After a couple months of taking a “blog break” (is that a thing?), I’M BACK! And with another amazing interview no less. This month, I chatted with horror author/fellow beer enthusiast Patrick Lacey.
In the beginning of 2017, I read Patrick’s short novel “Dream Woods” and I wish I had read it a month or two earlier. It definitely would have made my TOP 10 HORROR NOVELS OF 2016 list. IT WAS THAT GOOD. A few months later I purchased WE CAME BACK, Patrick’s next novel, the day it came out. IT WAS ALSO THAT GOOD. Patrick has become one of my favorite writers. He’s a great storyteller and his writing takes me back to the glory days of R.L. STINE’S GOOSEBUMPS. I can’t recommend his work enough.
So enjoy the interview and don’t forget to check out WE CAME BACK. All royalties will be donated to a cancer-related charity of Patrick’s choosing!
TIM MEYER: Hey Patrick! Huge fan of your books. Let’s start by telling people what your new novel is about.
PATRICK LACEY: Hi Tim! Thanks for the kind words and for hosting me! WE CAME BACK is the story of Lynnwood High School’s most popular students, who seem to be part of a new exclusive cult. They start dressing in black and skipping class, even though they were star students weeks before. They spend all of their spare time in the former high school, now abandoned. And maybe haunted.
TM: You’ve stated that the royalties from WE CAME BACK will go to a cancer-related charity of your choice. This is an admirable move, one I fully support. Tell us, what prompted you to donate your royalties?
PL: The novel’s main character, Justin, is a lot like me, in that we both lost our fathers to cancer in high school. I’d always wanted to tackle this subject (write what you know and all that) but it always came across forced until I started writing this BOOK. I’d also toyed with the idea of a charity novel in my father’s name but none of my prior books felt right for that until WE CAME BACK.
TM: The characters in WE CAME BACK feel truly genuine. I’m guessing each one is an extension of you in some way. Which character is most like Patrick Lacey, if any?
PL: Kinda just spoiled this above but Justin is very much me. He’s the same age as I was when I lost my old man and his relationships with his friend Art and mother are very close to reality. It was tough to write because of this but I think since it hit so close to home, I was able to make it a bit more genuine like you mentioned.
TM: Are there any plans to revisit Lynnwood again?
PL: I’m not a big sequel guy. I think if I ever did write one, it would act as a stand-alone novel. I’m not sure if there’s enough material with WE CAME BACK for a second installment. If anything, I’d like to revisit a certain New England amusement park.
TM: The first thing I ever read of yours was DREAM WOODS. It’s a spectacular short novel that reminded me of a GOOSEBUMPS book on crystal meth. I know you were a big fan of the GOOSEBUMPS series growing up, so tell me, how influential were those books and how have they impacted your fiction now?
PL: I tell people about that quote all the time. Seriously: I use it when pitching the novel to unsuspecting strangers at conventions, so thank you! The GOOSEBUMPS series was what made me want to write in the first place. I was obsessed with them. In third grade, I wrote my own fan fiction book called THE CURSED SCORPION. I suppose Stine’s writing, so stripped back and punchy (even in his adult novels) helped me develop my style. When I started writing in college more seriously, I wanted to write these big, epic horror novels, a la King or Straub but it didn’t feel genuine. Finally, I started writing short stories and embraced my natural inclination toward a more minimalist style and ran with it. Who knows, maybe I’ll rewrite THE CURSED SCORPION one of these days.
TM: Besides R.L. Stine, name a few authors that have influenced your writing.
PL: This is a tough one because there are, like, a billion. Off the top of my head: Jack Ketchum, Bentley Little, Richard Matheson, Graham Joyce, Edward Lee, Stuart O’Nan, Richard Laymon, Paul Tremblay, Sarah Langan, John Skipp, Joe Lansdale to name (more than) a few.
TM: Let’s talk shop. What’s your writing process like? How many drafts/revisions do you crank out? How do you know when a manuscript is “ready?”
PL: I love a good shop talk. My process is fairly straight forward. I write five days a week and try to crank out roughly one thousand words each session. It takes me between three and five months for a first draft, then usually a couple weeks for the second and then third. I typically only do three drafts because by that time I’m sick of the book and never want to be near it again. I also think you can over-edit something to the point that it’s just mush. On the flipside, I’m a brutal editor and usually knock off a third of the book total word count when all is said and done.
TM: Can you write while listening to music, or do you require complete silence?
PL: I need total and utter silence for rough drafts but I like a little distraction when editing. I can’t listen to music, which is kind of a bummer, but on my long commutes into the day job, I often create unofficial soundtracks to the novel I’m currently writing and will spin those over and over while I think of different plot points.
TM: I’ve seen your name appear in a bunch of anthologies. Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? And why one over the other?
PL: I love them both, though I’m definitely more involved with novels and novellas these days. I typically write short stories in between each draft of a longer work as a palate cleanser or when someone asks me for one. I’d say novels are a bit more rewarding, only because of the near nervous breakdown that occurs each and every time I write one. It’s a good feeling to see it through to the end and think I’m still not in a padded room.
TM: Gun to your head, you have to choose your favorite story written by you – which one is it and why?
PL: My story “First Bell” in my collection SLEEP PARALYSIS. It’s unlike anything I’d done before or since.
TM: What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?
PL: I usually joke that I don’t actually like anything about being a writer. It’s a stressful gig that comes chock full of self-doubt, isolation, anxiety, etc. But I’m compelled to do it, go crazy if I haven’t written something after more than a day. I think my favorite part is when I see the finished product, which is almost never anything like I initially envisioned it, and can say “I made that from nothing.”
TM: Any advice for new writers, more specifically, someone who has yet to dip their toes in the publishing pond?
PL: Make sure you don’t suck before you start sending stuff out or self-publishing your stuff. I wrote six books and close to a hundred stories before I felt comfortable enough to send any out. You’re probably going to be very bad starting out and that’s totally okay but do the work, learn to take rejection, and you too could be a self-doubting, anxious writer like me!
TM: Last question and clearly the most important – what is your favorite beer (and you can’t say coffee)?
PL: Wow, this is just the sort of cut-throat, no-holds-barred journalism I expected from you. Let’s think. I’m a huge IPA fan, which is odd because I used to loathe them. I’m going to say Lord Hobo’s Hobo Life. They’re based here in Massachusetts and were just named the country’s fastest growing craft brewery. Check them out. Or don’t. More beer for me.
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