TIH 455: Michael J. Seidlinger on Anybody Home?, Likeable Characters, and Performing Selves vs. True Selves

TIH 455: Michael J. Seidlinger on Anybody Home?, Likeable Characters, and Performing Selves vs. True Selves

In this podcast Michael J. Seidlinger talks about Anybody Home?, why people want likeable characters, performing vs. being our true selves, and much more.

About Michael J. Seidlinger

Michael J. Seidlinger is a Filipino American author of Anybody Home? (CLASH Books, 2022), Scream (Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons), and other books. He has written for, among others, Wired, Buzzfeed, Thrillist, Goodreads, The Observer, Polygon, The Believer, and Publishers Weekly.

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Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Michael J. Syed Linga. This is a second of three part conversation. But as we've already you can listen in any order. And Michael is a Filipino American author of books such as anybody home and scream, and talking of anybody home. That is his latest book is published by clash books. They're doing incredible things at the moment. So I do suggest that you head on over to clashes website and just have a little look at all the things that they're doing. They're a very exciting name in indie publishing, and talking about the novel anybody home. That is what we're going to really delve into in this episode of the podcast. We're also going to have a great discussion on why people want likeable characters. And when that isn't isn't a good thing. Why perhaps it's better not to have likeable characters in your fiction. So stay tuned for that, and a whole host of other things. But before any of it, a little bit of an advert break.

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Bob Pastorella 2:51

Tinnitus press presents lawyer a novella of otherworldly folklore by Tim MacGregor in a fishing village on an alien shore hanging the bones of ancient for second gods. The arrival of a new God brings to send in madness and threatens to tear disturbing community apart against the backdrop of Brian and blood. Lord blurs the line between natural disaster and self destruction. Eric Hello raka Koestler, a monstrously embedded fable, immersive and utterly compelling. Preorder and tenebrous press.com Now lures out July 18.

Michael David Wilson 3:20

Okay, well, with that said, Here it is. It is Michael J side Linga. On desses hora. Let's talk about anybody home. All right. So my understanding is that the Genesis and his story is that you wrote an initial draft quite a while ago, and didn't think it was any good. So you kind of shelved it. But then clash approached you, and you rewrote it. So I'm wondering, what did the original version look like compared to the version that we have today?

Michael J. Seidlinger 4:02

Well, actually, what happened was, yeah, I wrote it back in like 2015. And when I'd finished I wrote it like around pretty quick span. It was like a burst of like, I want to say like, it was two weeks and then an initial week for editing. And I showed it immediately, not because I didn't think was any good. I just didn't know what I had. I was just like, Well, who am I who don't even show this to who the hell would even want to publish this. I don't know what this is really, you know, like, I know what I was trying to achieve. And I didn't think I didn't do it. I think you I definitely achieved that voice. For instance, I was definitely as a conscious choice to do that. But I just didn't know what to do with it. So I it became a you know, a shelved novel. It became like something on my cloud drive and it stayed there for what like 2015 16 years, like six years or something like that. And it was during during the lockdown 2020 during the pandemic, right the height of it. Leaked Chris often Luiza reached out to me with this they wanted to pitch me an idea for a book, which was like super humbling and awesome. So we got on the Zoom. Yeah, they they pitched me this idea. And I was like, Cool. Let's do it. Now I guess I was because I was just on that high of, of, you know, kind of things like really cool, Lucky scenario where I'm not the one, you know, struggling to try to pitch something to a publisher, it's the opposite way. And I mentioned that I had this home invasion book, this novel, and Christoph asked me like what it's about, so I pitched it to him. And then he said, Yeah, send it my way. And I did. And about like a month later, maybe in less than a month. I remember seeing on Twitter on the clash, Twitter account, because I mean, I guess he knew that I like see most of their tweets, if not all of them. He tweeted something on the likes of kind of fucked up them during a home invasion submission while I'm stuck at home or something like that. And I was just like, hovering over it. I'm like, is that about me? I don't know. And I just like liked it and like, kind of moved on. Then I get this DM like maybe 10 minutes later from Christoph. He's like, Yeah, that was the fear. That might have been a fun way to like, say, Yeah, I want to publish your book. And so he said, Yes. And yeah, I mean, it wasn't that I rewrote it, we didn't actually do very much editing, like he sent me like, I don't really have any edits, I think it's ready to go. Like, you know, we did the typical copy, edit for like typos and stuff like that. But the book was what you see today, way back in 2015. Or so when I decided to put it away and never show anyone this book. And it was only because I was trusting of Christoph and Liza, The Clash people that I even bothered to bring it up. And it was because they liked it, that it actually became something and then ironically enough, it is already just after a couple of days, the mind of all my books, the book that's gotten the largest draw in terms of sales, so far, and like people seem to really be digging it. And it's awesome. It's just proof that like, I think we were talking about this in the first hour and somewhere between other tangents about how like, you can plan and plot out your career, your ideas, your stories, your every single project, and you can think you have the most amazing thing ever, and like it's your magnum opus or whatever. But that's never actually completely true. Until it's received by others. And people, you know, give their verdicts like, you never really know what you truly have. Even if you think you know you what you have, I mean, you can have the inclination for sure. But this is this book, for me is a lesson in just like, you just don't know, sometimes, this thing could have easily just been in the nothing in like a random thing that's just in my, you know, my cloud server with, amongst other other quote unquote, dead or finished but like, you know, novels, I'm not going to show anybody, but it was just like, by chance that it happened. Yeah, it's, it's constantly a reminder for me personally, and I'm still, you know, racking my brain about it just like kind of amazed that, you know, a book that quite went quick, essentially, it was something I didn't even really think anyone would want to read to book that they can't even keep in print. Because just getting Yeah, they're like cons to it. He sent Christoph sent to be like screencaps of like the distributor, like inventory list or whatever. And like, I think we were looking at like they had 1000 left's or whatever, a little over 1000 left yesterday, and then like, he looked at it this morning, he's like, we're down to 500 Goddamn. And I'm like, You're gonna have to do the printing. And it's like, it's just wild to me. It's like, it's surreal as fuck I don't it's a book that I didn't think anyone want to read. And look what happened.

