Raging w/ Lucy Leitner

I want to make people think... And thinking can be scary sometimes, which makes me a good fit for horror.

Nikki: What real world environment scares you most?

Lucy: When I saw that question, an incident from about five years ago when I was a copywriter at an ad agency came to mind. My co-workers and I were wrapping up an hours-long meeting in a client’s conference room. Too many people were invited and most of them would not stop talking. It was getting close to the end of the workday. We’d long since ceased discussion of the project when someone started talking about Game of Thrones. And they all kept talking. And my heart started beating way faster than the situation called for, but I had this horrible, irrational combination of anxiety and dread that the meeting was never going to end. I would be stuck in this conference room making small talk with the corporate middlemen in the for-profit higher education space until the end of time. I got up and walked out of the room. My co-workers finally got the hint and we escaped. So, that. And being around a lot of rednecks in “Hold my beer and watch this” mode kind of freaks me out. I’m also not comfortable around extremely religious people or political protests. I think any environment where I’m in the vicinity of zealots makes me uncomfortable. So, Twitter.

Nikki: Tell us about your novel Outrage 10 and the inspiration for it?

Lucy: Way back in 2011 (right after I’d submitted Working Stiffs to Necro), I became interested in online outrage culture. Public shaming as it was called at the time. It seemed like many people were taking advantage of a transgression to hurt someone they didn’t like. This reminded me of the French Revolution and how people would report their neighbors for counter-revolutionary activities to settle an old, unrelated score. The quickness to the guillotine is similar to the eagerness to join a virtual lynch mob. And it doesn’t seem like heads will roll because it’s just online, right? How bad can it be? Well, what happens when virtual and real-life merge? At that time the anti-police protests were taking off. So, what if there were no police and the outraged people handled justice kind of like the tribunals in French Revolution? What if the people took over and we got rid of all the bureaucratic nonsense that was impeding progress? I built a near-future world around that, and several other hot issues of today. Head injuries in contact sports were a big one that formed my protagonist, a retired hockey goon who is the detective of this crime story. Several real-life scandals influenced the plot and I read all the dystopian classics prior to writing. Plot-wise, it’s a detective book. But it’s got elements of sci-fi and pretty intense horror.

Nikki: Of all the characters you've created, do you have a favorite and why?

Lucy: I tend to like my funnier, zanier characters because they’re just so much fun to write. Rick O’Brien from Working Stiffs is a sleazy visiting pharmaceutical salesman who gets trapped in the office with the employees when all Hell breaks loose. I kept picturing Dean Winters playing him, which made him a lot of fun to write. I’ve also been having a great time writing Jane Lushbutcher, my “superhero” in the Godless League collaborative series with Drew Stepak and John Baltisburger. Jane is pretty much just a mass murderer who thinks she’s on a mission from God — who appears in various pieces of litter and commands her in a Pittsburgh accent — to eradicate her city of drunks. She’s like Carrie Nation in a splatterpunk novel.

Nikki: What spawned the collaboration between Drew Stepek and Godless? What are you building?

Lucy: I reached out to Drew after seeing his promos in the splatter club. He explained his vision of the Godless platform. I’m in digital marketing; I got it. He was doing what a good entrepreneur does: fixing a problem and filling a gap. Indie horror is supposed to be about pushing boundaries and being independent of “the man.” Dependence on a corporate monopoly like Amazon should be anathema. So, I put Outrage: Level 10 and Working Stiffs on Godless. When Drew put up the open call for submissions to his “Fucking Scumbags Burn in Hell” series, I was first to inquire. I read his three installments and was the first to pitch my idea. After a suggestion from Drew that made the story pop, I blew through “Karen” in a matter of weeks, record time. For me, having years of experience as a copywriter, writing within constraints in someone else’s world was easy and the ideas just kept coming. I wrote Karen in my world—an ad agency, gyms, Pittsburgh—in my style with the story I wanted to tell. And Drew loved it. That’s what he wanted, for authors to bring their own voices to the narrative. I pitched him a season two idea that inspired a spin-off series that we plan to launch in 2023. That pitch started both of us thinking of all this backstory and the Scumbags world expanded, taking the story in a direction no one would have predicted. After that, he told me his basic idea for the series that would quickly become Mad Motherfuckers. Over Facebook Messenger, we came up with the storyline that ties all the mad scientists together. We started recruiting writers who fit the story and who we thought could bring a new and unique perspective to the mad scientist genre. Then one day I asked him WTH is a certain as-of-yet unpublished title of his. He sent me the manuscript. I told him about an idea I had way back in 2013 and Bodies was born. We collaborate so well, both having similar professional backgrounds, tastes in horror, and senses of humor. We’re both more about being subversive in our writing than shocking. And neither one of us takes ourselves too seriously. If you look at one out of messenger conversations, you’ll find more pontificating about whether we should release a book on Godless with the original Smell the Glove art as the cover than what does and doesn’t constitute the various horror sub-genres.

Nikki: Can you tease us something about bodies?

Lucy: Bodies will change the way you watch horror movies. That’s all I can say at this moment.

Nikki: If there’s one thing you want readers to know about you or the mission of your work, what would it be?

Lucy: I want to make people think. With Outrage: Level 10, I want them to evaluate how they behave online, ask themselves whether being part of a mob is any good, and whether sometimes it may be better to keep an opinion to one’s self. I want to make people think about contemporary challenges. Technology, social media, health and wellness, advertising, abuse of trust, abuse of power, how history repeats itself, mass movements are all recurring themes. I’m interested in why people think the way they do and would like them to think about it as well. And thinking can be scary sometimes, which makes me a good fit for horror.

Nikki: Best advice for aspiring authors?

Lucy: Join a gym, either CrossFit or personal/group training in some capacity. Just make sure you are learning new movements and getting feedback. This is my Mr. Miyagi way of teaching the two essential skills for aspiring writers: patience and taking constructive criticism. When you first join a gym and see all these super-fit people doing cool tricks and lifting a ton of weight, it’s tough to take a good, hard self-assessment and realize that you’ve got a long way to go. I coach CrossFit and see this all the time with new athletes. You have to understand that they learned the fundamentals first. And they were patient with the process. There are no overnight sensations. Successful authors put in a lot of work before they start receiving recognition. They also took criticism and understood that there are people out there who may know more than they do. I think a lot of authors start writing and self-publishing without the experience of being criticized, particularly in a public forum,. I got that in art and writing classes in college. If you didn’t, you can get that at a gym. That’s why I recommend CrossFit as you will be in a group with people who are way fitter than you are. And you’ll be learning complex movements that you will fail over and over when you start. And you will be humbled. And that is the exact experience you will have when you’re writing and getting your work out there.

Nikki: Where can we stalk you?

Lucy: Instagram @Lucy.Leitner and my website LucyLeitner.com. I have a mailing list. I’ve sent one email so far, so you don’t have to worry about me jamming up your inbox

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