Barry Lyga, a writer who's not afraid to write in many different fiction categories and to explore darker themes in his books.
Hi Barry. Great to have you here.
According to your bio, you’re a comic book collector. What are your favorite or most prized comics? And can you tell us a bit about your life in the comic book industry?
My most prized possession comic book-wise is an original copy of Adventure Comics #247, from 1958! It’s the first appearance of my favorite team, the Legion of Super-Heroes. My local comic book store came across a copy about twenty years ago. I couldn’t afford it at the time, but the owner was a good friend of mine. He took the comic and hid it behind the counter. Every time I had a spare twenty bucks or so, I’d give it to him and he’d keep a running tally until I’d paid it off. I basically bought that sucker on layaway, which most comic book stores won’t let you do. He could have probably sold it to an established collector for a lot more, a lot faster. I love that damn comic.
You’re called a YA rebel-author. How did you come by that moniker? Do you think of yourself as a rebel?
Kirkus called me that when they reviewed the first book in the I HUNT KILLERS trilogy. I tend to think if you think of yourself as a rebel, you automatically disqualify yourself from being one. I was initially caught off-guard by that label, but I came to understand why they said it — I usually write radically different kinds of stories, as opposed to authors who find a niche they like (say, thrillers or romance) and generally stick to it. I’m all over the map — thrillers, sci-fi, comic books, slice of life, what-have-you. That prompted them to call me a rebel, which is totally their prerogative, but I never think of myself that way. I just write what interests me and then cross my fingers and hope that it will interest others as well!
You have a new short story coming out each month of 2017. Wow! Can you tell us a bit about what’s behind this year-long commitment?
Shortly after the election, there was a lot of angst and anxiety in the arts community. And people were saying, “What can I do to resist?” The usual answers were “Call your representatives” and “Organize at the local level,” which are eminently sensible and effective suggestions. They are also things that I’m happy to do. But I kept feeling as though there had to be something I could by dint of my specific skill set, such as it is. And I realized in December that the ACLU not only was going to be enormously important to preserving our democracy, but also that it had already drawn a line in the sand. I’m a member and I could always give them more money, but I thought, “What if I did something that went beyond me? What if I did something that could bring in dollars that the ACLU wouldn’t see otherwise?”
We often read discussions about how difficult it is for writers to know when a story is finished and ready to send out. Do you have that difficulty? What is it that tells when it’s really time to write “The End” and send the manuscript into the world?
Nah. I usually know the ending long before I get there. I’m EAGER to get there. I don’t write stories to sit with them — I write them to share. When I get to the end of the story and feel a sense of satisfaction, I know it’s done. It’s baked. Time to take it out of the oven and put it on a serving platter.
Do you have any inspirational quote or secret sauce for success that you’d like to share with our readers?
“Just do it ’til it’s done,” a friend once told me. I was stuck on a novel a million years ago, years before I got published. And I was wallowing in self-pity and remorse, whining about how hard this was, and so on. And this friend of mine said, “Stop whining. It’s a book, not a tunnel through a mountain. Sit your ass down and write. Don’t think about how. Don’t think about why. Just write. Just do it ’til it’s done.”
I printed out a sign that said, “Just do it ’til it’s done” and hung it over my desk for many years. We writers can be exceedingly precious and find reasons not to work, always looking for some mystical combination of elements to prod our inspiration, but at the end of the day, there’s no magic to it. You just sit down and write until there’s nothing more to write. Just do it ’til it’s done.
Thank you so much for being here on the Insecure Writers Support Group. You've given us a chance to know you better and shared some of your insights as a writer. We appreciate it so much.
You can see all of Barry Lyga’s books on his website. His latest book is I Hunt for Killers (Little Brown). It has an intriguing plot that explores the effect of murder on the family of a killer and his community.
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