Michael David Wilson 8:34

Yeah, I can't believe that you've been sitting on this gold for seven years. Like, I'm so glad that you sent it to Krista I am.

Michael J. Seidlinger 8:43

I am Sue. I really am genuinely just it's a lesson of personal lesson for me like and if I can impart anything to any, any other writers like, yeah, just be willing to adapt and be willing to, like, have a trusted group of readers or, you know, something, some way to like, bounce the manuscripts off a couple mines, a couple other readers before you like ditch it. Because at the time when I wrote it, I didn't really have any many, many, many people that I can trust that would like, actually give a shit to read my stuff. Writing was like, for a long period of time, just more like a therapy exercise for me. Like, I'd write the things move on, write the things move on. And then some of them I'd be like, Alright, I'm going to show some indie press or whatever about whether or not they want to publish it, or whatnot. And you know, some of them did publish some of my books. And you know, they're all moderate. Like, there was nothing like huge I don't think I ever had like a huge selling book. Up until now. But yeah, it's just proof that you never really know and it's beneficial to have a soundboard and it's beneficial to be adaptive to what may surprise you because you never really know.

Michael David Wilson 9:56

Yeah, and you said that it was sitting alongside load of other dead unfinished novels. So I mean, the obvious lesson for you is you've got to at least tell people about these other novels that you've, you've got, I mean, not necessarily send the whole manuscript, particularly if it's unfinished, but maybe give people a synopsis and just tell them about it in case you've got more like this.

Michael J. Seidlinger 10:24

Yeah, I mean, I'm probably gonna have to do some deep diving. Once. I'm gonna give myself at least the time to recover from touring and all this media. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 10:35

yeah. I mean, I didn't mean immediately. This isn't like a homework assignment that I'm setting you.

Michael J. Seidlinger 10:41

I mean, hey, I can take it as such, too. Yeah. But, yeah, you never really know. Right? Like, unfinished or finished. You just never really know. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 10:53

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, like, like you I've got a number of untraditional voices. Well, I think I think as long as you know, I'm finishing something because as long as I'm working on something, and that's the key, but that there's often even though it can be much harder work does something I find as a right and more appealing or more alluring about starting a fresh new idea. Rather than trying to reinvent an older idea that for whatever reason you abandoned?

Michael J. Seidlinger 11:28

Yeah. I mean, well, you know why? Because it's like, let's just use a like a whole like, you know, the deplore relationship. I think the honeymoon periods always gonna be like the best like the most like glamorous part. And we have honeymoon periods with our own projects, like when you're fresh out the gate, first 50 pages, new voice that you're like, walking around with and then having fun with, you haven't hit those speed bumps yet, you haven't hit the real challenge, you're really groovin with it, like you have a nice first sprint out the gate, most of us do. You know, but then it's really the real writing happens when you see your first tumble, your first like, spill, and you have to figure out and adapts. And then like truly kind of work on your feet. But yeah, I mean, yeah, that was unfinished, I have to throw the homework assignment back your way as well, like you and Bob as well, like anything that you've finished, or even remotely worked on enough that you have at least something there. Don't ever just let it sit there and die. I mean, at some point, do some assessments. And I am saying that now as someone who never did, right, I have like a graveyard, I have a graveyard, essentially, I've finished up the just through there. But I need to do that. And I need to incorporate that like, you know, every couple of years, maybe go back and see what I've have written to see like if any of its anything, you know, and maybe bounce it off of like a couple people or the agent or like a trusted friend or all of them, you know, and see like what they might be interested in, because you never really know. I mean, it's also part of it might be that it's not completely our responsibility as writers to know about the whole market. And then that's maybe a controversial essay, because like we are sports, we're told by everyone on the outside to write for an audience and all this other stuff, but it's in some way shape or form, I truly believe that we need to, like kind of lose ourselves in the actual act of whatever it is that we're working on, in order to make it happen. And nine times out of 10 it's not going to work if you're constantly like for like forming this idea around liquidity needs to be for the this demographic, and it needs to be like this, this and that. I mean, people do it. But I feel like it comes out as a very certain kind of book as a result. But most of the time, you kind of just your your sole responsibility is to hit those marks that you want to hit creatively, you know, and at the end of the day, have that manuscript in a good enough shape that whoever does pick up, pick it up and give it a shot and give their feedback. It is in the best shape that it could can possibly be at that point in time.

Michael David Wilson 14:03

Yeah, absolutely. And so it sounds like a good takeaway for all concerned for all people listening is to excavate the literary graveyard which feels like a topical enough in here on This Is Horror.

Michael J. Seidlinger 14:18

Yeah, we all have them. We I mean, maybe some of ours are like a lot of bits and pieces, rather than whole fragments, but and we all have our graveyards, and I think it's important to have them to like, it's I think it's rare. I guess it's fine. Alright. A writer that has like published literally everything they've ever written, right? Yeah. That's like that's rarity, for sure.

