TIH 449: Kevin Lucia on Writing Lessons, Faith and Horror, and Desperation by Stephen King

TIH 449 Kevin Lucia on Writing Lessons, Faith and Horror, and Desperation by Stephen King

In this podcast, Kevin Lucia talks about writing lessons, faith and horror, Desperation by Stephen King, and much more. 

About Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia is the ebook and trade paperback editor at Cemetery Dance Publications. His first short story collection, Things Slip Through, was published by Crystal Lake Publishing in November, 2013. He’s followed that with the collections Through A Mirror, Darkly, Devourer of Souls, Things You Need, October Nights, and the novellas Mystery Road, A Night at Old Webb, and The Night Road. His first novel is forthcoming from Thunderstorm Books in October 2022.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat we're masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. And today's guest is Kevin Lucia. He is the author of many books, including things slipped through October nights, and devourer of souls. And he is also the editor for cemetery dance publications. And we had a really wide ranging conversation and we got into some fascinating topics. We talked a lot about faith and what it means to Kevin and the relationship and impact of faith on both Hora consumers and creators. We also talk about lessons from Kevin's childhood. We talk about the impact of reading desperation by Stephen King. And we also get into some questions about God. So a fairly heavy episode but one I think a lot of you are going to enjoy. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break

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Michael David Wilson 3:13

Okay Well with that said here it is it is Kevin Lucia. On dare says hora. Kevin Welcome to This Is Horror. Thank you for having me. Hi, it's a pleasure. And to begin with, I'd like to talk about any early life lessons that you learned growing up. And these don't necessarily have to pertain to writing but it could be anything that feels significant that you learnt in those formative years.

Kevin Lucia 3:49

Um, let's see. Life lessons. There'll be something somewhat content that I haven't learned any, but I'm sure there's some, I'm probably I think the biggest one I can think of, I really can't think of a single incident. But what I can think of is kind of a role model for me, that I think is impacted me now as a writer, but also impacted me in my, you know, my athletic career and my, you know, college years is my father was an outstanding worker. I mean, he was the type of guy that still is actually he's not afraid of hard work, you know, and he saw the value of doing things you the intrinsic value of doing a job or volunteering to help or do something, you know, and I saw how you would do this and good things always seem to come his way but like in very intangible ways, you know, like private probably my best. The best example I can Give us I remember he, we live next to a farm. And you know, one summer the farmer, the farmer had felt bad back so he couldn't do himself and he asked my dad, if my dad be willing to just clean out the hayloft for him, you know, kind of not for any money, but he's you can clean out the hayloft. And you can just keep anything in there that you want to keep. And then my dad is cleaning up the hayloft and finds a, a barely used construction grade cement mixer, then he gets to keep this huge thing that would cost 1000s of dollars, just because he was willing to do a little work, you know, and it is watching the way he went through several, you know, job layoffs and things like that. Because the 80s, the 80s, in the US was a weird time, especially in manufacturing and engineering, guys who had worked for 20 or 30 years in engineering without having to have a graduate degree, suddenly, they're being told, Oh, go go get your graduate degree, now we're gonna lay you off. And, you know, so he, he went through several of those periods, and I just, I saw him take whatever job he had to take, you know, to, to help the family survive. And it was also very interesting, interesting to me that all of the different things like he took carpentry jobs, he rewired rewired an entire church, you know, so he had all these different skills that he had developed over the years. And I think for me, as you know, primarily, obviously, back then, all I was concerned about in my life was basketball. So I got the opportunity to play small college basketball, and that really was huge. As far as my work ethic, you know, you know, over the summers, and in the off seasons, when guys weren't working out, I was always working out. And then when I got to grad school and things like that, then again, being a writer in the early years, you know, you're, you know, there's things you'd rather do and things you'd rather not do. And a lot of times those things you'd rather not do. It's or you don't, it's not necessarily fun. It's the stuff you got to do. You know, and that's probably been had the biggest impact throughout my life.

Michael David Wilson 7:17

Yeah, and I'm wondering, because we obviously have quite a lot of writers listening, and those are all different stages in their career, but what are some of those things early on, that you would rather not have done, but you think actually, were absolutely crucial?

