Ginger Nuts of Horror
Leigh M. Lane has been writing dark speculative fiction for over twenty years. She has ten published novels and dozens of published short stories divided between two genre-specific pseudonyms. She is married to editor Thomas B. Lane, Jr. and currently resides in the outskirts of Sin City.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I currently reside just outside of Las Vegas, although I’ve also lived in New Mexico, northern Nevada, western Montana, and numerous cities all along Northern and Southern California. I’ve written fifteen solo novels, co-written two (and am halfway through a third), and enjoy writing screenplay adaptations. My twin sister and I sang the National Anthem for a Dodger’s game when we were teenagers, and my dad is a sports celebrity in Canada. I’m a black belt in Shorin Ryu, a style of Okinawan karate. I hate moving, but I’ve never lived in one spot for more than four or five years.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to draw and paint, although I’m a mediocre artist, I enjoy singing and listening to music, and I’m a Scrabble wiz. I spend a lot of time with my ageing cat, Kadie, who is exceptionally spoiled. I spend a decent amount of time reading and watching movies of numerous genres. I also like to play RPG-type video games.
What’s your favourite food?
That’s a tough one. I’d probably have to say snow crab, but my answer might be different if you were to ask me tomorrow. I really love food.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
David Bowie, Tori Amos, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Queensrÿche, Boston, Styx, America, and Kansas.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I like them all. I’d say most of my writing falls under the “dark fiction” umbrella—dark and disturbing, but not as much straight horror as they are works containing horror elements—but I do sometimes write stories for the sole purpose of creeping people out.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Vonnegut, Orwell, Wells, Poe, Dahl, King, Koontz, Skipp, Spector, Barker, Rice, and Louise Erdritch.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
My favourite novel is The Shining, and my favourite film is Cube.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I’d erase the villain who volunteers, and in gleeful detail, to explain his or her ridiculous motivations for performing whatever horrendous acts that led to the story’s climax. They might as well add “…and I’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids” at the end.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I think my perfect neighbour would be Ashley Parker from Dana Fredsti’s Plague Town series. She’s sweet and smart, but kicks ass when she needs to. My nightmare neighbour—and I think this would stand true for any writer—would be Annie Wilkes from King’s Misery.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
In many ways, horror has made some great strides recently as far as public perception is concerned. I saw the Jeopardy! show that featured the Stokers as one of its categories, and I think that said a lot about the genre’s overall standing. I do, however, find the popularity of horror that relies on repulsive visuals to drive its darker elements, such as The Human Centipede, puzzling. I’d like to think the smarter fiction out there is more representative of the genre….
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was a poetry collection by Linda D. Addison, Being Full of Light, Insubstantial. Some of the poems actually gave me goose bumps. The last disappointing book is actually what I’m reading right now, the name of which I’m going to refrain from sharing because I get the impression the author is inexperienced and has potential, and I don’t want to create any discouragement here. The book has some great ideas and contains some lovely prose, but the pacing is awful and the story itself is (at least so far) composed almost entirely of exposition. I feel like I’m reading one long summary of a story that could be really good.
How would you describe your writing style?
I’d say much of my writing is similar to works by Vonnegut and Orwell. My style has some literary qualities, but the language itself is straightforward and relatively free of fluff. Most people will describe my writing as fast paced, sensual, and immersive … and often a little creepy.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
The one review that will probably stick with me forever, mainly because it’s so passionate but also because it resulted in a huge (albeit thoroughly unintended) boost in my sales, was a 1-star review for World-Mart: “What a load of propaganda. This book is nothing more than the authors[sic] rant/social commentary on how she hates sucess[sic] for a business she disagrees with, loathing of America, and her undying love for the global warming theory. I believe that she had every right to express her views in her thinly disguised ‘novel’, I love the 1st Amendment. I hope she is not offended when I express my 1st Amendment rights as well when I say, ‘TOTAL CRAP!!!!!!!!!’” Yeah … that’s definitely the most memorable review I’ve received.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
Time management and overcoming distractions have become increasingly difficult for me. I tend to take on multiple projects, and I always see them through, but not without huge amounts of stress. I also labour over every word. I know people who can write just enough to get the point across and go back to it later to change words and clean up their prose. I can’t do that. I have to be happy with what I’ve written in order to move forward, and that can be time consuming.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I won’t write about child or animal abuse.
If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you chose and how would they die?
I’d kill off every last character in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, simply because it takes place in Missoula, Montana. I’d have that damn river flood the whole town. I lived in Missoula for a few years, and I left the place an alcoholic. Beautiful country—depressing town.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think pacing is the most important element, but clear, tight language comes at a close second. I want to see what the characters see, feel what they feel, and smell and taste the air; I want immersive prose, but I also want a point and a reason for every last scene. Great dialogue is just as important as great prose, and like great prose, every line must be there for a reason. And, of course, the story must have an interesting plot and realistic characters.
