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“The Shadows of Lazarus”: Continued Steps in Horror Writing

I write in the field of speculative fiction because I like the absence of creative and thematic limits it offers. And I especially like to explore the horror component of it, because it allows me to work with more visceral issues, with the root of fears, anxieties and the cruelty of our species. It's a genre that easily let’s you get past writing what you know, and gives you enormous creativity permission to tackle the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the unthinkable; a genre that forces us to feel. And to me, that's what all literature (all art, actually) should aim to do.

I never had any plans to write books. I was always too dispersed in my goals to focus on projects of that magnitude. Besides, committing to a literary career seemed taxing and presumptuous. I knew it from reading Poe and Lovecraft and King and Barker. To write anything worthwhile you had to be on another level of talent. And writing was hard work.

My interests, however, never changed. Horror, Arts and Humanities have always been a part of me, and the blending of these subjects ended up occurring naturally. I began to write. 

I started — as many writers do, I suppose — not knowing what I was doing. Trying things. And I realized I liked it — either despite all the work or precisely because of it.

Today, I can hardly imagine a future in which I’m not writing.

Most writers, I would like to believe, write for the pleasure of it. In my case, although I enjoy putting pen to paper (or blank page on a word processor), I do it mainly because if I have an idea, I need to get rid of it in the form of a story. 

Writing thus becomes a compulsory thing, a means of exorcising not my demons (we all get along very well), but all the ideas that come to my mind, so that they are not left in the void of what could have been. After all, what good is a story if we can’t tell it?

My official debut in writing was very positive, as my first submission (to the CTLX/MOTELX Tales of Horror Contest) earned me a first prize and a resulting publication, thus having the opportunity and pleasure of joining an anthology (Contos de Terror do Homem-Peixe / Tales of Terror of the Fish Man) with several renowned authors, such as David Soares, João Barreiros, Batista Bastos, António de Macedo, Rui Zink and Possidónio Cachapa.

It was this first step on solid ground that spurred me on.

Since then, I realized how thorough I had to be. That I couldn’t slow down. That I had to learn more, and improve myself constantly. I noticed it especially when, to challenge myself, I went from the short format to the longer one. The original version of my first novel (As Sombras de Lázaro / The Shadows of Lazarus) was rejected in its first submission and — I must confess — rightly so. Thankfully this version never saw the light of a printed page.

“As Sombras de Lázaro” / “The Shadows of Lazarus”

After a few years (in which I returned to short fiction), and from a new perspective, I looked back at the manuscript and realized that it had been rushed and that it needed a considerable amount of rewriting. Authors should be pleased with their story, and that clearly wasn’t the case.

Not wanting to waste the work, and especially wanting to finish the story in a way that made it consistent, I devoted myself to making it as good as possible — which took me a lot longer than what I had spent in the original. I also ended up doing the illustrations for the book and sending them along with my second submission. I always liked to draw and this, to me, seemed like a good way to see my hardly-professional scribbles published.

I was completely satisfied with the manuscript when I submitted it. A story about guilt, about what devours us from within, about what the shadows hold for each of us. A story in which supernatural monsters and human monsters cross and merge paths.

I felt I had worked the manuscript to exhaustion, creating the version I’d imagined. I had finished the story of Lazarus, my haunted protagonist, and of the three monstrous figures that come out of their frames to torment him.

But, no matter how many stories we write and publish, there is always one question that remains: is it good enough?

Validation came in the form of the António de Macedo Award (2018), by Editorial Divergência. I always write for myself, but validation does matter. Not only for the publishing part, of course, but because our work is assessed by someone with writing and/or editorial experience, not by those closest to us, who tend to encourage us regardless of the quality of our texts.

One more step was taken.

Pedro Lucas Martins at the Antónino de Macedo Award cerimony

After As Sombras de Lázaro (The Shadows of Lazarus), I wrote A Promessa do Faroleiro (The Lighthouse Keeper’s Promise), in 2019. This was a horror story about a lighthouse keeper and his tragic responsibilities. It was published in Portuguese and in English by Amazon (in an author’s edition), and I did it to take a break from the long format, returning to short stories. For me, whose mind is constantly assaulted by ideas, this is always a welcomed format. Making this edition was also a way of venturing into self-publishing, to get to know its advantages and disadvantages. I was not disappointed with the outcome.

I write in the field of speculative fiction because I like the absence of creative and thematic limits it offers. And I especially like to explore the horror component of it, because it allows me to work with more visceral issues, with the root of fears, anxieties and the cruelty of our species. It’s a genre that easily let’s you get past writing what you know, and gives you enormous creativity permission to tackle the unknown, the uncomfortable, and the unthinkable; a genre that forces us to feel. And to me, that’s what all literature (all art, actually) should aim to do.

I do it — or try to do it — in my own way. I’m a writer, but I’m mainly a horror writer, and I don’t intend to shake that label to make my writing seem more palatable or prestigious.At this point, after joining other collections of short fiction, I decided, along with other personal projects, to edit an anthology that brings together several (yet) unknown Portuguese authors in the horror genre. This symbolic author’s edition, titled Sangue Novo / New Blood, is my contribution to boosting a genre with so much value and so little representation in Portugal, offering another space where horror can breathe and communicate in a common language. Above all, however, it’s a way for these new authors to take that important first step (the one no journey can start without), hoping it will encourage them to continue.

By Pedro Lucas Martins

Pedro Lucas Martins was born in Lisbon, in the auspicious year of 1983.

He has a degree in Linguistics and a master’s degree in Translation from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Lisbon. 

He has won a few literary prizes — including the CTLX/MOTELX Prize (with the short story «O Carrinho de Mão» / «The Wheelbarrow») and the António de Macedo Prize (with the novel As Sombras de Lázaro / The Shadows of Lazarus) — and is mainly dedicated to horror fiction.

When he’s not thinking about what might be hiding in the dark and writing about it, he works as a translator, proofreader and language/literature trainer.

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