Kevin Lucia 7:35

Well, first thing was, is, you know, in college, and before, after marriage before our kids, and even after my first, you know, my daughter had a lot of free time to write. And, of course, I had all the free time in the world, and I didn't use it, you know, but then when I saw that free time, rapidly shrinking, you know, when was the birth of my second son, I'm like, Man, I gotta nail down a schedule, I have to find a way so I can write every single day. You know, and I've always been a morning person. So about 15 years ago, I started doing getting up about three o'clock in the morning. So I can fit in some writing time before the rest of the family woke up. Now this seems like a small thing but that meant you know, no more staying up late to watch it every want to TV the guys want to go hang out on a weeknight, you know, like, I can't I gotta get in bed early. You know? You know, things like that. There are a lot of that was an example right there. I maybe I would now my body is programmed. I can't sleep in if I want to. Yeah. In the UK first for those first couple of years. I probably did not want to get up at 3am in the morning. But it was the only time that I could carve out for myself. And I sense that I was the type of person especially early on in my career, where I had to write every single day I they just had to see that forward progress. Another big one is the probably the biggest Bugaboo is accepting critique. You know, the very first story that I ever submitted back in around 2007. It was to an anthology. It wasn't a pay anthology, but as well as anthologies that was awarding cash prize to like the top three people. That was my first ever submission and my first submission to this anthology was roundly soundly rejected. And now looking back the editors critique was probably a bit too scathing and unprofessional, but I didn't know that then. By this person, it should have been rejected. It was just the worst. I mean, this imagine a story about a vampire hunter who's basically exactly like blade, except he's white. I mean, basically, it's all it was. And that's all it was. And, you know, the editor is really told or to par? And you know what, obviously my initial reaction was this is the greatest piece of horror literature ever written, How dare you. And then at the very bottom is of a scathing critique he he had two sentences where he said, There's something here though you have voice, try again. And my initial knee jerk reaction was Screw you, I'm not going to try again, the story is great as it is. And then I thought of all the, you know, things I thought about growing up, you know, and making yourself better. And again, this actually kind of where my athletic, you know, career kind of came into play, because a lot of times, there's what you want to do, but there's coach says, This is what the team needs to do. You know, and I thought to myself, yeah, how bad do I really want this guy asked me, I asked myself the question, you know, all through my college basketball, Korea, how bad do I want this? And it was, you know, this guy ripped you apart? You're You're wounded? Sure he mad? I said, But how bad? Do you really want this, he wants you to submit again, he totally took a torch to this story, and then said, I want you to submit me another story. So I knuckled under, and I wrote a completely different story. And not only was accepted, but received the cash prize for one of the top three stories. And that probably that single incident right there formed my feelings about critique and accepting editorial direction, you know, and get, you know, having BETA readers tear your work apart is you really have to have that, you know, you got to have that, that that early rejection there, I think really kind of hardens the skin.

Michael David Wilson 11:51

Yeah, when you submitted a new story, and then subsequently won that cash prize. I mean, did the editor say anything? Like you no doubt, you did.

Kevin Lucia 12:05

This, his response was, I knew you could do this. He still critiqued my use of italics was granted, I like to use my italics. But still, he said, this is I knew you could do this. This is what I thought you could do in that first story that you weren't doing. You know, what I in that feeling was like, man, I was a hair away from just saying screw you. And, and which is not to say that my career would have been ruined if I had done that. But that just stuck with me. And I was like you were you were a hair away from walking away from this because your feelings were hurt. You were mad that someone picked your story apart. But you sucked it up. And you try it again. And this is the result.

Michael David Wilson 12:44

Yeah, I mean, that's just a great lesson in perseverance and work ethic right there.

Bob Pastorella 12:53

But, you know, it does remind me of, and I'm glad that you got that to Senate's encouragement at the end. Because I didn't. And it was, I had submitted something to a contest and won the contest and got a one on one with a big New York. And which, you know, got blown up with all the, you know, all the people you've worked with, and now that you're at the time I was infatuated with that kind of stuff. And now today I'm like, I'm realize it's got, like a sleazeball. You know, but I see one in my whole book, he was like, send it to me, send it to me, he goes, it's gonna be a while before I get back to you, but send it to me. And he sent it back about six months later. And on the front of it, it just had one word, which was juvenile read. And I didn't read any more. There were no other. I mean, I went through it later. But there was no other words of encouragement, and I didn't submit another story for over 10 years. Wow. So those two sentences at the end, after the Skating, skating, you know, thing that made a difference for you. And that's, that's an editor that actually cared about nurturing a writer. And that's we need more than yes, we do.

Michael David Wilson 14:35

But I mean, in terms of like your kind of childhood, obviously, you said you were very obsessed with and interested in pursuing your basketball career and getting better at that. But of course, I know from the eighth grade you are also interested in writing So, I'm wondering, what did it look like in terms of balancing the passion for both basketball and writing?

