Ginger Nuts of Horror
Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife and children where he works as a medical language specialist. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene including articles, reviews, and artwork. Chad loves music, rain, sarcasm, dry humor, and cheese. He has a strong disdain for dishonesty and hard-boiled eggs. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, and Scream magazines and is a regular contributor to Horror Novel Reviews, Halloweenforevermore, and Heavy Planet. You can find his published work here.
You can also find him lurking around the following websites:
Facebook Author page
Amazon Author page
GNoH: Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Lutzke: I live in Southwest, Michigan but my heart belongs to the west coast. I fell deeply in love with punk rock at the age of 14 where I learned about D.I.Y. ethics, integrity, individuality, and thinking for myself. Some people think punk is nothing more than three chords and some screaming—and maybe it is now—but through the 80s, at least for me, it was more. I didn't just glance at it. I absorbed it, understood it and it understood me. I stick to a lot of those ethics today. Except anarchy…that concept is a bit silly. I hate doing things I'm good at, like painting and writing. Maybe hate is a strong word. They both tend to cause me stress. It has everything to do with me being a perfectionist, and so I end up taking more time than I'd like on projects. I expect too much of myself, which sometimes leads to me not even starting. I just do it for the finished piece. That painting on the wall, that completed book, polished and ready for readers. Yes, not your average "tell-us-a-little-about-yourself" answer but I think it says a lot about who I am.
GNoH: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Lutzke: Read, watch indie movies and series stuff on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu, be around my family, play guitar, and board games. I'm a huge gamer at the table. Can't get enough of it.
GNoH: Other than horror, what other things have been a major influence on your writing?
Lutzke: Indie films, stuff that leaves you thinking for days, especially dialogue driven films like Spring Forward, Tape, Prince Avalanche, Lawn Dogs, Bottle Rocket, Happiness, Ghost World, etc. My biological father was also a major influence. Not only did he turn me onto a lot of films I would have never seen but he's the one who got me to start reading.
GNoH: What did those movies teach you about writing? How does your appreciation for that indie/punk sensibility inform your own writing?
Lutzke: When watching indie movies I’d stand them up next to big blockbuster hits as a comparison and try and pinpoint the differences, like what made this seemingly dull indie film so much more entertaining than the multi-million-dollar production. A lot of the times it was dialogue and creative shots that brought out characterization that no Hollywood director would dare take a chance on, other times it was just originality in plot. I noticed that with indie films they’ll leave in little flaws, not because they’re lazy and don't want a second take but because that’s how real life is. So to answer your question, I guess I like to take those risks and add realism and am always on the lookout for originality. Dialogue in particular is something I like to write, and I really try and make it as real as I can. It can make or break a story. I think my appreciation for punk brought the same ideas. Refusing to write cookie cutter stories and attempting to be as original as I can without compromising. The problem is, I really do care what other people think, and I’m always keeping that in mind too. Fortunately, so far, with OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, people are getting it. Readers from both sides--those who love horror, even extreme horror, and those who don’t like horror at all. They’re both satisfied. Right now physical copies of the book are in the hands of three very popular horror authors, and I think about it every day and just think “If you’ll just give it a chance, I know you’ll love it.” But how many times have they heard that before? My only hope is that one day one of them will break the spine, read a page, and not put it down until every page is read and then bless me with a life-changing blurb. I’d be floating the rest of the year.
GNoH: Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Lutzke: That's a good question because I never really wanted to write horror but I can't seem to get away from it, yet if you read my stuff it's not all necessarily horror, but it is all dark, so I guess dark fiction.
GNoH: Who are some of your favourite authors?
Lutzke: Lansdale, Poe, King, Matheson, Serling, Koontz, and McCammon, but I think my favorite indie author right now is probably John Boden. He doesn't write enough though and really needs to. I get on him about that. In his defense he doesn't like to force creativity (which is a good thing) and he works screwed up hours to provide.
GNoH: What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Lutzke: If I could only pick one horror film that is my favorite I'd have to say The Shining. To me it's much more than a movie but a work of art. Everything about that movie is just perfect, Kubrick's camera shots, the décor, the setting, the acting, the score. Perfect. My favorite horror novel is a toss up between BOY'S LIFE (one could argue it's not horror) and INTENSITY by Koontz.
