Welcome to the first edition of Causing a Ruckus on Ruckerpedia, in which I your host conducts an exclusive Q&A interview session with someone you should know more about. In this inaugural edition I have fellow indie author Reggie Lutz (I’ve said this before, call her Regina at your own peril).
On Friday, May 1st via Amazon, Ms. Lutz (author of the novel Haunted) will release Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales, a small short story collection of ten terrific tales, featuring the lead story “Ice Mason”, originally published in Best New Writing 2008 (Hopewell Publications, 2008), and for which she received the Publisher’s Choice designation for the Eric Hoffer Award; “One-Hundred-Eyed Curse”, which originally saw light in the Greek Myths Revisited anthology (Wicked East Press, 2011); the novella “Fork You – A Gladiola Johnson Story (For Proserpine)” originally from Panverse One (Panverse Publishing, 2009); and the title story which was previously unpublished, while six other new stories round out the collection. So, without further ado, here’s my Q&A [ plus anecdotes ] with author Reggie Lutz.
RUCKER: So, inquiring minds want to know what’s the skinny on Reggie Lutz? Take us beyond your being the indie author of the novel Haunted and the new story collection Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales. Who the heck are ya?
LUTZ: I am an enigma wrapped in a mystery boxed in puzzlement and wrapped in a conundrum. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) What a big question! Although for simplicity’s sake, I’m a writer. In the 90s I was a radio broadcaster at a 50,000 watt FM station broadcasting the modern rock format. Stories and music are my first, truest loves.
RUCKER: During our recent chat I heard you pronounce your last name as Luh’ts, yet all these years I’ve pronounced it as Loots, thinking it was German derived. However, you say that the way I’ve said it actually isn’t too far from the Italian surname from which is derived? Tell us a historical story, Reggie.
LUTZ: This is funny because even within my family there are different pronunciations, which is really interesting to me because it is a four-letter, one-syllable word. The name, three generations ago, was changed in the course of immigration. It was originally Luzi, from my Italian ancestors.
[ Yeah, that falls right in line with many Italian immigrants in the twentieth century ]
RUCKER: In your own words, how would you describe your spankin’ new story collection, Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales (available Friday, May 1st on Amazon, folks)?
LUTZ: It’s an eerie, eclectic mix of stories featuring elements of urban fantasy, new weird, and interstitial fiction. I’ve been told it also has strong literary sensibilities. It’s hard to define, but for that reason I think it’s interesting and unique.
[ I’ve been reading it this week and I can’t disagree with that assertion. ]
RUCKER: Do you have a standout piece in this collection that’s particularly special to you? Yes, I’m asking you to pick your favorite child and explain why that child shines a little brighter than its siblings. Surely there’s one you hold most dear?
LUTZ: That is such a hard question! It keeps changing! The novella, “Fork You”, is near and dear to my heart. It was originally published in the Panverse One anthology and is how I became friends with Dario Ciriello who wrote the introduction for Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales. Then there is the title piece, which I love because I was able to include radio in the fiction.
RUCKER: I understand that in addition to the digital version of this book for the Kindle that there’s also a paperback edition … and, what’s that you say? It’s already available? Wait … what? I’m confused, Ms. Lutz. Got a story for us?
LUTZ: Ha! Yes. The paperback was also slated for release on May 1, but as I was going through, making my approvals, I accidentally made it available. After I discovered the error, I found that someone had already ordered it and I did not want to disappoint anyone else who might have discovered it by removing it from availability. In my head the official release date is still May 1st.
RUCKER: Your readers have come to expect unique story titles from you, some of which are in this very collection like “Famous Nudes in Winter Clothing”, “Fork You – A Gladiola Johnson Story (For Proserpine)” and of course the story the collection is named after. Do those eye-catching titles simply come naturally to you, or is it something you labor over a little bit? I’m guessing it’s the former.
LUTZ: It’s a bit of both. Sometimes a title is a struggle, so I’ll use something as a place-holder, just a way to reference the story I’m writing so that I can find it in the computer or notebook, depending on how it’s getting written. Sometimes the placeholder sticks. All three of those titles were initially placeholders until I decided they could stay.
RUCKER: You and I have talked about the difference between being a free-willing-polish-it-later “pantser”, which is what one has to do during NaNoWriMo for instance, or being an obsessive-compulsive like me which means you’re constantly rewriting and polishing as you go along. Which would be your usual tendency?
LUTZ: I tend to romanticize the idea of being a pantser. At heart that’s what I am, and it is how I approach a first draft, up to a point. But I find that in order to get to the end of a messy first draft I need to know a few things before I start, so I’m somewhere in the middle at present. I can’t revise as I go or I would never finish a piece, so I came up with a method for dealing with uncertainties in the first draft, which is to leave behind parenthetical notes to self. The parentheses act as a signal to look closely at something when it’s time for first pass edits. It gets confusing when parentheses are meant to be part of the text, however.
[ I can imagine. My friend, you’ve inspired me to try pantsing later this year, which I’ve not done in a great many moons. I’m sweating and twitching already! ]
LUTZ: The big thing is to write every day. I wake up, put the coffee on and 15 minutes later I am writing. I have a day job, though, which sometimes means I have to change that schedule. I find I am less productive on days when I have work in the morning. Methods for productivity are something I have been thinking about a lot lately. The single most useful thing that I do is write the first draft until it is finished, without revising until I get to the end. I think that’s just something I learned about how I write, meaning if I don’t push through to the end, I won’t finish something.
