By Dana Micheli
Luke Hays knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a writer, ever since he became hooked on Calvin and Hobbes and The Great Illustrated Classics. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like these authors,” Hay says, “and it wasn’t long before I started writing my own stories.” Among the first was a piece he wrote with his younger brother during a cross-country trip; both boys were still in grade school. It was through these early stories that Luke began to find his voice as a writer, and at 21 years old, he has published two novels, is working on a third, and has even tried his hand at screenplay writing.
His second novel, Psychic Detective, is a historical fantasy novel set in the spring of 1883. It’s the story of Henry Larson, a crack Pinkerton Detective whose amazing crime-fighting skills spring in part from an ability to see the future. When Larson is called to a small town in California to solve a string of gruesome murders, he knows he’ll have to use all his powers—natural and supernatural—to catch the elusive killer. Hays’ inspiration for Psychic Detective came from the Hughes Brother’s film, “From Hell”, starring Johnny Depp as Inspector Fredrick Abberline. Abberline, who is investigating Jack the Ripper, is also a psychic. Hays also credits Sir Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and other detective stories for sparking his desire to create this story. Hays has always drawn inspiration from his favorite books, including Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle, and The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Currently, he has moved on to a different genre and time period to read Stephen King’s Carrie.
Like any veteran writer, Hays has come up with a creative process that works best for him. “As soon as I come up with an idea, I jot it down, then I write a logline for the book. This gives me the basic framework for the plot.” Sometimes he creates character biographies as well, but he does not spend a lot of time on story outlines. “When writing a novel I generally write a rough draft that becomes my outline.” Screenplays, however, are another story. “I do outlines for screenplays because I’m dealing with visuals, which I find more challenging, but in a good way. Screenwriting is a lot of fun.”
After careful consideration, Hays has decided to self-publish his books. “I’ve thought about going the traditional route of querying agents and trying to get a publisher,” Hays admits, “but it is a long process, requiring a lot of patience. Self-publishing is less expensive and gets your book on the market much sooner. The self-publishing company reads through your manuscript to see if it needs to be fixed or reworked, and then you’re good to go.” Hays’ self-publishing experiences have been so positive that he also plans to self-publish the second and third installment of The Blood Line Trilogy. Not one to limit his options, however, Hays is considering pursuing traditional publishers for yet another novel he has in the works.
Being a writer is not an easy path, and is certainly not the type of career most people try without either a back-up plan or a safety net. Hays’s family has certainly had time to become accustomed to his dream, and while they are supportive, they also promote self-reliance. “They do encourage me and cheer me on, but the editing and publishing costs are all on me. It all really comes down to motivating myself.”
That said, Hays has nothing but words of support for other young writers who might be feeling the pressure to choose a “safer” career. “Never give up, I tell them. It can be a rough road, but the benefits of following your passion more than compensate you for any hardships.”
Psychic Detective would undoubtedly make a good film, and Hays certainly hasn’t ruled out writing an adaption for the big screen. Right now, however, he is focusing on The Bloodline Trilogy, first writing the second installation, then perhaps a TV series based on the storyline.