Kevin Lucia 15:08

Well, back then writing was a really new thing. You know, this was, oh, goodness 8788 You know, so living out in the country, there's no Barnes and Noble, there's no internet, there's no Amazon, there's no how to be a writer, you know, it's so it was really kind of like, like, especially for me, again, not coming from an artistic family at all, or really, you know, back then our school wasn't the type of school that would have visiting writers come in or anything like that. So it was really very much a write a lot of stuff a lot, write lots of stuff, and a no book, you know, you know, but I hadn't, it was really hard because I didn't have any idea. Like, how does this happen? How does this work? You know, obviously, I of course, I was a reader Holic to back then I've always, I've always said that the other obsession I had growing up was reading and books. And that's the one that predates all of them. You know, and I was, I like to say that, that I was a reader long before I was a writer. So obviously, you know, that people write books and their names are on there. But how does this happen? Is it very mysterious, you know? So, it was a lot of writing in notebooks and not on ironically, my very first novel, quote, unquote, was a young adult, young adult sports adventure, about a kid who plays basketball in high school and helps his team win the state championship and gets back his ex girlfriend had nothing to do with my life at that time at all. It certainly was not teenage wishes. But you know what I did? It's a really crazy story. I wrote this whole thing every single night. Like, it was like, I was like, like, it was kind of like addicted. You know, like, I would be in, under under my covers with a flashlight, like writing in my notebook, probably while some kids were looking at Playboy's, and I was writing and it's a spiral bound me notebook. You know, because my parents need immediately strict with bedtimes. As long as I was reading, they gave me a pass. But you know, after they are in bed, I was there writing and, and I finally lay the summer of my after my senior year, I, my dad got me a Texas Instrument, raw word processor, not the kind, you could save it on her anything. And I typed this whole thing up. And this is what I literally did. I looked in a pocket books, paperback and I looked at the address, and knowing absolutely nothing about what I'm doing. I took the only copy of the manuscript I had because of course, I didn't really have access to a Xerox machine or anything like that, put it in a manila envelope without SAIC and mailed it off to pocket books in New York. expecting that letter coming any day to let me know that I was now an author. And well received credit that was my first blow of reality when several months later I wrote a letter wondering what happened to it and I just wrote got a letter back and says, On thank you for contacting Pocket Books. Unfortunately, all unsolicited manuscripts without an essay se are destroyed. Please contact us again for any interims. Like, kidding. And I didn't know it is. That's like a good example of stuff I just didn't know. You know, and I would write off you college and things like that. It wasn't till we actually got to Barnes Noble in our area, where I could actually go get the big writers guidebook and start looking at you know, finding addresses and things like that. But that's that's kind of what it looked like. It was very much especially where I lived your there's just like, it was like, how does this even like it that's one thing that young writers today have a huge advantage because so much of not only information is good, but you've got so much information that just right there, where even when the internet first started, because I was the early days of the Internet coincided my college years. For some reason, it just never occurred to me to type into the internet. You know? How do you become a writer? I just didn't I just never clicked you know, I just didn't never looked around there early on so very much shooting in the dark.

Michael David Wilson 19:32

Yeah, and I can only imagine the sick feeling you had when he realized, oh, no, I've sent my only copy of this manuscript. And

Kevin Lucia 19:44

yeah, it's a broken copy.

Michael David Wilson 19:46

Yeah. But you know, I mean, people talk about, particularly with the 10,000 hour rule, putting in the work before you get published before things should see the light of De you, but I mean, that's a hell of a test to be like, I mean, effectively, you wrote it, finished it and then threw it in the fire. So effectively what you did.

Kevin Lucia 20:12

Now the second time, the second time I was ready to submit something was around my senior year in college and at least this time I knew to set at SAIC, and this was back when I think it was toward books or banned books was still accepting unsolicited manuscripts. And I had written because I fancied myself a science fiction writer in the beginning. Because really, that was my first job that me I've always loved weird stuff. Like, I was a horror fan long before I knew, Oh, you know what, what horror really was the grouse growing up, the only horror I knew of, is I equated it with Freddy Jason, and Michael Myers. And at that time, my life, I just wasn't interested in that. But I read all the scary stories to tell by the campfire and all the Hardy Boys books, which are basically just young, young adult, natural Gothics. You know, I had all the universal monster picture books. So I obviously was into that sort of stuff. But I first discovered Isaac Asimov in high school, and the foundation series, you know, and I was really impressed by the, I've never reread the foundation series I'm a little afraid to because I'm worried that it will hold off after all these years. But at the time, I was just impressed by the scope of the foundation series. And then he tied it together with the robot novels. And he just so I, of course, thought I was gonna be the next. Isaac Asimov. And I wrote a 176,000 word, manuscript that was only part one of an epic space, space opera. And I sent it to either banned books or tour books, and I can't remember what it was with similarly, feelings. This is it, this is gonna happen. And of course, they send it back with the you know, thanks for your submission. But we're not interested this time, at least this time. This time I have put us SAIC Yeah, and there. But I also ran a follow up my very first scam. You know, a couple of scams early on I, I had, again, a moment of deflation when I sent my manuscript to what I thought was a publisher. And they were but they were a vanity publisher, you know, because this predates, obviously, self publishing, vanity publishing. And they sent me a contract back and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, this is great as a contract. And I showed it to my dad, and he's reading through and he's like, wait, they want you to pay him like they do. It's like, Yeah, this is like a monthly car payment, publish your book. I'm like, oh, that doesn't sound right. So that's not like I had the money for that sort of things are like that. Well, that was my first brush with that. And I also had my first brush with a quote unquote, literary agent, you know, who I again, I sent them the manuscript, we're a contact, like, I guess at that point, email wasn't the consent manuscripts. Across email. At that point, we are communicating across email, and they are really, really like it. I'm a little blah, blah, blah. And then he actually called me and I'm actually talking to this guy. And I thought to myself that he sounds like he's using rather vague terms telling me how awesome the manuscript is. But hey, you know, what, he sent me a contract. The contract looked like he had been printed in Carell word perfect, you know, with like, you know, really bad clipart. And like, this doesn't seem right either. And then I looked at all the itemized things, he was going to charge me for whether or not I ever, ever learned that a deal. And I'm like, Ah, hi, though. Don't think this is legit, either. So, luckily, I ran a follow up on a lot of those things really early. They're disappointing, but I was glad I never like, you know, fell for him.

