Who is Steven Luna? That is the question I was asking myself after doing my initial research for this interview. Not much is said about the man behind Joe Vampire, and I was determined to find out. Although some of these questions are like the ones I usually ask some of my authors, I like to change them around a bit, and whittle them with my chisel to fit the author I am interviewing.
This week, when I received the answers to my questions, I found myself literally laughing out loud. Steven Luna, is funny, however, I tend to believe that behind every “funny guy” lives a heart of gold. Steven Luna is one of them.
How would you describe yourself with 5 words using the letters J, F and C?
Jovial, jackass, fun, creative, cooperative
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been language-minded, and I started writing poetry and simple stuff in grade school. I moved on to short stories – horrible short stories – in high school. And all along, I worked on illustrated story books that I hoped to publish for children. But I didn’t really get the hang of writing a full-on novel-sized story until about eight years ago. Once it clicked, I realized I have no choice but to write. I write something every day, even if it’s just a few lines. I write in my head all day long. It’s totally a state of being for me. It is me. And I love it.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Prior to Joe Vampire, I wrote only for middle-grade readers, and everything had an element of fantasy or magical realism. I didn’t know if I could manage writing for grown-ups without having it sound awkward. Then Joe came along, and I figured out a method for doing it, which really has carried into other stories. So if I had to call it a style, I think I’d go with “sarcastic dude-lit”, since my main characters tend to be snarky, honest, contemporary guys stuck in complicated situations and handling them with humor and heart.
Tell us about your book Joe Vampire and Who is Joe Vampire, really?
Joe Vampire is about a regular guy just getting back in the swing of things after a bad break-up. Through a misunderstanding on a group date, he ends up becoming a vampire and ultimately decides to blog about the truth of it, to tell the world that nobody sparkles and girls don’t clamor to hang with you once this happens. It’s not a traditional vampire novel…it’s really not a vampire novel at all. It’s just a story about a good guy who gets dealt a bad hand, and who’s determined not to let it keep him from having a happy life – even as everything starts falling apart for him. And Joe himself is the “everydude”: Joe Anyone, Joe Average. Joe Vampire. He’s honest to a fault, and a little too sensitive at times. He considers himself a people pleaser, but he also tends to call out the bullies and try to knock them down a peg or two.
I asked Mr. Luna to compare himself to Joe Vampire:
Joe Vampire loves to keep a low profile and hide in the crowd compared to Steven Luna who loves to open his big mouth and make a fool of himself whenever possible.
What are your current projects and latest news ?
I just finished writing Joe’s sequel, Joe Vampire 2: The Afterlife. It’s with some beta readers right now and will soon be turned into my awesome publisher Booktrope for editing. But first, we’re gearing up for the Booktrope re-launch of the first Joe Vampire sometime mid-summer. He’ll be in paperback for the first time. And I’m throwing down notes for a story about a rock star alien abductee. Totally different stuff, but just as much fun to write as Joe. Hopefully as much fun to read, too.
I see you have a new cover for Joe Vampire tell us about it? (feel free to plug your friend LOL)
Ha! A friend of mine named Ryan Ashbaugh plays the role of Joe Vampire on the new cover. Ryan’s a really cool guy who had thrown in some plastic fangs and slapped on a set of Ray Bans for a Joe Vampire release party I had at work back in February. He was a great fit for the part, so I asked him if he’d be willing to star on the new cover. Another friend, the lovely Shannon Motley, agreed to play Chloe working away in the background. I think they’re just the new blood Joe needed (that’s probably a pun).
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing, and how do you keep it so witty?
The most challenging aspect of writing for me – especially when writing Joe – is to separate his voice from mine. A lot of what he says is based on real-life occurrences, and it’s easy to start sounding like Steven Luna when I have him rattle off one of his philosophies or smart remarks. He is not me, and I am not him, but we’re very similar. This makes it really easy to just roll with whatever he’s talking about at the moment. And thank you for considering what I write to be “witty”! That sort of sharp-tongued, sarcastic patter is sort of a second language for me. If we were to have a conversation, you’d hear a lot of JoeSpeak from my side of things.
What inspires you?
As far as writing is concerned, I’m inspired by the psychology of people and how it plays into their interactions with others around them. I love flawed characters – reading them, writing them and watching them work their way out of big situations. As far as life in general, I’m inspired every time I see someone with a dream to follow and the determination to let nothing stand in their way in making it come true. That never fails to push me to work harder to make mine come true – and I love putting that same energy into trying to help others achieve theirs as well.
What do you do when you are NOT writing?
I’m hanging with my wife and kids, each of us saying and doing completely ridiculous things in an attempt to be funnier than anyone else. It’s great exercise for when I get back to writing. I’m a big movie fan, and I’m usually in front of a screen somewhere, digging into whatever DVDs I can wrangle up. I usually try not to read while I’m writing – out of superstition, mostly – so I’ll catch up on all the great stuff being pushed by indie and small-press authors. And I like naps. Like, a lot. Good stuff.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The book – which actually began as a character blog – was very much intended as satire, and was originally meant to be much less literary than it ended up. But as I wrote Joe and figured out his motivation, he emerged as a very likable and relatable character – very real. As the surrounding characters interacted with him more and more, they become grounded in reality as well. And then the book became something more than a satire; it became a real novel with a genuine story, sweeter and more touching overall than I thought it would be. The humor was always intended, but the emotional depth it ended up having was a pleasant surprise. So I think what I learned from all of it is that no matter what your plan is, and regardless of what you think you’re trying to do when you tell a story, you should always be open to letting it unfold and seeing where it takes you. It might be cooler than the one you planned on writing.
Do you have any advice for new writers young and old?
Jump in. Write every day – something, anything: a sentence, an idea, an image. Just write. Read everything - EVERYTHING – you can get your hands on, and study what a story actually looks like, and sounds like, and feels like. Eventually, it’ll become ingrained in your creative process, and you’ll be able to create better stories because of it. Let others read your work and keep an open mind to their critiques; they are your audience, and you want them to get what you’re trying to say. Don’t be afraid to self-publish; electronic media has made it ridiculously possible for you to turn your story into a book all on your own. Be ready to push your work to the world. It’s not going to sell itself. And, most importantly: keep your sense of fun. If you’re not writing because you love to write, then why are you writing at all?
What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Leftover enchilada casserole; grapefruit and orange juice; a can of ReddiWhip with a clogged top; many, many bottles of flavored coffee creamer. And a boatload of vegetables. I think there must have been a sale…
If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?
Not that it’s a particular favorite, but “Joker” by Steve Miller Band seems to sum up my personality. There’s rarely a moment when you’ll get a proper answer from me without some sort of smart-alek stuff preceding it. It’s sort of bred in my DNA. I just go with it these days. Makes for good book material.
How do you compare apples and oranges, truthfully?
It’s all about the juice, kids. It’s all about the juice. (I have no idea what that means. I’m happy with my answer, though.)
Who is your favorite super hero and why?
Superman, hands down. He was the template for all the other superheroes, and he knows the right thing to do and doesn’t waver from it. He’s about the only unflawed character I can accept. He might want to rethink the red Speedo thing by now…I guess that’s kind of a flaw, huh?
Favorite pizza toppings?
Thai chicken, especially whatever the magical sauce they put under the toppings is. That stuff can make you see into the future. It’s incredible.
Where to purchase your book Joe Vampire?
Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born; that all changed once helearned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s also known for not giving straight answers, but those around him are accustomed to ignoring him anyway, so it all works out. He’s currently writing another book…really, though, aren’t we all?