Monday, March 3, 2008
Interview With Author/Reviewer Kevin Lucia
Yes, I have crawled out of the writing cave long enough to post for the current Christian Fiction Review Blog Tour of Mark Mynheir's book The Void, and to debut my Interview Trails. Maybe I can get Mr. Mynheir to travel the trail too, but in the mean time, here we go.
As a writer and coach it is always interesting to not only be interviewed by fellow authors, coaches, and reviewers, but to be the one doing the interviewing. And let me tell you, I have a list of authors I would love to interview and thus be able to educate and enlighten my coaching clients, fellow authors, reviewers, avid readers and fans. In the case of fellow authors this is especially true when it comes to marketing their books and time management. So to start off this wondrous adventure called “The Interview Trail” I’d like to begin with someone who has his hands in everything. And I do mean everything!
Kevin Lucia is a husband, father, author, columnist, works a day job and goes to school! Wow! How does he do it? Let’s find out!
1. Kevin, first the basics, when did you discover your penchant for writing and when did you really decide to get serious with it?
Back in the 8th grade, I started thinking that writing stories would be a cool. I had always been a voracious reader, and I started wondering what it would be like to be on the “other side” of the whole process. However, I never considered the whole “author” thing until I finally presented my senior high English teacher with my first “manuscript”, lovingly scrawled in a Mead spiral notebook. When she told me: “You need to get published”, that was it.
The “getting serious” thing has been a multi-stage process. Ever since that moment in high school, every three years or so, I devoted more and more time to writing. However, about two years ago, when I finally decided I knew nothing about the publishing world really and I needed to get informed – when I first picked up Stephen King’s On Writing and read it cover to cover in a few days - that’s when things got “serious”, because I began thinking of the craft itself, understanding the publishing world, and my own discipline as writer and person.
2. When you are working on a writing project, along with all the other things your week involves, how much time are you able to contribute to your writing?
At this stage, depending on what projects are due for graduate school, I average 3-5 hours a day. I wake up every morning at 3 AM and write for about three hours before everyone else wakes up. I write during lunch at school, and in between classes at grad school. If I have enough energy left over at night, I write just before I go to bed, even if it’s only a few lines to keep the story fresh.
This has required many sacrifices. I don’t watch television much anymore; nor do I blog as much. I really have no social life, because it’s literally come down to the choice: do I do this, or do I write?
3. With your busy schedule, what marketing methods for your books, articles and short stories do you find work best for you? Which are the least effective?
Right now, not much. My Myspace: www.myspace.com/kevinblucia works best, connecting me to so many different types of folks, especially because I’m not strictly writing just Christian fiction right now – I’m all over the map, genre-wise. I bulletin my reviews weekly, post them in the blog, and I’ve built a pretty user-friendly layout that takes visitors to all my free and for pay works on the ‘Net.
I keep my website updated: www.kevinlucia.net – which luckily gets weekly play in the byline of my column in The Press & Sun Bulletin. THAT has been huge locally. I also have an email newsletter through which I send updates and little quips about my writing journey – and I’m ALWAYS looking for more subscribers. It’s free, after all – wink, wink. Just send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I do have a book signing coming up at our local Barnes & Noble, April 3rd, but that’s unique for someone with no novel. I was blessed to have three different short stories appear in rather large anthologies: “The Way Station” in Coach’s Midnight Diner (The Relief Journal), “Right Choices” in Life Savors (Tyndale House), and “Killing Time” in From The Shadows (Triad Publishing Group). Other than that, I do small press releases in the paper, but that’s about it.
4. In your opinion, how important is the support of family for a writer?
Essential. I couldn’t do this without my wife’s support, encouragement, and respect.
5. You blog quite a bit about short story writing. Do you feel the short story is something novelists should delve into for extra fun and income?
Even beyond fun and income – for me, anyway, I discovered I knew nothing about writing fiction until I gave up my novelist dreams and really concentrated on the short story. It’s made my focus razor-sharp: I’ve never before been this concerned with word economy, different narrative styles, meaningful dialogue and the craft itself. All those years re-writing the same novel manuscript over and over, and I didn’t realize I knew nothing about writing fiction until I focused on my short work.
6. Do you think your short story writing a good marketing tool for your future full length novels?
For the most part, I don’t think of it that way, because all novel plans are on hold for the time being, but the way I’m doing it, I think – I hope – so. Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) had a very strategic re-release of his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, right on the heels of his bestseller Heart-Shaped Box. I decided to kill several birds with one stone, and took the small haunted town I wanted to set my novel in, and started writing short stories about all the folks who would be supporting characters in my suspended novel. At the end of my MA in Creative Writing, I have to present my thesis – my collection of short stories – and publish. I’d love it if I could time things just right – release the collection short term with a small press and limited contract, and if and when the novel becomes a reality, if it does well enough, maybe I could re-release the collection as a companion to the novel itself.
That being said, even if I become a novelist, I’ll never stop writing short stories. I follow my creative whims, wherever they lead.
7. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are working on a full length novel now. For those of us who write novels, the short story is somewhat daunting. How to fit so much in so little? For you this may be different. What challenges are you facing with a full length manuscript as opposed to the short story?
Actually, I did have a synopsis and chapter request made by NavPress, but when they passed on it, I suspended all novel activity. Rod Morris – who is a stand-up, class act guy, and is now with Harvest House, I believe – said as their acquisitions agent at the time: “It was a good read, but not outstanding.”
You have to understand: I’m a life-long reader who has read SO many books; I hold a BA in English/Lit, and I’m pursuing my Masters in Creative Writing. I know my own writing, I’ve read outstanding writing and “good” writing, and I know the difference – and he was right. I have very high standards for myself, (leftover from those old college basketball days), and I decided to leave off all novel dreams, and just write to improve my craft.
