TIH 431: Eric LaRocca on Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, Going Viral, and Playwriting

TIH 431: Eric LaRocca on Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, Going Viral, and Playwriting

In this podcast Eric LaRocca talks about Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, going viral, playwriting, and much more. 

About Eric LaRocca

Eric LaRocca is the author of several works of horror and dark fiction including the viral sensation Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke.

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Michael David Wilson 4:46

Eric, welcome to This Is Horror.

Eric LaRocca 4:49

Thank you so much for having me. I am so so honored to be here. I'm a huge, huge fan of the program. I've listened to a ton of episodes and I'm just so thrilled to be chatting with you and Bob.

Michael David Wilson 5:03

Well, we are so excited to have you here. And as we do with a lot of these episodes, I wanted to start at the beginning and I want to know about what somebody's early life lessons were that you learned growing up?

Eric LaRocca 5:18

early life lessons, um, I would say maybe one that I learned very early on was, you know, work very hard. kind of cliche, but, you know, just be a student of your craft, really be militant about your writing and or whatever, you know, whatever it is in your life that brings you purpose and joy. But also like, don't take yourself too seriously, if that makes sense. Like don't you know, overanalyze. Don't overthink, which I'm a huge over thinker, sometimes I tend to spiral. But yeah, I would say I would say that was a really seminal life lesson for me early on was just, you know, be dedicated to something. But also, don't let it don't let it consume you. And don't let it really, you know, just don't take yourself too seriously. And just have fun with it. You know? So I would say that was like a big life lesson growing up.

Michael David Wilson 6:33

Yeah, I think particularly don't overthink is an incredibly tough lesson for someone who's an over thinker because you then have the tendency to start overthinking the idea of not overthinking it can be kind of bizarre paradox.

Eric LaRocca 6:49

Exactly. And I think a lot of, you know, a lot of horror writers were like, We're the worst case scenario type people, we immediately think, what's the worst thing that could happen to somebody? What's the worst thing that could go go wrong in this situation? Whether it's, you know, looking at world events, like what's currently going on? Or you know, crafting a story, what's the worst thing that could happen to these characters? Like, what can I put them through that's going to transform them? And you know, possibly, obviously, if it's a horror story going to it's going to harm them and or possibly kill them. But for Yeah, for for somebody like me, like I'm, I'm, I'm a huge over thinker, and I analyze everything and so for, for somebody to tell me Well, just don't overthink don't, you know, don't think too critically about something. It's it's very hard, but it's, it's something that I've tried to practice I've tried to be mindful of throughout my journey as a writer and just as a human being in general. So, yeah, it's it's been difficult to say the least. But I think it's it's definitely something a lot of writers can identify with the overthinking aspect, you know?

Michael David Wilson 8:14

Yeah. So not surprised to that the more popular or released becomes, the more that you can't overthink or you can't overanalyze, so I mean, case in point where things have gotten worse since we last spoke the amount of reviews that must come in now compared to the amount that you had when it was initially released must be so much that you you couldn't read the more you couldn't go through the mall. Even if you tried.

Eric LaRocca 8:44

Yeah, and I kind of made it a point now where I mean I pretty much have stopped looking at reviews for things have gotten worse I occasionally will glance at the Goodreads page just to see like what number we're approaching with reviews and I think last time I checked were like almost near 20,000 But yeah, I mean, I I stopped looking at the reviews like a while ago because it just was not it was not good for my mental health. And I've chatted with a lot of other writers about that in general and just how reviews are great. I love reviewers I love getting reviews of my work that's I don't want to say anything to like discredit reviews, but for me personally just for my mental health sometimes it's better to stay away from from the reviews, especially that the negative reviews I know that, you know we can learn and grow from constructive criticism. Sometimes that's not always the case with some of these negative reviews. Sometimes they're just kind of taking the piss out of something. But yeah, I just I I'm so grateful for what has happened with Things have gotten worse and the success that it's seen. It's been such, it's been such an incredible journey and totally unexpected. I never thought when I was writing that book that it would achieve what it's achieved at all. Um, you know, obviously, when you're writing something, you hope that what you're writing is going to resonate with people, you know, in our horror community, which is kind of like a little sphere on Twitter and Instagram, but to see that book blow up the way it did, and kind of leach into so many other circles has been really surreal and kind of shows the power of, you know, a compelling cover a really interesting dynamic title. I think there are a lot of factors at play. I just don't know how to replicate it. That's the only thing that I wish I could do is like replicate it for every release I have coming up, you know,

Michael David Wilson 10:59

obviously, it went viral relatively early on. Can you remember a post or what it might have been that initially sent it viral?