Michael David Wilson 24:08

Yeah. And unfortunately, I mean, still to this day, these kinds of things exist. So the lesson here forever right as just really make sure that you read your contracts. And you know, if you're not too ofay with the language, then pass it on to a friend or a contact who does understand curse. Yeah, there's unfortunately too many of these people out there, but yeah, a little Google search and seeing Okay, well, is this agent or is this publisher you're working with anyone I actually know. Or I've actually even heard of is kind of a good first step.

Kevin Lucia 24:52

Right? Yeah. Yeah, that's that actually came in really handy many years. Later, I guess it would be probably six, seven years ago, when I don't know if people still remember this particular character. Everyone likes to refer to him as he who shall not be named. But there was an editor who would publish all of his anthologies through Lulu. And he, I'm glad I Googled him first. And he turned out to be pretty, pretty abusive character. He's not on the scene anymore. He has been on the scene for many, many years. But yeah, that was the first time I've probably said, I don't know if this guy's email. He's an editor and his emails. I'm not even sure he can spell correctly. So I google that I'm like, oh, okay, I see what's going on here.

Bob Pastorella 25:49

So you're talking about the guy who gave Brian Keene. A lot of hell?

Kevin Lucia 25:56

Oh, yes. I am that good.

Bob Pastorella 25:59

Yeah, yeah. He who shall not be named? Yeah, he

Kevin Lucia 26:02

should not be named. I had a very interesting relationship with Him. Because what happened was actually it was really strange thing. He hasn't been part of the landscape for a really long time. I don't even know what's going on with him anymore. So I don't feel uncomfortable talking about it. But so that anthology I told you guys about that we are sold my very first short story. They're, they're based in Chicago, Illinois, where he who shall be not be named as also from Illinois. And he reached out to this editor and wanted to invite him to some Gothic fatty because that's how this guy worked. He would find people who didn't know what they were doing. New writers, new editors. And early on, he had just enough. I don't know what to him that made him sound sort of credible. So he invited this editor to and the senator was completely new to the horror scene and knew anything about conventions. So he went to this Gothic con, or whatever it was. And this, he was shopping, happy names, bought a copy of this first anthology had my story in it. And apparently, he thought it was the greatest thing he'd ever read. So he started reaching out to me personally, and contacted me personally. And somewhere in between me googling his name. I did anyone I did end up actually sending him the story very early on. And then of course, I Googled his name. And I'm like, oh, dear Lord. And the funniest, the funniest thing. Luckily, my story was never published in one of his anthologies. Because he emails me two weeks later, it says lightning struck his house. And Freitas is a PC and he lost my story. And I'm like, I saved by a literal act of God. I was like, wow. And he's like, I wonder if you could send me a new story. And I just never, you know, never responded. But he would always try to message me all the time. He tried to, he just he had built it up in his head, that because he read this story, he had somehow discovered me. And there was just so like, Aaron for a while there early on every anthology I was in, he would end up buying and just writing this rambling review. And it wouldn't even be a review. It would just be about how he discovered me and stuff like that. And it was weird. I was always very careful not to insult him, though, you know, I would take him for it. I would take him to his to task for his behavior. But I never swore at him. I never insulted him. So he never turned his violent attitude toward me, thankfully, and I don't know what's got he kind of faded off the, the scene several years ago. So

Bob Pastorella 28:52

I remember when I'm the first when I first started getting on social media, and I got into two groups, you know, Anna in Facebook, and I've seen that and I think Brian Keene was talking about know some of the things that this guy he knew shall not be named did and just like wow, you know, and it's like, and there's a reason why I'm we're not naming this guy. Because it's like a fucking bad omen. You just don't fucking do it. Yeah, it's

Kevin Lucia 29:25

like poking a tiger with a stick. You don't really want yeah, you know, and I don't even know if he's online anymore. And then he I haven't like he has. He tried to contact me through almost every single social media platform. I think he even good reads or library thing. And I just blocked them on all of them, but I haven't seen

Bob Pastorella 29:46

from them and I'm thinking about him in a long time. What's that? I haven't heard anything about him in a long time.

Kevin Lucia 29:52

Last Last time I heard living arrangements changed. And because really when you think about it, this is a kid Who this is a guy who when he was a kid, he had a terrible childhood, which doesn't excuse the things he said, and the violence that he wished on other people, he had a terrible childhood. And he was certainly never diagnosed correctly, nor received any type of intervention. And so I think, from what I understand the living situation is much different now. So he is much more monitor than he ever was before. Because from what I understand, he was living with relatives who were really a little too elderly, to keep up with all the things he was doing. And he was just kind of, you know, getting on the internet and yelling at people. And I think that living situation has changed for the better for anyone you think about it, the better for him to you know, when you excuse the things he said, but clearly there's an element there where he was not. Not I don't want to say in his right mind, but he was not altogether. Yeah, not

