Thursday, September 29, 2011

MB4 Interview with Author Kevin E. Lake

by Ron Adams

I first encountered Kevin in a writers group on Yahoo, and I have been a fan of his ever since. I'll let him tell you the story.
Q- First and foremost, welcome to Murder by 4, Kevin. I've been privileged to read your work and wonder exactly how you started your writing career.
A- Thanks for having me here at Murder by 4 Ron. I consider it an honor and am grateful for the invitation. If I were to go back to the very beginning of my writing career, we’d have to go back to the late 1970’s, early 1980’s when I just learned to write. I remember as a young grade school child, writing scary stories and taping them to the outside of my bedroom door for people to read. I had three sisters and both parents, so I was playing to a sizable audience.
I loved any opportunity throughout school to write. I guess I had a love for it and viewed writing assignments as play time, not school work time. It was fun for me. I wrote on my high school’s newspaper as well as my college’s newspaper. I was actually the sports editor. But even during those years I loved to write fiction; scary stories mostly. When I graduated, I had intended to start writing novels. This was thirteen years ago. I had recently gotten married (too young and I’m now happily divorced) and my wife informed me it was time to stop writing. No more haunted Fairy Tales! Get a real job and make real money. So I did, and was miserable for the next 8 years. She left me (FINALLY!) I got back into writing, almost naturally, as if it were a part of life to me. I then decided to get back on track and start publishing my “haunted fairy tales.”
Q- As a writer of horror fiction, what attracted you to that genre?
A- I loved watching scary movies as a kid growing up. I remember watching “Salem’s Lot” and “The Exorcist” as a relatively young child. I was hooked! What kid, young or old, doesn’t love this time of year especially; Halloween, sitting around sharing ghost stories with friends? I remember on the school bus in high school coming back from band trips or sporting events, we’d love to tell scary stories once it got dark.
Last year I had the honor of being the assistant girls-basketball coach at my old high school, Richwood High School in Richwood, West Virginia. Sure enough, on the way home from away games, the girls would crowd around me and ask me to tell them ghost stories. By this time I was a published author and I think they assumed that because of that I had a bottomless supply of ghost stories. I would tell them stories until I ran out then make some up on the spot and swear they were true. The girls loved it. Sometimes they were too scared to drive home from the school once we got back.
I was blessed enough to be a teenager during the 80’s with the “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween” and “Nightmare on Elm Street" years. However, it seems that in the past twenty years or so, the horror genre has taken a turn and it’s hard to find real, true horror entertainment out there. So I feel I can combine my passions (writing and all things scary) and create some pretty marvelous stories.
Q- Where do you find inspiration for your novels and stories?
A- A lot of the inspiration to go to work, sometimes ten hours a day, writing, reading, editing, comes naturally. I’ve always been a self-starter. I was a distance runner in high school and college so I think that really prepared me for this career. I would spend a lot of time alone back then, running miles upon endless miles, and I had to make myself do it. I loved it, like I do writing, so it was never hard. Writing is similar. Just as a run of fifteen miles begins with the first step, writing a 60,000 word novel begins with the first word. The first sentence, paragraph and chapter. I don’t know how many friends I have who “want to write a book.” Some of them have been talking about the same book for years. When point out to them that we started talking about this years ago, and that I have written three books since then, they ask me what the secret is. There is no secret. Like Nike says; just do it! Just write it!
Q- Tell me about your novel, Serial Street. It has the most interesting premise of any young adult novel I've read in a while.
A- It’s interesting that you ask about that one. Remember I said I wanted to write novels right out of college? Well, this is the first book I had the idea to write. So when I decided I was going to get into it this time around, I went back into the annals of my mind and dusted off the old memory files. The great thing about time having passed though, is that by the time I wrote it, I had three children who I love dearly. Well, I was writing this book while I was deployed in Iraq, away from them. I used them as the main characters as a way of showing them that they were on my mind every day we were apart. That made the book extra special for them. Not just did daddy write it, but they starred in it. 

My beautiful little girls Emily and Olivia, who are 13 (in November) and 11 are always asking me when they are going to make a movie out of the book and tell me that they want to star in the movie when they do. It is the cutest thing. But Ron, you read that book, so you know what it is about; a bunch of copy cat serial killers who all live on the same street, Areal street (nicknamed Serial Street in the book by the two main male characters, one based off of my son Christian, now 16, and his weird friend Jordon). The teens in this story are trying to gather enough information on their neighbors to go to the cops without looking like fools. The neighbors know they are on to them so they are out to eliminate the teens and their families. It is like an intelligent game of cat and mouse. It has been very popular among teens and young adults and it is a fun read for people of all ages.
Q- Your most recent work, A Demon's Dozen, starts the way all good stories start...a man walks into a bar. But from there it takes some very interesting turns. Where did the idea come from to create this collection?
A- I have so many stories in my head. I come up with them sometimes, like you I’m sure, simply by living life; witnessing events. Being in a certain location or setting. Having certain conversations. For instance, in A Demon’s Dozen there is a short story called “Of Love and Wine.” It is about a 300-year-old bottle of Spanish wine that carries a curse from Haiti. I can’t tell you too many details without giving away the story, but the idea for that story came to me while talking to a friend of mine in the Philippines this summer at a dinner party. He had been a private investigator years ago and worked a case where an antique wine collector felt he had been sold a quarter million dollar bottle of fake wine. I didn’t even know people collected wine like that. My mind just ran with the things he told me and a simple case of dirty business turned into a frightening horror story in my head. I put it to paper. 