Eric LaRocca 11:12

Yes, I do. Actually, it was, you know, so we did a cover reveal with Sadie Hartman, Mother Horror and Night Worms. And that post was retweeted by Trevor Henderson, who's a very, very prominent, well known artists who did siren head. He has a very, very loyal, dedicated fan base. And I think he has, I think he has like 250,000 followers on Twitter. So he has like, he's definitely an influencer when it comes to horror. So he retweeted my tweet that had the cover art. And that tweet just totally blew up. And I think it went to like maybe two or 3000 likes and retweets, and a lot of people added it to their Goodreads page. They're good read shelves. And then after that, it really was tick tock that blew that book up because tons of tick tock accounts, went on to talk about the book, and they included the cover art in their videos. And I think the first one that did that was, um, her name is Stephanie. I forget what her

Michael David Wilson 12:33

This is the Stephanie from Books in the Freezer?

Eric LaRocca 12:37

Yes, it is. Yes, I'm stupid. That's her handle. Yes. Yeah. So she made a video about it. And that went viral, like, huge. I remember I was on, I was out with my boyfriend. We were in Boston, like on Newbury Street, doing some shopping. And I got the video sent to me. And they were like, I forget who sent it to me. But they were like, this is going viral on tick tock now, and I wasn't I don't think I was even on tick tock at that point. Like I I knew what tick tock was about like, I'd seen some videos, but I didn't have an account or anything. And I went on, and it was just like her praising the book and just saying, like, how disturbing it was, and how compelling and that really, and like all the comments, were just like people really interested in reading it. So it just completely took off from there. And then it just seems like every, every three or four months, we get like a new surge of energy from someone on Tik Tok that, like reposts the cover art in their video, and they talk about it, they talked about how like, it's one of the most fucked up books they've ever read. And that just like inspires a bunch of new sales. It's, you know, the book, unfortunately, is now out of print. So we're not seeing the sales right now. But you know, I'm hoping the new edition that's coming out this year, people will still maintain that enthusiasm for the book.

Michael David Wilson 14:15

Yes. So whilst out of print, it is still available in audio format. So if people want to consume it, there is a way and I wonder in terms of the rights I mean, how on earth did that work that there was a negotiation that the physical stop being out of print, but then the audio could continue

Eric LaRocca 14:38

Yeah, that I mean, that was like a huge huge deal and like a huge negotiation process. Basically, weird punk books has the had the rights to the you know, the text to publish it right on, you know, Ingram Spark. It was like a Print on demand. And when so I'm just I'm just going to get you to address the elephant in the room. The book is coming out through Titan books in September this year. So when Titan approached weird punk and said, we're very interested in this book, you know, weird Punk had to kind of give over the rights to their end of, you know, control over the publishing of things have gotten worse. And they relinquished the rights and it went to Titan, and the Titan book is going to be a collection. So it's going to be things have gotten worse since we last spoke and other misfortunes. So it's going to be the title novella with a new novella I've written called the enchantment and then a little, like a 6000, word short story called, you'll find it's like that all over. But the audio book was separate from weird punk books, the audio book was done by fireside horror. And basically, like, the way it worked out was just that fireside, you know, just kept the the audio rights because Titan didn't really feel like it was, like a lucrative venture to, you know, go for the audio rights, they just felt that it would be satisfactory to go with the the print and the hardcover. You know, we're getting into like logistics here, basically. But that's essentially what the how how it boiled down. But yeah, it was, you know, a little bit of like, going back and forth with fireside like, oh, maybe, maybe we will get the audio rights to it. Like, maybe we're interested in that. But then was just like, You know what, we'll just keep the audio book as it is, and let people enjoy it until it's available, again, like in print, like in paperback and hardcover in September?

Michael David Wilson 17:01

Yeah. So now, I would imagine, too, that you must have seen quite the increase in the audio sales in these past few months, because it is the only way that you can get hold of it.

Eric LaRocca 17:14

Yeah, it's true. I mean, I haven't heard from fireside in a little bit. They're really great to work with. His name's Joe. And he's a really, really sweet person. But, you know, he said that it's been their biggest book that they've ever they've ever published through through audio. You know, their best, it's their most best selling work from what I understand. So, yeah, a lot of people have been downloading it from what I understand. And I shouldn't say that. H WA, Members, if you're listening, you can access the book through a like, if you're on the email chain for the Bram Stoker awards, it is being sent around with links to the PDF. Otherwise, you know, readers can purchase the audiobook or wait until Titan does the official release in September.

