Hi everyone! Today I am joined by the recently represented Lucas Hargis. I first met Lucas via a Twitter pitch party. When I read his Twitter-worthy pitch for his novel PHREAK SHOW, I knew he had a winner! My interview with Lucas will touch upon that particular pitch, among many other things. I think when you read it, you’ll understand what a gem of an idea it is. I cannot wait to read the real thing!!!
Lucas has been kind enough to allow me to post some sketches. Here are two of his characters, Niko and Tera. Enjoy!
As usual, please feel free to comment below! Let’s get this conversation started!
Susan Nystoriak: Welcome, Lucas! To start us off, tell us a bit about yourself. What led you to become a writer?
Lucas Hargis: If we follow the breadcrumbs back far enough, my journey to becoming a writer began when I was a little freckle-faced boy playing in the pine trees of NC. My friends and I claimed the woods behind my house as our own little world. The setting was there, we were the characters. All we needed were stories to live out, adventures to experience.
That made for a pretty rich ground for my imagination. Eventually, the same process that turned us into wizards, soldiers, and animals worked its way onto paper. Imaginative play is something I never grew out of. I’m totally okay with crediting those treasured times in the woods as the reason I write today.
Susan Nystoriak: Obviously, you are a writer of fiction. Do you or have you ever, written anything in the non-fiction realm? Also, have you ever delved into other forms of creative writing? Other creative arts?
Lucas Hargis: I get my hands messy with all sorts of creative things. That includes visual art: public art projects, murals, mixed media sculpture, altered books, antique refurbishing, and upcycled furniture. I’ve tinkered with all sorts of writing forms as well. A dozen years ago I had a few non-fiction articles & some poetry published. Different ideas require different forms, so I play with poetry, flash fic, and short stories.
It feels strange to me now, but I never even considered writing a novel until three years ago. Now I can’t imagine not writing novels. All it took was one to get me hooked. Four down and perhaps a hundred more to go.
Susan Nystoriak: The premise of Phreak Show is very intriguing. I remember reading a pitch you tweeted about it, thinking it was so unique. Can you give us a bit of a plot synopsis?
Lucas Hargis: The story revolves around a modern-day sideshow, where teens are enslaved. Their deepest, darkest fears and personal hang-ups are visibly manifested. They are trapped in the Phreak Show until they confront and overcome their warped self-images.
The Twitter pitch may have been something along these lines:
Tera joins the crazy-twisted Phreak Show to defeat Phineas who enslaves teens by wielding their warped self-images against them.
A longer version would be:
When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them.
While Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, she refuses to keep her fiery tongue caged and simply walk away.
Sacrificing her own questionable normality, Tera becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks to set the others free from the inside out. But the teens believe the lies about themselves too strongly. Tera is powerless to help them until she faces her own issues of guilt and accepting a part of herself that is more like the wicked Phineas than his innocent phreaks.
Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind.
And, of course, I’ve spun that summary a thousand different ways. Perhaps the hardest thing for a writer is congealing 80,000 words into a few focused sentences.
Susan Nystoriak: For what age group/readership is it written?
Lucas Hargis: Phreak Show is YA, but its true readership is those who know the struggle of reconciling their insides with their outsides.
Susan Nystoriak: As a middle school music teacher, I also believe that the underlying theme was very timely. How did the story come to you? Tell us about the story’s genesis.
The seed of Phreak Show just zinged in my head one day: Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind. Right away I knew the concept of self-acceptance burned in the heart of that seed. So I turned back into that kid playing in the pines and started cracking that seed open to discover what kind of story it desired to grow into.
Relevance is a key element I consider when weighing ideas I feel worthy of a novel’s amount of commitment. The characters needed to mean something to the readers—be rounded and real with personalities and struggles teens could identify with. The characters sprouted within those bounds. Once I mentally placed them in proximity to one another, their internal and external conflicts naturally developed. The plot spread outward.
Before I knew it, a Phreak Show tree stood where that seed once was.
Susan Nystoriak: Who are the main characters in the story? Whose perspective is the story told in?
Just the main characters? Man, I want to pimp them all out. Each act in the Phreak Show is a personification of a different issue teens struggle with: guilt, wanting to stand out, wanting to fit in, weight and body image, internal conflict with oneself, gender and sexuality, parental expectations, growing up, letting go of control.