Michael David Wilson 14:39

Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 14:41

Basically, the way I feel bad it's like you're you're mining you're derelicts. You're derelict. It's just another way of saying the same thing though. So you know, I've got I have a couple, you know, of abandoned projects that I have definitely pulled from others. stuff and included in there. But I guess it kind of goes like when you wrote this when you wrote anything home, you know anybody home originally, that you wrote it? And sounds like you wrote it in this burst? Is that how you typically write your your stories? Or is it more something that like you get it, you kind of plan out and do some research on, and then you, you know, kind of plot it out. Because I write, the things that I've finished is things that I've written in a burst, you know, it's like, bam, I just, I can't stop, I have momentum, I cannot stop on this. And, to me, I think that's, you know, that's, that's like a Zen thing. You know, it's like Bukka did it, you know?

Michael J. Seidlinger 15:45

Well, I mean, like it because we get in that groove. There's this euphoria that happens when you start writing to a point where like, it's no longer like, Oh, I'm cognizant of the fact that I'm tapping these keys and forming these sentences, you're in the scene, you're like living through it, you're creating it as much as you're living through it. I mean, that's just as much an addiction, addictive thing like that we all get addicted to that's why I've really, we always go back to writing. But to answer your question about process, I mean, I do have a process and the old like, no capital P kind of thing with quotes around it. But it bursts not really, there have been some projects, sometimes they become bursts. But really, what I usually need for anything in order to start writing is I will write like a back cover synopsis just helped me like grip grip with like the talking about it with myself, I like to because I have like a graphic design background and ways as well, I'll create like a mock up that sort of like a book cover, but just for my own visit, like visualizing what this book could be. And then I will do the research, have a notes document that I start building, think about the structure of the book. And one thing I always do is I like create like an elevator pitch for myself, like an association with like a rule three. So like, you know, blank meets blank meets blank. With this one with anybody home, I remember two of the three things that were in that association. I remember, I still remember that third one, but it was obviously funny games, meats. And thing I don't remember meats, a sports commentary track. And that was essentially what launched what was what would become anybody home the idea of creating an interactive experience within an objectively not passive, but like, you know, you are turning the pages, right, like you are reading in a fashion that goes forward. Even if it's choosing an adventure, you're you're being led, you're not actually making a choice. So it's like, as is a real challenge to that I play somehow myself, to try to create this essence of putting the reader in a state of being complicit, but also by way of being there, like, kind of like taking on an avatar in a video game to bring it all full circle back to when we start talking about Silent Hill for like, I want to the first hour of this podcast. Yeah, like I definitely wanted to game, a video game element to it, right, like not even in the game portion, just the interactivity of it. That was the idea like funny games did so well with the film and then breaking the fourth wall and looking at the the audience literally the care like the Alpha invader numerous times throughout the movie, breaking the fourth wall looking right at us and asking us what we want to see happen. It was very much inspired off of that, that launched it into this idea of like, well, how can I do that, and bring it ever more closer to the act itself of the planning and pull off spoilage and everything of the open innovation. And it was it was like, you know, the kind of like that I thought of like a sports commentary track where it's like, it's a little it's sort of intimate in its own way. But it's also a possible way to dive into an A level of interactivity. And that's what you see on the page today. That sort of first second person that then that I call it. And I guess by virtue of the fact that it had that kind of voice. Yeah, the bursts came like it. I remember that. You know, I do remember pretty clearly, like it would be like a write every day. And usually my routine these days is like 1000 words a day. But like man, when I was writing this thing, 3000 4000 word, like for five, six hours, just sitting there sweating, like some of the times really actually and I was in an air conditioned environment. I'll be like, sweaty by the end of the writing. Those are the sessions I'd like sit there after work. Right like a madman until like 3am and like be physically exhausted and pass out. It kind of just needed to happen that way. And although we can have processes like there are going to be projects that demand have different demands. I think

Michael David Wilson 20:00

yeah, and I don't even think you're hired to Funny Games influence at all. I mean, I would say it's the most kind of literary equivalent to finding games. But even at the start, I mean, you explicitly say, let's play a game. You can't get much more direct than that.

Michael J. Seidlinger 20:21

Yeah, I did that intentionally. I have a number of like horror references from different films and whatnot, because it was sort of the attempt to dial it into something real in reality, like, the idea that these people are creating performances that can then be the fodder from which a commercialized version can be produced for for film for TV, whatever. And of course, the season invader. That's the narrator, is positioned as the funny games, one of the funny games invaders and how he created because like, in that, they don't really show the multiple home invasions, but it's led, you're led to believe that they're basically going house by house, doing the same thing. And so I made it so that it was a reference to that it had to be like hacky did such a great job with funny games. And it just, it's one of the few films that really truly scared me.

Michael David Wilson 21:17

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, so this book is an instruction manual for a home invasion, which is terrifying, but almost seems more pertinent now than perhaps even was when you wrote it seven years. And you know, the amount of things that we can find on the internet and these instruction manuals to basically do fucked up shit. I mean, living in Japan with the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abbey. I mean, the person who killed him, he made a homemade gun on the basis of instructions that he got off the internet. So, I mean, this is a very timely release. Everybody's funny to say that when he wrote in seven years ago,