My point is, I don’t think there is enough time in one person’s life time to write all the stories I have to tell if they were to write each story as a full length novel. So, what I did with A Demon’s Dozen was take twelve different story ideas and boil them down to the bare essentials and wrote them as short stories. They vary in length from roughly 5,000 words to a couple long ones of 12,000 words. I didn’t just put them all in though, I wrapped them comfortably within another, ongoing story, a 13th story so to say; making it a real demon’s dozen. The ongoing story is of that man who walked into a bar. He’s disappointed because he has received yet another rejection letter from a publisher for his writing. While at the bar he meets a stranger who claims to be a “talent agent.” The writer claims he’d sell his soul to the devil to make it big as a writer. Enough said. The ‘agent’ pulls the dancing girl (one of his clients) off the stage and orders her to pay special, private attention to the writer while he reads his work. The work just happens to be the twelve short stories. After each short story, the setting goes back to the bar; more bar scenes. We see the relationships of the people progress as we read through the collection. Our writer and stripper it seems, have plans of their own. Plans that would free the girl from the ‘agent’s’ employ and allow the writer himself to avoid a similar fate. So not only is the reader being entertained by the twelve short stories, they are interested in the story within the stories, or visa versa.
Q- I am also aware that you are passionate about your support for the veterans of the armed services. Would you like to share that with our readers?
A- Ron, as you know, I’m a veteran myself. I was an airborne infantryman in the Army and spent a year in Iraq as a machine gunner for a convoy security team. I know the cost of freedom because I paid it. I saw too many people pay the ultimate price, life. It is actually during my time in Iraq that I had an epiphany pertaining to my writing. I told myself that if I were fortunate enough to make it home from the war, that I would focus less on making a living and more on making a life. There were 19-year-old kids dying all around me. When you are in that situation it makes you examine life; your own life.
I’ve kept my promise. Ron, as you know, I spend about 9 months a year living in the Philippine Islands in Southeast Asia. I spend the rest of my time in my native West Virginia. I write full time in both places. Many people ask, “Why the Philippines?” There are many reasons, like my beautiful girlfriend of nearly two years, the tropical, year round summer weather. The beauty of the beaches and jungles. From an economic standpoint, the biggest benefit is the currency conversion. One US dollar is equal to forty two Philippine pesos! This means your money goes a lot farther, and for those of us in any type of art business, be it writing, painting, sculpting, who don’t make a lot of money in the early years (if ever), it allows us to focus on our art without starving. I could come back to America full time, go back into the private sector and make a lot of money again, as I did when I was a stock broker during my marriage. But then I wouldn’t be able to write like I do now. I would be focusing on making a living, not a life and I’ve already wasted too many years doing that. 

People think I’m crazy for not chasing the “American dream,” but to me that ‘dream’ was a nightmare. One hundred years from now, no one would ever care or even know that I was making ten thousand dollars a month as a stock broker. However, it is my hope that 100 years from now people will still be reading my books. That is a contribution I can make to society. I would rather contribute to society, the next generation, the future- than to contribute only to my own bank account.
Q- So what’s next for Kevin Lake?
A- The next book. It’s that simple. I’m going back to the Philippines in December. I will have the next one nearly finished, if not finished by then. I also spend a lot of time marketing. As a self-published author, I have to push my own books. I don’t have a big marketing machine behind me and the books don’t sell themselves. With that said, I’d encourage everyone to read my book “From the Graves of Babes.” 

You didn’t ask about it during this interview Ron, but I’d like to point out to people that it is currently the number one ghost novel on Amazon based on customer satisfaction. And it has been for 5 of the 8 months it’s been in print! I am more honored to be number one in customer satisfaction than I would be even in sales because that lets me know, not only are people buying my book but they are thoroughly enjoying it. This is another thing that inspires me. My friends, old and new, and even people I’ve never met, passing me on the street, or looking me up on facebook and saying something along the lines of “I read your book and it was awesome!” gives me enough fuel to keep going in this lonely business. So, to them, I want to say ‘thank you.’ For them, there will always be the next Kevin E Lake novel (as long as the great spirit of the universe sees fit to keep me alive). For me, there’s a white sandy beach and a beautiful little island lady a waitin’!

Thanks so very much for joining us, Kevin, and I know I will be following you and your career for a long time to come. All the best!

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