The story is told from Tera’s perspective, who is dealing with issues of guilt and discovering who she really is. Over the course of the story, as Tera guides the other phreaks to face their own issues, the process helps her face her own.
Phineas is the magic-wielding maestro who enslaves teens in the Phreak Show. Tera hates him at first. But as she unravels the mysteries of the Phreak Show, she discovers she has as much in common with Phineas as she does with the phreaks.
Niko is Tera’s hottie tattoo artist love interest. (Out here in the real world, he has a lot of phangirls and phanboys.) He’s a pretty charismatic, swoonworthy character.
Then there’s Mama Snow, Twiggy the Blubber Girl, Jules the Gender Enigma, Mantis the Giantess, Gemini the Two-Headed Boy, Lil Diva, Doug Doug the Dimwit, and Madame Supprimere. Plus Romeo—Phineas’s copper automaton monkey.
And the rubes—the townies who gawk at the phreaks—also fill a key role in the story.
Susan Nystoriak: As you see your characters right now, is there an actor or actress you have in mind for any of the characters? Can you envision your novel as a film? Why or why not?
Lucas Hargis: I can totally see Phreak Show as a film. In fact, almost every reader has pointed out that Phreak Show would make a phantastic movie. Maybe that’s the writer part of me drawing from the artist part of me and funneling that visual element into my writing.
You know when you watch a movie and get so immersed in it that you completely lose track of everything in the real world? That immersed feeling? When I write, that’s where I am. Seeing, hearing, experiencing things as my characters. I visualize and feel them. Their movements. Their emotions. I write from that totally immersed state. And apparently that lends itself to readers experiencing the words personally, in a movie-esque sort of way.
Yes, I could cast some of the characters with current actors. I can easily picture James Franco as blind, magical, steampunkish Phineas. And I’d love Tilda Swinton in any role she’d accept.
But this is where pragmatic Lucas would jump in. the film would need teen actors. By the time the rights are sold, screenplay is written, casting selections are completed, production begins, etc… Anyone I choose now will be too old to play the parts. Tera, Niko, and the rest would need to be played by fresh faces, young talent we haven’t even heard of yet.
Sometimes man-Lucas overrides little pine-tree-boy.
Susan Nystoriak: Please tell us how you and your agent connected. Was it a long and winding road, or was it love at first sight?
Lucas Hargis: The loverly Louise Fury has been at the top of my list since I first started researching agents. But she’s normally closed to submissions and gains clients through contests and conferences. So, I wasn’t able to query her with previous novels. But, with Phreak Show, something enchanted happened.
A long, winding road is the short answer. The longer, twisty, magical answer is here: http://johnlucashargis.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/offer-of-rep-and-why-this-time-i-said-yes/
Susan Nystoriak: Are there any plans yet for when your book might make into print, or is it too soon to say?
Lucas Hargis: We’re still at the get-ready-for-sub stage. Still a ways out from all that. But (phingers crossed) there will be some amazing developments along that front before long. Keep your ears open.
Susan Nystoriak: Finally, what is one thing you would like our readers to know, either about you or your novel?
Lucas Hargis: When I was that little kid playing in the woods, imagining stories with my friends, I knew there was something special inside me. We all took part in creating our adventures, but I had a certain knack for creating a framework for us to build within.
That same imaginative part of me only grew stronger the more I used it. While I never let my inner phreak die altogether, there were times when I strangled him so hard—out of fear, and embarrassment, and what I thought others might think if I let the phreak out too much—he could barely breathe.
I would not have written Phreak Show, shared it with others, or sought an agent if I would have kept squelching my inner phreakiness. The greatest moments in my life have come from the times I embraced my creativity and let it have its way with me. So, for what it’s worth, that’s a challenge I always give myself. (And to anyone who will take it.)
Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind.
Susan Nystoriak: Well put. Lucas, I look forward to reading about your successes! It sounds like you have a lot of wonderful things ahead of you. Thanks again for stopping by!
Please check out Lucas online. He is active with social media as well as a blogger, and can be reached the following ways:
This sounds fascinating. Let me know when it comes out. Betsy
Thanks Betsy! Will do!