Bob Pastorella 31:01

always. Yeah. But that's, I mean, you're kind of you, I guess you kind of grew up around the same time I did, you know, and now, remember, a couple of years ago, wrote a group and we were talking about the internet, and they had one other writer there who had been writing as long as I have is probably as long as you have, you know, since like, you know, the 80s and stuff. And they didn't understand they didn't know what a sad se was. And I'm like, it's a, it's a self addressed stamped envelope. And like, Why do you have to do that. And so, this guy, he's a little older, migos boy, back in the days, we had to walk five miles in the snow, with our manuscripts in the mailbox. And he goes in Now y'all just zip them across the transom with that with the electronic magic Mojo shit, you know, so. And it's been my

Kevin Lucia 31:56

very first submission to cemetery dance was in SAIC. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 32:02

Oh, yeah. I had to do a hard copy. So submission within the last 10 years, because they did not accept anything by email. They said, Hey, we're old school. We're Oh fashion. As matter of fact, it was Southwestern review. And they were doing a southern anthology of think of a southwestern review. I may have it wrong. But they were doing an anthology, and I sent a story out to it. And they ultimately rejected it. And but, you know, they just basically I just put a SAIC in their news sent me a letter just saying, hey, it was rejected, you know, but it ended up getting accepted elsewhere. So, you know, but that was weird. I was like, because I was like, where's the email? I was like, looking on their own line, where's the email at? And it's like, Finally, I found mail here. And I'm like, what? Really? Okay.

Michael David Wilson 33:03

Yeah, well, I'm pretty thankful that we have email now, you know, preferred method. I think it works better for both writers and publishers, by and large. But I mean, you were talking about the lightning strike in this guy's house, his computer getting fried and your story, subsequently being lost and describing that as an act of God. And of course, something you speak about a lot is faith, both in terms of in your life, and in terms of featuring in your fiction. And indeed, when you were looking for submissions for cemetery dance, it was, again, something that was mentioned that might be of interest to you. So I mean, to kick this off, what does faith mean to you personally?

Kevin Lucia 34:04

That's a tough question. Because, you know, I, I was, I'm going to take a roundabout way to answering this probably, um, you know, I was raised in a Baptist home, went to a Baptist church, you know, looking back upon it, and when I'm hearing of other other folks and some of their church experiences, luckily, my church experience was pretty benign. You know, I'm sure if I, I'm sure. I'm also looking back on it, though, with a child's eyes. You know, you know, as far as candy, I'm sure if I would look at it with adult eyes, I maybe see a lot more of the flaws and cracks there. You know, but I've lived in a Christian family my whole life, and I think for me and it's become a really dicey thing. thing. You know, as far as, you know, the political climate, this word has become very charged. For good reason, no way we could, we could probably go on for two or three hours, just to my own misgivings and issues with modern evangelical Christianity alone. But I'll try not to go on a tangent there. But I know coming from me, you know, growing up, we grew up lower middle class, middle class blue, you know, blue collar, you know, my dad was an engineer, but he was a mechanical engineer, he wasn't like, you know, make tons of money or things like that. You know, like I said, he went through stints of unemployment. And just because he was caught in that gap, where, you know, he's caught in that gap where they wanted him to go back and get a graduate degree after working 20 years in the field. He's like, I got kids, a house, a mortgage, how can I get a graduate degree, and I saw my father, not only do everything he possibly could to help a family survive, but he would, you know, lean on, you know, our faith in the idea that there is something higher, that there is, you know, a force that, you know, it's, it would be mislabeling faith to say, I have faith that everything will work out, okay. Because obviously, that's not necessarily the case. And I've learned that very painfully, as an adult, you know, a lot of times things don't work out, okay. But in some, some ways, that's almost the essence of faith, is even if things don't work out, okay, or things are not going the way you would hope. Or you would like, you still have that belief in a sense of order, you know, that there's, there's meaning to this, that this is, you know, maybe it's something I can't see, you know, it's something I don't understand. And, gosh, honestly, this sucks, you know, and I think sometimes that's something I've had to come to on my own. Because unfortunately, my earlier, evangelical, I guess, you'd want to call it Training, you know, growing up, they weren't really good with acknowledging that part, you know, if you didn't put a sunny smile on and say, God will take care of everything, then people will kind of criticize your faith. But I then I pick up the book of Job, and I think of Jehovah and how everything just sucked, and his life was awful. And then he was, you know, still had a faith that persevered. And I guess that's it is, you know, that believing that there is something that's bigger, something that's fine, or it's better, you know, you can't see it right now, like, we had to go through that with my dad's frequent stints when he was unemployed, and somehow we are always able to make the mortgage, you know, we are always able to, you know, have food on the table. And you could very easily say that was just because my dad's work ethic, you know, which is, which definitely, like I, I'm never the type of person to ask someone to believe the same way I do. But I would also say that my dad rooted his work ethic in that faith. And you know, that if I just work hard, you know, and again, it didn't always work out the way we wanted to know, Where were those years always comfortable? No, but you know, my mom also had a lot of health issues, you know, through my teenage years, and a lot of times, there was like, you know, this is not great. And this is not pleasant. And I really can't see a way through this, but I'm gonna kind of, I kind of believe there is a way through it. And, you know, that's gone through a lot of changes over the years, you know, I, I've had to do a lot of sorting out, you know, when I was younger. And again, I don't think this is a good thing. But I was when I was younger, I think the idea that conservative Republican and Christian, I think I probably in my head thought those two things were, or if you were, if you were conservative, that meant you were a Christian, if you're a Christian, then you had to be Republican, you know, and I've, I've really snarled all of that. And I don't I don't believe that's true at all, you know, and so I've had to go through a lot of things, you know, as far as pulling apart what I learned, you know, as a kid, and then I also did, believe it or not, I also did a stint two and a half years and Bible College. You know, I was majoring in counseling.

