Interview with horror author Mark Lukens

mark-lukens

This week’s interview is with Mark Lukens, US horror author. He’s already built up an impressive catalogue of finely crafted stories, the latest of which is entitled ‘Ancient Enemy.’ It was my pleasure to catch up with him via cyber-space and hear about his work, inspirations and views on the current horror market. As usual, the questions are posed for the most part in either x or y format – so read on, connoisseurs of chaos, and experience the muse of this happening author:

Believer or non-believer?

Believer. It’s too difficult for me to accept that everything in our universe just happened by accident. The Big Bang Theory is harder for me to believe than a Supreme Being. I think if everything in the universe was so random, then there wouldn’t be so much order in the universe and here on Earth, there wouldn’t be that sense of an underlying design.

Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer?

I haven’t really read much Stephanie Meyer (only the first half of Twilight years ago) so I would have to say Anne Rice.

Stephen King or Clive Barker?

These are two of my absolute favorites, but I would have to say Stephen King is my favorite of all time.

Outliner or Pantser?

Outliner. I’m not super strict with my outlines, and I usually deviate when I start the first draft because surprises can happen as you write, but I generally have a very basic one to two page vague plan—a beginning, some key scenes, and then the ending. I’ve heard of authors who come up with an idea and run with it, seeing where it takes them. I can’t write like that. I wish I could, but I’ve tried and I can’t.

Self-publish or traditionally publish?

Right now most of everything I’ve written is self-published with the exception of a few short stories. I love self-publishing—I love the freedom, and I love the control over the cover design, the editing, and the final approval of the story itself. I’ve optioned four screenplays in the past and working with producers and/or managers on notes with the scripts can be exhausting and frustrating. “We love your script,” they’ll say, “but we just want to change a few things.” And eventually your script that they “loved” is very different (sometimes better, but most times worse) than the script you started with.

Psychological suspense or blood and gore?

I like psychological suspense much better both in the books I read and the movies I watch, and in the books and stories I write. I don’t have an aversion to blood and gore, both as a viewer/reader and writer, but I find psychological suspense a lot scarier.

Will Self purple prose or Mark Twain simplicity?

Mark Twain simplicity. Clarity is king in writing, I believe.

Literary rule breaking or stylistic conformity?

It’s cool to break the rules a little, but I feel you should know the rules first.

DC comics or Marvel?

I grew up with Marvel comics as a kid. I never really got into DC.

The Conjuring or The Evil Dead?

That’s a tough one, both are really great movies. I’d probably lean towards The Evil Dead if I had to make a choice.

First or third person POV?

Almost everything I write is from the third person with the exception of some of my short stories. I like to tell stories in the third person because it allows scenes with other characters away from the main character(s).

Physical books or e-books?  

I love them both. I love reading on my Kindle and discovering so many great authors I probably never would’ve known about. But I still have bookcases overflowing with books. But I will say that in the last year or two I have been reading more e-books than physical books.

Self-publicist or literary recluse?

I wouldn’t call myself a recluse, but I am a terrible self-promoter. I love people, but I’m just not a naturally pushy salesperson type. I don’t like trying to promote myself even though it is a necessity as a self-published author. I work hard at the promotion part of the job, but I usually can’t wait to get back to the writing part of the job.

Writing group or online critiques?

I don’t belong to any kind of writing group, but I would love to join one or two of them.

Facebook or Twitter?

I’m not very good with either one, but I probably spend a little more time on Facebook.

If you had to choose the theme music to be played when you walk into a room, what would it be?

The Halloween theme. No, just kidding. Not really sure … maybe the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you come from? Where do you call home today?

I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. In my late teens and throughout my twenties, I traveled around a lot, working some odd jobs. I spent some time partying in New Orleans; I lived in New York City, hanging wallpaper in the Marriot hotel near Times Square; I lived in Sweden for a few months and traveled all over Europe; I lived near Cleveland, Ohio and hung drywall in apartment buildings and houses; I worked construction for a few months in Connecticut and in Massachusetts. But eventually I came back to Florida, near Tampa, to be closer to my family.

When I tell people I’m a Horror author, they always ask, Why Horror? Now let me ask you: why horror and dark fantasy? What’s the draw to the genre?

That’s a tough one to answer. I’ve always been drawn to the darker and more fantastic side of fiction and films since I was a kid. I love that the stakes can be higher in horror and fantasy. Not only could a main character die, but they could lose their soul, or their sanity, or all of humanity could be at risk. I just love that world where anything is possible, where monsters could be real. Maybe it’s an escape from the real horrors of our world.

Describe your story-telling. What authors influence you? Who would you compare your writing to? What’s unique about your fiction?