Michael David Wilson 18:12

Yeah, so if you're on the edge about becoming an HWA member, that could be something to kind of send you over and to sign up. You can get a copy. Things have gotten worse since we last spoke, read.

Eric LaRocca 18:29

Yeah, I think I saw it the other day like it is it is like technically now like a collector's item. That weird punk book. Like I saw it on Amazon the other day, and someone was selling their copy for $200. Wow. Yeah. So we'll see. I don't know. I'm so excited for the Titan release. So I think that's going to be great. I just, they've been so great to work with and I'm really excited for that.

Michael David Wilson 18:55

Yeah. Well, how did that come about? Did they approach you or did your agent start shopping around? What were the logistics involved there?

Eric LaRocca 19:07

Yeah, so basically, there's an editor at Titan, her name is Kath and she's like the sweetest sweetest person ever. She reached out to Sam Richard, who owns weird punk and said, You know, I've been hearing a lot about things have gotten worse. This was probably like in June or July of last year. And she said she'd obviously heard a lot about the book, would love to see the manuscript and see if they can get involved somehow with with the book. And Sam, you know, graciously sent them the manuscript, Kathy read it and fell in love. She did say that it was on the shorter side and that the printer that they use, possibly couldn't print a book that small, so excuse me, she was looking for other works of mine that haven't been published that she could like package together as a collection. So luckily I had, and this is a great this is great advice for anybody that's listening that's a writer or an aspiring writer always be always be writing no matter what, even if things are like hitting, hitting a wall and like you feel like nothing's going on. Always be writing always be continuing to develop work for your portfolio, because you literally never know when someone's going to ask you. What else do you have, like in your in your bag, you know. And luckily, I had this novella that I just finished and I had the short story. And I was able to send it to her. And she loved them as well. And we eventually like negotiated a deal. And then after that, you know, Kath was very, very interested in working with me further. And I had a collection that was at off limits press called the strange thing, we become another dark tales. And there were changes going on at the press at the time with shifting and like the editorial department and whatnot. And there was an opportunity for me to get my rights back to that book. So I got the rights back. And we sent the manuscript to Kath. And she loved that as well. And Titan is going to be publishing that collection as well in 2023. So Titans putting out two books of mine, which is really, really cool. And I'm just like, so grateful to them. But you know, Kath was always such a big supporter of things have gotten worse. And you know, they've been so wonderful, just to work with in general, and I saw the cover art, like a month ago, and it looks so striking. And so, just so beautiful. So I can't wait to share that with everybody.

Michael David Wilson 22:03

I can't wait to see it. And I mean, it must be for the artist a little bit intimidating to have to create a cover for it because of how iconic the original cover is. So it's got a lot to live up to

Eric LaRocca 22:21

for sure. And you know, the the cover artists that is that did the the new cover art she works at she's like Titans cover artists, you know, the in house designer, but she honestly like I really I feel like it's, it's, it's a little bit more subdued. It's not as gruesome as the original cover art. But I feel like it was I feel like it's just really done tastefully. And I feel like it's going to attract readers that maybe might have been a little put off by the gruesomeness of the first cover. So I feel like I might get like maybe a new readership with this book. And I think that's always great. Because especially like the other two stories in the collection, like Dan Chapman, and you'll find it like that all over. They're not really the same level of gore and body horror intensity as things have gotten worse, but they kind of explore same, the same themes of like trauma and abandonment. So they are threaded together. But I just I feel like they made the right choice with this cover. And I really do hope that people like it, but it's important to look at it. And this is probably asking a lot of people basically look at it like you're looking at like a new book, like try not to impose the old cover on on the new cover. It's you know, it's its own separate thing, like the original cover will always be there will always be iconic. But this new cover, I think it's very, very special.

Michael David Wilson 24:01

Yeah, and I especially like the title, and you'll find it's like that all over. In much the same way that I like things have gotten worse. I mean, both of them. They almost remind me of like progressive metal Seung Tae O's that have like a lot of intrigue kind of embedded into them. And it certainly conjures up a lot of curiosity, it makes me want to read the story on the basis of the title alone.

