Thursday, January 9, 2014

Interview with author Evans Light

The man above is author Evans Light and I am very happy to bring you an interview with Evans Light, author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror.

1. Your biography states that you were in love with the written word from an early age. How early?

I was lucky to be born into a family that nurtured me as a reader from a very young age. I started a Kindergarten-4 program while I was still three, and was reading beginner books by the age of four. “Inside Outside Upside Down” by Stan and Jan Berenstain was an early favorite.

There was also about a decade of my childhood during which my household did not possess a television set, so books quickly emerged as a premier source of entertainment for me.

2. Did you always want to be a writer?

Maybe not consciously, but I did author my first book at the age of five. It was called “Freddy Frog-Face”, and I self-illustrated it. Looking back on it now, I guess I had a penchant for writing weird tales from the get-go, because Freddy Frog-Face was a story about a baby in Africa who was hit in the head with a sledgehammer and so disfigured that he looked like a frog as a child. Despite Freddy’s tragic origin story, I remember it being a humorous tale with a positive message.

I recently saw an advertisement for an animated children’s movie called “Freddy Frog-Face”. I have to say I was pretty surprised by that, but I seriously doubt that movie begins with an infant hit in the hit with a sledgehammer.

I would say that my first thoughts of becoming a writer began in earnest late in middle school/early high school. My brother Adam (also a writer) and I were devouring a lot of Poe and Bradbury at the time, and began to try our hand at writing - both alone and together. We even made a stab at writing our own holy scriptures – The Gospel According to Sagacious and Voracious Ignatius, I believe it was called. I was Sagacious. He was Voracious. Again, blasphemous bizzaro from an early age.

3. You mention also in your biography that you work in a wide range of genres but that "weird tales" are your favorite. Was that because of books you read when you were young? Tell us why you love weird tales so much.

We as humans spend so much of our lives creating a safe and “normal” environment in which to hide from the weird, wonderful and hostile universe that surrounds us, that I find myself drawn to entertainment and experiences that lifts the veil and peers into the abyss. I’ve always had a bit of spiritual seeker in me, and exploring experiences either real or fictional goes hand-in-hand with that “inner explorer” mentality.

In just about every facet of my life I’m usually swimming upstream, the contrarian, the guy looking for monsters in the darkness while the rest of the group huddles together around the fire. I think I’m just hard-wired that way.

So it really comes as no surprise to me that the literature that excites and interests me usually deals with challenging norms, exploring taboos and contemplating new possibilities, weird or not.

4. The short story has sure secured its place in literature. Why do you write only short stories?

That’s a very perceptive question, since to date (as of January 2014) I have only released short stories and one novella.

My debut novel is well underway, however, and I hope to release it in 2014. It is tentatively titled “Tranquility’s End”.

There are several reasons why I’ve chosen to release a wide variety of short stories prior to releasing a novel:

a. Short stories have given me more opportunity to connect with a wider variety of readers given that the short stories I’ve released encompass a broad range of subjects.
b. Short stories allow readers encountering my work for the first time to experience a wider variety of the writing styles I employ rather than reading a single novel and loving or hating it.
c. I believe that in this modern age of “sound bite” media, and streaming entertainment on almost every device, the short story and novella will re-emerge as premier formats for popular written entertainment. Even as a reader, I appreciate a satisfying read that takes about as much time to consume as a movie or television show.
d. Releasing a book of short stories as a debut publication has proven to be a successful strategy by other authors, such as Joe Hill with “20th Century Ghosts”. Having a book of short stories already published is also nice if readers want more after finishing your debut novel, so I’m hoping “Screamscapes: Tales of Terror” will continue to be discovered and enjoyed by readers for years to come.

5. I have read a few of your short stories and am just flat out horrified every time. Where do you draw that from? Do you have to work on it or does it flow naturally?

Some of my stories are built up from fragments of an idea or situation, and write themselves gradually along the way. Others I have written literally seem to come to me from out of nowhere as complete ideas (“Dark Curtains” falls into this category). I’ll be doing something and from out of nowhere I find myself going into a “vision”-type state, and the story just seems to be channeled to me in finished form from some other place apart from myself, almost like a lucid dream.

I suspect that my subconscious mind is always working on story ideas, and when it has one it deems ready to write it shoots the idea into my conscious mind. When that happens, I’m in a panic to get to my keyboard and type, and often will write the first draft of a story straight through until I’m finished. Hours and hours of non-stop writing like a madman consumed.

