Konn Lavery is a Canadian horror and dark fantasy writer who is known for his Mental Damnation series. The second book, Dream, reached the Edmonton Journal’s top five selling fictional books list. He started writing fantasy stories at a very young age while being home schooled. It wasn’t until graduating college that he began professionally pursuing his work with his first release, Reality. Since then he has continued to write works of fiction ranging from fantasy to horror.
His literary work is done in the long hours of the night. By day, Konn runs his own graphic design and website development business under the title Reveal Design (www.revealdesign.ca). These skills have been transcribed into the formatting and artwork found within his publications supporting his fascination of transmedia storytelling.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Konn Lavery, I am a horror and dark fantasy writer from Edmonton, Alberta. The earliest memory I have of writing was at the age of eight where I was writing about a fantasy world with orcs and elves. This fascination grew over the years and after graduating college, I decided to peruse my writing professionally. My first published piece was the first installment to my fantasy series Mental Damnation. It was followed by two more releases over the span of two years. After that I took a break from the series to write a new story called Seed Me.
Beyond writing, I work as a contract graphic designer and web developer. These skills help drastically with marketing and promotion as an indie author.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I really enjoy harsh electronic music, known as the industrial genre. If I am not seeing a show related to this, I like to jam with various friends, playing with dum machines and synthesizers. It gets pretty nerdy when you start programming synth patches and drum loops, but I love it. Music is a major inspiration to me and playing it to expand my brain in a different way from my regular life.
Beyond that I exercise on a regular basis, making sure I get a healthy dose physical activity. I also socializing with friends so I don’t become too much of a hermit.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Movies. I’d say it is my primary influence. While growing up I watched a lot of movies and they sparked my imagination like nothing else, especially with some of the lore and extended universes that go with them. The cinematography, effects and music were very engaging, but above all the storylines were the most intriguing part to me. This is why I chose to write books so I could tell stories in as much detail as I could.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
The term horror has a bad persona to it. I think this stereotype of horror comes from the large amount of slashers and shocker stories that are filled in media. Horror is a very broad term, as very few know. Its core purpose is to inflict fear, and there are many other forms of fright other than blood and spontaneous discomfort such as psychological fear like phobias or suspense of the unknown.
Not to trash talk other horror stories but the genre sees a lot of the same plots, antagonists, monsters and scenes over and over again.
Changing the public’s assumptions of what the horror genre encompasses is a much larger task than any one author can do on their own. I think the best option for horror authors to do is to use the term horror sparingly and branch off into other labels such as “thriller”, “dark fantasy” or “weird fiction”.
Personally I believe the term horror isn’t going to lose its stereotypes anytime soon and a lot of great literature gets missed by people brushing it aside because of this. To combat the personaoa, avoiding the term horror when pitching the novel can prove beneficial.
I also chat further about these ideas on scifiandcary.com in an article called “Horror, it is more than frights and gore” on what else horror encompasses.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Technology has always played a major role when it comes to horror, this has been seen in the 70s, 80s and 90s with some of the major classics in the genre. I think horror will continually adapt its setting as technology evolves. Every new invention offers benefits while it presents new fears. The horror genre is a great environment to explore that fear.
In regards to the politics and social justice, social media has played a massive role in shaping these topics and how they affect people. Today we are more connected than ever before and it is easier to find likeminded people. They band together against what they approve of and don’t approve of. For the horror genre, I can see it following the same trends as it always has – teasing the fears at the back of everyone’s mind.
Look at World War II and the Nazis, even to this day you still have fictional pieces of “what if the Nazis won the war?” being written. I foresee more hypothetical scenarios of conspiracy theories based on today’s politics being played out if they were to come true.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
Clive Barker has been a major influence on my writing for his narrative style and the scenarios that he presents. For movies, Fight Club, Seven and Twelve Monkeys have been major influences to me (you’d think I have a crush on Brad Pitt or something).
Role Playing Games have also been a major source of inspiration to me. Games like Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft have really inspired me to broaden my backstories.. I’m a sucker for complex lore.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
Ben Galley is an author I admire greatly for his writing style and passion. He writes a wide range of fantasy and has released a number of ebooks in the past year.
Adam Dreece is an author I know personally. He has worked extensively in the recent years and his work has paid off, seen through his science fiction and steam punk novels.
How would you describe your writing style?
Honestly it is hard to pinpoint. While writing the Mental Damnation series I have been told it holds a similar style to Clive Barker. Through some short stories and writing Seed Me I explored various narrative styles I have been compared to David Wong’s John Dies at the End which comes more naturally to me.
To answer your question, I don’t think I have quite polished my writing style yet but I think I am on the right track the more I experiment and implement my own dry sense of humor.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
It is a little petty, but the very first review I got on my first novel, Mental Damnation: Reality has stuck with me to this day. At the time it was dreadful and I was too personally attached to the book at the time to take the review well and now that I have had a number of years to learn and grow from that book, I admire the reviewer’s feedback. That review has actually been major growing points for me as an author.