Eric LaRocca 24:31

Thank you, I really appreciate that. I'm big on titles. And you know, a title to me is very, very important. And in fact, I'm, I'm very like, ritualistic when it comes to my writing and I typically cannot start a project until I have a title in place. And I had the title for things have gotten worse like Well, before I started started writing it and I always knew that I was going do include the title in the text of the piece. Because I do do a lot of outlining. Um, so yeah, titles are just very, very important to me. And like I said before, I feel like the the title of that book really catapulted it to another level of success. Like, it's one of those titles that, you know, it's like an ear worm like you can't get it out. And it's just, it's very insidious. And you just want to know what, what it is. I remember I told my dad that title when I first like, sold the book to weird punk and he like died laughing. He was like, That is such an amazing title. Like, that's such an awesome title. And I was like, if my dad thinks it's cool, then it's cool, because my dad's pretty cool. So,

Michael David Wilson 25:47

yeah. Are you close to both of your parents? I mean, I understand that it was in fact, your mother who first propelled your interest in horror.

Eric LaRocca 25:58

Yeah, I'm super close to my parents, I absolutely adore them. They are just they've been like my biggest supporters since day one. They've never once been, like, I think you should consider doing something else with your life or with your time, they've always been very encouraging of me and my writing. They've, they, maybe once they were a little hesitant about the horror aspects. I remember I brought home a copy of JG Ballard's the atrocity exhibition, and it was like the illustrated version. So there was a picture like a big painting in it of I think, like someone reenacting like a scene of oral sex, and my dad looked at it, and was like, you can't read this, like, you can't bring this stuff into this. Like a big argument. Um, but after that, like I think softened up a lot. And like you said, my mom really, really got me interested in horror, when I was like, eight or nine, we watched the Creature from the Black Lagoon for the first time. And that was like, such a seminal moment for me growing up to watch to watch that film and just, I just, I just became fascinated with Classic Monsters. And from there, I really became a student of the genre. I really watched a lot of films, a lot of old classic, universal monster movies like The Ghost of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, a lot of stuff from like the 40s and 50s. And then I you know, I grew up and I graduated to more like extreme stuff. And you know, now I'm obsessed with like Clive Barker and Takashi Miike. K and David Cronenberg. So it's been like, I've, I feel like I've really gone through the genre from like, the beginning to current times, you know, like, I really feel like I've done my due diligence and really have studied the genre, like as much as possible. But yeah, just circling back to my parents, they've always been just huge supporters of mine. I mean, the other day, when I found out that I was nominated for a Stoker, they sent me this these beautiful bouquet of flowers and lovely, it was just, yeah, it was so special. It was just Yeah, so great. So I'm very, very close. I'm very lucky, I realized that I'm very privileged with having a set of parents that are so supportive, but yeah, they're just, they're just wonderful. And I'm sure they'll listen to this podcast, because they listened to all my stuff.

Michael David Wilson 28:53

It's great to have such a feel good story as well. You know, sometimes when we go back with these early life lessons, it can be a little bit traumatic, but I mean, it's so great to hear how instrumental they've been in encouraging you and influencing you to pursue your passion. I mean, it sounds from the influences. And from what I understand that you started off writing, as a playwright, and you've obviously listed a number of films here that were instrumental as well. So I mean, I wonder to begin with, did you envisage yourself more as a writer who would write for the stage in the screen or were books always a part of your aspirations too?

