Ben Long: Today I have the pleasure of speaking with horror and weird fiction author Patrick Lacey. Thanks for joining me Patrick!
Patrick Lacey: It's an honor and a privilege, Ben!
BL: Let’s start with your introduction to the craft. How did you first get into writing?
PL: I guess it happened because I wanted to draw comics, and you'd think I could, seeing as my late father was an artist, but try as I might to draw Venom/Carnage over and over, it was evident I didn't get that gene. Words, though, I had some handle on those, so I started writing the stories for comics. Ones that didn't exist, of course. Total fan fic, which I think is how most of us start. Then came along Goosebumps, and again, for people my age, that was the almighty inciting incident. I read too many of them and even wrote my own in third grade: The Curse of the Scorpion. It was about a cursed scorpion. Go figure. But I wrote it at a time when my grandfather had just passed away. First experience with death on my end, and I managed to sneak some of that in there too. The main protagonist's grandfather had just passed too, about the same time she found said evil scorpion. Heady stuff for an eight-year-old, sure, but it must've struck a chord because twenty-something years later and I'm basically doing the same thing.
BL: Do you think you would ever try writing for comics again?
PL: I'd love to write for comics! I’ve recently had a sort of reawakening for my love of the medium. When I was five, six, seven, whatever, my life mostly revolved around Spider-Man/Batman, so it's good to know I've remained on brand. I've always been obsessed with the symbiote universe (Venom, Carnage, Scream, etc) and really dig what is being done right now by Donny Cates/Clay Chapman. If I ever had a chance to write even a one-off in that playground, I think young me's head would explode. Metaphorically (I hope).
BL: I’d love to see you write a Venom comic. Have you written any short stories that involve alien symbiotes, or ones with superhero characters?
PL: Man, that's the dream. Venom is my spirit animal. I've written about parasites (which are kinda/sorta symbiote-adjacent) but not superheroes in the traditional sense. I did just finish up the first draft of the longest novel I've written to date. I don't want to say too much, but it involves a down-on-his-luck paranormal investigator who can only see ghosts because of a botched surgery. It's long and messy and I can't wait to take a (literary) scalpel to it.
BL: I love that story about writing your own version of a Goosebumps tale. Besides Goosebumps, what are some other books/series that influenced your writing, particularly as you developed from middle school fan fiction to the writer you are today?
PL: Goosebumps gave way to King, which gave way to Lovecraft, who established my love(craft) for both cosmic horror and weird fiction, which is still very much alive today. I'm not the biggest Lovecraft fan now (and not just because of his problematic past; I'm more on the Aickman side of the sub-genre) but I can't deny the way he made me feel, reading out cold and uncaring entities watching us always. He doesn't inform my writing style in the least. I have 1000% more white space on the page. But in terms of wanting to write about fears a bit less definable, the guy got me started on that road.
BL: I've seen from pics on social media that you've recently become a father (she is ADORABLE by the way). Congrats! Has that major life event changed anything about writing for you? And how do you balance work, writing, life, and fatherhood?
PL: Thank you! Yes, she's adorable and she calls the shots around the Lacey homestead. We're lucky in that she mostly sleeps through the night now, so I can plan my writing accordingly. I tend to wake up at an ungodly hour, always before the sun's knocking at my door, and get as many words as I can on the page. It turns out, since I'm so tired and grumpy, I don't have time for my inner editor to punch in because he's still sleeping somewhere in the back of my brain. So what comes out is usually something more surprising than it would've been say three or four hours later, once the coffee's kicked in. That said, stuff comes up. Sometimes I've got to log on to the day job early or, you know, get a reasonable amount of sleep for once. So in that case, when the outside world intrudes, I'll take my words wherever I can get them. Fit a few hundred here, on lunch break, a few hundred there, after I log off, and it all adds up. Weirdest thing, though, is that since Little Lacey arrived, I've been writing more than usual. I think she's energized or motivated me, because I want her to see that hard work's a good thing. Of course, right now, she's way more interested in her stuffed pink giraffe, but in time, it'll rub off.
BL: What is your approach to starting a new story? And what's your process for developing that germ of an idea into the finished product?
PL: For me, there are two types of ideas: those that need to percolate for a while, simmer with some herbs and spices until they're ready to serve, and those that smack you in the temple and don't let up until you've gotten them down on paper. I like to think I get an even mix of both. For the slow cooker kind, they hang out in my head for a while, and I play around with different nuts and bolts until I've got the skeleton of something, so that by the time I start typing, I have at least some idea of where I'm going. The key, though, is to let yourself veer of course as needed. For the violent ideas, meaning the ones that strike like a migraine, I don't have time to let those come to a boil. They're microwavable. Rip open the bag, toss it inside, and hope you don't start a fire. I sit down and write and usually, by the time they've made the trek out of my head, I'm the last one to know how they're going to end. You've got to edit and edit until they're all shiny and clean. Course, by the time they come back from an editor, they're all dirtied up again but that's the process. Nothing stays clean forever.