I also remember a positive review that I got for my second release, Mental Damnation: Dream where I applied a number of the criticisms that I received from the first release. It was a sign that I could actually learn from feedback and wasn’t stuck in my own ego.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Writing characters or narrative styles that do not match my personality. They are necessary for some stories to have a range of characters but it really forces me to think beyond myself. These scenes and characters are the most challenging but also the most interesting as it forces me to think beyond my own perspective in order to express the character or scene in their most natural sense.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I don’t think there is. I’ve written a wide range of fiction and nonfiction for experimental purposes. A lot of it has not been read by anyone other than myself.
If we are talking about subject matter that is to be shared with the public, then that’s another story. I don’t think I would ever write an erotica, romance self, autobiography or children’s novel.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are highly important. It needs to serve two purposes: be memorable to the reader and have meaning within the story. When writing fantasy or science fiction, this is much easier as you can come up with anything that your heart desires. With fiction based in the real world with common names, this becomes more difficult as you have play a bit off of heritages and stereotypes.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
My writing process has followed a foundational structure from high school onwards – plot outlines. They’ve become more in depth since then, including chapter outlines, sub plot outlines and character sheets to narrow down specifics and avoid what I call “plot holes”. The biggest change to my process is numerous revisions prior to sending it to my editor.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A pen and a notebook. I do recommend a computer and a word processor, those drastically improve your writing ability. In this day and age I will make the assumption this is common knowledge.
A pen and notebook do offer some unique advantages since it behaves as your sketch book and you can write anything down in it. Had a weird dream? Great, write it down and it might inspire you in the future. I believe sketch books is an essential tool to writing fiction.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
The best advice I got for writing is hard to narrow down I have had a number of good feedback from various people over the years that are fairly important. I’d say my top three are:
Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
It has been a major trial and error process for me. I’ve used guerilla marketing, online marketing campaigns and multimedia cross promotions with other industries (like metal festivals or Facebook giveaways) to try and gain readers. Nothing has been a golden bullet and I think if you are a new author you have to do a scattershot approach and try a range of promotional campaigns to see what really works. Once you have done this a number of times you will start to see what tactics give value and which ones are not worth your time and you can improve your tactics for the next release.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
I can’t say my characters have ever become children to me... if anything they are other caricatures that I identify with. When writing a character, I do my best to put myself in their shoes and identify with their struggles and desires. In a way, they are an extension of me.
My favorite to date would be a tie between Logan and Janet from Seed Me. Janet’s morals hit home for me and Logan’s internal dialogue was more like writing a diary of what I despise.
My least favorite character would be Draegust from the Mental Damnation series because he is everything I don’t like in a person: pushy, forceful and self-centered.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
That’s hard to pick, as each novel has been a major growing period for me. Every book that I write is a continual learning process of me as an author. Since Seed Me is my last release, I would say it is my proudest piece to date.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
The first release of Mental Damnation: Reality. This is going to be changed though (hint hint).
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
I would say Seed Me best represents the progression of my work. It reflects the explorative narrative style that I chose and the first complete start to finish storyline that I have produced.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
My favorite passage comes from a poem in Mental Damnation: Fusion in the second chapter. It goes:
A life I chose to no longer be.
Now the other is gone. There is only I.
Dominance in my perception.
All others are forced to comply.
For me, it says lot about a person’s ego, and my own.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Seed Me was a two year process, released in the summer of 2016. It varies greatly from my novels that are a part of the same fantasy series. It is a weird fiction piece based in modern times with a past tense narrative style – something that I had never done before.
My next piece will be returning to Mental Damnation to complete the series. I will have more on this to share as the new year unfolds.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
A pet peeve of mine is the cliché of the distressed girl tripping along her path and having the antagonist catch up to her. It is done over and over again, I’d like to see a new that taken away and people to come up with new ways of the protagonist dealing with conflict.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I mostly read non-fiction. The last great book I read was called The Scriptures of Sin by John Shelby Spong. It outlined a lot of core fundamental issues with the Christian collective religion. Worth a read.
The last book I didn’t enjoy was DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman. It was intriguing for an entry level into psychedelic consumption, much like testing the waters with your toes. It got too philosophical and preachy for my tastes and could have dived further into the scientifically effects of DMT. Then again, their research was limited so they could only conclude so much in the book.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
This has never crossed my mind before. My core ideology for writing is to inspire people to think. I love to hear why my writing sparks someone’s imagination. For a specific question, I cannot think of anything that I want to hear from someone.
WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME
If you’re reading this, then you did not take the above warning seriously. In that case, you’re probably as stupid as me. I’m Logan, by the way. I didn’t pay attention to any warning signs either. Being an unemployed deadbeat in Edmonton with no family and getting dumped by your girlfriend for her best friend can wear a guy down. All I had was my cokehead buddy, Skip, to cheer me up.
Surprisingly, my precautionary tale was not caused by either Skip or the drugs. Let’s just say a drunken make-out session with a pale girl by a dumpster, who was supposedly pronounced dead earlier in the evening, can leave you mentally jumbled up. A good motivator to figure this scenario out is having robed cultists stalk you, asking where the girl is.
Is this an ill twist of fate? Did I bring this on myself? Is there a reason behind my misfortune? Is the moral to not make out with spooky girls behind dumpsters? Hell if I know...