Eric LaRocca 29:48

Yeah, no, I mean, I've I've always loved books. I grew up I grew up basically at my local library I was always reading. I started off reading like Agatha Christie mysteries like They were huge to me. I loved Miss Marple and air cooled Pyro but I was so drawn to theater as a kid. I was I just was inherently drawn to that world. And you know, I lived in Connecticut. I grew up in Connecticut. So I was very close to New York City. So my parents took me to a lot of plays on Broadway and off Broadway and I had a lot of really excellent people in my little town where I grew up a little town called Kent, Connecticut, which is like the northwest corner of Connecticut, a lot of really talented Thespians lived there, and were just very, very, very kind and, you know, very generous with their time with me. And I really thought for the longest time I was going to write for the stage and only the stage. I read plays constantly, you know, I read Tennessee Williams was one of was he still is one of my favorite writers of all time. Like suddenly last summer, I think, even though it's classified as a drama, like that's a horror film, play, you know, whatever you want to call it, like it's so distinctly horror. So I grew up with like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter and Anthony Shaeffer, Peter Shaeffer, just I loved loved everything about theater. And then I started kind of like working in theater and like, interacting with people and community. And that kind of like, broke my love of theater, if I'm being totally honest. Because sometimes in community theater, like, you meet people, and they're just community theater was hard for a lot of reasons. For me, I'm just, you know, some of the people were just not, I don't know if I should even go into this. But it just, it wasn't a very good place for like a teenager to be, I don't think. And it kind of like, soured my whole taste of theatre in a lot of ways. So, but luckily, I did have like a really strong support system outside of the community theater, like I had a very well respected actress who kind of served as like my mentor, and she was just absolutely incredible. And you know, she was nominated for a bunch of different awards, I think like a, she was definitely nominated for a Tony and for an Emmy. And just, she was just a wonderful, wonderful woman. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2010. But yeah, theater was just I have like a love hate relationship with theater, honestly, now. Um, but it's funny, because when I wrote started writing, things have gotten worse. I almost approached it, like I was writing a play. Like, if you notice, like, there are five parts in that book. And it's basically like a five act drama. And you can easily like perform that book as a play with like, two people reading the things back to one another. Them having their monologues and just have like, video installations playing in the background, like you can make it very theatrical. Um, but yeah, so just to answer your question, like, theater was definitely a huge part of my childhood, and I really thought I was going in that direction. But then I went to college, and I went to my undergrad program. And that's where I really developed my love of fiction, like writing fiction. I been obviously reading fiction prior, but I met some really great professors that really guided me and helped me hone my craft and just never censored me i at the time, I was really kind of first discovering, like Clive Barker, and I was like 18, I was like 17 or 18. And I was first discovering Clive Barker and poppy Z Brite. And Kathy koja. And I wanted to I wanted to write fiction, like transgressive fiction like them. So they never censored me at my undergrad program, and they just really encouraged me to take risks and to be fearless. And that's really when I started writing fiction seriously, and I, you know, obviously I started submitting to magazines and anthologies and I was able to get a few acceptances, which felt great. In You know, so early on, like, I think my first one was in like 2012 or 2013. And I was like, I think I was like 21 at the time. So it felt it felt great. And, you know, there's, there's kind of like, this great thing with fiction with theater. It's, it's very collaborative, which I love. I love collaborating with people. But in fiction, you're like the master, you know, you're the director, you're the set design, you're the, you're the actors, you're everything, you know, and you're guiding these people, these readers through this whole experience, which I find very, very satisfying. Because I've had a lot of experiences writing plays, and they don't always come out the way you envision them. They don't always, maybe they don't read the lines the way you thought, when you wrote when you wrote it, you know? So that's kind of like a long winded explanation. My, my writing background with like, plays and, and, and fiction, but yeah, I would say it really started with theatre but then it it's really morphed now into fiction more than anything else.

Michael David Wilson 36:27

Well, it's an utterly fascinating answer, and I mean, alongside Poppy Z, Brite and Kathe Koja, your literary influences seem to be this kind of unholy trilogy of Barker, Paul and Nick and Michael McDowell. So yeah, I wonder if you could speak a little on their influence both on your work and indeed your life?

Eric LaRocca 36:57

Yeah, of course. I mean, Clive Barker changed everything for me. I I discovered him right when I was coming to terms with my sexuality. And prior to discovering Barker's work, I I knew I loved horror. But I didn't see myself in horror. You know what I mean? I just didn't, I didn't think like, oh, I can I can be, you know, this feminine person. And like, horror, like to me that just didn't see it seemed incongruous. It just didn't seem like something that was possible. And discovering Barker and his like, just unrestrained exploration of sexuality and the fact that he himself is openly gay, that just opened my world completely. And if there's ever like one author that I would love to just meet, and just for selfish reasons, just to thank profusely for what they've done for, like, not only me, but so many other authors that are queer, it would be Clive Barker, like his work was just so influential to me. And it really came at a point when I needed him the most. Like I said, I didn't really see queer people in horror fiction, horror films, obviously, that stuff was coded, like, you know, in the haunting, Claire blooms character coded as a queer woman. But you know, when you're 13, when you're 12, or 13, you don't pick up on those things. And I certainly didn't. And that's really the time when you're discovering yourself for the first time and you're discovering your sexual preferences and you know, even your gender identity, like who you are as a person. And like I said, I didn't, I didn't see anything in the community in the, in the realm of horror, and for a while, like when I first started out, like, none of my none of my characters were queer. I just didn't. I wasn't comfortable writing that yet. And it took Clive Barker and Michael McDowell to really pushed me out of this anxiety that I had about writing gay characters and, you know, queer characters in general. That just really, it just opened up the possibilities. And you know, I discovered Michael McDowell a little bit like after Clive Barker, but his his work was just totally mind blowing to me and just, you know, his life, his life story and I think he's actually from Massachusetts, if I'm not mistaken where I'm from, or where I live now. But, yeah, just Yeah, I would say like Clive Barker and Michael McDowell and then obviously, Chuck Palenik. Another huge influence for being an openly gay person, you know, in this in writing these, I feel like, you know, you're absolutely right. It's like the holy trilogy of the Holy Trinity of, you know, my influences, and especially chuck with like, haunted I'm like, I'm actually looking at a signed copy that I have of that book right now. I keep it on my desk. And that book just like means the world to me, especially the story guts, like, I just love love, love haunted and yeah, just they just taught me to be fearless basically, with just my fiction and, and also just be fearless in life, too. Like, I know I said before, you know, don't overthink don't take yourself too seriously. That's that's also like what they taught me to like. They taught me to just be fearless to not really give give a shit what people think. And I'm just be who you are. And that is such a great gift. And I hope that my fiction eventually can do that for other people.

