Louis's book, Die Laughing, is high up on my TBR list. It's just been released, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy. The first page had me in stitches. You may remember Louis as one of the featured authors on my 5,000 hit giveaway HERE.
If you were one of the lucky ones to win his book, let him know what you think when you read it!
Without further ado, welcome to Unwritten, Louis! Please tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you're not writing about aliens in 1950's NYC?
Hi Mysti, thanks for inviting me over to Unwritten. To answer the first part of your question, I was born in Pittsburgh, but moved with my parents to South Florida when I was five. I grew up in Hialeah (home of the race track) and worked there as a firefighter. I also played music nearly my entire life –where I started honing my writing skills by composing song lyrics for the many groups I played in.
What do I do when I’m not writing about aliens in 1950’s NYC? Hmmm, at the moment trying to introduce people to the story I wrote about aliens in 1950’s NYC.
Seriously, I’m working on other writings. I finished the third draft of a novel about a forty-nine year old music teacher who was fired and tries to find redemption in competitive bicycle riding, and I’m working on another sci-fi story that bounces between characters, time and location. I’m also attending Florida International University where I’m studying to get my MFA in creative writing.
From your book description, it says:
"Die Laughing, a humorously dark science-fiction novel, is set in the 1950s of flying saucers, communist paranoia, and live television."
|Buy it HERE!|
What inspired you to come up with this unique idea?
I found my protagonist first, thanks to three Japanese girls and a story generator. The girls – foreign exchange students – were visiting my son. I was searching around for a new story idea and someone gave me this so-called instant story-generator. It’s a sheet of paper with three columns: one with a numbered list of characters, one with actions, and one with desires. The idea was to pick a number for each column and match them to whatever it corresponded with, and that’s your story.
I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. I asked the girls to name a number. Each one said seven. The corresponding numbers on the action and desire columns were lame and I ignored them, but on the character column, seven was a stand up comic. I liked that, and so my central character, Sam E. Lakeside, was born.
What brought me to set my story in the 1950’s was foremost my passion for the sci-fi and horror movies of that era. I love both the really bad ones like Plan Nine From Outer Space, and the really good ones like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Also, The 1950’s has always been an exciting era in my mind. Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts for communists had ruined lives and careers. Elvis Presley and rock and roll had exploded on the scene. Teenagers were starting to become a force onto their own for the first time. Racial tensions were coming to a violent head at Little Rock High School in Arkansas. And, of course, TV was becoming the new king of media. The habits of society were changing from going to the movies to going to the living room.
Once I had Sam, the idea of placing his story in the fifties and toying with all these notions, started to formulate.
How long did it take you to complete Die Laughing, and do you have any interesting stories to tell about the research process?
It took about two-and-a-half years. The research process was exhausting. Because the story takes place in 1956 every social and cultural reference had to be true to that period. Every time one of my characters ate, dressed, picked up something or stepped somewhere I had to make sure it was accurate. Because Sam is trying to get from Las Vegas to New York City, my best friend was a 1954 road atlas that I purchased on eBay.
I love snooping on author websites, like yours HERE. Among the many interesting things you're involved in, I see that you're working towards an MFA in creative writing at Florida International University. How has that experience been for you so far? Would you recommend terribly green writers like myself to invest in an MFA program?
I’ve read a lot of criticism about MFA programs. Most seem to come from agents and editors. Their biggest gripe is that the programs become mills. That is, everything looks the same. There’s no individuality to the writing. I don’t necessarily disagree with them because students are being taught techniques and devices that they emulate from the instructors. One the other hand, that’s how most creative endeavors begin. You learn the basics and then as you progress you hone your skills and eventually, for the few really talented ones, you develop your own voice.
Another factor is the quality of the program itself. FIU’s MFA program is highly regarded. The instructors are terrific and I’ve learned a great deal, though I’m cognizant of the mill factor. Maybe the key is to take what you learn, but also be aware there’s other ways of doing things.
The bottom line is I’d unequivocally recommend writing classes to anyone who wants to learn the basics of story, plot, and character. From there, it would be an individual decision to see if it’s right for you.
You've had lots of publishing credits over the years. When did you start the serious business of writing for publication? What genres have been your favorite to write?
