unfettered by the trappings of mundane living. Just as the dark unleashes despair, it also fuels fantastical leaps impossible to take during the day. It’s the canvas upon which we paint worlds and universes which take the darkness and create something out of nothing.

In his new collection, one of the leading voices in small press horror offers up an eclectic collection of strange tales — the kind which can only happen when the lights go out, and we close our eyes.

(Interview conducted by Rick Hipson)

CEMETERY DANCE: Congrats on your upcoming collection from Cemetery Dance (CD), Kevin! What A ride it’s been for you, eh? I’ve wanted to chat with you ever since you first took on the role of eBook and trade paperback editor.

How weird and awesome is it that you’ve once more returned to CD as one of their ongoing authors after working behind the scenes with their authors?

KEVIN LUCIA: Definitely weird and awesome!  Weird because it wasn’t long ago that I was in charge of the process I’m about to go through. Awesome, because I won’t feel weird promoting a book published through a publisher I work for!

Reflecting on your time spent working as CD’s book editor, did you find your experience as an author helped you work with those authors who were published on your watch in a way that was likely unique because of your background?

I hope so. One thing I always kept in mind when I was working with authors was how I’d like to be treated, and what I’d like to see for my own book release. I wasn’t perfect though, for sure. I just hope I made a positive impact!

Alternatively, since stepping down from your editing role to focus on other aspects of your life, how might your editing work lend any benefits to the work you continue to put in as a published author?

I definitely learned a lot from a marketing perspective. Hopefully this experience will help in my own releases in the future.

I can only imagine what working for CD must do to a person’s To Be Read pile. Got any suggestions on who we should watch out for that may not be front and center on our radar just yet?

CD will eventually reprint Yaccub’s Curse by Wrath James White, and I found that to be an absolutely enthralling read. John Boden has a smashing collection in the pipeline, and Hollow Girls by Jessica Drake-Thomas (recently published) was a fantastic read, and the same with Thomas Smith’s debut collection, Other Places. Also, Blood Covenant by Alan Baxter!

Looking over your library of published works since before 2000, it’s interesting to see that other than a couple of repeat homes like Cemetery Dance and Crystal Lake publications, your work has certainly been spread across multiple publishing houses. Is there anything concrete you might be able to share as far as how you ultimately settle on the best home for your work?

What I really like to see is a publishing house which takes their releases seriously and handles them with care. This is evident in cover design, interior layout, and what type of release strategies they employ. You can never guarantee sales, but you at least want the feeling that your publisher is behind you. That, actually, is why I keep going back to Crystal Lake. I’ve never doubted Joe Myndhart’s commitment and work ethic.

Speaking again about your various works, between short stories, collections, and novels, do you find that each story has a way of informing you about things within your subconscious mind such as your perspective of the world around you, what may be going on in your life or in those closest to you, that sort of thing? Or is it really just a matter of writing the best story you can and continuing to expand your talent as much as you can with each new publication?

Eventually, at some point in the process, I try to tap into the emotional core of the story, and that usually leads the way for me. Mort Castle once told me in an email: “The best stories, the stuff that lasts, come from the late-night conversation we have with ourselves.” This has become my guiding light for my fiction.

Looking back at all you’ve written, what’s to come, and what you plan to write still, is there a particular sub-genre or style that most intrigues you above all else or which brings you the most joy to work inside of? 

I’ll always go back to my quiet horror roots, but writing The Horror at Pleasant Brook was tremendous fun. It’s very different from my other works: bloody and gruesome, an homage to ’80s monster horror. I hope to write more novels in that vein!

Focusing on the collection you were kind enough to release during my birthday month (happy birthday to me, right?), what can you share with us about the selection of stories you’ve given us to devour? In other words, why these stories, why now, and why in this order?

I’ve been sitting on a lot of older stories that just didn’t fit into any other collection, and some stories which, for whatever reason, I was never able to place. I wanted to get those out to readers, and also, for fun, I included some of my earliest efforts which were published initially in the micropress. That, and a few of the stories I wrote specifically for this collection. 

What was it like for you sifting through all your stories, seeing them all linked together as a collection? Did your feelings about any of them change at all from when you first wrote them?

I was surprised how good they were. Because I “sold” (usually for token pay) these stories to very small venues, I think I’d convinced myself they weren’t very “good.” However, in putting the collection together I was surprised that it took very little effort to bring them up to my current standards.

Were you tempted to do any additional editing for the sake of this collection?

On a technical and craft level, yes. I’m a little compulsive that way. However, for the most part, I left the stories intact as they were.

Not to discredit any of these stories, as different folks are bound to have different favorites, but for you, which story can you point a finger at and say, yeah, that one was especially fun to write? Or especially challenging for any number of reasons I would love to hear about.

“Timor Infinitum” was fun to write, because it’s very dreamlike and surreal.   “The Brothers Who Fought” was a new style of writing for me — I was aiming for ironic and humorous (I’m not sure if they’re either). “Of Faire Tales and Shadow” is a story I just love, and I’m happy people can finally read it.

I’ve heard from a variety of industry folks that short story collections can be a tough sell. Yet, I am forced to question that logic when I see plenty of reputable publishers continuing to publish them and I know there are a ton of readers who love collections. Obviously, it’s impossible for you to be unbiased about this, but what are your thoughts on what makes a successful collection? Bonus points if you have any pro tips on how writers can best market their collections, assuming it’s different from marketing any new release. 

photo of author Kevin Lucia
Kevin Lucia

The only thing I can think of is that most of my collections are linked collections with over-arching narratives, so there was more to market from that perspective. They were collections which also told a larger story. Other than that, I’m not sure there’s much advice to give, other than make sure you’re always putting your best foot forward in everything you put out.

What do you feel the next few years hold for you? Will we get a chance to meet up with you at a convention or online event or anything like that? 

I definitely hope to be back at both Scares That Care Williamsburg next year, and also at Horror On Main.

Is it fair to assume you probably have a few books already lined up to either start, polish or otherwise get ready for publication?

My next novella quartet, We All Go Into the Dark, is slated for a December 2024 release from Crystal Lake Publishing. My nonfiction collection, Revelations: A Horror Writer’s Thoughts on the Genre, is in the pipeline and ready to go at Cemetery Dance. My novella A Handful of Dust is waiting with a publisher, and I just finished the rough draft of another nonfiction book, How A Christian Fell in Love with the Horror Genre.

If I may touch on your experience as an editor working for Cemetery Dance, what advice would you give to new authors to have the best chance of getting positive attention from a publisher they want to work with as far as increasing their best chances of being published by them?

Let your work speak for itself. No long cover letters/emails touting your past credits or your biography. Let the work stand on its own.

On the flip side of that question, are there any common mistakes, or generally bad habits that you see writers make that only serve to stunt their chances of being accepted by a publisher? Now’s your chance to warn about what they need to stop doing and start doing instead.

I’m usually hesitant to offer advice in this area, because there are so many things which factor into an acceptance or a rejection. Sometimes it’s just a matter of encountering the right editor. However, a highly polished manuscript is a plus. Also, I can only reiterate what I said above: don’t try and convince a publisher to take your work. Write the best stuff you can, let it speak for itself, and go from there.

Kevin, I truly can’t thank you enough for your time. It has been such a pleasure to pick your brain, and I can’t think of a better way to end this chat then to ask if you have any additional words to add to what folks can expect once they turn down the lights and settle into your new collection and enter your world.

Hopefully, they can expect a weird, entertaining time!

Order Kevin’s newest short story collection, When the Lights Go Out.

To learn more about Kevin and his work, check out his website.

Leave a Reply