Bob Pastorella 41:33

Yeah, that's being fearless. It's something that I've done. I've kind of picked up on probably in the last year or so. It seems like that every time we have like an iconic book or something like that. These are the writers. They're relatively like people you've never heard of. I mean, if you look at like, you know, the three books that created modern horror is, you know, our Levine he was he was kind of already a best seller. And then you have you know, William Peter Blatty. And in the have a Thomas, I'll say his name wrong Tryon. And even right before that, you have Shirley Jackson, who at the time, when haunting Hill House came out, she was already like being known for her stories, things like that. These are people who attack these stories fearlessly. They literally did not have a choice. Yeah. And when when you do that, and you throw you throw caution to the wind, that's when you're going to have that game changer moment. Totally, no. And so in that, then that's what we that's what we want to see. And what I like is that we're seeing it more and more and more now. So we have to continue with with being fearless. And yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna be I'm actually writing something about that. That will hopefully see on the the website, but yeah, it's, it's taken me a little while to get my thing. But yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that, because it's gonna, it's gonna get me back on track, but I love it.

Eric LaRocca 43:13

Thank you. I mean, I feel like readers are very, um, I feel like they're very keen to read. honest and vulnerable works from creators, I feel like they crave that and who am I to deny my readers what, what they want, they want vulnerability, they want fearlessness for me, and they want to kind of they, you know, they want to explore their, their darker their darker aspects of, of their identity. And I just, I feel like, it's my honor to write fearlessly and to write books that, you know, push boundaries that maybe upset people. It's obviously not my intention to, you know, upset people to the point where they're, like, triggered or something. But I think it's I think it's wonderful to have this sort of readership and it's a responsibility to be honest with them, and to just be fearless and be who you are. And ever since I started doing that, and writing what's in my heart and what's, what scares me what really upsets me. I've seen so much positive energy come back my way, and especially with things have gotten worse, like I've seen a lot of negativity, I'm not gonna lie. But I've seen a lot more positive energy come back my way because I was honest and vulnerable with people. Mm hmm.

Bob Pastorella 44:59

I hate it. I hate even saying that because if somebody is gonna listen to this in the wrong way, it's like, Oh, you want you want me to be fearless. Okay? You know, and it's like not extreme. It can be, but we're not talking about that we're talking about extreme interiorness. If that makes any kind of sense at all, if it doesn't, then hey, I'll just shut up. But

Michael David Wilson 45:22

I think that makes sense. And I think perhaps a way to frame it would be fearlessly authentic. So you're not trying to deliberately upset people, but you are being your unfiltered fearless self

Eric LaRocca 45:37

Exactly. That's exactly how I look at it, is I'm not trying to upset people or push their buttons or drive them away from my work or, you know, just completely traumatize them for life. I'm just trying to live my truth and write my truth. And that's, that's all I'm trying to do.

Bob Pastorella 45:57

Mm hmm. No, it's like what Colson Whitehead said, in one of his his talks is Do you can write about any thing that you want to write about? Just don't fuck it up. And that's a good point. And that's to me, that's, that's what writing fearlessly is, is doing doing it the right way. But let me get into get into word counts.

Eric LaRocca 46:23

Perfect. Yeah, totally.

