L. Stephenson graduated university with a degree in Film & TV Screenwriting. Despite this achievement turning out to be spectacularly useless, after 11 long years, and featuring in a handful of horror anthologies, L. Stephenson finally realises a childhood dream of becoming a published author with the release of his first book ‘The Goners’.
Do you want to talk about your debut ‘The Goners’, for those readers who don’t know it, yet?
‘The Goners’ is a slasher with a twist. A killer abducts and abandons young men for paramedics to rescue, but with an element of mortal danger looming in one form or another.
Where is ‘The Goners’ set?
It is set on an island partly based on the Isle of Islay. Here it is called Boatmore, which is also the name of the town where most of its inhabitants reside.
Do you want to tell us something about your start in the indie world?
Believe it or not, it began with a friend sending me the link to an open call for a Halloween-themed horror anthology that was shared on social media by one of the Cenobites from Hellraiser. My submission was accepted and my first short story was published in August 2018.
With the advent of social media, is it still relevant for an author to have their own website?
I think if there’s a demand for such things as merchandise, a website is necessary. It’s a good base to have all your most useful links available, whereas certain platforms, Instagram in particular, aren’t as accommodating with those. It’s also an extra search result on Google for people to find you.
With the advent of social media, do you think that “being popular” is more important than actually writing well, for an indie writer’s career?
No. However, depending on what an indie writer wishes to achieve with their career, there will be a few situations where “being popular” is a necessary evil.
Was horror prominent on your bookshelf, growing up?
I was into the Point Horror series at first. But I saw IT on TV and just had to read the novel. It was Stephen King from then on. Eventually I found a firm favourite in Richard Laymon.
Do you come from a literary background?
Not in the slightest. But I was first inspired to write, but an old notebook containing an illustrated story written and drawn by my mother from her schooldays.
Vampires are scared of crosses and all that’s holy; possessions are due to demons and should be fought by exorcists; ghosts are souls that struggle to reach the afterlife… How difficult is it to separate horror from religion?
I like to think of it as a cheeky dig at religion. Vampires aren’t real. God isn’t real to many people. So the only way to fight complete nonsense is with even more nonsense. Otherwise there are plenty of sub-genres in horror that have absolutely nothing to do with religion to choose from.
How good are you at balancing writing with everyday life’s demands?
I find when I am feeling inspired, writing takes precedent.
Writing, proofreading, editing, marketing, cover design, formatting… Do you wear all these hats yourself, or do you have someone helping you?
I don’t wear all the hats. But I was lucky, honoured and privileged enough to have a gracious publishing team who let me have my say. And because of that I think we were able to create an amazing book together.
What, if anything, is missing from the horror scene?
I think some sub-genres could do with fresher ideas, revitalisation instead of looking back and paying tribute to classic eras – which is awesome, don’t get me wrong, I love it – but there also needs to be some of us looking forward.
What is next after “The Goners”? What is in your future?
Aside from working on the sequel, I have a short story called ‘The Red Candle’ in Dark Ink’s next horror anthology. I was one of 16 genre writers to be invited to contribute. It’s called Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction, which is out on 1st June. However, they are donating to a wonderful charity by the name of Rainbow Railroad, so I advise ordering on the release date. That way they have a better chance of being seen, so they can raise as much as possible.
Are there any problems with the indie scene?
I have heard that it can be cliquey. But I think that’s true of any scene. It’s not always a bad thing. I’m more of a one-on-one person, though.
What do you do when you’re not knee-deep in writing?
I move from books to movies. I love discovering all the classic horror that’s out there, and catching up with all the new stuff. I love the cinema experience. I’m also on a bit of a mission to watch all the slashers.
Did Covid affect your writing at all? What I mean is: does it feel “unrealistic” writing about characters that go out and interact without worry about lockdowns, masks and social distancing, or it didn’t bother your writing in the least?
Not in the least. That said, I believe that writing was a big part of how I survived this past year. I was able to finish ‘The Goners’ and get it accepted by a publisher. I fulfilled a dream.
Classic question: do you plot in advance or do you write “by the seat of your pants?”
I need a plot. I would advise having a plot. But I suppose writing on the fly is good method writing if you wanted your story to have a strong feeling of unpredictability. There’s always an element of it in there. You may have a plan and a few dialogue ideas of how you want your characters to go from point A to point B in each chapter, but you never know everything exactly until you sit down to write it.
Do you ever explore different genres outside horror as a writer?
I would love to script one of those thoughtful Indie drama romances like Weekend or Call Me By Your Name. Just one, though. Then I’ll be over it. It will be out of my system.
Would you like to give us some of your contacts?