BL: I appreciate the vivid metaphors. Really helps envision what the process can be like. I also think there's something to be said for veering off course and exploring where things end up. To focus on a specific title of yours, would you say the idea for your novel A Voice So Soft involved more percolating or microwaving?
PL: A Voice So Soft is an interesting one because it began life as a short story, originally titled "Forever With You" and published in an anthology way back in 2017. That story lingered because earworms terrify me. Songs lodged in your head so deeply, they stick around for days or longer? It could drive a person mad. Usually after I write a story, I'm done. The idea has left the building. But with that one, it kept growing into something more massive, so I expanded it to a novel. It's the second time I've done that. My book We Came Back was once upon a time a short story as well. And of my published shorts, there's at least one more that's still in my head, still kicking around, so we'll see.
BL: When looking through your catalogue I see a lot of anthologies and collections. First off, congratulations! Secondly, is there a particular publication that you were head-over-heels to be a part of or that holds a special significance to you?
PL: My story "Caught a Glimpse" was published in a vacation-themed anthology, Worst Laid Plans, (edited by Samantha Kolesnik) this past summer. It's a story that's a bit more on the ambiguous side of things, in line with my love of weird fiction, and it's gotten some praise. It's always tricky when you've got something written you think is different than your back catalogue, but you're worried it might be too different. Good to know that different, in this case, is a good thing.
BL: Are there any specific publishers that you’d like to work with in the future?
PL: I'd love to work with Undertow Publications, Word Horde, or Dim Shores. It's like I said: I love me some weird fiction. I suspect people tend to think of me as more on the side of "VHS" horror, just on the page, but my true love is fiction that's more ambiguous and occult in nature. Some of my newer published work does veer in the direction and the stuff yet unpublished--even more so. We've been in a golden age for the genre for some time now (see: Laird Barron, John Langan, Christopher Slatsky, Nadia Bulkin, Richard Gavin, Orrin Grey, Matthew Bartlett, and dozens of others) and it would be an honor to dip my toes into that pool (and whatever unseen things might be swimming around down there).
BL: How would you categorize your latest novel A Voice So Soft? Also, why do you hate pop music?
PL: I'll give you an exclusive: I don't hate pop music. I swear! I'm a metal head, yes, but I've been known to enjoy whatever top-twenty singles are cruising the air waves from time to time. The genesis of the novel came from an article I read, going back a decade now, about a group of Justin Bieber fans so distraught over his arrest that they'd threatened to harm themselves. That kind of idolization gets under my skin, raises all the hairs, so I got to thinking: what if a song could do that and what if the person singing that song wanted those end results? I think the novel is a crossroads of all the stuff I'd written up to that point and a peek into the future. The threat is supernatural (as most of my stuff tends to be and likely will always be) but the parameters of that threat, how the song does what it does, are less definable and it's that uncertainty that gets me salivating. I love hinting but never revealing the whole shebang. Incidentally, if I wrote a sequel to AVSS, it would be called The Whole Shebang.
BL: You also recently re-released a short story collection called Sleep Paralysis. Can you tell me a little bit about these stories? Also, what was it like getting to work with illustrator Trevor Henderson?
PL: The collection was published through a small press way back in the year 2016, so it's my "oldies but goodies" compilation. There's something for everyone (I hope): teenage cults, possessed stuffed animals, demonic pen pals. You know, the usual. It's great to have the book back in print and it seems to be finding a wider audience. I love short stories (in case I haven't stated my case yet). Collections are about fifty percent of my reading intake and it's a form that lives in my heart always. I've got a nice chunk of newer ones that are waiting to get together. Maybe it's time for another collection. Working with Trevor, it was just the best. He's one of my favorite artists working right now and I feel like our tastes toward the genre are just about in line. He sent over a half-dozen or so cover illustration options and I'm telling you: not a dud in the bunch. All publish worthy. Seriously, he's the GOAT.
BL: Do you have anything in the works that you would care to share with us?
PL: I am working on another novel. About to start the second draft, which is my favorite of all the drafts. It's all cutting off the chunks that don't work and adding in chunks that do. I'm jazzed is what I'm saying.
BL: Ok, time for the lightning round! I’m going to ask a series of quick questions based off the content I’ve seen you post on social media. So, favorite "bad" movie?
PL: Trick question! No such thing as a bad movie. If it makes you smile, it's good.
BL: Favorite "good" movie?
PL: A Nightmare on Elm Street is my favorite movie and that will never change.
BL: Favorite heavy metal album?
PL: What if I just said everything by Slayer, Mastodon, Death, Between the Buried and Me, Carcass, and Tomb Mold? That's above board, right?
BL: Favorite craft beer?
PL: Lil' Heaven from Two Roads. It's a session IPA. It's delicious.
BL: Favorite author?
PL: I'm cheating a bit here and saying my favorite living author is Stephen Graham Jones and favorite sadly passed/missed is Jack Ketchum
BL: 3 books you could read over and over?
BL: Great answers! Alright Patrick, I want to thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview with me.
PL: Thanks for having me and make good choices!
If you want to learn more about Patrick Lacey then check out his work online or follow him on Instagram and Twitter. His recent collection Sleep Paralysis is out now on Amazon and wherever books are sold.