Michael David Wilson 46:26

And I think your film influences also have this fearlessness and not really caring about convention or trends because if we look at another three people who have influenced you, we're talking about Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, and Takashi Miike. A now, those are three fearless people who could not give a shit, they will do exactly what they want to do.

Eric LaRocca 46:54

Totally, totally. I admire them so much. I mean, Takashi Miike. A is just a genius in my in my book, and I don't, I don't like to throw around the word, the G word. But he really is like, his films are just so just completely mesmerizing. And then Lars von Trier, probably not a great human being.

Michael David Wilson 47:21

We don't have to state that.

Eric LaRocca 47:25

Like, I mean, when it comes to, you know, his his artistic vision, I mean, he's just unparalleled and yeah, so the three of them are just, just amazing. Aronofsky is a huge, huge influence, too. And yeah, I I'm definitely a student of their work and the way they see the world and the way they create stories. It's just fascinating to me.

Michael David Wilson 47:54

Yeah, and I know that Aronofsky's Mother! is incredibly divisive. But for me, personally, I loved it. And I love the way that he captured almost paranoia and nightmares in a visual form. It was just one of the most fascinating cinematic experiences I've had in what the last decade or so.

Eric LaRocca 48:19

Yeah, that movie. I remember seeing that movie. With my I went to Emerson for my grad program, and a bunch of us went out one night. And we saw mother at the AMC in Boston Common. And I just sat there for like two and a half hours completely. Just my mind, I was reeling at the end of that movie, I could not believe what I was watching it just completely and utterly destroyed me, but also was just so like that movie is what humanity is, I feel like that movie like is that's That movie is what we are, you know, it's so bleak. And it's so grim, to really think about that, like, I want to think that there's good in the world, but that movie just really speaks to me, for whatever reason, it just really, really caught me off guard. And I just absolutely, I just absolutely love it. I showed it to my boyfriend, like a little while ago, and he really responded to it the same way that I did. It's just such a great film. And I love the fact that it's polarizing and that to me like there's nothing better than something that causes a reaction from people. If you create something if you write a book, and they're like crickets when you release it. Obviously, they're real. Maybe there are reasons like maybe there wasn't the marketing wasn't there. It's not always the fault of the writer. But if you put something out in the world and there's no reaction like that's like the saddest thing ever because we create because we want reactions from people, we want to know if you loved it or hated it, and what things have gotten worse, it is like, right down the middle people either love that book, or they hate it. And it's the same thing with mother. It's like, I know people who absolutely adore that movie. And then I know people who vehemently despise that movie for what it portrays of like humanity and the themes that it explores. But to me, like any good piece of art, and I talked about this with my manager, sometimes like, you know, the fact that I've, the fact that the book has received such polarizing reviews like that, in and of itself is such an accomplishment. Like I said, like it's the, it's the goal of an artist to cause a reaction to create some sort of reaction from people. And I think of like, iconic horror films that I love, like Antichrist by von Trier, and possession by zawacki. And it's like, all of those films, people like stumbled out of the theater, some people vomited, some people fainted, they called it, you know, horrible, horrible things. And the same thing is happening with things have gotten worse, the people are calling it terrible, terrible things. But, you know, at the end of the day, like the art, the art is what it is. And it's it's creating a conversation. And that is really cool. I think. And I'm, if I'm proud of anything, it's that I feel really honored that it is causing a conversation.

Michael David Wilson 51:38

Yes, and I think we've said many times before, if you try to please everyone, you will please no one, and nobody wants this kind of lukewarm tepid reaction. So you might as well really please some people and piss off other people. And I mean, indeed talking about pissing people off. I know that you've said before, in terms of what you hope to evoke with your work, and really, I think this is perfect. You said, Do you want to start conversations and piss people off?

Eric LaRocca 52:12

Yeah, I do. I definitely want to start conversations, I feel like just circling back to reactions from people like the films that I mentioned, like antichrist, or even martyrs, like the French version from 2008, like, those films are so just huge, like foundations of horror. And they cause such a reaction in people and they, they, you know, aggravate people, they piss people off. But I think I've come to the term, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be liked by everybody. And once I like, once I came to terms with that, I was fine to just be like, You know what, fuck it, I'm just gonna write what I want to write. I don't care if people like it, or love it or hate it. I'm just gonna put it out into the world and see and see what happens. I'm obviously not like, flippant about my work, like, I'm very militant about it and very dedicated to it. But I'm at a point where I try not I try to write for me more than anything. I do write with, with the fact that this will be read by, you know, a wide range of readers, I do try to think about that. But at the end of the day, the writing really should be for you. And I can stand behind the like the work the work, like that's important to me to be able to stand behind. Things have gotten worse, if I was like, called to read like a passage from it somewhere. I, I would want to be able to get up and read that passage and know that I can I have the integrity and the honor of doing that, you know, like I stand behind the work. So yeah,

Michael David Wilson 54:08

yeah. And I think if we're not approaching with that attitude, then we're not being authentic. And as you say, you want to be able to stand up and you want to be able to read it proudly.