You know, which I decided was an interesting practice. It was an interesting study. But I decided that I don't think I was, it's one thing to be studying psyches and things like that, from a academic point of view, but to actually be a counselor I didn't English was always my first love. So I went back to that. So that's gone through a lot of evolution and things like that. But our daily life is really pretty much defined by that because my son, my 15 year old son is high functioning autistic. You know, and he is made a lot of strides, you know, he's in a good place now. And he will there are a lot of special needs parents or parents of kids on the spectrum who are worse off than we are. But from the moment he was diagnosed when he was two years old, that suddenly our life was just like, oh, really, it's just, you know. And it's even now his future is very uncertain. You know, and just having to live with that every single day. And like I said, I do want to clarify. I know some people struggle with a lot worse things. So I'm certainly not complaining. But we have to lean on that faith every single day with, especially early on, there were some days, where it seemed things just were really, really rough with some of his emotional outbursts and him managing you know, because as a kid on the spectrum, he manages his, his emotions and his feelings just completely different than anyone else does. And also to, we're not a small family, I'm about six, three, my wife's six, four and a half, my son's 15, and he's six, five. So he's a 15, year six 550 year old, high functioning autistic kid. So when he would have behavioral meltdowns, it was a little bit different than a kid half his size. So you know, there was a lot that we had the weather there. And, you know, the crazy thing is, is before even that, my wife, I spent five years working, before I got my first teaching job, I just fell into it. I spent five years working exclusively with autistic kids. Which again, it could be coincidence, but the mind framework was like, you know, you came to this uniquely prepared to man to deal with this every single day, like when we got him diagnosed, I was the one that pushed for push for early diagnosis. Because I knew the signs I had worked with these kids for five years. And I tell, I told my wife and I said, we really have to do it, because I, you know, I'm so I guess that pretty much just that stamped on our life, you know, and I don't want to say that. I'm speaking very purposely, and not attaching a lot of like theological stuff to it, or doctrinal software, or, you know, bible quotes or things like that. But I know, for me, faith is just that belief that there is an order to things that there's something higher. And it's, it's it to be truth, a test of faith or true faith is not smiling and being happy in the middle of all that stuff. You know, there, there are some days where I'll just flat out tell God, I'm angry, I'm really, really angry, I'm really upset at you, I don't know why you're doing this. I don't know why you're allowing this to happen. You know, but I'm angry. You know, just like, as I would tell a friend or someone if I if I was really upset with him, I'm like, really upset right now. And to me to, that's the mark of faith is when you can be that honest and transparent. And that, which again, I guess, not to bring the Bible into too much. But if you look at the book of Psalms, and the book of Proverbs and limitations, it's all basically why, you know, it's just a why why why is this happening? And again, those are, those are not the rosy, rosy scriptures that churches like to quote in their, you know, messages. But that was a pretty long winded answer. And as far as a horror writer, you know, early on, I actually did have the opportunity, or like, I kind of wrestled with it a little bit, because there isn't really any more, but there used to be a, you know, a whole book publishing Association. That was nothing but Christian booksellers is called the, the Christian Booksellers Association. You know, and probably the only author that anyone will recognize from that genre will be Ted Decker.

But I initially thought about writing for that market at first. But, you know, I realized, you know, some of the greatest works of literature, I've read that deal with faith, were like, you know, works by Stephen King, you know, or, you know, Dean Koons or, you know, when CS Lewis and Tolkien were writing, there wasn't Christian published or secular publishers, you know, and it just, it wasn't, you know, any type of element of my faith or values that are going to end up in my horror fiction is going to be very, you know, embedded in themes or images or ideas, you know, or character struggles, you know, things like that. I really didn't want to get involved in writing a story that was an allegory or anything like that. So I don't know if that's a good answer or not finding. It was a long answer.

Michael David Wilson 44:45

I mean, it's a fascinating answer. And I mean, it's interesting that you bring King up as well. And I know that you've said before reading desperation was the pivotal moment for you in terms of logistics. exposing you to horror and what it can be. And I guess kinking that definition of it?

