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Interview With ‘Light Reapers’ Author, Gary Hickman

I had the wonderful opportunity to have a Zoom chat with Gary Hickman., author of The Light Reapers: End of the World. We chatted about his new books, writing process, and his love of horror. Check out the interview below. And be sure to check out both Light Reapers: End of the World (available here) and the upcoming Light Reapers: Fight for a New Beginning.

Author: Gary Hickman

(Horror Fuel)

Author, narrator, YouTube host, family man, Military man, martial arts trainer, horror aficionado…what am I missing? You’ve got your hand in a lot of pots, describe yourself to people.

(Hickman)

Haha, Well I do have my hand in a lot of pots, I feel like I’ve pulled back on some of those recently once the rioting kind of kicked in, but as far as the book, I didn’t think I had it in me to write it and with all the stuff that I was doing I was thinking “when am I going to get the time?” Well, you know, Covid-19 took care of that, right? So it gave me an opportunity to do a lot of writing. Ike you said, I am a family man and have a job as a director of an I.T. Company here in the U.S. So I do [the writing] part time, especially after my first book came out and I saw what I can make off of it, I thought I need to keep my day job (laughs).

(Horror Fuel)

So you have written two books now, right?

(Hickman)

Well I am writing my second now. I mean, I have written a lot of stuff, but nothing that got published. I started book of poems because that kinda how I got my start in writing. I can tell the story. I got into a little trouble back in the day and had to take a court-appointed anger management class. One of the things we had to do was keep a journal and, you know, whenever you got angry you had to write stuff down. If you didn’t do it, they didn’t release you and if you didn’t do it all you got jail time. So mine was pretty dark in the beginning, I admit, but my councilor called me in one time and she goes “you know, even though it’s a little bit dark, your writing takes form. I just thought, “all right, whatever.” Anyway, long story short, it keep evolving into what she said was poetry. I kinda laughed at here, but that’s where it started. You know, it got lighter and then I just started writing poetry to my wife and some other stuff and just went from there.

(Horror Fuel)

So what books are on your shelf? What are your influences?

(Hickman)

It’s going to sound bad, but I didn’t ever really do a lot of reading. I grew up on a farm and my father was actually kind of a..I don’t know what you would call him…he was a jerk and didn’t let you idle on the farm so believe it or not, I didn’t do a lot of reading until I got into the military and there was some down time in the military. I was mostly reading horror, novels like Clive Barker, [Rochelle] Staab, I kinda got into a little bit of fantasy as well. SO that’s probably what I have on my bookshelf now.

(Horror Fuel)

So when you are writing, do you intend to make your plots a compete escape from reality or do you tie in real life?

(Hickman)

So actually, the plot in the first book The Light Reapers was based on real events. Obviously there weren’t zombies, but some of the situations I was actually involved in like Afghanistan, Yemen and so on as a security contractor. I pulled the enemies out and put the zombies in, changed some of the scenes, names and things, but the tactics, some of the interactions – like the battle in the prologue, that was actually real. So that’s where I get the plots for the first book.

The second book is not as much. So that’s having to come out of, I guess thin air. So it’s become little bit, I don’t want to say harder, but I have to pull stuff out.

(Horror Fuel)

I noticed when reading, especially with your dialogue, it feels very natural and real.

(Hickman)

You mean the interaction between the characters?

(Horror Fuel)

Yeah.

(Hickman)

Yeah a lot of that is exactly how we talked. Bustin’ each other’s chops and things like that. A lot of is come off as short. When you’re in combat you can t sit there and explain “I need you to do this because I really feel like this is the way…” No.

(Horror Fuel)

Just do it now?

(Hickman)

Exactly.

(Horror Fuel)

You mentioned your second book, I want to talk about that. It’s a sequel to The Light Reapers right?

(Hickman)

It is a sequel. I got a lot of crap, in a good way, from the readers about how I left the first book. It was on purpose though because I was coming down to it and I had so much more story to tell, but the book was already close to 300 pages. I didn’t know if I wanted to make a 400-500 page book because I still had more than 100 pages of story I wanted to tell. SO yeah, this is a sequel of the first book. I’m not trying to give it away in case people haven’t read the first book, but everyone was like “what happened? You’d better be coming out with a second book.” Which is a good thing.

(Horror Fuel)

Yeah that’s gotta make you feel good. I know I definitely want to know where it all goes.

You stayed within the world of zombies that we all know and love in the first book, but definitely added your own twist. Are you looking to leave your own mark on horror or zombies?

