Barry Lyga: ‘Write the book YOU want to read’

By Maryann Yin Comment

Have you ever written a scary story? In honor of the Halloween season, we are interviewing horror writers to learn about the craft of scaring readers. Recently, we spoke with author Barry Lyga.

Lyga (pictured) started off writing novels for an adult audience. When those particular manuscripts did not sell, he began penning stories for a teen audience. He established his publishing career with the release of his hit young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you land your first book deal?
A: I had written a couple of adult-ish novels that no one seemed to want to publish. It’s not they were bad — plenty of people liked them — they just weren’t sparking anyone’s interest. But a bunch of editors and agents who read them said, “Not yet — show me the next one.” The next one was completely different from those adult books — a YA novel about a bullied, comic book-obsessed dreamer. But I proudly showed it off to every agent and editor I could, and this time the reaction was pretty astounding. Within a few months of finishing the book, I met my agent at a writers’ conference. Within six months, she’d sold The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl. It was sort of a whirlwind.

Q: What’s your advice for aspiring horror writers?
A: The same advice I’d give to aspiring writers of any kind of story, not just horror: Write the book YOU want to read. You are your own first and best audience. Don’t think of the reader when you write; that’s the path to self-doubt, self-censorship, and horribly bland writing. If you make yourself happy, sad, angry, horny, terrified, or whatever with your writing, then you’ll be able to do the same to others. Don’t try to second-guess it.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: The second book in the I HUNT KILLERS series — GAME — will be out in April. It is so, so bloody…

Q: What are your favorite scary books?
A: I’m a huge Stephen King fan (duh), so I have to put books like Salem’s Lot and The Stand on this list. Also, the Alan Moore Swamp Thing comics from the eighties were pure horrific fun — “Sophisticated Suspense,” as it said on the covers. In the middle-grade space, I have to mention Dan Poblocki‘s The Stone Child, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to my pal Libba Bray‘s deliciously scary YA novel, The Diviners.