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Interview with Matt Lucas

He is a Christian speculative fiction author who blends the thrills of human conflicts with the horrors of the unseen realm. He aims to blend the epic scale of Game of Thrones, the mystery and intrigue of Angels & Demons, and the gritty action of The Dark Knight series with Christian themes and morals.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
The place where I got married is a natural spring in Florida and one of the locations that Ponce de Leon believed to be the Fountain of Youth.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
I have a sword & sorcery epic coming in early 2023. Probably be around February or March. It’s titled Chronicles of Yeshu: Fellowship of Faith - which is an ode to Tolkien and CS Lewis. 

It follows a rebellion, ignited by our MC, Wilas, against the Triad, a trio of demonic entities that rule over the continent of Orixe and control the distribution of magic throughout the land. You’ll find lots of action and a few surprises along the way.

Q.3 When did you decide to write The Shadow Gospels?
I wrote the first chapter of The Shadow Gospels in 9th grade for an English assignment. It’s changed quite a bit since then, but my teacher loved my writing and encouraged me to keep up with the story. It took until I was 23 to follow her advice and until 29 to refine the book enough to be picked up by a publisher.

Q.4 What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I write a lot of action, so avoiding the trap of forcing female characters into the ‘damsel in distress’ or ‘black widow (Marvel)’ tropes is challenging. I think writers and Hollywood often neglect the nuances of a strong, feminine character. 

I’ve tried to craft my female characters as strong in their virtues, steadfast against injustice, and adept at speaking their minds for the greater good. They use their wit, emotional intelligence, and courage to navigate tough situations, rather than punching their way out or having a man do it for them.

Q.5 How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
Usually 6-12 months. It depends on how well the inspiration flows and how many distractions pull my attention away. I wrote Chronicles (83k words) in 6 months. The Shadow Gospels (87k) took about 8 months, while The Shadow Gospels sequel Fall of Man (100k) has taken about a year.

Q.6 What was your first introduction to horror literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
I’m an old-school Goosebumps fan. In particular, I found the Slappy Dummy ventriloquist puppet to be terrifying. I never really set out to write horror, but I think my fascination with the paranormal and unseen realms bled over into my writing.

Q.7 What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as a reader, like to be scared?
I think the mystery of the unknown does so much to draw us toward the horror genre. We’re fascinated by the demonic because they operate beyond the veil of our understanding. Even human horrors, like serial killers, draw such intrigue due to their irregular nature. We’re drawn to these types of enigmas because of how foreign they are to us.

Q.8 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
For The Shadow Gospels and the series’ following books, the most difficult part is striking a balance between the different elements. I’m a Christian first and foremost, so blending my faith with themes of demonic horror, political drama, and at times grisly violence is a tightrope walk. 

I’ve also worked to craft the narrative so I don’t bludgeon readers with my Christian themes and don’t shock Christian readers with gratuitous horror. Fortunately, with The Shadow Gospels, I feel I’ve struck a balance by simply telling a compelling story and handling the Christian themes with a scalpel rather than hammering to the appeal of broader audiences.

Q.9 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Every author will tell you that marketing is the most difficult part of their journey and I’m no different. A lot of my marketing time is spent trying to spread the word through interviews like this, joining podcasts, and reaching out to folks via social media that I think would be interested. 

I’ve also spent some time recently sending free copies to influencers and content creators I’ve followed on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. I’m still early in that process, but hopefully, it could yield some results.

Q.10 What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
My wife and I took a tour of Greyfriars Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland. We were on a tour with the only guide service allowed to enter the Black Mausoleum, which has over 300 documented poltergeist attacks. You can feel the darkness of that place. Needless to say, I prayed a lot while standing in that famous crypt.

Q.11 Do you feel any competitive pressure from horror movies/series? If not, why not?
Not really. Every movie/series has its unique audience. I know that my writing style likely has niche appeal, so I don’t get into the business of comparing my work with others.

Q.12 How do you select the name of your characters?
I’ve always been fascinated by the name etymology. Studying the history and underlying meanings of names has been a tool I’ve leveraged frequently when naming my own characters. When I create a character, I typically have an idea of where they fit in the broader narrative. With that knowledge, I look for a name that corresponds to a key theme or event in that character’s arc.

Q.13 What was the first horror book/story you remember reading?
I don’t remember one in particular, but the Goosebumps series was probably my first exposure to horror stories.

Q.14 How do you select the title of your books?
I don’t have a set process. For The Shadow Gospels, I used the title to convey the theme of the series. Essentially, it’s a story about how God uses the apocalypse to make humanity ‘dance with the devil’. 

Exposing humanity to the horrors associated with such evil teaches them to seek the good and to seek God. By this concept, God uses Satan’s evil to actually draw people to Himself. Thus, The Shadow Gospels essentially is the story of the good news persevering through the darkness.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
They’re incredibly supportive. As I wrote each novel, I read each chapter to my wife. She’s my top encourager and biggest supporter, but she’s also great at giving honest feedback. 

She loves to read, so getting her perspective really gives me confirmation that the story is compelling. I’m also very blessed to have a super supportive family and friends. A lot have purchased the book and evangelized it to their friends as well.

Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?
I do. I love reading the good ones of course. It’s a great feeling to know that your story impacted someone in a positive way. I can’t say I’ve come across a bad review thus far. I’ve solicited some feedback from readers who offered constructive advice. In those cases, I take that advice to heart and see where I can sharpen my craft. 

If I were to come across a bad review, I’d like to hope I could shrug it off. It’s also important to understand, as a writer, that your work isn’t going to be for everyone. If someone doesn’t get it, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or your story isn’t compelling. It just means that it wasn’t for that person.

Q.17 Who designed your book covers? How do you select him/her?
I work with a traditional publisher, so they have resources in-house that do their covers. After reading each book, they propose a few different options which I get to choose from. They’re typically responsive to feedback as well, which is nice to ensure the cover fits the story.

Q.18 What three things can a reader expect from your book?
Gritty action, horrors of the unseen realm, and good triumphing in the face of evil.

Q.19 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Three so far. Chronicles of Yeshu: Fellowship of Faith, The Shadow Gospels, and The Shadow Gospels: Fall of Man. My favorite is probably Fall of Man, though it hasn’t been released yet. Shadow Gospels fans will see this as the series’ Empire Strikes Back or Infinity War. 
It ups the ante on what the original Shadow Gospels started. 

The intersection between the mortal and unseen realms intensifies, after operating largely under the radar in the first book. It’s a full-scale escalation in the action, teeming with new complex characters, deceptive tricks, misdirection, and surprise character connections.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
It’s definitely been a winding road. The first draft of The Shadow Gospels was an absolute mess. But, I sought feedback from the right people (agents, publishers, and others with experience in the business), took their advice, and implemented it into my writing. I eventually scrapped the 175k-word behemoth and started over. 

After that, signed on with an agency, which eventually closed due to COVID, and then struck out on my own. Now, I have two series launched by a traditional publisher. I owe that to perseverance. So, if you take away anything from this interview, know that a refusal to give up will take you further than you could’ve imagined.

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