We wrote the novella OUT BEHIND THE BARN together, a piece of flash fiction titled HOURGLASS published by Crystal Lake Publishing in their Shallow Waters Vol. 2 anthology, and another story called THE WORST LIES which will be published in 2020. On top of that we’ve been picking away at our next book, and since Boden recently spilled the beans in an interview, I’ll also mention briefly that together we are writing a book with Bob Ford.
I asked John if he was up for interviewing each other, and he was all about it. The initial plan was to do a live stream with the two of us, but technology is sometimes the devil and didn’t want to make it easy on us, so I present to you the transcript of our Google Hangouts chat.
LUTZKE: You just had a beautiful weird western novel come out recently (WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN). One of the most appealing things for me in that book was the mutant sisters kept in a pouch. Do you have a cool story behind that? Maybe an influence you drew from? Or just one of those things that pops into your head you think would be a good idea?
BODEN: That was a weird angle, for sure. No real back story to it. I kind of wanted the stereotypical orphan sidekick, but being me I wanted it as weird as I could get it. I don't want to elaborate too much on the sisters, so as to not spoil them for those who haven't read it, but what they are has been a weird fact obsession of mine since I was quite young and looked at my mom's medical books.
Also, thanks for saying it's beautiful.
LUTZKE: I picture them like little Madballs. If that were you wandering around in the desolate West, what would you feed them?
BODEN: Maybe they don't eat, in the sense that we do?
We've been friends for what now, nearly 5 years...it feels like forever. I can honestly say that knowing you and getting to read everything you write has definitely influenced me in a lot of ways, outwardly and inwardly, yet I don't think we intentionally end up in the same spaces. So, I wanna know: How do you write? What rituals or rites do you perform before you commit that Lutzke magic to the page?
LUTZKE: Nothing exciting, nothing traditional, and nothing ritualistic. I'm a horrible procrastinator, so sometimes it takes me a bit to actually sit down long enough to start writing. Sometimes I pace, either outside or in my living room, and talk out loud, spit ideas into the wind so to speak. I was doing this just the other day. I'd been stumped on a conclusion for the crime noir thing I'm finishing up (THE NEON OWL), and I talked myself into a twist that I had no idea was coming. I will say that often times my environment will affect my proficiency. If I'm sitting at a cluttered desk I'm less likely to get things done.
BODEN: I hear that. I'm notoriously procrastinative, did you know that? I can't work with people around or too much noise or too quiet. But whatever you're doing works...you're blowing up. I'm super proud. I’m glad we fell in love.
LUTZKE: Thanks, man. And me too. This whole writing thing wouldn't be half as much fun if it weren't for you, amigo.
BODEN: (Regarding THE PALE WHITE) How was it writing from the perspective of females, and young females at that...and enduring such horrible events? I mean, I know this already, as we talk all the time but for those who will read this.
LUTZKE: A bit nerve-wracking, particularly the last half of the book where so many scenes deal with the youngest girl who happens to also be mute. It was challenging to build her character with zero dialogue, and it was also a bit scary overall in general because of the circumstances surrounding the trauma in the book. I'm not a woman, but I've seen the aftermath, more than a handful of times, on what they go through when dealing with something like this and it's never something that goes away. Just because the abuse is no longer happening doesn't mean the clouds have cleared. They linger, and it was important to convey that with sensitivity.
BODEN: Well, as the fella who got to read the book before the rest of the world (lemme pause here so I can hear the throng calling me a bastard) you nailed it. Nailed it! This book is great.
LUTZKE: Thanks, man. It's been nice to see female reviews coming in that point out the touchy subjects are handled with care. That was really important to me. I didn't set out to trigger anyone but to tell a story using something that unfortunately exists and the effect it can have
BODEN: You done good, Son. I'm proud of you.
LUTZKE: You've written two books with Bob Ford (RATTLESNAKE KISSES and CATTYPWAMPUS) and are working on a third, you've written one book with me (OUT BEHIND THE BARN) and we're working on our second, and recently you spilled the beans that the three of us are all writing a book together now. That being said, do you purposefully seek out long-haired authors to collaborate on books with? Any chance Bob and I can get you to grow your hair back, at least while we're working on our thing? There's power in there.
BODEN: Not a chance. I'm seriously thin up top and a skullet is never a good look. My hair days are long behind me. I do love writing with you guys though.
We both seem to like to take almost traditional tropes or ideas and turn them sadly sideways. We've got signature styles and all that. But I often have wondered--What is something you'd love to write about but you don't think you will, for whatever reason, maybe the idea is kinda cliché or maybe it's too wild or just different.
