Monday’s Friend: Luke Walker (interview)
Horror writer Luke Walker has visited my blog before. This time I’m pleased to be interviewing him. Welcome once more to Imaginary Friends, Luke!
LW: I don’t know if I’d say ‘destined’. To me, that takes some of the effort and responsibility out of it. Saying that, though, I can remember being at my happiest as a kid in school when I was writing stories. There were also a few times in which I made up a story on the spot when asked by friends. They were usually complete rubbish but the interesting thing to me now as an adult is the idea of a group of ten year old boys knowing they could ask me to tell them a story and me doing so.
I made a conscious decision to sit down and write a story when I was thirteen. Between then and 21, I wrote a load more stories and poems, then started on my first book. There were plenty of moments (and days and weeks and months) of self-doubt but I don’t remember at any point thinking about doing something else. Nothing else came to mind that I thought I’d be any good at or that I should be doing. Writing was definitely the should. So I did.
SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?
Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Gary McMahon, Tim Lebbon, Simon Clark, Sarah Pinborough, Joe Hill, Charlie Brooker, John Connolly, Susan Hill, Penelope Lively and Pat Barker are the people who come to mind. They all know the power of writing and of a story. I try to keep those two thoughts closest when writing.
SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
1. You suck.
2. You’re allowed to suck.
3. Keep writing until you stop sucking.
4. Now that those are out of the way, remember publishing is a business while writing is an art form. Write with one eye on the business and you’ll probably succeed sooner than later.
SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?
LW: Neither, to be honest. I do a rough outline to use as a guide but it’s nowhere near as detailed as other writers’ plans and it’s definitely not rigid. It’s a bit like a map drawn by someone with a vague idea of where they’re going. I use it to feel my way through the book, then let it go its own way if it knows a better route. Most of the time, it works out well although I did kick about the idea of writing my last book with no plan at all. I changed my mind early on, drew up a vague plan and really struggled with the first draft for a couple of reasons. I think one of those reasons was part of me still thinking I should have scrapped the plan and winged it. While I prefer having a plan, I wouldn’t rule out writing without one. As with a lot of writing issues, it depends on the individual book.
SJT: What’s your take on e-books? No substitute for paper, or a phenomenon that’s changing the publishing industry?
LW: They’ve definitely changed things. There’s a perception it’s easier for a writer to be published through e-books. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen the terms ‘e-book’ and ‘self published’ used interchangeably which drives me nuts. If people don’t know the difference, they shouldn’t get involved in the discussions.
It’s as easy as it ever was to be self-published. E-book or print doesn’t make a difference to that. In terms of traditional publishing, I think e-books are rapidly become seen as more mainstream. Go back just a few years and they were seen as a bit niche. They were for a certain ‘type’ of reader and they didn’t appear to be taken particularly seriously. That’s changed. And while I don’t think for a minute print books will ever vanish, e-books are only going to grow over the next few years.
SJT: What draws you to write horror?
LW: Haha. That’s a loaded question. On one side, it’s the sort of question that annoys me. Nobody asks the historical novelist why they like to write about Elizabethan England or Colonial America. Nobody thinks the Urban Fantasist has any issues if they write about an arse-kicking woman who kills vampires and has boyfriend troubles. And the boyfriend is a werewolf. The horror writer, though, they’re odd because they write about pain and fear and blood. But on the other side, I tell myself not to get so precious about it.
Horror has always interested me. There are so many areas to explore in it. You can stick with the dark side of it and throw as much blood as you want at your characters. Or you can go a bit deeper and see what happens when you treat them as real people dealing with a supernatural threat. You can also use horror fiction to hold up a mirror to real life. It doesn’t take much comparison to see which can be uglier. Ultimately, I think I write horror as a way of saying life can be a nightmare but there’s a chance of waking up from it.
Not that everyone wakes up, of course.
SJT: What would be your weapon of choice in the Zombie Apocalpyse?
LW: The instinctive reply is a gun, but I wouldn’t know how to load even the simplest gun even if I had any chance of finding one and enough bullets to make a difference. I’m more likely to run around with a cricket bat or a tree branch. A sword would be quite handy, too. One of those proper swords designed to chop off heads. Nice. But then unless I raid a museum or a castle, I don’t think I’ll find a sword just lying around, so I better stick with my original plan of running away.
SJT: You have two cats – one of them is in your author pic. Do you think writers are more likely to be ‘cat people’ than ‘dog people’?
LW: Cats are seen as aloof and independent, but then they’re also silly, warm and they like to sit on your lap. They occasionally overeat. So yes.
I don’t lick my bum, though.
SJT: Thanks very much for your time, Luke!
Luke Walker has been writing horror and fantasy fiction for most of his life. His debut horror novel THE RED GIRL is available now from Musa Publishing. A number of his short stories have been published online at Dark Fire Fiction and in the emag Penumbra. He is thirty-four and lives in England, with his wife, two cats and not enough zombie films.
Book link: http://www.musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=160
Blog link: http://getthegirlkillthebaddies.blogspot.com/