Monday’s Friend: Luke Walker (interview)
Today I am pleased to welcome Luke Walker back to my blog, to tell us all about his new novel ‘SET.
LW: So many to choose from. I love Beverly from Stephen King’s IT. Same with Rose from King’s Rose Madder. Cass from Alison Littlewood’s A Cold Season was a great character. You really get into her head and heart while she’s trying to work out what’s happening with her son. Going back a while, Mina Harker from Dracula was much more interesting than any film adaptation of her character. And obviously Geri Paulson from my first book. J
SJT: You write about your own women in horror. The main character of your new book, ’SET, is a woman who’s lost a child. Tell us more about the book.
LW: ’Set (short for Sunset) is the name of the world between life and death. The book is more of a dark fantasy than straight horror. My first book, The Red Girl, was out and out horror so it’s nice to have something a little less dark for this one. Anyway, it’s about a woman named Emma who’s contacted by an angel and demon to help them sort out a blockage in death. An old guy, recently dead, is leading a rebellion against what he sees as unfair death. This means that while people are dying, they’re not moving on to Heaven or Hell. And that means the halfway place between our world and the afterlife, ’Set, is growing in an effort to reach the dead. Eventually, it’ll reach the living world. The soul of Emma’s stillborn daughter is somewhere in ’Set and she has to work with Heaven and Hell if she wants to save her daughter and everybody else.
SJT: The death of a child is a very emotive topic. How did you come to write about this?
LW: I wanted a female character who’s strong and determined for the most part, but who’s dealing with a terrible grief and anger. Obviously they’re negative emotions, but they’re also powerful. I wanted someone who’s trying to do some good even though she’s motivated by that strong negativity.
Emma has been through a bad relationship and then a horrible experience. Once she learns what’s happening, her thinking is more how can I help my daughter’s soul than anything bigger. As the plot progresses and the stakes get higher, she has to develop that idea.
SJT: Do you think it’s harder for men to write about women and vice versa?
LW: I’m not sure. I like writing about either. As long as the character fits the story, I’m happy. I’ve read fiction from men with a female POV that I’ve felt was lacking just as I’ve read women writing about men that didn’t work. With one of my books (not ’Set), a female friend told me, generally speaking, women tend to think their way around problems while men think through them. At the same time, a person’s actions also depend on the situation as well as gender. For example, the scene my friend referred to featured a woman trapped in a house with a potential threat at the front of the house and no keys to the back door. She briefly considers breaking a window but knows there’s no furniture she can move by herself that would be big enough to break a window. While a man might smash the window without much more thought, the woman knows she has to find the key.
Like I say, I’m happy and comfortable with writing about either gender and from either POV as long it’s the right one for that story. Whether or not I get it right is up to the reader.
SJT: In order to scare one’s readers, the horror writer must deal with things that they themselves fear. Do you agree with this? Do you write about things that scare you?
LW: Fear can be one of our most personal emotions. One person’s terror is another person’s indifferent shrug just like one person’s offensive joke is another’s harmless giggle. Some people would rather chew off their own hand than be anywhere near a snake. And some people are probably scared of the person scared of snakes chewing off their hand.
It’s a personal thing. For example, I HATE going to the dentist. Teeth give me the creeps. Plenty of people reading that will think it’s stupid to feel that way, but it doesn’t change a thing for me any more than it would change another’s feelings if they were scared of clowns.
At the same time, there are universal fears. We’re all scared of something happening to a loved one. Everybody’s imagination kicks in when it’s late and your child or spouse is still out and you can’t get hold of them, when the phone rings in the middle of the night, when you’re in bed and there’s a noise outside. Whatever your background, things like scare everyone. And it’s interesting to note none of those examples are supernatural. They’re all real-world fears, and that’s the stuff that works on everyone. So while I love using the supernatural as a springboard for plots and events, I like to contrast it with real life issues. Probably why my characters are always in a pub.
SJT: What’s the scariest story you’ve ever read?
LW: If we’re talking novel, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is up there. King nails the whole something happening to your family thing and puts it with a creepy, desolate feel that comes from the story’s location. And for short fiction, Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, which I read when I was about ten, is creepy as hell. The thought of being bricked up like that. . . in the dark. . .alive. . .brr.
SJT: Yes, that concept scares me, too. If you had the opportunity to start your writing career over again, would you do anything different?
LW: It took me a long time to understand that while writing is an art (or at least, it can be), publishing is a business. Publishing doesn’t care if you feel that you’re a writer or you could be one if only you weren’t spending all your time watching TV or on Facebook. Publishing cares about how well you write and how focused you are. While I never had the problem of talking about writing while not actually writing, I wasn’t focused on the business side of it until a few years ago. With that in mind, I should have been more focused on what I was writing instead of just thinking selling my fiction would take care of itself. So writing a long sequel to a book I hadn’t sold wasn’t my best idea in terms of business. Nor was writing a too short sequel to another book I hadn’t sold. While all my earlier writing helped me improve to the point I’m at now, I wish I’d been more aware of the professional side of writing.
SJT: Apart from the release of ’SET, what else have you got lined up this year?
LW: One of my short stories will be published in Vol 4 of Postscripts To Darkness which is out near the end of the year. The story is called Echidna (and funnily enough, also features a female MC). I wrote the original story a few years back and it was a little ropey, to be honest. Amateurish is probably the kindest thing you could call it. The crime/thriller author Jennifer Hillier read that version and really liked it. I had her in mind when I went back to it to see if I could improve it. As it turned out, I could.
I’m hoping a horror novella I finished recently finds a home. It owes a bit to HP Lovecraft and was a lot of fun to write. Other than that, planning and writing another book, and maybe the odd short story.
SJT: So with your name, are you a Star Wars fan, or do you get annoyed when people call you Luke Skywalker?
LW: I’m 35 so I’ve heard that joke approximately nine billion times. For what it’s worth, I came out before the film. Also for what it’s worth, my dad named me after Paul Newman. And no, I can’t eat that many boiled eggs.
Luke Walker began writing stories as a child and hasn’t stopped since. His fiction now is a little darker than it was back then. The flying teddy bears are out; horror, fantasy, death, suffering, pain and more horror are in. He is currently working on a horror novella and a full-length horror/mystery.
Luke is in his thirties and lives in England with his wife, two cats and what his wife thinks are too many zombie films. The cats are fairly blasé about the quantity.
To learn more about Luke and his writing, check out his blog, Die Laughing.