TIH 486: Eric LaRocca on Authenticity, Titan Books, and Writing Routine

TIH 486 Eric LaRocca on Authenticity, Titan Books, and Writing Routine

In this podcast, Eric LaRocca talks about authenticity, Titan Books, his writing routine, and much more.

About Eric LaRocca

Eric LaRocca is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated 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 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror Podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers and creatives about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now today we speak with Eric la rocker for the first time in about a year. Eric is the Bram Stoker Award nominated author of several works of horror and dark fiction, including the viral sensation. Things have gotten worse since we last spoke. Now like a lot of Anderson's horror podcast conversations, this is a two parter. But unlike every other two parter we've ever done in the last 10 years, these episodes were not recorded on the same day. In fact, we haven't even recorded the second part yet. See, in this part, we talk about what's been going on personally and professionally for Eric in the last year. We delve into his new three book deal with Titan, talk a little bit about his agent, how he landed a blurb from legendary horror author, Bentley, little, and we also talk about his current writing routine. Then, in the next episodes conversation, we are going to dig deep into his forthcoming collection, the trees grew because I bled there. It's a fantastic collection. And I wanted to just make sure that we dedicated sufficient amount of time to it. I didn't want it to be one of those things where, you know, we mentioned that there's a new book and tack that on to the end of another conversation. So, enjoy this conversation. Get ready for that conversation. But before we jump into it, it is time for a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 3:58

alright with that said here it is it is Eric low rocker on deer says hora. Eric, welcome to This Is Horror.

Eric LaRocca 4:11

Thank you so much for having me. I'm so honored to be on again. I'm really excited to talk with you both.

Michael David Wilson 4:18

Yeah, so the last time we spoke was about a year ago. So I'm wondering, what have been the biggest changes for you, both personally and professionally in the last year.

Eric LaRocca 4:34

There have been a lot of changes. I feel. I feel really fortunate and that I know that my fiction has a pretty wide reach now, because of the success of things have gotten worse. I do feel a little bit of responsibility for you know, writing what's authentic to me. A and paying mind to, you know, the people that do enjoy my work I try not to think too much about audience and readers when I'm crafting stories. But you know, given given that I do have that wider reach now, which is which is phenomenal for like a queer horror writer, it doesn't enter my mind occasionally. But another another big thing that has really been important to me as I kind of navigate just the the zaniness of you know, the horror community and, and, you know, networking and meeting readers and doing podcasts, like I really try to make an effort to be kind to myself, allow myself to make mistakes, learn from them. You know, it's we're all human, I tend to beat myself up quite a bit for for things that I probably know, I shouldn't I, you know, I just can't control. But that's just, that's just how I am. But there have been, there have been, you know, just countless, countless changes, just, professionally, and, and creatively, but I'm just so grateful that I have the readers that I do the very kind hearted people that you know, reach out to me on instagram and twitter and tag me and stuff. I didn't have really any of that, like, two years ago, and it's been such a whirlwind now to have those connections with with readers and people who, you know, really respect what I'm trying to do for for queer horror. It's, it's very, very special and very humbling. So I try to be mindful of that every day. And I also try to protect my, my creativity. And just, you know, I said in the, in the previous segment, just, you know, being like protecting yourself, because your writing will suffer if you don't protect your your creative spirit, and the, you know, the part of your soul that wants to write and wants to tell stories, that that is just so important. So I'm a big advocate for just encouraging people, their mental health and trying to stay positive, as much as possible.

Michael David Wilson 7:45

And in terms of being hard on yourself, I mean, what are some of the things that you're hard on yourself about? And, as you say, about trying to stay positive? I mean, what kind of things do you practically do to actually make that a reality?

Eric LaRocca 8:04

I mean, so it's, it's, it could be, it could be anything, I mean, there, there are little moments throughout the day, where you just have to kind of reframe your thinking, you know, you maybe see a negative comments on Twitter. And you could easily spiral and you could easily be like, Oh, that person, right, that person's right. Like, I don't know how to write. I'm a terrible writer, you know, all of that. Or you can kind of just accept it for what it is. It's someone's opinion, and just reframe how you think it I've talked to my agent, a lot about this and bait. Basically, what helps me the most is learning that there are no absolute truths between the good reviews and the bad reviews. They're there. They're just none neither one is more important than the other. And neither one is truer than the other. You know, we all come from different backgrounds, we bring different experiences to our you know, our reading tastes and everything, and what works for one person doesn't work for the other person. And but that doesn't mean that that that one star review is not valid, it is valid, but that five star review is also valid. You know what I mean? It's just about reframing how things and I really, I've really been trying to do that a lot more lately because occasionally I will get tagged in like a negative review on Instagram and it does kind of sour my my day a little bit. But it really is just being mindful of it and not not responding. That's a big one. For me. Yeah, responding to anything that you're tagged in, that's a really, really negative. I was tagged in something about a book that I really, really love by an author that I'm very good friends with. And I just didn't respond. And it was a really hateful comment about this person's book. And I wanted to respond, I felt compelled to say something and stand up for my friend, but the way that Twitter algorithm works is it, you know, it rewards that kind of negativity, you know, it really kind of like that breeding ground for negative consumption. And I just try not to, I just try to just ignore it, and let it be. And if people are, you know, mad at me, or saying things about me, or people that I know and love, I just don't engage with it. That's like, the biggest piece of advice I could give to anybody that's starting out in writing horror, and they're like, navigating the social media landscape is just, you know, try not to engage with with the negative stuff really try to, you know, obviously, nothing. It's not all positive all the time. It's not all, you know, sunshine and roses, but you don't have to, you don't have to engage with the with the trolls. And not is. I really tried to stand by that. And I really tried to, like, you know, encourage that behavior and myself and others. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 11:35

Yeah. And in terms of reviews, I mean, are reviews, something that you actively read these days? Or are you mostly just reading these things? Because obviously, you've been tagged in it, and you're only human. So it's been brought to your attention?

