Lucas Mangum is the author of several books, most notably Engines of Ruin, Gods of the Dark Web, and Saint Sadist. He also hosts The Mangum Show, a podcast where indie authors discuss cult movies. He lives in Austin with his family. If horror’s not your thing, he also writes romance under the name Jamie St. John. You can follow him on Twitter @RealLucasMangum or become a patron at patreon.com/LMangumFiction to gain access to exclusive content such as videos, essays and free stories.
How long have you been writing horror?
I started writing when I was six. Seeing Stephen King’s Silver Bullet one Halloween changed everything for me. I decided I wanted to write scary stuff and started making little chapbooks to sell to my neighbors. I wrote about a lot of these starter stories in this blog post (https://lucasmangum.com/2019/04/04/unfinished-unpublished-unaccounted-for-part-1/) and sometimes think about returning to them, but putting an adult, more-educated spin on them. I didn’t really get super serious until around 2009-2010 when I discovered Sara Gran, Joe Hill, Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry and Wrath James White.
What do you think makes a great horror story?
Interestingly enough, I think some of the best “horror” has come outside the genre. One of my favorite movies, The Reflecting Skin, isn’t considered horror, as far as I know, but the whole thing is really horrifying. You’ve got this kid learning all about death by either losing loved ones or finding an aborted fetus or by questionable conversations with the resident crazy old lady. That said, I love trope-heavy stuff, too. While I think some good stuff has come out of this recent wave of “elevated” horror, I also think a lot of these films are trying too hard to be intelligent, or feel like they’re above the genre and have to “say something,” when they’d just be better off trying to scare us. I won’t list examples, because I’m not interested in starting a fight with anyone who reads this, but I think you catch my drift.
What are some subgenres that you would like to write in?
I’d really love to write a coming of age horror novel like It or Summer of Night, something apocalyptic like The Stand or Swan Song, and a dark crime thriller like Sharp Objects or Koontz’s Cold Fire.
What are your thoughts on “triggers” in horror?
That’s a tough question. I mean, we seem to have lost the ability to say, “I value free speech,” without also being that jerk who says “lol #triggered.” I don’t have an issue with horror or any genre incorporating potentially triggering elements, partly because if we’re honest, anything can be triggering. Of course, I’m not tone deaf either; some things are obviously triggering to a larger percentage of people and I think as long as we’re up front about what we’re putting out in the world, we’re okay. I’ve been told Saint Sadist has too many triggers to list, but the back cover copy and the cover itself give a pretty clear picture of what’s in store. Ultimately, I just don’t think it’s a black and white issue, like, you can be sorry for the effects of something without being sorry for the material itself. Of course I’d feel terrible if someone reached out to me and said they suffered some sort of abuse and one of my books triggered these memories and now they’re in the hospital. I’d feel awful and I’d certainly care. I’d probably even donate to their gofundme to help with those hospital bills, but I’m not going to pull my book from the shelves.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novella Saint Sadist?
I describe Saint Sadist as a cross between Paradise Lost and I Spit on Your Grave, and I’m only half-joking. Horror’s been such a big part of my life, but at the time I was writing Saint Sadist, I’d just finished writing a romance and I was mostly reading Southern Gothic, epic poetry, and early 20thcentury stream-of-consciousness pieces. What I ended up with was this piece that has a setup that you’d find in a 70s exploitation film (troubled girl runs afoul of a strange cult), but because of all this stuff I was reading, I incorporated an experimental (at least for me) style and left a lot of questions unanswered.
Who are your biggest influences when it comes to horror?
Even though King brought me to the dance, I think Clive Barker has had the biggest and longest-lasting impression on me and my work. I love how he can make any subject, no matter how perverse, beautiful. I love the sexuality in his work. I love the boundless imagination his works exhibit.
Can you tell us about the script you have been working on?
Yeah! It’s called Seedlings and it’s about a paranormal scammer who gets in over his head when a supernatural entity starts stealing babies in his Appalachian town. Think The Conjuring, but Southern-fried, kind of funny, and with a more accurate portrayal of the Warrens. I’m shooting a proof of concept short right now and hope to raise money for a feature, so keep an eye out for the Kickstarter.
What are your top three favorite horror books?
Come Closer by Sara Gran, It by Stephen King, and Island by Richard Laymon. Honestly, though, aside from It, that list is always changing.
If you could time travel, when and where would you go? Why?
I’d like to travel to New England between the World Wars. I have such a deep appreciation for the work ethic of the pulpsters from back then, and I’d love to have been a part of that wave of fiction.
Pregnant with her father’s child, nineteen-year-old Courtney is a girl on the run, willing to do anything to make her way on the road. When a car accident leaves her wounded by the side of a desolate highway, she is taken in by an environmentalist doomsday cult led by the enigmatic Saint Ambrose, a charismatic preacher and ex-environmental scientist who gave up everything after claiming to see the face of God. When he meets the seemingly vulnerable Courtney, he is taken by her beauty and her wounded soul. Now, with the promise of salvation hanging in the balance, Courtney must undergo a series of trials, each more painful and humiliating than the last, her incestuously conceived baby growing in her womb, a strange presence visiting her at night and telling her Ambrose has lost his way and it is she who must overthrow him.
From the author of Engines of Ruin, comes a dark suspenseful novel for fans of Black Mirror, Edward Lee and cosmic horror.
The internet is a scary place. Beneath Facebook and Twitter is another world. One in which anything can be obtained—for a price. A community of black markets, depraved pornography, and death. This is the dark web.
Leon was just curious, he heard the stories of the secrets and forbidden fetishes that the dark web offered. He was an activist, protesting against war and hate. But after a protest became violent, he felt he needed protection. Being a teenager with no way to buy a gun legally, he had no choice but to turn to the dark web.
This rash decision sends Leon spiraling down into a dark side of humanity that most don’t know, or even want to know, exists. A world of murder, torture, and cannibalism. But behind all that there is something worse, something stalking him and intent on ruining every aspect of his life. Now Leon is fighting for his life and reputation as he is being hunted by vile and arcane forces. They are…
Gods of the Dark Web
“Shit is gnarly in the world of Lucas Mangum, but there’s a humanity and sense of fun, a sense of joy in all the splatter that calls to mind the work of Guillermo del Toro.” – J. David Osborne (Author of BLACK GUM and LOW DOWN DEATH RIGHT EASY)
This collection of eight short stories by dark fiction author, Lucas Mangum includes “A Killing Back Home,” “Video Inferno,” “Hell and Back,” and “Occupy Babylon,” plus four never before published tales and an introduction by Shane McKenzie (author of MUERTE CON CARNE and MONSTERS DON’T CRY).
MANIA follows controversial filmmaker William Ward as he films an adaptation of a supposedly cursed screenplay. Though he doesn’t believe in curses, he’s happy to have the hype surrounding his newest movie. But as production begins, he soon learns that the curse is all too real and the vengeful ghost haunting the script is only a piece of the puzzle. At its heart is a shadowy cult, manipulating events behind the scenes. As dark forces gather around him, Ward and his girlfriend Rachel try to find a way to break the curse before it’s too late.