I love podcasts, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the stuff I’m subscribed to. Currently, I’ve got exactly three podcast subscriptions: Welcome to Nightvale (obvs), The Truth and Iliza, and Lore. Why is my subscription list so short? Because I’m super picky about what I listen to. I really get annoyed when I have dozens of notifications on my phone, and so the thought of constantly having a little, red number next to my podcast icon due to the dozens of podcasts I need to catch up with stresses me out–I do a great job of making myself sound like a crazy person around here, don’t I? Crazy or not, I don’t jump on board with just any podcast someone recommends. However, when I finally do decide that I love a podcast, I love it hard. That’s why I’m talking to you about Lore.
Lore is a new addition to my podcast list. I happened upon it one day when I was searching for something new to listen to, and it didn’t take me long to become completely obsessed. Essentially the podcast, which is the brain child of Aaron Mahnke, tells the real story behind ghost stories, haunted locations, and urban legends. I like to think of it as the perfect companion subscription to Welcome to Nightvale, and a must-have for any hunters out there–seriously, this would be a no-brainer of a subscription for Sam and Dean, amirite?
Seriously though, the Winchesters would totally dig this podcast…
ANYWAY, Lore is amazing. It manages to blend history and spooky stories together in a way that manages to have you on the edge of your seat for the entire episode. The show’s makeup is simple. The background music is simple yet ominous, and you go on this amazing journey through some seriously messed up history with nothing but Aaron Mahnke’s voice as your guide. Despite the simple setup, it is nothing short of riveting. Even better, the podcasts are quite short, so even if you have a shorter commute like I do, you can get through an entire episode in one trip.
I could talk about Lore until I was blue in the face–I love it that much. Happily, I don’t have to do that, because I got to talk to Aaron Mahnke himself about the podcast. I thought I’d share our conversation with you all. Check it out:
Kendall:You write supernatural thrillers in addition to your work on Lore. Was your
fiction writing the catalyst for the podcast? If not, how did Lore come about?
Aaron: Lore was actually an accident. Happy one, but it was something I didn’t intend to create.
One of the frustrations of being a fiction writer is finding ways to connect with my audience, and to get the word out with new material is available. To help me with that, I created an email newsletter, and encourage people to sign up so that they could stay in touch. But after over a year of attempts, the list was small and not growing.
I decided what people needed was an incentive. Some sort of a reward for signing up. So I decided to write a PDF document called My Favorite Five New England myths. I love dividing them, but after finishing, I realize that very few people whatever get to read them. So I went looking for A better way to distribute them. That’s when I thought of audio.
After recording the first episode, I passed the file to a few friends for their feedback. Their response was so overwhelmingly positive that I decided to release it as a podcast. The rest is history!
K:Lore is a unique hybrid of scary stories and history. Why did you decide to go with that format rather than a more fiction-based podcast–especially as someone who writes awesome scary stories?
A: I think the truth is more powerful than made-up stories. Are all of the elements of Lore completely true? Honestly, most people don’t know. But what I love about Lore is that I get to take a common story or fear or legend, and unpack it. I can look at the eye witness reports and historical accounts that rest beneath the story, and while the stories themselves can be entertaining, it is the truth beneath them that is truly amazing.
K:Where do you find the ideas for each episode of Lore, and how do you prepare each episode’s script?
A: Lore episodes are usually a mixture of what I already know, and what I’ve found over the years while researching my novels. There’s a lot out there, and not every spooky story makes for a good episode. I tend to look for stories with lots and lots of different accounts, and usually ones that have been around for a long while.
Each episode begins the same way: reading. I devour anything and everything I can about the topic, take notes, highlight pages, web-clip articles, and compile a big stack of information. Then, I sort through it all and try to find a narrative thread, something that allows me to peal back the layers slowly, building up to (hopefully) a powerful main story that highlights the historical elements while revealing truth about us as people.
These are not easy things to write. They take all of my focus and a lot of my time just to prepare for them. Then, writing them can take days. People often ask me to take the show to a weekly schedule, but they have no clue how much time goes into these episodes. It’s literally a part-time job right now, but I have bills to pay and a family to support, so I work full-time as a freelance designer.
K: Who are some of your horror inspirations?
A: I’m a fan of subtly, so a lot of the thrills I enjoy are more of a hint than a hit to the face. I have a deep love for Stephen King. I know a lot of people see him as “just a horror writer”, but he’s full of so much vision and talent and attention to the normal bits of life. And honestly, there’s nothing more horrifying than the normal bits of life!
Neil Gaiman can drift into the realm of horror. His wonderful novel, the Graveyard Book, is full of dark beauty that left me both chilled and inspired. And the old classics are still powerful: Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Algernon Blackwood.