I started writing seriously about four years ago, when I started drifting from playing in bands. Up to that point, music was my creative release. Good bands are stormy by nature, but I was getting frustrated with having to deal with the volatility. I’ve always had a knack for writing and I decided it was time to explore it more.
What are my favorite genres to write in? I haven’t really decided at this point. Die Laughing was my first novel, and it was sci-fi. I’ve written about fifteen short stories, a third of them junk, and of the other ten, eight have been published. They’re all over the place genre-wise. They range from mystery, to horror, to romance. I even had a humor poem finish second place in a contest. I’m not so much attracted to genre as I am to writing something that strikes a chord with the reader, which brings a sense of quiet wow.
So, I have to know--where did you come up with the name for your blog--The Writer From Haunted Cave?
Good question! It goes back to my love of 1950’s sci-fi and horror movies. I collect them. Most are hanging in my writing room. One of my favorites is of a very scantily glad girl in the embraces of a pickle-green squid creature who lives in a cave. The 1959 movie is called Beast From Haunted Cave. A good friend of mine suggested I call the blog Writer From Haunted Cave, which I loved. We did a take-off of the poster and used it for the logo.
And now, what you've all been waiting for...today's random question: What aspects of a book make you stop reading and/or throw it against a wall?
Something that is so knock-out great that I have to, in a literal sense, catch my breath. A great example is the closing passage of Joyce’s short story “Araby.” A young protagonist goes through great hardship to attend a bazaar that he envisions as something grand because he wants to purchase a gift for a girl he’s infatuated with. When he gets there the bazaar turns out to be a cheap market. As the market lights turn off, he realizes his grand romantic vision is nothing but illusion. We get his final thought: Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
Another great example comes from Robert McCammon’s book A Boy’s Life. When the protagonist (another youth) loses his friend to a hunting accident, McCammon writes a beautifully moving passage about eternally flying and planet exploring which the dead boy desired. Things like that (in a literal sense) lead me to toss the book against the wall in awe, and ask myself, How the hell did they do that?
On the flip side, if a book is really to my disliking, I nod off and it slips from my hands and dies a slow death.
Finally, Louis, would you be so kind as to share an excerpt from Die Laughing?
I’d love to. This is taken from the end of chapter one, which sets the whole story in motion. Sam has just finished performing his lounge act.
The audience stood and the cheering renewed itself. Sam E. bowed and threw a kiss with his palm. He glanced one more time at Mitzi, the chesty blonde in the wings, but a diminutive, pointy-nosed man in a blue-satin suit and a small-brimmed fedora was standing where she had been.
He walked into the wings. As he did, he passed the diminutive man, who doffed his hat and smiled at Sam E.
“Sam, it’s your agent,” a slim, thin-haired janitor, standing by the back-stage door, said. He handed Sam E. the receiver from a wall phone hanging next to him.
“Doc,” he said, “I just finished the show…Yeah, I killed ‘em…What do you mean I won’t be here next week?…Did they dump me?…The Steve Allen Show? You’re kidding me, right?…Yeeeaaaah!” He hopped in a small circle, tangling the cord around his shoulders. “Doc, I love you!” Unraveling the cord, he added, “Oh, and Marge too!”
Before hanging up the receiver Sam E. grabbed the janitor by the shoulders and said, “I’m going to New York, Herkie, The Steve Allen Show!”
“I gathered that.”
“Have you seen Mitzi? I want to give her the good news.”
The janitor shrugged. “Maybe your dressing room.”
Sam E. zipped down the hall and into his dressing room. The small, messy room was empty except for the diminutive man in the fedora. He was leaning against the wall filing his nails. He stopped briefly to again tip his hat.
“Who the hell are you?” Sam E. walked up to the man. “And where’s Mitzi?”
“Sorry, friend, but I get to ask the questions.” The man slipped a spit-polish black .45 from his shoulder holster and shoved it against Sam E.’s forehead. “And my first question is, ‘Would you like to take a walk?’”
Thank you so much for visiting today, Mr. Lowy, and I wish you a ton of success!
Thank you, Mysti. It’s been a pleasure, and I in turn wish you the same!
***To read more about Louis K. Lowy, please visit www.louisklowy.com or The Writer From Haunted Cave!
***Buy Die Laughing from IFWG Publishing or Amazon.com!