The short story has been the perfect vehicle, and you’re right: at the beginning, writing short stories TERRIFIED me. As you can probably tell from this interview, I’m naturally long-winded. When I stared scanning journals, magazines, and ezines, and noted their world limits, I thought to myself: “How am I going to do this?”
It just takes time and patience, a commodity that I think is rare among young writers today. We live in an “on demand” culture, and people want success quickly, in all walks of life. They don’t want to experience rejection; they don’t want to be told: “You’re just not good enough.” As an athlete, if I was told I wasn’t good enough; I gritted my teeth, went out and hit the weights, ran further in the morning, and did more push-ups. It’s the same with writing.
My first short story ever – “The Way Station”, which took Editor’s Choice Honors for Midnight Diner – was 10,000 words long, and I killed myself to do that a year ago. Now, depending on the story I need to tell, I average 5,000 – 7,000 words, and I’ve written ones as short as 3,000 words. Writing short stories helps an author learn perhaps the most important thing: what’s important to the story, and what’s not?
8. The publishing industry is experiencing a shift. Some are calling this 'The Rise of The Author' stage. Self publishing is making it easier for someone to write a book and get it out there. Unfortunately, much of what is being turned out is poor quality. On the other hand, there have been some incredible books by self published or small press authors turn up lately. Rather like finding a pearl or diamond hidden in a pile of rubble and dust. As a reviewer and author, what is the best way to see a self-published work get noticed?
This is a tough question, because as of yet, there’s still a stigma surrounding self-publishing, and with all honesty – a lot of it’s deserved. I even briefly considered self-publishing myself, but early in my reviewing career, all the self-pubbed works sent to me for review were just not quality, so I decided not to pursue that avenue.
I think the key avenue if an author is going to publish independently is the small press. This is the area that POD technology is most likely to change and improve; making it more affordable for reputable small presses to open their doors to new writers.
Honestly, I’m an old fashioned sort of guy – if a work is good enough, self-published, small press, or big press, word will get out, and people will buy. On a practical level, everyone needs multiple Internet “presences”, they need to tour, they need to find speaking engagements, and blog tours are all the rage today. Having a regular byline doesn’t hurt either. However, it’s important to understand – I think – that a writer could have all of these, and if the story is just not selling, that says a lot in itself.
9. Even among the traditionally published authors, we face the same up-hill battle of getting our names and works out there. There seems to be no line between self-published and traditionally published works if both are of high quality when it comes to the writing. Do you find that when it comes to reviewing works of excellent quality by an unknown author that word of mouth is still the best way to promote their books?
Yes, I do – and this is another thing I think that’s fallen victim to our “now” culture. Word of mouth spreads differently for everyone; and it seems like many folks don’t have the patience to wait for that to happen.
10. Tell us a little about your most recently published work. What are you doing to get the word out?
The most recent story I’m actually promoting is a dark thriller/suspense short story called “Killing Time”, which is in the anthology From The Shadows (Triad Publishing Group). Really, I’ve just posted it on Myspace, and I bulletin it from time to time. I will be having a book signing, replete with a reading, door prizes, and lots of other fun stuff – maybe even some poetry. Should be a good time.
11. What projects do we have to look forward to from you? What's the ultimate writing project you would like to tackle in the next few years?
Currently, I’m engaged in multiple projects. I’m in the finishing stages of a fairy tale re-write for perhaps the biggest contest I’ve ever entered, CatsCurious’ Fairie Tale Kynde contest. I’m also tinkering with a noir/crime fiction entry for the second edition of Coach’s Midnight Diner. Along with several rewrites of the usual retinue of rejected short stories, the biggest project right now is a graphic novel adaptation of a short story of mine that appears on Perpetual Magazine, “Asphalt Oceans by Midnight”. With talented graphic artist and writer Corey Club and long-time friend and UBER talented artist Nathan Slater, we’re imagining a graphic novel, contemporary re-telling of the Beowulf legend. Triad Publishing is interested in making it the cornerstone of their new graphic novel imprint. If you’re on Myspace, go add us at: http://www.myspace.com/asphaltoceansbymidnight.
BIG projects in the next two years: publishing my story collection, and expanding on my current Diner crime fiction story for St. Martin’s annual “Minotaur Mystery” manuscript contest.
12. Any advice for other folks trying to balance career, family, and their writing?
Take your duties to God and family first – and then after that, you have to be merciless, honestly. If you’re going to write seriously, it takes time, commitment, and discipline. For example, I miss The Simpsons dearly – but I love writing more.
Of course, I could never give up Supernatural – but then again, that’s research for me.
13. Ok, here's a question just for fun. This is actually from a coaching exercise I do with my clients. If you were to jump ahead in time twenty years, what sort of advice would the older Kevin give the younger Kevin when it comes to balancing his life and his writing?
Why are you doing this interview? You have a story to finish!
Basically a repeat of #12, I imagine. Once God and family are in the right place, you have to really decide what it is you want. I think the biggest mistake wanna-be writers make is not realizing how hard it is, and how long it takes.
Thanks Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions, enlighten my readers, and to acknowledge the fact I should now crawl back into my writing cave and work on Time Masters Book Two; The Prophecy, before anyone else yells at me! But before I return to the cave, I will mention that Kevin has written over 200 articles, reviews, and interviews, has 14 short stories published, and 9 poems published. He will also be featured in the June issue of Stand Firm magazine - which goes out to over 80,000 men - highlighting the best fiction for Christian men in an interview. Wowzers! And I thought I spent a lot of time in the writing cave!!!!!