K:Lore has kind of blown up in the past few weeks. Did you expect this when you launched the podcast?
A: Not at all. I expected to publish a few episodes, get a few downloads, and maybe the attention of a handful of friends. But Lore has gone beyond that quickly. I could never have envisioned it would grow from 100 downloads per day to the iTunes top ten, all in less than three months.
K:While Lore is a relatively new podcast, this isn’t your first podcasting rodeo. You also co-host another weekly podcast called Home Work. So from Home Work and Lore, do you have any advice you can give to people who want to start up their own podcast?
A: Just show up. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll love doing it whether 100 people listen or 100,000. I’m not going to paint a rainbow-colored picture for every future podcaster, though; this is a tough market to get into, and most shows never break through.
What makes that even most frustrating to hear is that I honestly have no idea what sets the successful ones apart from the rest. I reflected a bit on that on my blog a few weeks ago, and I haven’t learned anything new since then.
My advice: show up, do it consistently, aim for the best production you can, and focus on the writing. Long, rambling, unfocused podcasts are a waste of everyone’s time. Deliver something, set up an expectation in your listener’s minds and then exceed it every episode. And if no one listens even after all that, then at least you’ve got a body of work you can look back on and be proud of.
K: What is your favorite creepy urban legend?
A: The first episode of Lore covers it, honestly. I’m enamoured by the notion that an entire town, so close to the glamour of Newport, Rhode Island could have behaved so superstitiously. 1893 wasn’t that long ago, but those convictions and actions feel as if they are worlds apart from our own culture.
K: Is there a particular story you’re especially excited to cover on Lore in a future episode?
A: Living in the Salem, Massachusetts area makes it very easy to want to do an episode on witchcraft. The trouble is that almost everyone knows most of the key details. I want to deliver something new and unexpected.
That said, I have been given access to some of the original documents, and I’m studying my brains out so that I can find a new way to teach an old story. So in that sense, yeah, I’m looking forward to that episode!
K: Is there anything that you can tell us about what to expect in future episodes of Lore?
A: Expect more obscure, infrequently told stories. There is so much out there — such a wealth of folklore and the unknown — and it deserves to be heard. Stories need to me told; that’s what gives them life and longevity. I want to help make that happen.
K: Your next novel is called Grave Suspicion. What can you tell us about that book?
A: Grave Suspicion is another supernatural thriller, but slightly more on the Dan Brown side of things this time around. I can’t say much about it without giving too much away, but I can mention that it takes place in Salem, Massachusetts primarily, as well as my fictional town of Hollesley (a location also featured in Indian Summer and Consumed). The main character, a man named Sam Hawthorne, learns something about himself that sends him on a journey of discovery. What he uncovers could rewrite history and change his life forever. Vague, I know, but that’s all I can say for now.
K:You were running a Kickstarter to help support the book. What do you hope to accomplish with the Kickstarter?
A: The world of Kickstarter is interesting. We’ve taught ourselves to expect rewards for monetary pledges, and so I’ve tried to follow that pattern. Because the project is centered on my newest novel, I built a series of rewards that offer people various versions of the upcoming book. Ebook bundles, autographed paperbacks, bundles of paperbacks (the new novel plus the two previous thrillers), and more.
My favorite feature of this Kickstarter is the stretch goal. We’re close to the finish line and have a short distance to go, but if the campaign reaches the goal, I will be able to fund an audiobook version of the book, something I’ve dreamed of for a long, long time.
[Note to readers from Kendall: though the Kickstarter is over, so unfortunately you can’t back the project anymore, but you can still support Lore! Details below!]
K: Where can we find you, your books, and your podcasts online?
A: The best place to start for anyone curious about me would be to visit aaronmahnke.com/projects. If you want to plug right into Lore, I keep all of that over at LorePodcast.com and am slowly adding to the features there.
K: Anything else you want to talk about that I didn’t mention?
A: I honestly do want to take this show to a weekly format. To do that, though, means earning 100% of my income from the show. Thankfully, there are a ton of easy (and cheap) ways to support the show. I have a Patreon page, for example, where supporters can kick in a dollar or two to support the show on a monthly basis. I also sell novels, and those sales help. And actually checking out the sponsors on my episodes can help future sponsorship rates go up a bit, which would really help make it possible.
Thanks so much to Aaron for taking the time to answer a few questions. I cannot WAIT to see what exciting things will happen with Lore in the future. Be sure to–in addition to checking out and subscribing to the podcast–follow Lore and Aaron Mahnke on Twitter. If you’re already a Lore listener, I’d love to hear what you love about the podcast in the comments, or any other podcast obsession you’ve got right now!