(Hickman)

Now so much my mark, but I just thought with the characters being military, I thought the shamblers were too stupid and slow, but I didn’t want the superhuman zombies like World War Z. I wanted them to be a little more normal if that makes sense. SO they have a little bit of memory, they can plan. I will say that in the second book, there is a lot of that. I think people are going to be a little surprise in the second book at how some of that stuff evolves. So yeah, I just wanted something a little more challenging than the shamblers, but I didn’t want anything superhuman. I could see so many situations with superhuman zombies where it would be hard for me to get them out of it without getting kind of stupid and, you know, one guy with one rifle shooting 4,000 zombies without re-loading. A little more realistic.

(Horror Fuel)

I liked the twists that you put in, something unique to make it your own.

(Hickman)

Thank you.

(Horror Fuel)

With your work being so personal, what advice would you have with people who receive negativity with their own work?

(Hickman)

So, I would say with negativity, you can’t take it personally in the sense of what your story idea is. I am horrible with mechanics, you know sentence mechanics. My wife is a school teacher and she edits all my stuff. Sometimes she goes “Really? You learned this in grade school.” I remind her that I just make the story. So the story is your own. You can’t take it personally when someone criticizes your story and the plot and everything else because that’s yours. If they want to say the mechanics were bad or the editing is criticized, but I just tell people to do a bit of editing even if you have to pay somebody to do it, but the story is yours.

I had somebody that reviewed my book and they were kind of negative saying that I did racial stereotypes. I did take offense on that because these were real people This is how they acted. A lot of the dialogue was things they actually said. I just want to address this because there is an Asian character in the first book whose name is Shin. He’s a real guy and is wasn’t the fact that he was ignorant of the English language, He just didn’t know southern idioms. You know, we used to say something like “this was so good, I almost crawled under the porch and ate it.” A lot of people didn’t know what the hell that meant, but back in the day when a dog got a bone that was so good he didn’t want the other dogs to get it he would crawl underneath the porch to avoid the other dogs. So it doesn’t mean [Shin] didn’t understand the English language, just not the idioms that we used. So the reviewer thought that I was making fun of him being Asian or the fact that he didn’t grasps the language. No. this was a guy who was real. He was absolutely intelligent, genius almost, but he just didn’t understand southern idioms…half the people in the military didn’t understand them. So that’s one [review] that I kind of took a little offense to.

I know that’s kind of a long explanation, but like I said, people who write, it’s your story and nobody can tell you what that story should be. You write it. There is always going to be someone out there who doesn’t like it, but there will always be so many more who do. Try to learn from it if it’s constructive, but if it’s hateful, just throw it out and don’t worry about them. They are just hating life. It takes courage to put yourself out there so do it for yourself.

(Horror Fuel)

When you are about to write, how do you prepare. You just said that writing a book is scary and hard, so how to you get ready to do that?

(Hickman)

I will say one thing, if I can give advice to anyone, don’t think of the book. You can think of it kind of as a concept, but don’t think of it all at once. You kind of gotta compartmentalize your mind. Focus on one aspect of what you have to do because if you focus on the whole task it’s too big. So just think of it like writing the first chapter or the first idea or something.

So basically how I write is I create an outline. We start here, here is a scene, now I have to go back and think, “how do they get from A to B?” and I piece it together. I fill in the transitions, stuff like that. Then I go back and give the character what they need and develop them. So it’s kind of like building with Legos or something lie that.

The thing about me is that I can not go to a computer, sit down and start writing. If I go to a computer the ideas do not come at all. So I actually have a pen and a stack of notebooks. So I have to go old-school on a notebook.

(Horror Fuel)

There is something more personal about that, right?

(Hickman)

It is, and if somebody were to look at my notebooks they could see how I developed things and went back. I don’t know, for some reason I can not go to this computer, sit there and start typing and have ideas come. They do not come at all. I have my sister-in-law as my editor who actually takes the hieroglyphics from my notebooks ad puts them on the computer. So she does that and my wife comes through and edits. So that’s how my process works. A notebook and a pen.

(Horror Fuel)

That’s perfect. I like that a lot. I wonder if that goes back to you just writing your journals?

(Hickman)

You know, I didn’t think about that. You’re probably right. You ought to be a therapist. I never thought about that, but it’s probably exactly where that comes from.

(Horror Fuel)

It obviously works for you so that’s great! SO I have just a couple rapid-fire questions for you. Just one-work answers in the horror theme here.

Favorite horror villain?

(Hickman)

So this is gonna sound bad because I like the intelligent villains, but Jason Voorhees. He was really the first that I got into. Especially in Friday the 13th Part 2 when he comes through the window. I was like “Oh yeah.”