Michael J. Seidlinger 22:08

yeah, I don't know it, I guess. Maybe, maybe this is like, we got like, throw this towards the universe, right? Like, yeah, maybe it needed to come out. And I don't mean that in any sort of pretension, right? Like it's some sort of Oracle or some shit like that. No, I'm just saying like, this shit. Like, this happens. Like that whole concept of the episteme. The fact that certain things seem to manifest themselves during a certain moment, maybe it's a real reaction to that. Though I wrote it so long ago, it never became like, even relevant to myself until recent times, until the pandemic, the pandemic brought it back out. And maybe that was important for myself. And then for the project, right? Like, maybe it needed that time to sit there to because it wasn't what was happening. 2015 I don't even know culturally, I don't remember anymore. My sense of times messed up like I remember, like, I remember myself saying earlier, like memory, like, definitely is there. It's just like, I don't feel like it. categorizes things based on decades or years, at least not in my brain. I don't remember. So it's always like, Oh, yeah. How old was I? When I did that? I don't know. What was that in the context of that thing? I don't know. But I can tell you all about what happens. Yeah, he's Yeah. But yeah, I don't know. It's an it's an intriguing thing, right. Like, the it is, people you're not the first person to say that, that this book is very timely, and then like, and then becomes super ironic as a result, because it was done so many

Michael David Wilson 23:37

years. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, you said before that, you know, in reading this, it's kind of like an interactive game, but one in which the reader doesn't have a curious but I mean, I would argue that I mean, the choice is always to continue whether to continue reading or not. And when we continue reading, particularly with the Wii, and the you voice, the reader is becoming complicit. And there's something very laid back and enticing and seductive with the voice which you know, makes it even more fucked up and hilarious. I mean, if if the main voice wasn't saying such fucked up things you'd almost be attracted to them in a sense and this is this is how this is fucking how cults start this is what happens when you've got a luring figures but you know, if you look at the content, it's like, This isn't good. You shouldn't be getting caught up in this but

Michael J. Seidlinger 24:47

I mean, I did call the audience in the book The Colts, right?

Michael David Wilson 24:50

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Michael J. Seidlinger 24:53

I mean, the voice was delivered for sure. Like that pared down. Confident. Experience sort of voice it was brevity, you know, like not even when those sentences run long, they don't run long in the sense of being like, overwritten with like a lot of floral language. Now, it's straight up, it's a little bit of a combination of like seeing some post online. And also like an instruction manual, right? Like, there's like this very deliberate thing. Yeah, that was definitely unconscious, it was very much a conscious effort to be that way. And I'm glad it landed, because that was also a tricky one to you know, because I'm going first to second first a second, right? Like, at times, I use the camera metaphor and the cult metaphor to sort of reset you like the reader. It was because I knew that this tension that's being built, that you can't keep the reader in there for too long. And then because they'll just get too overwhelmed, and they'll just have to set it down. So like, my idea was to use like a sort of like a sense of confusion, to reset. Whereas I use this metaphor of the camera, which is literal at times, and then figurative at times, and the cults, which is essentially just another term for the audience, and their attention span. I use those sort of as like a palate cleanser by way of confusion. And I know that there's going to be the third, every book is going to have its critics that don't like it. And one thing I think that it's going to be an ask for a lot of people is that metaphor, the camera on the Colts. And also maybe the fact that I decided deliberately, again, to give no names to the characters, the invaders and the victims, again, to tap into that sense of like what I was saying earlier, the interactivity of it. And because this is not a book where you're supposed to be like, oh, I need to I need to relate to a character and I need to like this character. No, you're going if there's any character that you relate to, it's the actual home invasion, you know, this is this is this book is deliberately a more an experience and an exercise within act. And I think I've gotten some minor pushback so far, but like, it's definitely this book falls in line of that whole conversation of likeable versus like unlikable characters. And that kind of whole thing that always happens though, like, explicitly with a lot of horror, a lot of people seem to still hold this, this need to anchor themselves with the character they can relate to in order to really live in the in the story, when a lot of horror doesn't do that, like in fact, a lot of them are unreliable narrators and characters and unlikable, because most people are complex, right? Like the idea that idea of a character being paper thin is and isn't really a draw for a lot of writers. So as a result, they write more complex characters, more weighted characters, but then they often as a result become a little bit more unlikable. I don't know I see it all the time. And I'm just like, become more and more like, not bitter towards it. But I'm just interested in why we continue to like, I'm actually gonna throw that year away, like, both you and your Bob like, Why do you think so many people with horror genre specifically, fall into that people mean readers fall into this need to like find a likable character or like have to relate to the characters so often, because I see it even more here than I do with like, say like literature like literary fiction, quote, unquote, like your auto fiction and stuff like that. It's almost when you go into those realms, people expect the main character to be a douchebag, or something like that, like, but But you know, with horror, and thrillers, and maybe even romance and all stuff, there needs to be like a likeable character, or relatable character. I'm really curious, like, what your thoughts are on that?

Bob Pastorella 28:43

Well, I don't I know, I see the argument all the time. And I can't really kind of bugs me because you know, likable, define likable. I think what a lot of when people say they want a likable character character, they want a compelling character, like prime example would be Hannibal Lecter. You know, it's, he seems like somebody that you might actually want to hang out with, as long as other people were with you. If you if you knew what he was, you know, so it's, I don't, I don't think that characters have to be likable. I don't even think to have to be relatable, that they have to be compelling that to be interesting and situated Jesse give a shit about what happens to him whether it's good or bad. There are characters that are like that I relished the moment that they died. Because they were they were a great character. They were a great villain. They were dastardly. They were the heroes of their own story in some cases, and sometimes they knew that they were pieces of shit and probably deserved every single bit of agony pain and death coming their way. You know, yeah. So. But those are the people that interests me that want that I want to read about. You know, and I know that they're not even not even real people, which I mean, we have this argument now, that, that fiction isn't real. And, you know, it's lucky, but it shouldn't be, you know, it's like, no, it's button fiction, you know. So I think, for me, the bottom line is, is I wanna, I want somebody who is compelling in such a way that I can't get enough of that character. You know, and that's it. It's that voice. And it's almost like, it's like, you're especially, you know, in most transgressive fiction, it's like, you're, you're picking up a rock, and you're looking at the bottom of the rock, and you're seeing all the worms and dirt and everything like that, and you're going yeah, this is a very good story. And that's, that's, that's the way I look at it. And that's compelling. You know, do I like dirt? Do I like worms? No, not really. But worms.

