1. Tell me more about your story “Question Mark” in the Crossroads in the Dark anthology.
AL: That one was fun for me to write, because it’s a premise I’ve often daydreamed about. A millionaire offers you money for answering one simple question. Sounds fun right? But what if you answer wrong? What happens then? I wrote this story to explore this idea. In truth, I didn’t know the ending until the moment I wrote it. I felt like I was sitting in the back seat of this car watching the events unfold.
2. What’s the greatest moment in your writing career?
AL: Oh man, there are several so far. Selling a story to Kevin J. Anderson for inclusion in the HWA’s Blood Lite III: Aftertaste anthology was an enormous thrill. In 2015, I sold more stories than in any previous year and appeared along-side three of my top four favorite authors, so that was a defininte highlight–or series of highlights–for me.
3. What got you into exploring abandoned buildings?
AL: There are a lot of them in the region where I live. There was an entire city block that had been condemned and everyone had to move. Not because the houses were falling down, but because the college nearby somehow bought the properties to build new student housing there. Construction got bogged in red tape so the houses sat empty for a few years. Exploring them was fascinating; some of those people lived very hard lives, some were lazy slobs, while others took pride in their homes. The walls in each house talked, you know? Abandoned farm houses and out buildings are fascinating too. My brother-in-law and I once snuck into an abandoned tourist attraction. They had a high dive show, seals, sea lions, and a dolphin show. When they moved out, they left all the tanks and pools filled. Creepiest thing I’ve ever encountered: a pool deep enough for dolphins that was still full of water in a pitch dark auditorium!
4. Who is your favorite writer?
AL: I am one of Stephen King’s Constant Readers and own all of his books, so I’ll stick with that as my answer. Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Rasnic Tem, Gary Braunbeck, and Mort Castle are my Mt. Rushmore of dark fiction writers. Virtually everything they write thrills me. Early Ray Bradbury is a huge favorite, as is Tom Piccirilli’s work from the middle of his career. George Orwell, O. Henry, and Flannery O’Connor all left lasting impressions on me as well.
5. Do you strictly write short fiction or have you dabbled in writing novels as well?
AL: The longest piece I’ve ever written is 15,200 words. It has not been published. At this point, I don’t think I have a novel in me. I would be content to write short stories for the rest of my life. Ideas are never a problem.
6. What current writing projects are you working on?
AL: I have fifteen stories currently under consideration with various editors and markets. I have two new stories that are almost ready to submit (I don’t think any story is ever truly “finished”) and three more that are part way through their first drafts. In 2015 I took a different approach with my writing. I’d bust through three or four first drafts very quickly and then take several months to polish those stories up. I send them out and start the cycle over again. I don’t write very much though–maybe a dozen stories a year.
7. Is there an overall theme to your writing?
AL: Not that I am consciously aware of. Sometimes I write something and it’s cathartic and feels good to get it out of my mind and onto paper. Other times I simply follow a prompt or theme supplied by an editor or anthology I am interested in sending something too. I also find the more I read, the more I want to write, so other ideas must inspire me. (After a bit of introspection:) Maybe my theme could be “Nobody gets out of life alive,” because death is never far from my thoughts. Maybe all my stories are just my way of getting used to the idea!
8. What is the most unusual job you have ever held? AL: I am a radio announcer full time. My current part-time jobs are: intermission host during hockey games, mobile dee jay for bars and weddings, and event staff for the local civic center. I definitely stay busy but none of those jobs are what I would call “unusual.” Does being a writer count?
9. What made you start writing?
AL: As a life-long lover of books and reading, I’ve read many different genres. None stuck in my mind quite as much as the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies. These served as my introduction to macabre stories by Roald Dahl, Theodore Sturgeon, Joseph Payne Brennan, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury and other authors who wrote stories that I could never quite categorize. I mean, I loved Louis L’Amour for a little while, but it didn’t take me long to recognize that he followed certain formulas when he wrote. Those Hitchock authors were a lot less predictable! About ten years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life and needed a hobby. Writing became that hobby. My writing career has consisted of me making mistake after mistake and learning, very gradually, from those mistakes. This is true for stories, submitting, formatting, marketing–everything! I’m still making mistakes.
10. If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
AL: So many choices! I’d either go with all fictional characters and just enjoy the adventure that unfolded, or I’d take a practical approach. I’d invite my five favorite authors, maybe, or five editors I admire. Striking up an online acquaintance isn’t as impactful as talking and laughing with someone over dinner and drinks. I think having a few more friends and allies in this business would be a good thing!