Four years ago this winter, an anxious and inexperienced writer invited a very well known, on the rise suspense novelist to be part of his school's book fair at his local Barnes & Noble. He'd communicated with said author a few times, ever since she'd emailed him her thanks about a review he'd written for her first novel, and she seemed down-to-earth, amiable, and just plain nice...but you never know about these things, really.
Maybe she'd turn out to be pretentious and arrogant. She was judging a poetry contest; maybe she'd be hurtful and mean. Worse, maybe she'd be a diva and totally look down her nose at this little bitty Catholic school book fair she'd decided to attend, especially when she was destined for great literary things.
Luckily, Tosca Lee turned out to be none of these things. She turned out to friendly, helpful, considerate, fun, and very humble. We had a lot of fun, and laid the foundations for a professional friendship that exists to this day. She even read my first - and horribly clunky, amateur, and long-winded - story, even gave me my first author blurb:
Kevin Lucia scares me a little bit, and for that I thank him.
- Tosca Lee, author of "Demon: A Memoir"
|Far right, Tosca Lee.|
AND, even as a lot of the other authors who I used to talk with have long since gotten too busy to return my emails, she hasn't. She's still just as considerate and helpful as she was when first met her.
And you REALLY should read Demon: A Memoir. Probably one of the most startling faith-oriented novels I've ever read, she's a fabulous researcher, and her prose is almost flawless. Her next novel? From the perspective of Judas, of all people. I'll be snapping that one up, kids.
SO, a little more recent, a slightly less anxious and slightly more experienced but still essentially clueless kid stood on the brink of project that, in all reality, wouldn't "make or break" his career, but would certainly point him in a specific direction. Before Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, I think I still hemmed and hawed about whether or not I was a "horror" author or "supernatural suspense" author.
Plus, I still debated: write for the mainstream or try to crack into the CBA (Christian Bookseller Association)? Hiram Grange would land my feet solidly in the former, and even back then I sensed huge potential in Tim Deal and Shroud Publishing. This was a fantastic opportunity I couldn't pass up....but a defining moment in my career.
Before I made my final pitch to Tim, I emailed Maurice Broaddus, horror/dark fantasy author AND a Christian. I hadn't met him yet - that would happen later at MoCon III - but we'd conversed a bit on his message board, and I read his blog. I asked him straight out - accept this chance to write in the secular realm, with all the secular trappings (swearing, violence, bloodshed) and how he dealt with that as an author and Christian.
Maurice's advice really struck a chord in me, mirrored my feelings about the CRAFT of writing. It was the advice I needed to hear, and it was this conversation that finally sealed the deal in my head that writing an installment in The Hiram Grange Chronicles was a good idea. I have him to thank for that, in a way.
I can't really call Maurice a mentor - maybe only because my vision of a mentor is so strict, actually including lots of face-time and work underneath said mentor. Still, his blogs about the intersection of writing and faith have provided lots of food for thought, and he - along with others, like Midnight Diner editor Michelle Pendergrass (yep. You're next!) - have become models for me as I try to figure out how this whole thing works out.
Oh yeah, and you SHOULD go get his first novel, King Maker - a retelling of Arthurian legend in the Indianapolis ghettos. It's possibly the most interesting contemporary fantasy out there, (finally, no more "I really wanna be Harry Dresden but I'm not nearly as good" novels). It's pretty epic, and the vehicle he's chosen for it - gang wars - is perfect.