[ A lesson you’d think I’d stubbornly learn well in recent years. You see, this is why I try to stay associated with smart, inspiring people like you, Reggie. ]
RUCKER: Since you’re a music junkie like me, I have to ask: do you write to music – random selections or a created soundtrack – or do you have to have total silence? In other words, can your two loves coexist peacefully?
LUTZ: I do both, total silence and music. Music helps me get into the right headspace on days when I’m struggling to reach that state of story immersion, but if I’m not having a hard time getting there, I’ll dive into the fiction. Usually toward the end of a session I end up putting something on. Lately I’ve been listening to Hal Hartley’s soundtrack for Ned Rifle, which is this great minimalist ambient stuff that is really excellent, for me, to get into the right headspace. So can my two great loves co-exist peacefully? Sometimes, but not always.
[ I am exactly the same. Mostly anymore, though, I have to use music to obscure outside noise. ]
RUCKER: Because the lessons are always worth repeating, can you tell would-be aspiring indie authors what the most difficult and the most rewarding things about self-publishing have been for you?
LUTZ: The most difficult is still self-promotion and marketing. It can be a lot of fun, but the thing to remember is that if you want to make a living at this it has to be done. There are a lot of most rewarding things about self-publishing: creative control, you retain your rights, etc… I have to say, though, that my absolutely favorite thing about having gone this route is that there is something new to learn all the time. There were some things that were intimidating to do on my own before I started, and it felt awesome to realize that with a bit of effort I could learn to do those things on my own. It is worth the work. You are constantly accruing new skills.
RUCKER: I’m gonna take ya back now. Those early pieces you brought to my old virtual workshop, “Monkeymen” and “Grunts (NaNoWriMo working title)”, what are the fates of those old school pieces?
LUTZ: “Monkeymen” just stalled and hasn’t been completed, though I’d like to revisit it and perhaps restructure it as a novella. There’s actually a blog post on my site that sort of references what happened there. I was writing that during one of those times when my head kept getting turned by other ideas. I was juggling multiple projects at that time before I really developed a method for it, and Monkeymen turned out to be a casualty (Monkeymen was about a set of fraternal triplets born with prehensile tails and how they cope with that into adulthood).
[ Fascinating concept, I must say. Please get back to it sometime before I die. ]
“Grunts” I completed but I haven’t revisited that to do the serious edits it needs. It was a pretty bizarre and dark horror story that was incredibly painful to write, if artistically satisfying to execute. Thematically it’s really about the terror and uncertainty of going through life without purpose and what happens when your decisions are always made by external authority figures. If I can remember the setting and plot correctly, it’s about a nameless character called The Subject, who works at a call center. She is being stalked by a government spy who becomes obsessed and is then rescued (or is she?) by other government experiments gone awry, while the very nature of existence comes into question because landscape features are disappearing into a heavy fog, leaving the world changed when it lifts. Somehow, nanotechnology and nano-sized aliens are also involved. And monads!
[ Mind = blown ]
I believe I opened it with a quote from Gottfried Liebniz:
“…when we expect that there will be daylight tomorrow, we do so empirically, because it has always happened so up to the present time.”
I was obsessed with the mysticism inherent in some of Liebniz’s thoughts at that time, although I’m not sure I knew what to do with it. I was also reading Pynchon. Now that you have me chatting about it, maybe I will go back and edit that one.
RUCKER: What can you tell the world about yourself that you haven’t yet revealed? Can you give us a Ruckerpedia exclusive before you go? Maybe something about a sequel with a yet-to-be-announced title. . .hmm?
LUTZ: Yes! I can! I’m currently working on a sequel to Haunted, titled Getting On With It, which follows the continuing misadventures of the McTutcheon sisters. Readers had asked to know more and I was not initially planning to continue but once the question was asked my brain started poking me with ideas. I’m shooting for a December release. Fingers-crossed I don’t hit any snags, there!
[ You read/heard/whatever it here first folks – The Management ]
(From Amazon): Reggie Lutz lives on top of a mountain with a parrot who offers editing advice and a dog who offers comic relief. A radio broadcaster in the 90s and early 2000s, she has turned her attention to fiction, although she can sometimes be heard in a volunteer capacity at WRKC.
Personal Notes: I want to thank Reggie for being a guest here on Ruckerpedia. Previous to conducting this Q&A she and I had our first ever video chat in which I learned immediately that she’s exactly how I imagined her to be in all these years just reading her words: smart, witty, down-to-earth and funny, as no doubt evident from the chat above. She is one of those people I’m fortunate to have become associated with by a chance encounter. We first ‘virtually met’ at the Zoetrope Virtual Studio in autumn of 2008 within my online personal office there, which housed a congregation of new novel writers dedicated to work-shopping novel chapters. She had brought in to the group two works-in-progress titled “Monkeymen” and “Grunts” (working title), both of which were mentioned in the above chat. Since then we’ve been buddies on the Interwebs, but obviously have never met in person. Reggie’s from Northeast Pennsylvania (as an early transplant from New Jersey as well as Long Island, NY), while I’m from Indiana (which is now a totally unflattering thing to reveal these days). Both of us are noted music geeks so naturally we somehow wound up having a random but curious discussion about her encounter with one J. Robbins, formerly of beloved D.C. post-punk/post-hardcore band Jawbox (one of my absolute favorite bands of all time). At any rate, if you’re reading this then you should definitely check out her fiction work (available on Amazon). And if you happen to see her at a bookstore signing, make sure you stop by to say Hi.