Michael J. Seidlinger 31:06

You know, like worms worms are tasty. Yeah, that's, that's interesting. Yeah. Um, yeah, I think we're just gonna have that convert, like, there's gonna be the likeable unlikable thing just by virtue of it is I know that it comes from sort of like, not romanticized kind of notion, but some way shape or form maybe because of like, the whole like, concept of the hero's journey, and all the various seminal texts that teach people how to like, what what a story should be, we inherently we kind of inherit these more and more antiquated binary notions of what a character can be, like a story can be. And it's, it's frustrating, just in the sense that I feel like the the people that end up not liking them book because they're not finding a quote unquote, likable character, that is a disservice to themselves, right? Like, they're not even, they're not able to penetrate into the actual reality of the texts. Because there, they just didn't know how to get into it. And it's really just a matter of like, oh, man, if only you know, we are able to just generally as a society, be a little more mindful and aware of the flexibility of what a narrative can be, we could actually enjoy it more and have deeper conversations about it. And, as a result, have deeper books about it. And in like, full full, like, definition of deep doesn't have to be like complex ly deep, you know, deep in any way you want. Like, but, but as a result, again, going back circling back to like when we were talking about earlier about how like, people spoon feed everything to everyone now, because they don't even trust that, like, anyone can remember something that happened 10 minutes ago. Instead, we're going that route. It sucks. It really does suck.

Bob Pastorella 32:58

Yeah. You know, and it's like, when you have the hero's journey, it's always like, you always hear this thing that the editors and publishers, they, they want a character that that the audience can root for. I see that a lot. It's like, give me give me somebody I can root for, you know, and if you you can take the worst person on the planet. And if you write him in a compelling and interesting way, and know that this person is like a piece of shit. That doesn't probably deserve any anyone's time of day. And you write him to where you can root for him. Man, you had discovered gold because you're probably

Michael J. Seidlinger 33:39

gonna get a book deal. Yeah, that was I mean, that was Hannibal Lecter that he in what you just said like definitely have complex unlikable character and that through and through, but by virtue of the way he was written and formed, you kind of want to hang out with them and you're fascinated by him. And then I'll just use another like well worn example of the opposite. Brady Snells again, American Psycho Patrick Bateman, he's a great a misogynistic douchebag through and through. Bredesen else did a good job of making it be what he made the character what he obviously want him to be this fucking psycho a closeted psychopath that's so supremely unlikable to be almost comedic, you know? Right. And we're not supposed to I don't think there's anyone on this planet it's like yeah, no, I've Patrick Bateman. Ya know you don't want even be in the same room as Patrick Bateman because you think up the joy sucks. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 34:39

That's a great example because yeah, I can't think of any reason why I would ever want to hang out with Patrick Bateman and Patrick Patrick Bateman was a real person even if I didn't know if he was a serial killer. He says the type of person and be like the less time I have to spend with you the better things are gonna fucking be.

Michael J. Seidlinger 34:55

He's the real Yeah, he's that he's that guy that you're like, you know walk into rooming you just bought them and immediately turn around and walk out. Need to be like, I ended up in the wrong place here. I don't know what the hell are in this, I guess in the context of his world, like somehow I'm in this spot where I'm gonna spend like $800 on a goddamn dinner because that's all these guys do like. Yeah, you know, like he's always all trending during the trending trending stuff. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 35:23

Yeah, I'm ruminating on this question that you've, you've put forward as to why people go for likable characters. And I mean, a lot of what you and Bob have said, I've just been nodding along to and agreeing. And it's a little difficult for me to answer because, like both of you, I mean, I'm not looking for a likable character. I'm looking for a character that can seduce me in some way that is compelling that offers some intrigue. I mean, I'm reading literature. I'm not going on Tinder, or though I suppose some of the things that I've just said there could be some commonalities there anyway. But if I think about some of the protagonists and the characters that you know, I enjoy reading about, I mean, nearly everyone in Nathan ballin grid's work, and he writes about flawed people, people that you wouldn't want to meet, or I think about stale from stale Fox from John Evans work I think about Patrick Bateman, as you said, from American Psycho. Or if I think about breaking bad, you know, Walter White, so Goodman Gus Fring, pretty much everyone. They're all, you know, great, compelling characters, but they're desperately flawed. And so to kind of flip it around, it's like, Well, why do we enjoy seeing these flawed characters? And I think, I think I mean, there's slight different reasons. If you look at someone who's a complete as so like Patrick Bateman, I think, I don't know if I'm gonna get in trouble for saying this. But there can be something thrilling about seeing someone do and say everything they're not supposed to. It's kind of comedic, in that it's like, this isn't supposed to happen. There's a disconnect. You don't like them. You don't condone them. But there's, there's almost some voyeuristic naughty frill about it, I suppose.