(Horror Fuel)

Name a horror movie that you would suggest to non-horror fans to get them into the genre

(Hickman)

Wow, that’s tough. There are a lot of good ones, There was one kind of recent called The Visit. Anyway, that movie doesn’t have anything supernatural, but it is creepy as hell! I think what creeps me out is that it is probably something that has happened or could happen in real life. Scary. SO that’s one that would be a good one because it has a lot of elements in it.

(Horror Fuel)

That’s a good call. I hadn’t thought of that one, but I like that pick.

Why do you write horror?

(Hickman)

In think with horror you can get into reality and non-reality kinda meet so you can do lots of things you couldn’t do with a non-fiction story. I also think that some people put themselves in it. Sometimes there’s always that jerk who gets it, you know, and you’re like “I know that guy in my life.” You can’t do anything in civilized society, but in horror when that jerk gets it, people can project themselves into the story to a certain extent. Obviously not to where they get killed, but, you know.

(Horror Fuel)

So let’s talk about your upcoming book. Why should people read it?

(Hickman)

Well hopefully they read the first book or else they’ll be lost in the second one, but the second book there is still a lot of action and craziness. I think some of the violence becomes more ritualistic as their minds start to go.

(Horror Fuel)

We saw hints of that in the first book.

(Hickman)

Correct and there is going to bit a little more…I’ll put it this way, a command structure. You will get introduced to new characters and the characters in the book rally start to figure out the concept of family. When they realize that they kinda need to do things on their own. The soldiers in this take a real responsibility for the others with them. You’ll find out that they really start to consider everyone as family. Before it was more of a duty, but now it’s crossed that bride into “these people are now my family” so that transition takes place. I will say that their tactics change. I won’t give away the first book, but it’s different in the second book because they try to establish an existence for themselves. The second book is a lot more missions within caring the existence.

(Horror Fuel)

So you set me the front cover, it looks awesome!

(Hickman)

So that was a lady named Bella Wong who is from Hong Kong. She did the first book and this time I started to panic because I found her on fiverr which a a site where you can find professional people to do just about anything you need, designs or whatever. So that’s where I found her and even though she didn’t have a whole lot, I saw the covers that she did do and I was really impressed so she did the first book. So then as I was getting ready for the second book she went on a hiatus and her account was on pause. So I tried to do the cover myself on photo shop, but it was horrible…absolutely horrible. So I just reached out to her on e-mail and she immediately got back and said “absolutely I will.” SO if you look at the cover you’ll see a familiar face.

(Horror Fuel)

I was going to say, that’s you, right?

(Hickman)

Yeah, it’s me. So what I did is that I couldn’t find royalty free pictures so I sent her me as a reference and said :I don’t know if you wan to build one with photo shop or put pieces together because I can’t fin any reference material for how Priest is described.” So I sent my picture as a reference and that’s what she sent back (laughs). How conceited is that to put yourself on the cover (laughs). I mean, Priest is me, but…When it come out, my friends and stuff, I’m going to catch some holy hell (laughs).

(Horror Fuel)

Well, you know, most authors put their pictures of the back of the book anyway, so…

(Hickman)

(laughs) I won’t even put anything on the back, just look on the front cover and there you go.

(Horror Fuel)

Perfect! Well I’m excited for the second book for sure. Any other projects you’re working on?

(Hickman)

Yeah, I am working on another book. After the second book I’m going to take a break from the Light Reapers story, but I will tell you this: it won’t be a cliffhanger, it will bring everything together, but the series is not done. I won’t leave anyone hanging, but there will be at least a trilogy.

But what I’m working on now is a book called The White Chapel Retribution Society. What that is, is prostitutes during the time of Jack the Ripper in London back in the White Chapel District. It’s basically going to be where the aristocrats and people in parliament dabble in prostitutes and they want to make sure that never gets out so they find a guy to kill these prostitutes. The problem is that the one prostitute that he fails to kill goes and creates this underground network of pick-pockets, other prostitutes and the vagrants who live in this White Chapel society. SO they meet up with this soldier who was in the Maori wars in New Zealand so he teaches them. The prostitutes are the heroines of this story. They create a whole network. Like my other books, it’s going to be gory and lots of killing, but it’s not going to be the story that people think. The ladies are going to do some damage.

(Horror Fuel)

Is it difficult to write from a female point of view for this book?

(Hickman)

I’m going to enlist my wife and my daughter who is 22 to get some feelings a thoughts to write it from a female point of view. I’m going to have to come outside my self. SO I think in this one there will be different emotions and reactions than the trained military people in the first two even the strong female characters in Light Reapers. I think this will get a lot different audience and we’ll see how it goes,

(Horror Fuel)

That sounds awesome! Thank you. I am really excited for the new Light Reapers book as well as the upcoming White Chapel one.

(Hickman)

I appreciate you interviewing me. Horror Fuel has been a great advocate and I really appreciate it.

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