Many times I wonder exactly where those stories come from myself, and that ultimately is part of the magic and mystery of fiction writer. Are we the creator, or merely the conduit? I’m not sure I want to know!

6. Tell me about your collaboration with your brother Adam Light on "Corpus Corruptum". And would you consider doing another collaboration with him?

The novel on which I’m currently working originally began as a collaboration with Adam. We worked intensely together on it for a year or so, but eventually abandoning the project after completing a couple hundred pages. I’m not sure exactly what prevented us from completing the project, but it was an enjoyable experience writing with him. We think so much alike it’s downright scary at times.

Then, early in 2012, Adam and I started talking about working on a project that would help showcase our writing styles side-by-side, and really cement our partnership as “The Light Brothers” in a public way and let the world see our work in print together.

Adam came up with the theme of “the human body gone bad”, I believe, and we started fleshing out our stories for “The Corpus Corruptum” collection shortly after. I was really pleased with how it came out. I think the stories really have a unified voice and tone throughout, a nice mix of grisly humor and surreal horror.

As far as working on another collaboration with Adam, I fully expect that we will do something together in the future, most likely after we release our respective novels. We’ve discussed a couple of collaborative projects this year, but I don’t think anything has fully grabbed both of us yet. I’d guess a short story collaboration would be most likely.

7. I have to ask this. In your listed books, there is one called "The Demon Writer" which a. I cannot find anywhere and b. is marked as a Vintage edition. Tell me about this story.

Simply put, The Demon Writer was the original title of Whatever Possessed You, the first story I published. The only difference is that The Demon Writer contains an exclusive foreword and prologue written by Maazo Maazo that is not present in the Whatever Possessed You edition. The foreward and prologue gave the story more of a “Tales from the Crypt” feel, somewhat like the Cryptkeeper’s endcaps on the show.

I re-release the The Demon Writer (Vintage Edition) on rare occasions, so keep an eye out for it!

8. I look back and my favorite stories so far by you were your holiday story "Candie Apple" and "Don't Need No Water" with "Don't Need No Water being my favorite by a narrow margin of the two. I would love to know how you came up with these two characters/stories.

“Don’t Need No Water” came to me as I was driving through the tiny downtown section of a small crappy southern town. As I drove I began to experience lucid dreaming – in my mind it became night, and the buildings were in flames. I saw a pickup truck in the distance, just ahead of the flames. My subconscious mind set to work on figuring out who had set the town on fire. Why had they done it? A week or so later the full story bubbled up into consciousness and I began writing it down.

Many parts in “Don’t Need No Water” came from that “other place” writers sometimes experience. The “chainsaw dentistry” scene pretty much wrote itself, and I have to say that I felt emotionally exhausted after that story was finished. It was an emotionally harrowing writing experience.

“Candie Apple” was a little different in its creation. I was contemplating writing a Halloween tale – my brother Adam had just released his excellent Halloween story “Tommy Rotten”, and several people (you included, I think) had asked me if I was going to do a Halloween-themed story like Adam.

(note: I did pester Evans about a Halloween story of his own. Great memory!)

At first my answer was “no” – I had just released “Cry Baby” and was focused on my novel – but then I woke up one morning shortly before Halloween from a crazy dream where dead children with candy apples stuck in their mouths tried to live a normal life, and knew I had my story. I pretty much just wrote down my dream with the story of the main character added in to ground the whole nightmare in reality a little. I was really pleased with how it came out, and it was so much fun to write!

9. Would you ever write a short story in a genre you do not normally work in like mystery or maybe a scary Children's book (but not too scary!)?

I’m sure I will write in many different genres eventually. I’m pretty sure I will never write and police procedurals or courtroom dramas (or anything that has any type of “investigator” as a main character – ugh!), because those aren’t the types of books I like to read.

I have already written a gently spooky YA tale, “Black Door”, and I also have written several children’s books for my own kids that I may eventually release to a wider audience.

It’s a delicate balance, establishing yourself as a writer. On the one hand, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself too narrowly in a specific genre, but at the same time you do need to establish a brand identity. I expect to work primarily in the “horror” or “horrific” genre for the next several years at least. It will always be my home, even though I’m sure other genres will strike my fancy from time to time.