Kevin Lucia 45:06

Yeah, it really was, you know, because this was in college, and I was still in my sci fi phase. And again, I just had grown up with this. This is what horror is. And the reason why I read desperation I was I had just gotten my first writing gig. I was a book reviewer for like, a magazine that was like maybe for another magazine for a newspaper circular that was several steps lower than the Pennysaver. I mean, people probably just lying there kitty boxes for this. But still, I was in print. I was a book reviewer. But I figured out pretty quickly Well, I can't just review science fiction books every week. So I would go to and this was when I was in college and didn't have a lot of money. And back from Barnes and Noble still had nice comfy chairs. And now no toys in their store. And I would go into Barnes and Noble and grab a chair and grab a book and just start reading random books because they are across the genres because I knew I couldn't write book reviews was science fiction. And I saw a desperation I said, You know what I'm gonna it's gonna try the Stephen King book and see what this is all about. And, you know, I got into the story pretty quickly misses a great story on this captivated obviously, by the characters in the situation. And obviously, they had all the elements of horror that I would have expected. But when he starts doing this deep dive into, because I don't know how long it's been since read desperation. Or if you've read this verse has been years since I've read it. But one of the main characters is, reef is one of these main characters is like a burned out, Jack Kerouac type. Author, motorboat motorbiking his way across the country half drunk trying to write as you're trying to write his way out of a rut when he stumbles on his curse town and interest spirits throughout the novel is his memories interactions he had with this priest growing up and how that affected him and impacted him. You know, and the the dialogue that was developing the the essential question there that was being developed in this, this horror novel that has all the trappings of a horror novel, is the simple question. Is God love? Or is God judgment? He didn't know. And I was, you know, for me, I was just kind of got your head not having a kiddo not having read any horror before. This was just and then of course, the book I followed that up with was the stand. And Nana was hooked, you know? So yeah, that was really a really a turn key moment for me was seeing how this book is all about faith. But this is just a written awesome horror novel.

Michael David Wilson 47:56

Yeah. And I think the question is God love or is God's judgment is almost at the core of most theological practices and something that people deal with on a daily basis. So I mean, I wonder and you probably anticipate where I'm going, how would you even begin to answer that question when trying to decide is God love or judgment?

Kevin Lucia 48:27

I have two answers. One is the whip out answer and the one is, so the way about answer is is I think that's above everyone's paygrade. And I'm not sure if we're ever going to be able to answer that. The more the more honest question is, I would have to think that that any any righteous God would have to be both. You know, what the problem there is when you start taking human human perceptions of those two things, love and judgment, and then trying to apply it to God. You know, like, for example, I get an I never, my favorite quote that I reshare on on Facebook all the time was the one by Ralph Waldo Emerson, where it basically says, you know, it'd be very tragic for me to believe it just because I'm being contradicted on being persecuted, you know, so I'm never ever going to try to convince someone to believe something that I believe or be offended if someone doesn't believe the same. But I think you know, the way we define judgment in love, if we're to believe that there is a God, then even though we are made in the image of God, he will he or she actually that's another thing too. Technically we call it he but it really isn't. There should be no pronoun for God should be gender neutral. God would be a transcend our understanding. So I would have to say it's both but and, and I think there's a lot of value in disgust In this, but I think there are a lot of people who believe. Again, I don't want to go on a rant against the Evangelic new modern evangelical Christianity, but I believe there's a lot of religious movements dominations that believe they know the answer. And I just feel like that's just a that's just not so. There's there you can reason it, you can argue certain premises, you can have some great conversations about this. But to me to say that we know how God is both judgment and love. That's that's kind of hubris, I think. Yeah. I don't know if that's a good answer or not.

Michael David Wilson 50:38

Yeah. Well, I think that's what makes discussions like these endlessly fascinating, because we don't have a clear answer. But I think it's something that's very much worth the time and discourse and just for us to kind of ruminate on and I mean, of course, is, it's fascinating and important, because, I mean, it's the very essence of kind of why we're here and what we're doing. And, you know, it's something that I think about a lot. I mean, I was brought up in a Christian household, and then I guess, through university years when more towards atheism. And at that moment, I'm just kind of endlessly fascinated by all of this and acknowledge that I have no answers, I'm very interested in kind of pursuing and looking into this. I mean, of course, the love versus judgment thing is something that I consider a lot. And I mean, I feel for that to be an all loving God, that there's a certain point of judgment where it would seem to contradict that. But then, of course, as you point out, and as is pointed out by many theologians, I mean, the the concept and the understanding of God, and I can see how people were saying, Oh, this is a bit of a cop out, but it is literally above the human's paygrade and our understanding anyway, so. So like, you say that the definition of love and judgment in human terms is going to be different from in, in gardener, kind of omnipotent beings, terms. But yes, endlessly fascinating.

Kevin Lucia 52:33

Here's a really glib answer. There are a lot of people who believe in the God is hiding in the bushes with a hammer, and he's waiting for you to screw up. I believe that's a very harmful and wrong view of God, I do not believe in God with a hammer. Just waiting for us to waiting for you to step out of line so I can smack you. And again, sadly, that was, that was a little bit of the environment that I was raised. And I can't say in my family, but, you know, I don't know how many times you know, a family was struggling in church and going through some difficulties, and there'd be that whispered, oh, you know, I wonder if they're right with the Lord. You know, that's just, that's God, that's God with a hammer. And that's that I can't I do not believe in that at all.