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 extremely important. I’ve chosen names both by sound and meaning. For example, every character in World-Mart is named after a literary figure I respect. The Private Sector’s John and Dianne were named after John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” to represent the all-American couple (for irony’s sake), and Dianne’s junkie sister is named after one of my childhood bullies. Sometimes, however, I’ll scour baby name websites or even the phone book, and mix and match until I’ve found a name that has just the right feel.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I think I’ve become much more eclectic over the years, and I’ve gotten to a point where I never start a project unless I see it as a challenge. I’ve learned to push myself and to explore ideas outside my comfort zone. My early writing relied a lot on clichés and familiar tropes; I think I’ve come a long way since then.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
I personally think mental tools are most important: a good education, if not through a university, through a skilled mentor. Writers need a basic understanding of grammar, structure, and how to use language effectively. There is a difference between talent and skill; good writers need both.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Show, don’t tell. That one took me a while to learn, but it was an important lesson.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I do most of my promotions through blog posts and guest blog posts. Social media settings like Facebook and Twitter are, for the most part, no longer effective venues, and I don’t currently have the income to invest in much advertising. I’m still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but I have found timing is key. My Gothic horror novel, Finding Poe, released the same weekend the movie The Raven premiered, and I also bought advertising through Goodreads and Facebook to coincide with the release, until the buzz over the movie died down, my sales were pretty substantial.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
My favourite character from The Private Sector is Dianne. She’s passionate about her art, going so far as to sell her paintings on the black market when “wasteful, obsolete” professions such as those involving the fine arts have been outlawed. She endured a lot of heartache from her family with stride, and she’s caring and generous … for the most part.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
It’s a tough call between Dianne’s sister and mother; they’re both pretty unlikeable characters. Her sister does some terrible things when she’s desperate for drug money, but her mother is a spoiled, entitled, judgmental rich bitch.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Well, I don’t want fame. I’ve seen some of the stuff my dad has dealt with—dinners out being interrupted by fans, every little action being scrutinized by the media, never knowing who genuinely likes you or who wants to ride your coattails—and I want no part of that.
Fortune would be great; I’ve always wanted to have the means to contribute to housing and scholarships for the less fortunate. I’ve been dirt poor before, and I hate to think there are so many people who are even worse off than I was. I especially would love to be able to help out the Indian reservations here in the States. No one should have to endure the conditions some of those people suffer. It bothers me. A lot.
Respect is a biggie for me. Even though I write a lot of horror, some of which is purely for entertainment’s sake, most of my horror is speculation about what might be. A big motivator for me is a desire to make a real difference in this world, so I write about the social trends that keep me awake at night. I want what I write to stand the test of time, just so generations to come can read it and think, “What can I do to make sure this never happens?” I want people to listen to me, because I think I place a magnifying glass on a lot of important points most people are willing to turn a blind eye to in the name of complacency and keeping the status quo.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of a psychological thriller I’m currently shopping to agents titled Agoraphobia. I think the concept is pretty unique, and it’s creepy as all hell. Everyone who’s read it has given extremely positive feedback about the story and has admitted to being thoroughly freaked out by a couple of the more intense scenes. I know it gave my husband nightmares.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
The Hidden Valley Horror. It was an ambitious endeavour, but one that failed on so many different levels. I wrote it under the influence of alcohol and spice, something I’m not proud to admit, and my head just wasn’t clear enough at the time for me to see the book for the flop it was. I cringe at the thought of first-time readers thinking it to be representative of my work.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
That’s a tough one. I write so many different subgenres, it’s hard to say which represents the bulk of my work. I suppose The Private Sector offers a good taste of my style, but it’s definitely not representative of my Gothic, psychological, and extreme horror.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
The Private Sector is a dystopian thriller that engulfs its readers in a society that is corporate run, with almost no government, and no taxes—which means people must pay for police, fire rescue, their children’s educations, public works, healthcare, you name it. What results is corruption across the board and companies fighting for business (and committing crimes like murder and arson in order to gain more work). With all of the outcry over taxes and social services in my country, this is a reality I see us heading steadily toward.
I’m currently part of a for-hire group project being organized by a small press. Given the experimental nature of the project, I’m not allowed to talk about it. I’m also revising World-Mart for a second edition release through The Private Sector’s publisher, Eldritch Press, and readying World-Mart’s sequel, Aftermath, for subsequent release.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
“How have your life experiences contributed to your writing choices?”
Like I mentioned earlier, there have been points in my life when I’ve been extremely poor. I was also bullied in school and, early in my adult life, escaped an abusive relationship with a cracked skull. Because of those experiences, much of my writing has ended up revolving around bad things happening to good people. There is a lot of horror to be found in circumstance, and there are many ways to create effective horror that also asks between its lines that people to be a little kinder to one another and a little more mindful of how their actions (or lack thereof) might affect others. Stephen King was spot-on when he said, “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” I feel compelled to give a little nudge to people and ask, “Are you certain your monsters aren’t winning?”
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Leigh-M.-Lane/e/B0055DSE6Y
Follow the links below for more greathorror interviews