The Scariest Part: Chad Lutzke Talks About THE PALE WHITE

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Chad Lutzke, whose new novel is The Pale WhiteHere is the publisher’s description:

After being held against their will in a house used for sex trafficking, three girls plan their escape.

Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.

Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow prisoners the only family she’s ever truly had.

Kammy: The youngest of the three — a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.

But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?

A coming-of-age tale of revenge that explores a friendship and the desperate lengths they will go through to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Chad Lutzke:

Is the literary world deficient in female-centric coming-of-age horror? Indeed. They’re out there, but they’re sparse and certainly not on the tip of reader’s tongues when recommending a title in the COA subgenre. There is no sister book to accompany McCammon’s Boy’s Life, King’s The Body, or Simmons’ Summer of Night (though you could argue Grady Hendrix’s fantastic My Best Friend’s Exorcism adequately fills the void). So, who better to write one than a man, right?

That was the scariest part of The Pale White for yours truly.

I’m not so full of machismo that I can’t set aside my natural inclination to crack inappropriate jokes in front of my wife, holster a hand far beyond my waistband, and pretend that I don’t care if Ross and Rachel or Jim and Pam get together. As a matter of fact, I’m rather in tune with my feminine side. Just ask my wife, who recently laughed at me for tearing up during the last episode of Friends, and who teases me when I can’t even talk about the finale of Six Feet Under without my voice cracking.

I think I’m hyper-empathetic.

Consider the above my credentials for thinking I can pull off a first-person female POV set within a disturbing scenario. But not only was I writing in the voice of a young girl, this is a girl who had experienced extreme sexual trauma. Unfortunately, the aftermath of such a thing I have seen, so there was some ugly insight. The book needed to be hard-hitting but without being distasteful. It needed to be done with tact — much in the way I handled Stirring the Sheets (believe me, there were readers who wanted to stay clear of Sheets, thinking it is a necrophilia fest when in fact it is not). It needed to be something that frightens people almost too much to crack the spine but are glad they did.

When writing The Pale White, this wasn’t done with typical writer research, googling scientific theories, what guns hold which caliber bullets, how long it takes for a body to decompose, or what poison is untraceable. This was attempting to tap into something I didn’t have, at the risk of coming off as insensitive or apathetic. That was the scariest part.

It’s been said: “Write what you know.” If you take that literally, without diving into the deeper meaning, it’s nonsense. If authors actually took that to heart, there would be no Middle-Earth, no Frankenstein, no Hogwarts. Yet, when diving deeper, we actually do write what we know. I know sadness. I know trauma. I know loss. I know violence. And being an empath who has had some rather deeply profound relationships and experiences with women through my life, both platonically and romantically, I know enough to tell a story.

Maybe just being the witness, and then the messenger holding their flag, was the scariest part.

The Pale White: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / IndieBound

Chad Lutzke: Website

Chad has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He’s had a few dozen short stories published, and some of his books include: Of Foster Homes & Flies, Wallflower, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface BoyThe Same Deep Water as You, and The Pale White. Lutzke’s work has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, James Newman, Elizabeth Massie, Cemetery Dance, and his own mother.

Good News for “The Fire and the Stag”

I’m thrilled to announce that my story “The Fire and the Stag” is included in Ellen Datlow’s extended recommended reading list for The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 11!

“The Fire and the Stag” appeared in Black Static #63, which you can pick up here.

The Glittering World

The Glittering World: A Book Club Recommendation!The Glittering World: A Book Club Recommendation! by Robert Levy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story of a young man returning to the place of his birth only to discover he was abducted as a child, although he has no memory of it, takes a supernatural turn in Robert Levy’s dark, sexy debut novel. A melancholy, thorny take on changelings and the Fae, Levy gives us four complex, indelible characters in Blue, Elisa, Jason, and Gabe, each of whom has their own secrets, their own desires, and their own way of coping with the strange and frightening circumstances that have befallen them. Levy wisely presents the Fae without too many overt details, implying that they are something language is inadequate at describing, which keeps the supernatural element satisfyingly mysterious and otherworldly throughout. Neither good nor evil, both beautiful and horrible, representing both complete freedom and the complete submission of will, Levy’s Fae are an incredible and compelling achievement, as is the novel itself. Highly recommended.

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Growing Things and Other Stories

Growing Things and Other StoriesGrowing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Tremblay’s tour-de-force story collection is a must-read, not just for existing Tremblay fans (the good news for those who’ve read his previous, small-press collections is that there’s only a small amount of overlap here), but also for fans of smart, literate stories that are more interested in evoking emotions from the reader than in tying things up in a nice, easy bow. Tremblay trades in the chilling and the unsettling, not in gore, violence, or classic a-monster-comes-to-town tales (although he does play with that trope in the story “Our Town’s Monster”). As a result, each of these nineteen stories will leave you feeling off balance and uneasy, concerned about the stability of the world around you and everything you thought you knew.

It’s hard to choose favorites from such a consistently excellent collection, but a few of the stories did stick out for me. One was the novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers,” one of two originals in this collection, in which a horror writer named Paul ___ hires a dog walking service. Each dog walker leaves a note for him afterward detailing how the walk went. Only, the notes get longer, darker, more intrusive, more passive-aggressive toward Paul and his success as an author, and weirdly personal as time goes on. I really enjoyed how Tremblay builds the slow escalation over the course of the story, leading to a very creepy ending. “Something About Birds” is another standout for me, a hallucinatory, surreal story that reminds me of the best, most ambiguous parts of the movie EYES WIDE SHUT, while also allowing Tremblay to articulate the power of ambiguity in fiction through the protagonist’s interviews with the reclusive author William Wheatley. I felt a deep connection to the story “Her Red Right Hand” as well, with its beautifully related message that creativity and imagination can help you get through an emotionally difficult time.

One word of warning, at least for the hardcover edition: Because Tremblay’s stories are so much more than the sum of their parts, and because they are designed to leave the reader with an emotional response rather than a plot revelation, the synopses of some of the stories on the flap copy are atrocious. There’s a far richer experience waiting for you in these pages than those synopses would lead you to believe.

Tremblay’s work continues to excel. I second Adam Neville’s blurb: “Paul Tremblay is one of the key writers who have made modern horror exciting again.” Read GROWING THINGS and experience why.

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