Michael J. Seidlinger 37:39

I mean, absolutely. Yeah. That's 100% on the money in the sense of like, what his character is supposed to achieve. And like, yeah, for me, personally, I think I, as you're talking and I was also nodding, I was just thinking about, like, you will, what would I be gravitating to? Like what would I explain? How would I explain the quote unquote, character that I would like vibe with most actually don't care about likable, unlikable. I like complex characters, but more so than all of that. A character that grips me is one that is a lens for what it's trying to show. Yeah, like, again, Patrick Bateman, like a will bring back. Hannibal Lecter, you know, will any of these characters that I love the complexity of their characters, I love the way they've been created and formed. But they also have to, like, at least still be alive enough on the page that grips me. And more than that, it needs they need to kind of reflect the themes and various nuances of what the writer is trying to do with the story itself. And that almost nine almost all the time involves unreliable slash unlikable character, which is why I guess that the reason I even brought it up in the first place it was irks me, even now more than ever, because I just see it always being like bottom line likable versus unlikable. And it's like, totally a lot more than that, as we've already just booked virtue of us, all three of us musing about it for whatever amount of minutes we have been. It's hot, far more difficult than that. Yeah. And if only we could get past these small, like, like surface level requirements or whatever you want to call them, things that that limit a lot, you know, a lot of readers ability to approach a text, it would be so much more of an interesting landscape that we could have. But again, this is all stuff that like we don't have control over, right, like we just hope that things could change, but I don't see it changing. I see. I see more spoon feeding in the future. But

Michael David Wilson 39:51

right, and I mean, likeable versus unlikable. It's so boring because it's not realistic. Human beings are flawed. But you have to really try and answer this question why are there some people who are looking for the likable characters? I wonder if in a way, it has something to do with, you know, most of the countries in the West being predominantly Christian, if you're to think about okay, well, what what religion is most pervasive, then it will be Christianity, and that puts things in very binary terms in terms of good versus evil. So yeah, people want to pigeonhole things into good versus evil. But then you're thinking, Well, why why do they want to do that? And I wonder, is it because they're afraid of actually empathizing with certain aspects of these unlikable characters? Because they fear what it might tell them about themselves, which is ultimately that they're just as flawed and fucked up as everyone else. They don't want to look in that mirror. So it's easier to just kind of criticize the character rather than admit that there's something that they see about themselves, or there's something that they empathize wherefore they like?

Michael J. Seidlinger 41:15

Yeah, I mean, like, it's, it's very much that it's a I mean, like, how many people on this earth really want to look at their own problems head, head first, right? Like, a lot of times people will turn to some kind of story or whatever, for escapism, and they're not looking to be faced with maybe their own problems. I mean, I argue that I like that shit, I want I want something to, to like to fight me, you know, I want to I want to learn more about myself when I read something, I want to face that stuff. But um, I feel like the general demographic would not want that, you know, and I get why made bigger publishers and Hollywood studios and people that have the capital and want to make something that's largely accessible to large like millions of people or whatever, like a whole country. They don't, they're like so risk averse and so willing to just like do The Escapist, escapist, escapist kind of like route, which again, goes back to our very like binaries of character Dev and all that, because there's so much at stake financially, but there's also the need to appeal to people that just want to go to the movie theater and eat popcorn and turn their brains off and not be given the scenario where oh my god, no, I have to think about this. Or like pick up some like mass market paperback or whatever and like, crack the spine, read it and forget it, you know, like there's or play like Call of Duty for eight hours or something, you know, and just like shoot and let kill endless people, but you don't even realize they're killing people. You're just there's like, pixels on the screen. It's an escapist act thrown through. And then just like the concept of entertainment, sure, but yeah, I just like I'm generally interested in when entertainment and art converge, you know, and we get texts, we get books, we get films and games and all that stuff that do both and do provide that lens to the proverbial person that's experiencing it, and forces them to kind of think about things. I'm like, of the small minority I guess, or maybe there's not a small minority but like there's a group of like people that can't even watch this type of stuff. I need something that always point the lens at something I need, like food for thought I need I need a complex character that I need to kind of wrestle with I need something after this you know, maybe it's just the whole like, oh, shit, there's only so much time in the day and I was all this other stuff. I'm always overworked. But like, I'm not going to watch some Marvel movie I'm going to watch something else you know, or I'm gonna read something else you know, I just I don't know I'm like the of the mindset now or I don't even bother with the escapist route. I'm just like, I want I want the opposite. I want to be provoked. I want to I want this thing that quote unquote, entertains to force that lens like point the lens at me and be like alright, well now you got something else to figure out motherfucker, you know, like I want that. But I realized that's not the norm. And maybe that's what we're starting to get at here with this this particular topic it's just like that there's a large and large a lot of people don't really want to be provoked and they don't want they want an easy cool fun experience. There's a reason why Top Gun Maverick which in and of itself is an is a great showcase and great action film and does everything and intends on doing your like you feel like it's pulling your emotional strings every single step of the way is manufactured to make you walk out of that theater. Two and a half hours later on like a manufactured Hi, like, oh, wow, awesome. So good. Like that's it. That's like pretty much the verdict from everyone like it was so good and action packed. Because that's what it is. That's what it's giving us. That's what it's intended to do. And we do need those movies and books like that. And all that stuff. I'm not I'm not arguing against it, I'm just saying. But if that's all we have, then there's a problem, right? Like, but most people want those talk on Mavericks, they want those those movies and things that will just give them an experience and they can get on with their day.