I like to write fast-paced thrillers and horror. I like to get to the action, right into the story, right away. I like to write the kind of stuff I would like to read or watch in a movie. My writing has been compared by reviewers to Stephen King and Dean Koontz—which to me is the ultimate compliment and one I’m sure I could never live up to—and these are also two of the writers who have influenced me and my writing the most. I remember reading Christine when I was fourteen years old and thinking: This is what I want to do … I want to write books like this. The list of other writers who have influenced me is a long one, but here are a few: Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, Preston and Child, Clive Barker, George Orwell, Larry McMurtry, Michael Crichton, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, Sue Grafton, David Morell, Louis L’Amour, Nancy Kress, Greg Bear, and so many others.

Can you share your thoughts on the state of the horror genre today? What trends are you seeing in the genre? What do you like about today’s horror? What do you dislike (if anything)?

I think horror is as popular as ever with TV, film, and books. I think trends come in cycles, and what seems to be trending now (especially in TV and film) is more supernatural horror like ghosts, demon possession, zombies, and vampires. I think TV shows like The Walking Dead (one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen), The Strain, and others are opening doors for other horror/dark fantasy shows. I think overall the horror/dark fantasy is actually better in TV than in films … certainly the writing is better. I don’t really dislike anything unless the writing is lazy, or the story is way too predictable, or too derivative, or characters do things or make choices that are contrary to how they’ve been set up. Again, I know Hollywood is a business and I wonder how many good books or original scripts had too many hands on them until they become a jumbled mess when production starts. TV, for the most part, just seems to have better writing. Maybe more of the writing is controlled by the single vision of a showrunner, or writing team, or maybe they’ve stayed true to the original source like a novel or comic book.

Do you self-publish or publish with a traditional press? What are your thoughts on the state of publishing today? Where do you see publishing in the next five years?

I self-publish. I would still be willing to publish with a traditional publisher but it would have to be a very good deal for me to walk away from the freedom of self-publishing. I think publishing has changed a lot in the last five to seven years, and I think it will continue to change. I think with the success of many self-published authors, and with some traditionally published authors turning to self-publishing, the stigma of being self-published is nearly gone … and I see that trend continuing. Amazon, along with other online distributors, has changed publishing and has given unknown authors a chance to reach readers.

What were some early lessons you learned writing that could help other aspiring writers? What would you have done differently, if anything? What would you have done more of?

If I could go back in time I would do a lot of things differently. First, I would’ve started publishing a few years earlier—maybe in 2009 or 2010. I self-published my first novel Ancient Enemy on September 2013, and I believe I came in right at the tail end of the golden age of self-publishing, right before the competition got so fierce and crowded. I had been working on screenplays back then and really only turned my script Ancient Enemy into a novel because I’d read that some self-published authors were getting noticed by the big six publishers and Hollywood. So yeah, I wish I would’ve started earlier. I also wish I would’ve started with a series right away. I just published a sequel to Ancient Enemy and it has done very well. I’m working on a post-apocalyptic series now and a thriller series with a central character, but I wish that I would’ve started on these series years ago. Not that I’m not proud of the books I’ve published so far, but it just seems like a lot of readers love a series. I also would’ve built a social media platform a lot earlier. I’ve only recently started a blog and an email list … but, as I’ve said before, I’m a terrible self-promoter even though it’s a necessity and reality as a self-published author if you want to get your work in front of readers’ eyes.

Tell us about your most recent publication. How did you get the idea? How is this book different to any other you have written?

My most recent book is the sequel to my first book Ancient Enemy. It’s called Darkwind: Ancient Enemy 2. I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel to Ancient Enemy, but I had so many readers asking for one that I started wondering where I would go with the story if I wrote a sequel. I feel this book is different because I tried to explore the characters more without (hopefully) slowing the story down. I feel Darkwind is my best writing so far, and I do hope I am getting better and better as a writer. I don’t think a writer (or any artist) ever stops honing his or her craft, and I don’t think an artist is ever truly satisfied with their work, always yearning to make it better which is a frustrating goal that can never truly be achieved.

ancient-enemy

What are you working on now? Tell us about your latest work.

I just finished a novel called Devil’s Island, a story I struggled with for years, and it should be available on Kindle within a few weeks. I’m working on a few projects right now (I’m always working on several things at the same time). As I said earlier, I’m working on a post-apocalyptic series and I’ve got the first book nearly completed. I’m also close to being finished with a book of short stories (and one novella). I’m working on a short novel, a thriller called Followed. And I’ve got a few other projects that I’m just beginning to work on—they’re still in the outlining and jotting-down-a-few-ideas stage right now.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for letting me do this interview and allowing me to babble on and on. I love talking about writing and the horror/dark fantasy genre … it’s definitely my passion. I hope readers will check out my books on Amazon/Kindle—they are all on Kindle Unlimited and are free to borrow if you’re a member. I try to have at least one e-book on sale for .99 cents every few weeks or so. I invite readers to connect with me at the links below:

 

My website/blog can be found at: https://www.marklukensbooks.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Mark-Lukens-Books-670337796318510/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/marklukensbooks

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Lukens/e/B00G8GYUUG

Amazon.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Lukens/e/B00G8GYUUG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18844551-ancient-enemy?ac=1&from_search=true

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