Monday, August 25, 2014

20 Questions for Horror Authors: Leigh M. Lane

Leigh M. Lane has been writing for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and twelve published short stories divided between different genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the outskirts of Sin City.

Her traditional Gothic horror novel, "Finding Poe," was a 2013 EPIC Awards finalist in horror. Her other novels include "World-Mart," a tribute to Orwell, Serling, and Vonnegut, and the dark allegorical tale, "Myths of Gods."

1. What do you think makes a good story?

A good story contains a plot that is either believable or capable of suspending the reader's beliefs. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end—even if it ends on a cliffhanger. It has protagonists the reader wants to root for, even if they aren’t the most likable characters, and an antagonist who has his or her own motivations. I also like a story that says something, contains rich subtext, symbolism, and leaves me thinking long after I’ve finished reading it.

2. What do you think makes a character a compelling villain or hero?

Motivation. Both should have something that drives them. They need to have a good reason for being who they are.

3. What did you learn from writing your book that you think would help other writers out there with their craft?

Research can be an important aspect of writing, especially if the story takes place somewhere you haven’t personally spent any or a whole lot of time. I recently wrote a story that takes place in the Deep South, somewhere I’ve never personally visited. I found it helpful not only to read about the location and view pictures of the areas I’d be writing about but, for added perspective, also to talk to people who have lived there.

4. Are there any horror books that have influenced your life? If so, what are they?

Reading King’s "Firestarter," and then his collection "Night Shift," inspired me to write horror.

5. What is the scariest book you ever read, and what was your reaction to it?
King’s "The Shining" had some wonderfully scary parts in it. I can’t say they made me afraid to go down long hallways alone or avoid emergency fire hose boxes, but they did inspire me to aim high in my own horror.

6. Do you think that writing will be a long-term career goal for you?
That’s hard to say. I’ll write (and likely publish) until the day I die. I’m also realistic. Few people are able to make writing a sole career, and many who do end up as content, copy, or technical writers. I write horror because I love to write horror. It would be fantastic to make a living solely writing horror. It would also be fantastic to win the lottery. Either way, I’ll still be writing.

7. Who is your favorite author, and what have you taken away from their books?

Hands down, Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author. Reading his books has shown me that stories can contain horror and profound depth at the same time. I want to be just like him; at least, that’s what I strive for in my own writing.

8. While this may seem like a given to some people, others may be wondering; Why write horror?

I was exposed to horror at a very young age. My mother was an avid Stephen King fan, and I started reading his books in adolescence. They captured my interest in a way no other genre could, and I thought to myself, “I’d like to evoke these same types of feelings and imagery in my stories. If he can do it, why can’t I?”

9. What is it that attracts you to the macabre?

Like Poe, I have a huge interest in the human mind, psychology, and how that can play against various backdrops. What makes us tick? Moreover, what makes us perceive things the way we perceive them? For me, delving into the darkest depths of the psyche—those places few are willing to delve—is my way of making sense of a world that is more macabre than most people would like to admit.

10. Halloween is the biggest holiday for horror lovers. Have you ever had any interesting, spooky, or fun experiences during the best holiday of the year that you'd like to share with your readers?

One year, while living with a couple of my sisters, I went all out. We all worked together to make the front yard as spooky as we could. We had headstones set up all across the lawn, fake spider webs (a few real ones too) Halloween music, the works. I answered the door to learn a young child had sent his father to my porch for his candy; he was too afraid to come up himself. I hope we didn’t traumatize the poor fellow, but I am quite proud of what we accomplished that year.

11. What is the one thing that scares you the most?

The unknown terrifies me, especially not knowing what will become of me when I die. I hold no religious beliefs, instead being purely agnostic, and the possibility that there is nothing after life really freaks me out. I know I wouldn’t be aware of it since I’d no longer be existent to experience my own lack of being, but—if I may use the cliché—it still sends shivers down my spine.

12. How were you introduced to the horror genre?

My mother probably read every Stephen King work he published while she was still alive, and therefore our home library was packed with his books.

13. What is your favorite horror movie? (If you're anything like me, you’re bound to have more than one.)
"Cube" is my all-time favorite horror movie. It’s smart, it’s gutsy, and it contains just the right ratio of psychological horror and the macabre. Several others share the spot of second place: "The Lost Boys," simply because I was a tween when it became a cult hit; "The Underworld," because it has a nice play on vampires v. werewolves; "Silent Hill," because it captures the game so well; "π," because it was so cerebral yet so creepy; and "Gothika," because it kept me guessing.

14. Do you use childhood experiences and your own nightmares as inspiration? Have you ever used some of your own personal phobias in your writing?

I try to leave my life out of my writing, although I do often hit upon my fear of the unknown. I have also turned terrifying events or people who have wronged me in horrific ways into monsters or symbols of the darkness I’ve struggled to rise above or make sense of.

15. Does your creative process (the one where you come up with the concept for a horror story) involve daydreaming; brainstorming; ripping stories from headlines; or using terrific fantasies that you've had?

I brainstorm, although I do let stories slowly develop in my mind before I pursue them. Generally, characters and a handful of events will spur a new story. When something solid comes of it all, I’ll start writing character sketches and basic outlines. Almost always, I have at least a couple of stories floating around in my head, all of which are screaming, “Write me next!”

16. What is one thing that you'd like people to know about horror writers?

Well, I’m not going to say we’re all just normal Joe Schmoes—I know I’m far from completely right in the head—but from what I’ve gathered about other horror writers and my own personal quirks, we’re about as normal as writers of any other genre. I’m the biggest pacifist I know, but I can be pretty violent, even homicidal, in my writing. I’m also a big-time nerd, an animal lover, honest to a fault, and extremely passionate about nearly everything I do. Does that define other horror writers? I can’t really say….

17. What got you interested in writing, and how long have you been doing it?

I was an avid reader from a young age. Very early on, I found reading just wasn’t enough. I wanted—no, I needed—to contribute to the vast pool of stories out there, to give to others what other writers had given to me. I wrote my first short story when I was eight or nine; I finished my first full-length novel at fourteen.

18. What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? How do you overcome writer’s block?

Time management is a toughie for me. While I’m definitely prolific, I do tend to go between bouts of writing binges (the most I ever wrote in one day was 12,000 words) and short spans of relative inactivity. I have experienced writer’s block many times, and it’s not always easy to overcome. Sometimes, I’ll shift gears and work on something else. There have been times when I’ve worked on two or three vastly different stories at once, moving from one to the next whenever I hit a block. Sometimes, the well has simply run dry and I can’t do much more than wait for it to refill before dropping the bucket back in.

19. Tell us about your most recent or current novel that you've had published.

My most recent publication is part of an episodic novella series titled "Jane the Hippie Vampire." It’s a dark urban fantasy series, but also with elements of drama, horror, and a bit of humor. I also have a novel set for publication with Eldritch Press, although the release date is still not set. Titled "The Private Sector," the story is a dystopian thriller that contains horror elements.

20. Are you working on your next novel or short story at the moment? If so, what is it about?

I’m working on the fourth installment of "Jane the Hippie Vampire," which I plan on bundling with the first three. I’m also in the development phase of a futuristic horror novel, a techno-thriller of sorts.

Wow! Those are great answers Leigh. Thank you so much for taking the time to write them! Upon reading them, I found that you and I are surprisingly alike in many ways, which makes you, in my humble opinion, an awesome person! 

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