10. I would love to know why you decided to go with Audible, which I listened to "Arboreatum' on. I believe on your blog you have most of your books available on Audible. Why did you decide to have them available for listening?

As I said in a previous question, I lived a large part of my childhood without a television. Sometimes late at night I would put on my radio headphones and dial in AM radio stations from far away cities such as Chicago and New York, and on certain nights they would broadcast radio dramas from the forties and fifties, full cast productions with multiple actors and sound effects. Many of these were quite scary, “Lights Out” and “Suspense” presenting “Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock”-type stories that had quite an impact on me. In the mid-eighties, I also immensely enjoyed listening to the radio drama editions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Star Wars – for a boy without a TV, listening to these was heaven.

So I had a soft spot for radio dramas going into this project, and even though I didn’t want to invest the time to rewrite all the stories in “Screamscapes: Tales of Terror” into full-fledged audio dramas at this point in time, I was lucky enough to find an audiobook producer with a similar vision who was able to add sound effects and music to the stories as written in an incredibly effective way.

I decided to go with for public release of my audiobooks because publishing through Audible also triggers distribution through Amazon and iTunes, and those three sellers combined undoubtedly account for the vast majority of audiobooks sold online. There’s really no other distribution model for audiobooks that even comes close.

11. Where is your favorite place to write? For example, the patio, in the park, on a comfy chair?

Even though I often write anywhere and on anything, my favorite place to write is at my desk at home, surrounded by my shelves stuffed with horror books.

My second favorite place to write is on my laptop during a long flight. There’s something about being trapped on a plane with the hum of the engines in my ears that stimulates my creativity, even though some of the things I write are hard to put on paper with the person sitting beside me reading over my shoulder surreptitiously as I write. I need to get a privacy filter for my screen! Until then, I’ll just enjoy the extra space as snooping people scoot away from me.

13. Any must have snack foods when you are busy working?

Keep me stocked with cold Dr. Pepper 10’s, and I’m good to go. I can write for hours without eating a thing. I literally get lost in the world of the story I’m writing. Everything else just disappears around me.

14. What are you working on now, if anything?

My debut novel, tentatively titled “Tranquility’s End”. It contains the core of the idea that Adam and I started many years ago, but has morphed into something else along the way. There will be more to come as it gets closer to release.

I also have many short stories in various stages of completion (enough to make a “Screamscapes 2” when finished), but I’m really trying hard to stay focused on completing the novel for now. You never know, though - several of my short stories were written in a single day, so I may go crazy for a short story or two before the novel releases.

15. Is there anything else you would like to say?

I’d like to say how much I appreciate you for the opportunity to discuss my work, and how much fan support means to me and Adam. You often hear that writing is a lonely business, but in today’s modern age I feel closely surrounded in a virtual way by fans and friends who have been wonderful in providing feedback and encouragement. It is so gratifying to hear that people are enjoying my work.

Ultimately, reader enjoyment is my goal. Many authors have lofty ambitions of changing the world or other delusions of personal grandeur, but for me the joy in writing comes from giving pleasure to those who read my stories. I’ve enjoyed the work of so many great writers during my life, and if I can give the same pleasure I’ve had to others then I’ve accomplished my purpose.

There are many writers that espouse a brand of horror that is focused on cold seriousness and literary aspiration, faces scowling from the shadows with an eternally constipated grimace. That’s certainly fine, and there’s a market for that sort of dark earnestness, but my writing comes from a much lighter, more fun place. I want to shock you and scare you, but I also want you to have FUN, and laugh. For me, laughter and screaming are intertwined and that’s what I strive for in my work – giddy, horrific glee. I don’t always pull it off, but it sure feels good when I do!

That was an amazing interview. Wow I am speechless. Thank you so much Evans for opening up and giving us a peek into you and your writing. I love that I found myself nodding or laughing in a lot of places. A lot of the reason is because I know you but also because I know your work. And I am just tickled at the answers. They always say never meet your hero - nah! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to come by my blog and do this interview. I hope you get many more readers from it.

Places to find Evans Light as well as books mentioned in this interview:

Evans Light on Goodreads

Evans Light's Website

Evans Light on Facebook

Q & A With The Light Brothers on Goodreads

Books Mentioned In Interview and Available For Purchase:

On Kindle
 and on Audiobook

On Kindle
 and on Audiobook

On Kindle and on Audiobook