Michael David Wilson 45:26

Yeah. And then for writers to thinking, well, how can we ensure that we're not compromising our art, I mean, a good start is to be authentic, to be true to yourself and your characters, and to not make decisions with commercial considerations or to make decisions because of fear. And to not self censor. And, I mean, of course, in terms of commercial considerations, if you've got like five premises, I think it's permissible that you decide, okay, I'm going to write the story that I think might be most commercially successful, because I do recognize that you're this is a business as well. But the point where it becomes a problem is if you're then making commercial considerations beyond that in the actual act of writing, and that your considerations are then moving away from what is authentic. And I don't think you know, that there's like, a certain sub genre, or a mode or a way of writing, that kind of makes it superior to another way of writing. But I do think authenticity is the key for good, right? InGaN you know, if you're not authentic, maybe you will make the most commercial story, but you'll never make the best story.

Michael J. Seidlinger 47:00

Yeah, you're right. It's 100% just be authentic and passionate about the thing that you're writing, whatever it is, whatever you're creating, like, be in control of the thing that you have control over. And if it happens to be that I'm going to write it, you're like, sitting down like I'm, I'm writing this immoral script for my script for Marvel, then make the fucking best ask thing that you can do, right? Like, with what you know, your, your time and, and level experience and all stuff like just just do do as as well as you can with what you have. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. But authenticity is key for sure. And being committed and passion, passionate about the project that you're working on, it comes through on the page. But like, you know, you we always see these like random thrillers and fluid that you can always tell when it's something's manufactured to hell, right? Like that person that wrote this was clearly just for Pay Day. feels nervous. It just, it feels like it's almost something at least it's just for me personally, like it sometimes feels disrespectful to the reader. It's like, okay, how, what, you know, it's just like, this is this is like about the equivalent of like, watching like, amateur porn or something, you know, it's like, Fuck, man, like, okay, great, awesome. This just feels kind of scummy? Uh, yeah, it's just like, even the people that just, they think of writing as a complete career 100% career act like you mean? Like, they're not there's no ambitions of like, trying to write some super like, heavy thing. You know, like, there's plenty of us that just want to write good stories. That's fine, but like, still have the authenticity to really go with it with your gut with your writers instincts and that and tap into that inner inner passion for that particular project for as long as you have it. Because it Yeah, you know, there's a finite amount that projects will be done and then you have to move on to the next one. But yeah, man, it's it's it's interesting. Like I'm look I'm looking at I was looking at earlier today. Heat to like that, that just came out. I don't know what I feel. I mean, is it is it gonna? It's an example of like, I don't know where that falls. Is it is it easy to cash in? Or is it actually what Michael Mann like, and I forget who wrote co wrote it with him?

Michael David Wilson 49:28

And say, Magnus.

Michael J. Seidlinger 49:30

Oh, is it Meg Gardner? Oh, okay. So yeah, like where it was this like, I wonder what I just wonder about it. Right. Like I have nothing to say about it, because I haven't read it yet. But like, I am intrigued, because I fell in love heat heats. Awesome. But um, I am to be so boastful as to call the book heat too.

Michael David Wilson 49:48

Yeah. Yeah.

Michael J. Seidlinger 49:51

I mean, honestly, that's probably clever marketing on the marketing department's point, but like it could be a good example for this conversation we're having right here about this topic because is where does it fall in line? Like was was it was it Meg Garner and Michael Mann working together? Like truly passionate about this, this prequel sequel? Was it the mixture of other entities saying yeah, we should totally like, like, we got to write something about something like this is going to here's here's the money to do this, you know, like who knows I'm not critical on any aspect of it. I'm just curious you know, I wonder about that book and it will eventually be read by me like I just don't know when I'm gonna get to it but either you interested in reading it?

Bob Pastorella 50:33

I'm you know, I'm kind of am

Michael David Wilson 50:37

I'm interested in reading it purely so we can continue to discuss you properly talk about it or come to any conclusions until we've read it. So almost for the the intellectual pursuit of having this conversation but well, my What are you seeing is over 500 pages. So

Michael J. Seidlinger 51:00

is it really Oh, but you know, it is it is written thriller? Like, where those five out of those 500 pages they it's like a preference for, like quick scenes.

Michael David Wilson 51:12

Okay, hang on. So So 500 page I so I think over 500 pages was like they give when they estimate the ebook length, but it looks like the real length is 480. So

Michael J. Seidlinger 51:26

obviously, that's probably not too bad for a thriller. So like, again, like I think it's written more like, you know, like a Koontz or a Patterson thriller, kind of where it's like, quick succession of chapters. Again, that's very deliberate because it moves time quicker and you can get a lot more done and quicker chapters. Again, neither faulting it nor saying anything about it other than like, it's a good device for that kind of thriller. I mean, who knows? i Yeah, we can come back and do an hour on heat too in the future,

Michael David Wilson 51:57

which is kind of hilarious to see on Amazon and this just shows why you should never really read the reviews but literally, there's one review it says one star ludicrously bad writing and then the one literally below it says five stars the greatest novel of all time, and if that isn't you know why you should just not pay any attention to reviews I don't know what will convince you

