Meghan: Hi Lucy! Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Lucy: Right now, it’s baking. Every Sunday, my mom and I bake together over FaceTime. From mid-September to the end of October, we’re baking exclusively Halloween-themed treats. I get a lot of inspiration from the baking shows on the Food Network.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Lucy: When I was a kid, we’d have huge Halloween parties. It would start in September when the Oriental Trading Company catalog arrived. My brother and two sisters and I would sit down with our mom and create an order for party favors and decorations. Weeks in advance, we’d start planning all the attractions. Putting macabre labels on spice mixes for the witches brew in the shed. Collecting supplies for fortune-telling in my sister’s room. I remember scouring DC-area magic stores one year trying to find an appropriate crystal ball. We never did, and my dad wound up mounting a glass orb onto a stocky cylinder. My mom had new ideas for the party every year, but some of the staples were the kids wrapping each other in toilet paper as mummies and eating small, powdered donuts hanging from a tree branch without using our hands. My dad hooked up a trailer to his lawn tractor, filled it with hay, and towed us around the backyard. The trailer would frequently detach, leaving kids at an odd angle in the yard, and my dad would just keep driving as he couldn’t hear the screams over the sound of the lawn mower.
But the best part was the haunted house. Since I’m the oldest, I was in charge of transforming the garage into a room of terrors and leading age-appropriate tours for the younger kids. My parents used the garage for storage, so we used whatever we found in there. A recurring character was Harold, my dad’s jeans and flannel shirt stuffed with pillows and newspaper that sat in an old rocking chair. Two female salsa dancer pinatas, a relic from my third birthday party, hung from the ceiling by their necks. Someone would always be waiting outside, sticking a foot through the cat door, then brandishing a leaf blower to terrify the kids who thought the nightmare was over when they had left the garage.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Lucy: The memories. Halloween was a big deal to my family when I was growing up. We’d take long drives through the changing leaves to far-off farms in search of pumpkins. We never had packaged costumes, always ones that we’d construct from seemingly disparate items around the house. When I was in kindergarten, my mom turned dining room chair cushions into turtle shells so my brother and I could dress as our favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One year, we put stuffing in long underwear to turn my little sister into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Two years ago, my mom and I went up to Salem for the weekend a couple weeks before Halloween. We did a ghost tour, an interactive Rocky Horror, and a bunch of of witch stuff. It was so much fun. We keep talking about how we need to go back. It’s my most recent wonderful Halloween memory.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Lucy: Five years ago, I broke my face after flying off a set of gymnastics rings at the gym. I will not use that particular set of rings again. Unfortunately, the owners just rearranged the gym so I don’t know where that set is. I have to accept that it was not the rings’ fault…
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Lucy: Jack Torrance. Several years ago, I was the only copywriter at a busy ad agency and was assigned about 17 hours of work in each eight-hour day. In a meeting with the agency president and the project managers who were constantly haranguing me about status updates, I told them how every time they interrupted me, they broke my concentration. It’s like at the gym. I was cooled down and needed to warm back up again to get back in the creative zone. So, their constant interruptions were slowing me down. Nearly a year after I was fired, I was watching The Shining (as I do every Halloween) and realized Jack gave almost the identical speech/rant to Wendy — with a lot more profanity. The Shining has always been my favorite horror movie, but I got a whole new appreciation for the horror of stress-induced psychosis.
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Lucy: Jack the Ripper. I like all the theories and find it interesting how many Ripperologists seem convinced that it has to be a notable person who committed the murders when the vast majority of known serial killers were losers.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Lucy: The ones with the spiders and bugs burrowing under skin. That sounds like it could actually happen.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Lucy: SPOILER ALERT. Leland Palmer. The singing, the crying, the dancing, and the emergence of BOB when he gets locked in the cell. And the scene where it’s revealed that Leland is the killer — one of the best things ever on TV. I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it aired, but I can’t imagine many people saw that one coming.
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Lucy: I remember reading Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face when I was 10 or 11. I loved it and was hooked on her books after that. My first horror movie was Psycho, but I can’t remember how old I was. I saw Scream as soon as it came out on VHS when I was 13. That was my first modern slasher flick. I memorized it. A few years later I won a tickets to a premiere screening of Scary Movie for calling into a local rock radio station and completing a line from it.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Lucy: The Painted Bird is more disturbing than any horror book I’ve ever read.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Lucy: For some reason in 6th grade band class we watched the Twilight Zone movie. I remember getting all freaked out by the sister with no mouth. That gave me nightmares for a couple days. We also watched the original It in that class. That one left no impression…
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Lucy: Sharon Tate. Halloween 2007 when I was 24. I wore a blood-soaked nightgown over a fake pregnant belly though which I stuck a plastic knife.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Lucy: “Song of Joy” by Nick Cave. Spooky, dark, and uses one of my favorite literary devices, the unreliable narrator.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Lucy: I’m one of those crazy people who love candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins. But Indian corn is disappointing. Something about that fake chocolate flavor just does not do it for me.
Lucy Leitner is the author of horror-comedy novels Working Stiffs (2012) and Outrage: Level 10 (2021). From Arlington, VA (where the joke says people are dying to go), she lives in Pittsburgh, PA (where the movies say the dead live). She’s been making up scary stories since frightening her little sister out of sharing a room at age 10. In 2010, she earned a master’s in journalism, won an award for a piece in Justice Magazine, and promptly retired from journalism. Now she’s the writer, spokesperson, and sometimes hand model for a global vitamin company that tends to post more zombie content on social media than all its competitors… When not scaring customers into taking their vitamins, she’s working on her next horror novel.
Outrage: Level 10 was originally released through Necro, but sadly Dave Barnett died right after the book was released. It will be re-released through Blood Bound Books on November 26th.
Get Me Out of This Shimmering Oasis is a short story.
Outrage: Level 10 —
Alex Malone is brain damaged from a career as a legendary goon in the outlawed sport of hockey. Now he’s a cop because that’s the only job that’ll take him. His presence is enough to raise a citizen’s outrage level, putting him at constant risk of being banished—or worse, sent to the mysterious Maze.
His headaches bring the type of pain that makes plunging off one of Pittsburgh’s bridges a viable option. The bouts of unfettered rage interfere with his ability to complete even the simplest task of rounding up the centenarians with the dying brains and bionic bodies who terrorize other citizens.
Since The People assumed control of the Republic of America, death before 130 has become a thing of the pre-Revolutionary past. Cancer, heart disease, spinal cord injury—all eradicated thanks to tax dollars funding medical research instead of wars and unjust justice. If only they could figure out the brain…
So an experimental treatment sounds good to Malone. It feels good, too. The blackouts that would end with bleeding knuckles and a citizen unconscious on a sidewalk are replaced by vivid memories. The only problem is that the memories aren’t his. They’re filled with torture and more violence than even the undefeated champion of ice boxing could imagine.
With a sense of purpose not felt since his days as hockey’s premier fighter, Malone is determined to find out what’s going on in his head, even if it makes him a target of the outraged mob and the powerful sadists that manipulate it, and leads him to horrifying truths that should have remained lies.
Outrage: Level 10 is an anti-hero’s journey through the inner workings of a violent, near-future dystopia.
Get Me Out of This Shimmering Oasis —
OMG this place is amazing. I can feel all the remnants of my leaky gut clearing right up. A few more days and I may even be able to tolerate dairy again. These innovative treatments are truly elevating my wellness. They are literally scaring me to death, but doing good for yourself never feels good, right? Right?