Lane Kareska comes by the Flores Factor blog for an interview. We have a lot to talk about so I will get right down to it.
We should start with the basic questions all interviews seem start with; tell us about yourself.
I’m a deeply and incurably nerdy Chicagoan, by way of Texas, who loves adventure fiction, thrillers, and all pulp material. I was born in 1983 right between the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I remember watching Raiders on VHS as a six or seven year old and somehow kind of being aware that it was changing me. Because of that and other art I’ve read, watched or absorbed over the years, I have a deep affinity for fiction (in any form) that has a plot. I like books where something happens, characters have goals, obstacles are faced, enemies destroy and are often themselves destroyed, etc.
My hope is that anyone who reads North Dark identifies the same sense of adventure, of enterprise, of momentum, that I responded to so strongly in Raiders.
Since you touched on it already, tell us a bit about your book.
North Dark is a straight up Dark Fantasy Adventure. What does that mean? I’m not really sure but there’s plenty of knife play and apocalyptic imagery. I would describe it as a revenge tale set in an arctic wasteland.
The central character is a young lawman named Two Crows who basically has his whole life stolen from him by a passing fugitive. Because of some pretty damaging violence enacted by himself and the fugitive, Two Crows finds himself totally dedicated to hunting the fugitive down and achieving his revenge.
The main thrust of the story is the hunt. But, as it goes in dark adventures, all things may not necessarily be as they seem.
So where did this idea come from?
This is kind of dark: It was a long-ass winter in Chicago and my dog, Charlie (whom I deeply loved), was slowly dying of kidney disease. Over the course of about six months (the length of that particular winter) I took Charlie and drove out to my dad’s secluded house in northwest Indiana every weekend. I took Charlie on walks through the frozen woods or iced-over beach, administered his dialysis, drank dark beer and wrote North Dark.
Looking back on it now, it is very clear to me that I was dealing with the fact that I knew my dog and best friend was going to die soon. As a result, the book—like that experience—is a swift and brutal venture towards the inevitable. It’s dark, violent, and pretty horrific, BUT: there is also the glimmer of love reflected throughout; the love of an animal who was so pure, so intelligent and so adventurous that he was above and beyond the silly little device of language.
Where are your favorite places to write?
I can’t write at home. I have to go out into the world. I write in bars, coffee shops, libraries, etc. I’m that guy camping out at Starbucks, nursing a single cup of coffee, occupying the electrical outlet.
What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?
When I was sixteen, I somehow got it in my head that I would publish a novel, and that no other goal of mine could ever be more important. Sixteen. Unfortunately, deciding to be a writer, means having to write a lot of garbage to get to where you think you’re going.
As a sixteen year old, I wrote a novel about sixteen year olds. That probably qualifies as an enormous mistake. But a necessary one. What’s that Thomas Edison quote? “I haven’t failed; I’ve discovered a hundred ways that don’t work.” Or something like that. That’s a pretty good summation of trying to write fiction. You do your best, even though you know it sucks, and you just slog through it. It probably takes about ten years of shoveling excrement, but eventually you’ll get to something that works, something that speaks to you and maybe even others.
If I hadn’t written that book about sixteen years old, I wouldn’t have gotten to the next thing, and the next thing, on and on down the line, and eventually: North Dark.
When and why did you start writing?
Story has always been central to my life. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can’t perform basic math, so I think my brain tried to overcompensate by focusing wholly on the qualitative. It sounds kind of corny but it’s the absolute truth: my earliest memories are of being read to by my mom, and not just books for infants or whatever, but also The Hardy Boys, The Boxcar Children, etc.
Because of that, story has just always been the way in which I process life. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
I probably started writing in kindergarten or first grade. I was recently digging through some old boxes and found little picture books and comic books I’d written as a five and six year old. They’re kind of incoherent but I’m pretty sure I was trying to write detective and spy fiction; stuff all informed by Alfred Hitchcock Presents reruns that my parents let me watch for some reason.
Besides Fantasy, what do you like to read?
I love spy fiction for the same reasons I love fantasy. There’s a plot, something happens, characters venture, people die, succeed, lie, ensnare, outsmart, defeat, are defeated and more. I do read naturalistic lit, but I’m just not drawn to that genre as much as I am work that features a blade or a gun. If I’m reading something without physical stakes, I’m probably not as engaged as I have been by X-Men cartoons or Resident Evil videogames. And maybe that’s really adolescent of me, but that’s okay. Adolescence is maybe a good thing to try to hold onto. That’s an age where you’re just on fire all the time, and everything is really important, and you actually feel actively engaged with life and art. At that age, art—in any form—really matters, it matters more than your life at home, or your extracurricular activities, it certainly matters more than your school life. Or it did for me.
Besides writing, how do you fill your time?
I work too much. I have a day job that is pretty consuming. I remember being on a plane one time with a coworker, we were making small talk and he asked what I do in my free time, I said that I wrote. He said that he used to love to read and write fiction but had to give it up as he got older. He asked how I had the time. The answer is that I don’t.
I really don’t have the time to write. But I still do it. As a result, things get cut out. My social life ebbs and flows depending on what I’m working on. My girlfriend is incredibly tolerant of my weird schedule. If it’s important, you’ll find a way to be defensive of the time that is required.
But also, I love to travel (and travel always counts as prewriting). I’ve been to Europe, South America, Central America, the Middle East. My next trip is to Budapest and Vienna. I’ll be doing a lot of prewriting there, even though it will only look like drinking beer and walking around.
You’re throwing a fictional character party. Who would you like to invite, and why?
Cool question! James Bond (from the novels, not any particular screen iteration), Darryl from The Walking Dead, Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, and Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale (as played by Eva Greene).
Bond because he’d be the life of the party. Darryl because I’m a redneck at heart, and he and I would probably get along. Bilbo because he’s exactly the kind of spry, winking storyteller that would just enchant a room. Tony because he knows how to have a good time. And Vesper Lynd for reasons unnecessary to articulate.