Michael J. Seidlinger 52:25

you Yeah, I like I'm learning now not to look at my Goodreads reviews. couple friends of mine like one really good friend of mine she's like you know just no don't look at it anymore. Yeah, I've seen you know I've seen some do not finish did not finish like reviews for anybody home. One of my favorites right now is when I actually saw on Instagram. I think they tagged me that's how I found it but it was like did not finish want to scrub this for my brand. I do not want to know what happens. This is like too creepy or blah blah blah or something like that. And I mean, that was for me like a badge of honor and yeah, I was still like all right, but I do know this book is not going to please everyone it's not meant to no book is right. If it's like going back to that what we were talking about likable unlikable characters. Like if something is infallible, there's something wrong. We learned that we should have learned that a long time ago as a society like they didn't have. But we learned it recently with the slap the infamous slap Will Smith like Wilson had curated his brand. And his persona to be this infallible Fresh Prince of Bel Air turned amazing, like, respectful actor and no, he's a great actor, and he's a great, you know, artists and blah, blah, blah. But there, it's like, yeah, there was something really fucked up going on behind the scenes there were like, if he's like, legit, like, I don't I can't speak in like, you know, like truly about it, because I kind of tuned out after the initial thing, but I know for a fact that yeah, in hindsight, the fact that he's never had any like, negative press, like, you know, no one ever said like, oh, yeah, he was like, drunk off his ass at some club or whatever. Like, you know, he has nothing that shows any level of like, Oh, he's human. There's something wrong there. Yeah. And sure enough, the slap proved it like that. He's human. And he's been very much curating his thing, probably to an insane degree, to the point where like, like, maybe even more than most celebrities are.

Michael David Wilson 54:32

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think that leads on to this idea of obviously, we spoke about a little bit that just permeates throughout anybody home, which is effectively everything is a performance. So then, I mean, I wonder for you, when you really think about that. I mean, how much of life do you feel is a performance and when if ever Are we accurate self?

Michael J. Seidlinger 55:03

Ah, nice question. I love it. Because that goes back to my associate sociology roots like we are performing every single time we are in public no matter what, like we are, we are conditioned from meaning like, you know, from grit, like our childhood, to act a certain way in public, right? We only truly ourselves, I argue when we are in a true state of comfort, which is probably at home, either by yourself or hanging with like family or like your partner or whatever, but even then sometimes you're still like a part of yourself. Maybe you're truly only yourself when you're like, in your room alone or whatever. But we are always by virtue of being a society and being a social creature. Even when you were like, you know, if you if you're antisocial or introverted and bla bla bla, we position and posture ourselves in such a way to navigate whatever it is sits in front of us, whether it be just walking down the street to go pick up something or going to a party or doing a reading or like whatever getting on a plane or walking in the park, whatever, it doesn't matter. Yeah, like one of the main so sociological principles is such that like we in within them specifically. So, si Symbolic interaction ism is such that we learn by way of symbols, we create definitions and, and anchors that within our reality based on convenient symbols that we can like understand as being okay, that is that, and this is that we understand that will always be you know, that thing. And as such, we also learn so socially, to navigate society, with a certain kind of front facing self. You know, again, some people are better at better at it than others. Some people have no filter and have problems with it. But yeah, we are only really ourselves when we are ourselves when we're like, basically in a complete state of comfort, which may or may not be by yourself in your apartment or home. Watching a movie or playing a video game, whatever. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 57:11

yeah. Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much for listening to the second part of the conversation with Michael J side Linga. Join us again next time when we will be continuing the conversation on performing. And particularly in terms of how that relates to social media. We'll also talk a little bit about Tobias literary agency and Michael's literary agent. We'll talk about what he's working on at the moment. We'll talk about his previous work, my pet serial killer, and a whole host of other things. But if you want to get that ahead of the crowd, if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, then become a patron@patreon.com. Forward slash This Is Horror. Not only you get an early bird access to each and every episode, but you get to submit questions to each and every interviewee. We're going to be talking to Jason Parkin soon, we're gonna be talking to Jonathan Jan's Brian Asman, Sina Palacio, amongst others. And you also get to listen to Patreon only exclusive podcasts such as the q&a sessions, and story on box, the horror podcast on the craft of writing. From a personal note, it would really be helping me out because things are a little tough at the moment, as I've alluded to in the previous episodes, but I did want to thank all of the people who have reached out to me being very supportive. And I wanted to thank you kind new patrons and your existing patrons that have upgraded your plan. You know, in terms of my situation, I don't believe in miracles. But I do believe in this great community and the power of community and it's pretty special, you know, to see what can be done when people come together. So, thank you so, so much for supporting this Sasara and thank you to the new patrons to John shank to Lancaster Cooney to Nicole Amber gay to Larry Torres Gianni to Mirabella or tiga and to John W. M. Thompson. Thank you so so much for joining us. And if you've too would like to join us. And I would love it if you can. Please do head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Because if everyone who's a regular listener I pledge instead of podcast, then I will be saved in terms of my current situation. And I endeavor to give you great content and to make it worth far more than whatever it is you pledge. That's always been my philosophy of whatever I do, under charge and over deliver. I hope I'm doing that for you. And if I'm not then talk to me message me, let me make it right. So I want to do good work. I want to be a good person. All right before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:00:39

Tinnitus press presents lure a novella of otherworldly folklore by Tim McGregor in a fishing village on an alien shore hanging the bones of ancient Forsaken Gods. The arrival of a new God brings to send in madness and threatens to tear disturbing community apart. Against the backdrop of Brian and blood ler blurs the line between natural disaster and self destruction. Eric La Rocca calls lawyer a monstrously invented fable, immersive and utterly compelling. Preorder and tenebrous press.com Now lures out July 18, or on Main a new weekend convention for the horror community. exploring all the shadows of horror our guests include writers, actors, but also artists, publishers, directors, composers, and more. We've been going to cons for over 20 years and are changing up the little things to make the big picture amazing. Beyond guest contests, movies, panels and podcasters. Our layout and programming are designed to further incorporate the very idea of community. Join us Memorial Day weekend 2023 and Hunt Valley Maryland. Come to the block party and meet your new neighbors horror on main.com.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:45

As always, I would like to end with a quote and this is from Walter Elliot. Perseverance is not a long race. It is many short races one after the other. I'll see you in the next episode for the final part conversation with Michael J Seidlinger. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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