LUTZKE: I may lose some horror points for this, but I'm a big fan of romance films, be it romantic comedies or drama, particularly indie films. The formula is usually always the same, but I somehow don't mind it. They entertain me. Maybe it's because I'm watching people go where I've been several times before. Love is the worst. And it's the best. I think I've got a good romance book in me, but I know it'd probably go dark. THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU was kind of my attempt at a love story, and there are some bleak moments in it. I don't think I would ever go full Nicholas Sparks, but I think I'm capable.
I think I know the answer to this already, but what do you think of writing sequels of your own work? Even if there is an obvious high demand for it?
BODEN: I'm not an avid fan of direct sequels. Personally, I like more of the shared universe idea. that's what Bob and I do with our series. I've done it in my work by having characters from one book show up in another. But I very rarely labor it with story, just ask folks to accept it. Life rarely works sequel-ready.
LUTZKE: I'm not a fan either. People have asked for sequels to OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES or SKULLFACE BOY, and to me the story has been told. For anything else, use your imagination.
BODEN: Exactly. I think that a lot of people need to be spoon-fed and I find that sad. I like to imagine. I like to fill in blanks. I like making the leaps and bounds.
LUTZKE: Yes. There are some who certainly appreciate absolute closure with every avenue completely explored. I like some open ends. They keep me guessing.
BODEN: Yep. I have books or stories that I haven't read in over 20 years that still bubble up in my brain for evaluation from time to time, because they were not sewn up tight. There were nooks and crannies to ponder.
We vent to one another often, and this is a popular "behind the scenes topic" so let's do an out-and-about edition. If you could change one thing about the genre/small press horror…what would it be?
LUTZKE: That they all had the bar raised a bit higher and not settled with subpar stories just to put books out. I think it'd help in a few areas. It would help those who are struggling with their craft and motivate them to get better, and it would allow for readers to trust the smaller guys more. I'm grateful that so many readers do dig deep for their horror, but I think if the quality of some of these other presses went up then we'd see an uprise in readership.
What about you?
BODEN: I think that the horror genre is the strongest it's been in a long time. The wealth of great authors and books coming out is awesome. I read a lot and am rarely disappointed. I mean, some things don't wow me but rarely am I displeased to the point of bailing. I like that there are many different presses catering to the niche needs and tastes of readers. One thing I would like to see is more neighborly behavior...more holding one another up and less tripping each other to get out the door first when the bell rings kinda stuff.
LUTZKE: While there are those who stir trouble, for the most part I recall being pleasantly surprised at the lack of "competition" in the genre than I'd first anticipated. Everyone has their bouts of jealousy. We all want Netflix movies and bestsellers, but I think most of us tend to celebrate when one of our own gets a break, whether that be an award, a book deal, or just a nice new cover.
BODEN: Sure, there is. But there is always room for more hugs.
LUTZKE: Speaking of covers. What is your favorite book cover and album cover?
BODEN: My favorite book cover of all time is the book CROOKED TREE. Specifically, the 80's pulp paperback with he cutout cover. It’s a green tree with a bear peering out from between the branches and when you opened it it was actually a naked woman with a bear's head poised over a dead, bloody body.
LUTZKE: I'm familiar with it. That's a good one.
BODEN: I can't pick a favorite album cover....so many good ones.
LUTZKE: Give me three.
BODEN: Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies....Nazareth's Hair of The Dog and Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking.
LUTZKE: All stellar picks....and great albums with no filler. Now tell me what one of your favorite albums is that you know I probably hate.
BODEN: Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger is a perfect album and you should absolutely love it.
LUTZKE: Ewww...no thanks
BODEN: Give it a shot, trust me.
Since we were kinda of talking about how things are as opposed to how we thought they'd be, if you could go back in time and tell young Chad something Adult Chad learned the hard way, would you and what would it be?
LUTZKE: That youth doesn't last forever, and one day you're really going to value your mind so don't pollute it. Also, start reading and writing now. You'll be glad you did.
BODEN: Haha, same. I'd tell myself not to stop writing for 20 years. Also, not to expect to make a lot of money. I never much polluted my mind with anything other than loud music, though.
If you hadn't come to writing as an outlet for your ideas, what do you think you'd be doing now? Painting and music?
LUTZKE: Definitely painting and music. I've been doing both for decades longer than writing. Music is more therapeutic, I think, particularly when playing live, but it's a different type of therapy. It's fleeting and over quick. Writing has a long-term effect.
I've asked this same question about 5 years ago, and you never really gave me a straight answer so I'm asking it again. Your writing can get downright poetic with your metaphors and similes. What author/s book/s is responsible for that?
BODEN: I always say the same thing...I can't really say. Probably a steady diet of Bradbury helped, but I think my life-long obsessive love of music and lyrics probably informed it more. It's not even a thing I think about, they just kinda happen.
Before I go. Thanks for asking me to do this with you. I mean it when I say our friendship is a thing I treasure and to you, the people of Earth--buy THE PALE WHITE!
LUTZKE: Thanks, buddy!