This week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite writers – the always-entertaining Chad Lutzke. I’ve read a few of Chad’s novellas over the last few years and each one has hit me right in the feels. The dude does horror well, but he also knows how to sucker-punch you in the gut. With his words. Not with his fists. That’d be mean and Chad isn’t mean. He’s actually a really nice guy. Okay, just read this interview and judge for yourself. Also, check out his newest novella from Bloodshot Books, Stirring the Sheets. It’s on sale now and you’re not gonna want to miss this.
TIM MEYER: Hey, Chad! Welcome to the blog. Let’s get started by telling readers about your new book, Stirring the Sheets.
CHAD LUTZKE: Thanks for having me, Tim. Most appreciated. Stirring the Sheets is a love story of sorts, but from the mind of a horror author. It’s your typical boy loses girl, boy meets dead girl, boy misses old girl so much that dead girl just may fill the void. Seriously, though. It’s about an elderly funeral home worker who is struggling with the loss of his wife and he runs across a body at work that resembles his bride in her younger years. A wound that doesn’t seem to want to heal over is ripped back open and stuff happens. It’s a story about morbid desperation, loneliness, and letting go.
TM: What gave you the idea for Stirring the Sheets? Where did the character of Emmett come from?
CL: I wish I had a cool story to give you on the genesis, but it just popped into my head––What if this happened? Looking back, I think Emmett is heavily based on myself. If I ever lost my wife I can totally see myself doing some of things he does, being obsessive about anything regarding my wife. Not getting rid of anything of hers, leaving things how they were. Not eating another woman’s cooking because it would somehow feel like I was disrespecting my wife. Stuff like that. I think we as people have something ingrained in us that needs happiness and contentment so much that we’re willing to do just about anything for it. And while I haven’t seen the movie in about 10 years or so, I did draw a little from the film About Schmidt. I don’t remember much of it, just that gloomy feeling that Nicholson’s character carried with him after losing his wife, yet still trying to function.
TM: Given its dark nature, was this a difficult story to write?
CL: Very. I found out a long time ago just how fast a life can be taken from someone. For years I lived as though I were invincible and so was everyone around me and that the only people who succumb to death are old people, not fiancés, not friends. Well, I lost someone and it turned me into a bit of a worry wart over the years, so now I’m that guy that always thinks the worst…Where’s my kid? They said they’d be home half an hour ago. Did they get into an accident? By default, it’s where my mind goes, so writing this story and constantly being in Emmett’s head where he’s lost the love of his life, I couldn’t wait to get done. I didn’t want to write anymore about what it would feel like to live alone, without my better half.
TM: I tend to write a lot about supernatural entities and giant monsters, stuff that doesn’t actually take place in the real world. Your novellas (Of Foster Home and Flies, Wallflower, and Stirring the Sheets) wander into some dark territories, all feeling like they could take place in real life. Does writing stuff that is naturally grim and also realistic affect you negatively in any way? Does it mess with your head?
CL: Great question! I think I write that kind of stuff because for me it’s relatable, and maybe even a little therapeutic. For whatever reason, I do tend to throw this dark spin on things. Sometimes there’s a real glimmer of hope at the end. Sometimes there’s not. John Boden (Jedi Summer, Spungunion) and I joke around with each other about how everything we write is just full of heartache. We have no idea why. You’d think I was this ball of depression that just moped around, but I’m the opposite. My laugh lines run deep and I’m forever making a joke of anything I can, never taking myself too seriously.
TM: Did writing this book require any research? Any trips to the local funeral home?
CL: Tons of research, all of which I did online. I hit Youtube videos and articles regarding the funeral home business and coolers and ovens, as well as all the procedures like embalming, setting the features, and cremation. But the most information I got was when I joined a mortician’s group on Facebook and flat out told them I wasn’t in the business but that I was writing a book and was looking for help. I also told them I wasn’t looking for grim war stories or anything like that. I wanted them to take me seriously so I tried to present it as professional as I could. Three very gracious women stepped up and offered their help, and for the next few months I’d send them questions through Facebook messenger and compare notes. They were very helpful. One of the most interesting things I found in my research was just how caring and respectful these workers are. These weren’t just some goth chicks who chose their career because they wanted to poke and prod dead bodies. They seriously care about doing the absolute best they can to help those who have lost a loved one and they have the utmost respect for the dead. I found that fascinating, and refreshing. Their attitude toward their work certainly helped in the creation of Emmett’s character. And now I’ve got a few new Facebook friends who lead very interesting lives.
TM: Let’s talk some writing shop. What does a typical writing day look like for Chad Lutzke?
CL: It’s sporadic and often spontaneous. I don’t have any kind of disciplined schedule, but I try to write every day because if I don’t then that one day turns into a week and so on.
TM: Listen to music while you write or do you require complete, utter silence?
CL: It depends on just how focused I am. If I do listen to music I normally don’t listen to anything with lyrics or a heavy groove or I just get distracted. I tend to listen to synthwave or movie soundtracks, a few of my favorite soundtracks to write to being Creepshow, Maniac (the remake), It Follows, Beyond the Black Rainbow, and anything by John Carpenter.
TM: What authors have influenced your work the most?
CL: Actually influenced as opposed to me just enjoying them I’d say Lansdale, Raymond Carver, McCammon, King, Ketchum, and Stephen Graham Jones. Also, I beta read so much of John Boden’s stuff that it tries to rub off. He’s a great writer with a completely different type of prose than mine so it might not show in my work but it’s probably there.
TM: Name some of your all-time favorite novels.
CL: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, Some Kind of Hero by James Kirkwood, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Boy’s Life by McCammon, Eyes of the Dragon and The Green Mile by King.
TM: I really love the brand you’ve established for yourself, generally sticking with shorter works rather than cranking out novels. Is that on purpose? Do you prefer novellas over the novel? If so, why? And would you ever considering writing a 700+ page epic?
CL: Novels intimidate me. I take a very indie-film approach to everything I write, minimal characters in simple yet unique situations. Something with too many characters would just stress me out and I think I’d lose interest. If someone has the know-how, so much can be done with the most simple idea and only a few real and loveable characters. When you said 700 pages I instantly got stressed out. I think the only time I’d attempt anything beyond 40k or 50k words would be if I wasn’t alone and was collaborating. So I suppose novella length is on purpose, but for example, if I felt there was more to say in Of Foster Homes & Flies then I would have kept writing. Same with Wallflower, though how many more pages can you really watch someone destroy their life with heroin before you get bored?
TM: What’s next on the horizon for Chad Lutzke?
CL: There are a handful of anthologies coming out this year with my words in them, some without clear dates. I think the nearest one is April 27th. Crystal Lake Publishing is releasing the C.H.U.D. Lives! Tribute. And I’m trying to finish up my book Skullface Boy. It’s about a teenager with the face of a skull who runs away from an orphanage and goes on a road trip to California. It’s a mildly weird coming-of-age tale with plenty of Lynchian moments. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and it’s definitely the longest.
ABOUT CHAD LUTZKE:
Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife, children. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. His fiction can be found in a few dozen magazines and anthologies including his own 18-story collection NIGHT AS A CATALYST. Lutzke is known for his heartfelt dark fiction and deep character portrayals. In the summer of 2016 he released his coming-of-age novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES which has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, John Boden, and many others. Later in 2016 Lutzke released his contribution to bestselling author J. Thorn’s AMERICAN DEMON HUNTER series, and 2017 saw the release of his novellaWALLFLOWER. His latest, STIRRING THE SHEETS, was published by Bloodshot Books in spring 2018.
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