Ok… time machine. Roughly ten years ago…. the market and economy was in a tailspin. Kevin Lucia was an established private school teacher, I was an established, but resigned public school teacher. Both of us were literature and writing teachers… both with a penchant for Mr. King, whose book ON WRITING, we both used as a text.
RYAN B. CLARK: For the first part of our discussion, I would like to talk about the road to becoming a writer at this stage. Even Mr. King was a teacher as he sold short stories and eventually worked up to his first novel: the very short, in comparison to his other works, Carrie. So I guess question one… that I would like us both to kind of discuss, is the early motivations and struggles and obstacles both real and by expectation of those early years.
KEVIN LUCIA: Well, I’ve wanted to be a writer since the 8th grade. My motivation came from my love of reading. All I knew was this: I loved reading stories, and because of that, I wanted to write stories people might read someday. I spent my high school years writing stories in a spiral bound notebook. My senior year, I wrote a “novel.” A kind of wish-fulfillment thing about this guy who helps his varsity basketball team win the state championship, all while winning back his ex-girlfriend’s heart (and this was in no way related to my life at the time, at all). One day, on the way out of 12 English, I slipped my notebook to Mrs. Lida Bassler, my teacher. She offered a very thoughtful critique, with this addendum: “You’re good. You need to pursue this, and get published.” So that became my mantra, going forward.
RYAN: Again to echo this strange similarity between our three writers walking into a metaphorical bar, this is an almost carbon of one of my first writing experiences. When I was a junior in high school English class, my teacher, Mrs. Baker, assigned a weekly journal. Those journals could be of any topic, and I chose to write segments of my fiction stories. My first published story, Scotland Yard Demons which was published in the anthology Sinister Landscapes, was directly born in those journals, and Mrs. Baker gave a very similar critique, “You are very talented, and I fully expect to see you published one day.” Amazing the effect high school teachers still have on forty-something year old men, isn’t it?
KEVIN: Initially I wanted to write science fiction. But after several years of reading sci fi and trying to write in that genre, (all while attending college and playing college basketball), I realized it just wasn’t my voice. When I discovered Stephen King for the first time – in his novels Desperation and then The Stand – it was like someone kicked open a door in my brain. This was what I wanted to write.
Something in King’s work spoke to me. His characters, especially. They seemed real, and flawed, and somehow both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Of course, all my early stories were attempts to copy his plots. And even when I tried to write characters, they were caricatures of Stephen King characters, not Kevin Lucia characters. But the imitation phase is one all writers go through, I believe. I experienced the same thing trying to write like Bradbury and Lovecraft.
RYAN: I too was early affected by fantasy. It was a staple gift at holidays to just get me gift cards to Walden Books because nobody could remember where I was in my Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms collections. One of my first attempts at a novel was to be a six part series of two trilogies about a Time Lord named Dalamar. The entire plot was a direct modeling of TSR, Dungeons & Dragons plot lines. But, the great benefit that came from those early years lost in role playing games, was that I was taught them by my very religious aunt, when I was eight. I was staying with my cousins one summer, and she taught us all Gygax’s original red box base D&D game. She told us, she was very much the artist in my mother’s family, that she knew of no better way to teach a love of reading and characterization. She was right. What I learned from Dalamar, was a direct benefit from learning how to build believable characters from the ground up. Eventually, I too bored of fantasy, and at about sixth grade I discovered Stephen King and Anne Rice. By the time I was in junior high, I was well versed in Derry, Maine and everything Lestat. Shortly after that, and certainly into college, my mind was overtaken by the classics, and Shakespeare, Bradbury, Huxley, and Vonnegut had become major inspirations.
KEVIN: Probably the initial obstacle was realizing that having an English Degree and being an English teacher and a rabid reader didn’t automatically make me good at writing fiction. Unfortunately, I was slow to seek out critique from others. Meaning, I didn’t do it all, for about ten years. But I also wasn’t submitting my work anywhere, because I hadn’t yet learned how to finish anything. I wasn’t even thinking about writing short stories or reviews at first, I just wanted to write big Stephen King-esque epic novels and quit teaching and write for a living. I couldn’t finish anything, though. I spent five to seven years re-writing the first halves of several different novels.
RYAN: This is a part of your journey that I have not been able to emulate as much as I would have liked. One particular event you always mentioned to me was the Borderlands Boot Camp with Thomas F. Monteleone. I have been trying to lay the groundwork to reaching out here in the Southwest to various writers groups so that I too can address this concern. Especially in the world of self-publishing, aside from my editor, beta readers, or reviews… there is nobody there that is really in the position to help me hone my craft – unless I go out and actively seek those opportunities. This continual realization that one needs to push their limits, improve, and invite criticism as a professional means of becoming the best version of yourself… is necessary in the lives of all artists.
For myself, my largest obstacle early on was my own sense of entitlement. It is almost sickening in some ways for me to reflect on just the sheer amount of time I spend waiting. Waiting to be discovered. Waiting for a phone call. Waiting for an agent. It was almost like I had this sense coming out of college that I was brilliant. All I had to do was write it and they would come. A lot of time can be wasted on waiting.
In essence, this part of the Dialog is about Dream. Dream and Inspirations. I can remember a conversation with one of my younger brothers, years ago, about the difference between Thinkers and Doers. For most of my life I have been a Thinker, a Dreamer, a Wisher. I have spent years and vast amounts of wasted energy simply waiting, and complaining, and fantasizing…. but doing nothing.
All goals begin as a dream. Something crosses our road, and immediately diverts us onto a new journey, motivating and inspiring us to reach beyond ourselves to achieve something… lasting.
Tomorrow, our discussion moves towards the fruition of dreams.
Keep the Greasy Side Down my Friends !