Bob Pastorella 53:29

Yeah, I'm the same way. And being living in Texas, we have, you know, in, I guess, the, the hot part of the Bible Belt. You know, there's, we have a lot of, you know, we have Catholics, Baptists, evangelists, and you know, so it's, it's a smorgasbord But St. Was like, we had this growing contention of you know, of a judgmental God. You know, and run across people in dealt, they'll say something and, you know, it's, it's kind of funny, because like, especially with my job is Tech, I deal with phones. And so whenever I if somebody has a problem, that phone, I fix their phone, they think goddess, I know you think Bob, because God didn't intend us to have a phone. I have not said, God's gonna strike you down for that. I said, that's actually none of your business. You know, so you don't believe in God? I said, No, I believe I just think that Jesus wasn't an asshole, the directing him out to shut him up pretty quick. That's my belief. I believe that what you're talking about the love or judgment, it's it's beyond our comprehension. It's not even it's beyond our paygrade obviously, but we can't fully comprehend it. Right? We were made in His image. Not it's him, or God, rather. So it's, you know, it's just basically it's stuff like that is, it's none of our business.

Kevin Lucia 55:10

Right? I agree. Yep.

Michael David Wilson 55:13

We've certainly touched on this, but along similar lines, how does your faith impact you as both a horror consumer and a creator?

Kevin Lucia 55:25

Um, as a consumer first, you know, as I started delving into horror, there was probably a little bit of that, even though I was like, why 2627 years old, there is still a little bit of that, who, you know, God has a hammer, you know, knee jerk reaction, but honestly, you know, the more I read lots of different horror writers, you know, the more you know, I saw all of these works of literature as commenting on some facet of human existence, you know, and is when you're talking about faith and real faith and people's experiences, and things like that. I mean, you can look like there's a, there's a verse I'm going to paraphrase, that was always used against us in high school, you know, because I lived I grew up during the Satanic Panic, right? So, I actually was asked to read a book called beagles called the Devil and the Toybox know, that he made in Star Wars was all evil, was Satan's plan, Satan's a clever ploy to trick us with, you know, cool toys. There was the verse is something along the lines of think of things that are lovely things, things that are good, yada, yada, yada. And people would obviously automatically classify horror is not those things. But the problem is, is they're classifying that on a, on a taste level, they're not. So for example, I could read any horror most any horror novel and most any horror novel that I'm you're going to read, is going to have characters that are struggling against their own fears, some of those characters will admittedly succumb to those fears, but some of those characters will rise up to survive those fears. Or even if they don't survive those fears, they'll rise up to face off against those fears. And you know, whether the book is straight, good versus evil, or the book is a little bit more muddled, and grappling with human nature. As far as I'm concerned, all of these books are dealing with characters that are when you win that Bible verses think on things that are true, things that are lovely, that are good. These are things that are true, and lovely and good, you know, characters that are fighting the fight that are, you're trying to, you know, to survive, you know, and as a writer, you know, again, again, I guess, my biggest thing is being honest. There are, there are some of my books, where you stories, where I may not even mention the word or may not even have a single biblical thing in them. But a lot of my doubts and fears and the things that I struggle with the things that I would lay at God's feet, you know, every day, these things find their way into my fiction, you know, and that has proved to be far more powerful and more cathartic to me than saying, writing a thinly veiled horror novel, but the dangers of lust are the dangers of greed. You know, so that's, that's, that's really how it guys both my reading and my writing. And the funny thing is, I just for the heck of it, well, not for the heck of it. Two years ago, I had major foot reconstruction surgery, the summer after the quarantine. So basically, it's been 12 weeks and a chair, and I just started watching the trashiest cheesiest, 8080s Horror movies that I could possibly watch. And then I got on this thing. Well, yeah, I just, you know, because again, I grew up during the 80s. But because I was a sci fi kid, I didn't really watch a lot of horror movies. And I decided that even the cheesiest 80s horror movie has a moral core. It has a moral core and, and it's inescapable, you know. So that's kind of how I that's how I approach it as a reader and a writer.

Michael David Wilson 59:26

Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Kevin Lucia. Join us again next time for the second and final part of the conversation. But if you would like to get that ahead of the crowd, if you would like to get every episode ahead of the crowd, then become our Patreon. A patreon.com. Forward slash deaths is hora. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to the interviewee. And come enough we are counting with the likes of Gemma or more. Ronald Kelly, and Tyler Jones. So if you would like to ask them a question, do consider being a patron. And it is a great way to support the show, to vote with your wallet to say actually, what you're doing with This Is Horror is great. This is something I want to see continue. I know we've been doing it for almost a decade now but in many ways, that's why your support is so vital, is more vital now than ever. So, have a little look@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror, and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:00:48

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Michael David Wilson 1:01:55

As always, I would like to end with a quote and this is from Shirley Jackson. Try to remember with description that you must never just let it lie there. Nothing in your story should ever be static. Unless you have a very good reason indeed for keeping your reader still. The essence of the story is motion. I'll see you in the next episode for part two with Kevin Lucia. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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