GNoH: If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Lutzke: Good question. I think this is why I love indie films so much because they do erase clichés. Regarding clichés in horror films, how about demon-possessed females in nightgowns. Am I the only one who thinks that's a dead horse? Friedkin did it right the first time. Let's leave it alone.
GNoH: Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Lutzke: Man, that's a tough one. The perfect neighbor would be the guy from Poe's TELL TALE HEART. He seemed to be the quiet type and kept to himself for the most part, and then when the neighborhood found out about the body he dismembered and buried in the floor we'd all have something to gossip about and tell our grandkids. Worst neighbor would be Barlow from SALEM'S LOT. Nobody likes a guy who just sleeps all day.
GNoH: What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Lutzke: I see a lot of "selling out" going on. If you really can tell a zombie story or a post-apocalyptic story from a brand new angle then I think that's great. But let's face it, the market is saturated with those two settings. For the most part, the masses eat it up. But they also eat up reality TV, bad top 40 music, and Twilight so what is that telling us? Do that many people just want everything dumbed down? To be spoon fed? To read and watch the same thing they just finished? I have some very good friends who are writing in that market, and they're having fun, and they're making money, and I'm happy for them, but it's just not for me. And for the record, I'm not badmouthing anyone who writes to market, because every day I'm tempted to join them. But then there goes all my punk rock ethics I introduced myself with earlier.
GNoH: What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Lutzke: A few weeks ago I finished The Drive-In by Joe Lansdale. Loved it. What a trip that one is. As far as a disappointing read, probably House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti.
GNoH: How would you describe your writing style?
Lutzke: Simple but unpredictable. Not simple as in a middle-grade or even young adult level, but I just don't spend a lot of time with descriptions —I let the reader do that. And I don't bother with giant words that sound impressive. They just slow a story down. I try and keep things flowing the best I know how while still providing enough detail for the reader to really invest in the characters. Endings are extremely important to me. Whether it's a short story or a book, the ending has to have something that leaves an impact on the reader. Something that leaves them smiling and completely satisfied; where you close the book and just stare off for a minute, considering that last paragraph. It's got to pay off.
GNoH: Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Lutzke: July 2016 I released OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES. It's my dark coming-of-age novella regarding a week in the life of a neglected young boy who decides to try his best to ignore his mother's body—which sits rotting in the living room—so he can attend a spelling bee, something that means the world to him. I am currently working on a serialized novel titled PALE WHITE about three teenaged girls who, four years earlier, had been rescued from a sex trafficking ring by a vampire who has acted as guardian since then. Circumstances leave the three girls to fend for themselves while at the same time coming to terms with who they are now: Blood-thirsty vampires. It's a west coast road trip with revenge as a goal.
Regarding ‘Of Foster Homes and Flies’, what did you find were the biggest challenges of having a child narrator for that book?
Lutzke: Maintaining a certain level of intellect and maturity without him sounding like he’s much older than he is. The narrator is well read and has been through a lot for his age so there are moments where he’s not your average twelve-year-old. But based on the feedback I got before release, people recognize that and seem to be pretty convinced that he sounds just how they would expect someone with his experience to sound.
GNoH: Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Lutzke: Regarding the positive, after sending out an early copy of my novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES to my friend John Boden (author of JEDI SUMMER) he read it and sent me a message that said "Hey A**hole! You made me cry!" He was the first person to have read it (other than my wife). The response to that book has really been overwhelming. Not just on Amazon but from a lot of people who don't leave reviews, who just contact me and talk about how much they loved the book. It's really encouraging.
GNoH: What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
Lutzke: I don't necessarily like writing action scenes, like fights. I think they're boring to read too. Other than that, probably coming up with titles.
GNoH: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Lutzke: There are probably too many to list that I'd never write about. If you were to ask me this twenty-five years ago I probably would have answered that there's nothing I wouldn't write about (except pedophilia-type stuff), but I'm a pretty conservative guy these days. I believe a great, horrifying, and memorable story can be told without just trying to shock someone. I can write some of the most horrific and shocking stuff you've ever read, but why? To offend? I write for me and I write to share my stuff with people with the hopes of them getting great satisfaction out of it, not to be sickened so I can be the subject of some water cooler talk. But don't get me wrong, there is some disturbing gore in some of my stories, but it's well placed. It's not for shock, it's for the story.
