Like every writer, I've enjoyed my share of “Ah-Ha!” moments, especially concerning POV (point of view), dialogue tags (he said/she said) and parallelism (She likes cooking, jogging, and reading.) But the BIGGEST Ah-Ha! moment for me didn't involve technique, it involved my reading diet, an important part of any young writer's development. It happened three years ago and up until that point, I'd written technically proficient, fairly standard “horror” stories. However, when I spent a phenomenal evening with Tom Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson and the editor of Whispers, Stuart David Schiff (yes, go ahead, be jealous), I faced the fact that my reading diet was woefully shallow. Tom, Paul and Stuart spent the evening talking about the greats in genre fiction, (while I listened in rapt attention) and I shamefully realized I only recognized a handful of them, and of that handful, I'd read very few.
My Ah-Ha! moment? I knew very little of horror and genre fiction's rich history. I'd read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, the occasional Peter Straub and whatever Leisure fiction happened to publish...and that was it. So, I embarked on a quest to radically broaden my horizons. In the last several years I've discovered and fallen in love with Charles Grant, Ramsey Campbell, T. M. Wright, Jack Finney, Robert McCammon, Norman Partridge, Manley Wade Wellman, Al Sarrantonio and so many others; I've devoured the Shadows, Whispers, and Borderlands collections; Karl Edward Wagner's “Best in Horror” collections, discovered Dennis Etchison, TED Klein, Alan Peter Ryan, rediscovered Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, deepened my appreciation of Ray Bradbury....
Has my storytelling gotten any better? I can't tell you, because I'm not objective at all about my own work. But I CAN tell you that my thought-process has changed radically, because I now realize that all these “unique” ideas I thought I had aren't unique at all, and have already been tried, in some cases several times. This has pushed me to make the stories more mine, more personal, and distinctive as a “Kevin Lucia” story. It's also pushed me away from the standard horror tropes towards stories that I HOPE will be deeper and of more substance.
Am I there yet? No. But I'm still studying and still trying, and at least now I'm painting from a much deeper, richer palette.
Kevin Lucia's short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, and he studies the development of the horror genre in his podcast Horror 101, which is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles. His first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming in November. He’s currently working on his first novel.