Eric LaRocca 54:22

Exactly. Exactly.

Michael David Wilson 54:25

We spoken about cinematic influences. So on that basis. I wonder, is there anything you can tell us in terms of film news for Eva, things have gotten worse or indeed anything else that might be happening in the background?

Eric LaRocca 54:43

Yes. So my manager is Ryan Lewis of Spin A Black Yarn. And he and I have been working on the script version of Things Have Gotten Worse. We worked on it. Pretty much like all last summer, and we got it to a point where it's like really finely tuned. And I, I personally love it. I think it's a phenomenal, phenomenal script, I'm really happy with the work that we did on it. And we're currently shopping it around to different directors and production companies, and we're just trying to see like, where it lands. We have some interest from a few different parties. And I suspect that we'll probably get a few more parties because of the stoker nom. But yeah, it's it's been great. And I'm so excited to see where that that script lands eventually. So it's, you know, the script is already done. It's just a matter of collecting all of the right people together. And hopefully the stars aligning and budgets coming through. And you know, Ryan handles all of that stuff, because I don't really know anything about. So I leave that to him. And Josh Malerman, who's like his producing partner, so but yes, so I'm hoping like, within, I hope within like a couple years, you know, things have gotten worse exists on screen, because that would be so amazing. I would love to see that that happen.

Michael David Wilson 56:27

Yeah. And I wonder what kind of went into the decision for you to write the script as opposed to kind of shopping it around forever people perhaps it wasn't even a decision perhaps that was so clear in your mind that it wasn't even a conversation.

Eric LaRocca 56:47

Well, I actually, I went to graduate school for screenwriting. So I went to Emerson in Boston for writing for film and television after I completed my undergrad, My undergrad was in fiction writing. And then, you know, I moved to Boston, and I pursued my education with writing for film and television, because, you know, obviously, like, had such a huge love of a film and I wanted to kind of hone my craft and my skill set and everything. But when I signed with Ryan, we were originally thinking of different projects that we could develop together for film for like a feature film. And then things have gotten worse just completely blew up and went crazy. And that's when he was like, I really think we should I write the script for this or rather, I think you meaning me, I should write the script for, for things have gotten worse, we could have probably shopped it around to different different writers. But the thing with film development is, there's really no money in like, developing a script. Like, it's hard to get, it's hard to get a writer like a very reputable writer to write a, like adapt script on spec without getting any, like financial compensation for it. So Ryan's whole idea was that, you know, you're already a screenwriter, we'll, we'll you know workshop the script together, I'll I'll write it, you know, I'll get it out. And Ryan can can shop it around. So it just seemed kind of like a natural idea to just write it and I I had already kind of had some ideas of how I wanted to translate the story from because for some folks who are listening that maybe haven't read things have gotten worse. It's an epistolary narrative. So it's all it's like Dracula, it's like told through like, emails. Well, not like Dracula, because Dracula is told through like letters and diaries, but It's told through emails and chat exchanges and you know, I am conversations. So it's obviously maybe a little difficult for some kind of perceive how we might translate that to film but Ryan and I worked really diligently on crafting a really cool adaptation and you know, the the script goes to a few different it there are a few different beats that happen in the script that aren't in the, the novella and we've kind of added more a more I wouldn't say like backstory but we've added more like more development to Agnes the the main character and you know, I feel like we've strengthened her character quite a bit. So I'm, I really I'm very excited to see where where it lands and who eventually shows an interest in like producing

Michael David Wilson 1:00:01

Yeah, well, we're all certainly very interested to follow this and to see what happens to I mean, fingers crossed, and very best of luck to all of you. But, of course, you're in good hands. You have Ryan Lewis.

Eric LaRocca 1:00:18

Yes, of course.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-431-eric-larocca-on-things-have-gotten-worse-since-we-last-spoke-going-viral-and-playwriting/

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