GNoH: If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
Lutzke: Probably that whiny protagonist from Twilight. I forced myself through the first 100 pages of that book and wanted her gone. She would die by asphyxiation via a cocktail of glitter and tears.
GNoH: What do you think makes a good story?
Lutzke: Good characterization, believable dialogue, less description and more story, and most importantly originality. I don't want to see what's coming. Also, using words that your average person is at least partially familiar with. There's nothing more distracting than seeing an author fill his book with words that you know darn well even he didn't know the definition of until he saw them on Thesaurus.com.
GNoH: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Lutzke: I do both. Sometimes I'll think of a name that I believe is just fitting, and then at times I'll pay homage to someone. In OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES the protagonist's last name is named after author James Newman, because I wanted to pay homage to him and his coming-of-age book MIDNIGHT RAIN. And James and I have since become friends as a result of my reading his book, loving it and paying homage.
GNoH: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Lutzke: I think I've been able to spot redundancy easier, culling stuff that doesn't need to be there. Also I think I've gotten better at characterization.
GNoH: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Lutzke: If we're speaking in technological terms, I've been writing in Google docs. I used to write in Word, but I have quite a few friends who swear by Scrivener. I used the trial version but it really wasn't for me. If we're talking less technical, then just something to write with. You don't need a Macbook, your own office space, and a glass full of bourbon. Just a pen or a pencil and paper. And like most authors will tell you—horror or otherwise—just how valuable Stephen King's book ON WRITING is. It truly is a must read…at least a few times. I also use a thesaurus (specifically thesaurus.com), but I have a rule. I never use it to find new words, words that I have no clue what they mean. I use it to help stop that brain fart, when a word is on the tip of my tongue but I just can't find it. The thesaurus reminds me what it is. Kind of like asking a friend "hey, what's that one word that means this?" Then they answer and you're like "No, not that one, the other one."
GNoH: What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Lutzke: Most advice I received was from King's book ON WRITING, but I've gathered useful little gems from all over. It's really important to be networking. Not just making acquaintances on Facebook but do your best to engage, to establish some relationships and be active. There's a lot to learn, and each year you write you'll be wiser than the year before.
GNoH: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Lutzke: To be honest, I'm still finding a lot of this out. I rely heavily on word of mouth. I establish relationships with people, which is invaluable. Out of one legitimately good friendship ten doors can open. Plus these friendships encourage you to keep going when you get a two-star review (I'm looking at you Boden). For the most part, the horror community's arms are wide open. It's not competitive. We're in it together, and it's made writing that much more fun.
GNoH: Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Lutzke: I'm going to exclude the protagonist as an answer, because that just seems like the obvious one, and say "Sam." I envy the position she's in. On top of the world and unafraid. You can tell she'd be that person in a group who lifts others up just by being around her. She seems to have a pretty good grasp on life and with a healthy perspective.
GNoH: How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Lutzke: Helen and Jerry, Denny's mother's old bowling friends. They're as fake as can be, trying to paint a pretty picture on something that's horribly ugly.
GNoH: Fame, fortune, or respect?
Lutzke: Another tough one. We humans can be very ignorant, thinking we know what's best for us, but then when we get what we want we're still not satisfied. What kind of person would I become if I was rich? Or Famous? Would I become arrogant and judgmental? I consider myself a ridiculously emphatic person, to a fault. But I'm not so ignorant to forget that I'm also human and sinful and am not beyond error. Money or fame could change me. Money is the easy answer but perhaps respect is the safest one. Yes, I tend to over think.
GNoH: What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Lutzke: OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, followed by an unpublished story I wrote called "Shedding a Light" that I submitted to the Chicago Tribune writing contest last year (I didn't win and it's not horror so it just sits collecting dust for now).
GNoH: And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Lutzke: They all tell a little something about me and my thoughts at the time, so no.
GNoH: For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Lutzke: My anthology NIGHT AS A CATALYST is a complete summarization of what my work is like. It's got disturbing tales, Twilight Zonish type stuff, and heartfelt, emotionally dark tales. But then again, like I said earlier, I'm most proud of OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, and it seems to be the most pleasing universally.
GNoH: What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Lutzke: Would you like fries with that? Yes, please.