Eric LaRocca 11:54

Yeah, I mean, there, there are days that I do look, I probably shouldn't, but I do. Look, I'm, you know, I'm not gonna lie and say I don't, because I am curious what people think of what I create. It's not a conversation that I necessarily think I deserve to take part in. Like, that's a that's a reviewer space. That's a reader space. Like, I know, I don't belong there. So I don't have any I don't have any right to really comment on, on anything. That's, that's being said. But a part of me is is furious. And I do, I do occasionally look. But I pretty much I will always look if I'm tagged in something, just because I usually retweet the good stuff. But I want to make sure that it's a good review. I don't want to accidentally post like a one star review of my book. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, no, I, I think, I don't think there's necessarily any harm in looking at reviews, if you can, if you're mentally prepared for that, you know, the reaction that you might have, if you see something that is really negative. You know, I've seen reviews before that I've really gotten under my skin and have, you know, ruined like multiple days, not just like one day, but I you know, that was kind of when things have gotten worse, first came out, and I was just kind of learning my own threshold with, you know, reviews, and what I could take and what I can't take, and I know for a fact, I never look at reviews, right before you're gonna sit down and write something, because that will like mess you up so much like, you won't be able to write anything. And it goes back to what I'm saying about protecting your creativity, and your in your mind. From from, from anything that's going to negatively impacted. I try as much as possible to stay out of reviewers spaces for that reason, because at that point, the book belongs to them. It's something I created, but it's a discussion between, you know, readers now. And that's how it should be like the books are for readers. I write them because I want people because well, first of all, I want to tell stories, and I you know, I love telling stories, but the goal is to have other people read them and react to them.

Michael David Wilson 14:37

Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, I kind of know what you mean about too if you read a bad review and then sometimes like, for days that can be like a lion or a sentence or a criticism that just kind of replays in your mind. But I mean, like you said, when you were speaking with your agent, you know if the good reviews are valid than the bad reviews are valid too. So I just tried to kind of remind myself that like, well, even though these negative things have been said, here are some of the positive things that have been said and particularly, if I think about, you know, peers or people that I respect and I mean, you've had so many people say great things about your work, I mean, including a master of horror and living legend Ramsey Campbell. So, you know, if Karen from down the road has a negative thing to say, you can hopefully just remind yourself that Ramsay Campbell had a very positive thing to say and function and get on with your day.

Eric LaRocca 15:46

And I do that like I I was very lucky. Recently I received a blurb from Bentley Little, who is one of my like, I just love by so much and that that carries me through a lot. The Ramsey Campbell blurb carries me through a lot. The Mariana and Rica's blurb that carries me through. I'm very good friends, I'm going to name drop, Priya Sharma, who is just like wonderful, wonderful fantasy horror author, we've chatted quite a bit, and we're very friendly. In fact, I dedicated this book the trees group, because I bled there to her. Because before we were friends, her fiction meant so much to me, her, her writing her command of language, and just her way of storytelling is just is just breathtaking. But she suggested compiling, you know, all of the good, all of the good blurbs, the positive emails from your editor, from your agent, and kind of creating like a little scrapbook and kind of holding on to that, that way, when there are negative moments, because there will be negative moments, just open that book and leave through it. And just remember, you know, you are appreciated, you are valued. You're a good writer, people, the, you know, the some of the greats think that you're a great writer. And, and I hold on to that, I definitely hold on to that, because there are so many days writing and just existing in this business that I I question why, why did I do any of this in the first place? Right, because it is so stressful. And it's very lonely, it's very isolating. You know, it's, it's very difficult. It's difficult for me to connect with other people sometimes and just like, make friends. So, it's very important to have that little scrapbook, whatever it is, maybe it's a file on your desktop computer that you just open and look at, and you see, you know, blurbs that you've received or emails, just keep something that reminds you just to keep going. Because if you keep going, something will happen. If you're tenacious enough, I really do. I truly believe that.

Michael David Wilson 18:23

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, you mentioned getting a blob from Bentley, little, perhaps one of the most elusive right is in horror. How on earth did this come about? How I hardly even hear Bentley corresponding with people let alone given blurbs. This is this is miraculous. What happened?

Eric LaRocca 18:49

We're actually we're actually pen pals now. He sends me letters. Like he sends me letters in the mail. Wow. Like, he doesn't, he doesn't.

Michael David Wilson 19:01

I am not surprised that it's so old school and so Bentley.

Eric LaRocca 19:05

It's so iconic. I received the first letter from him that contain the blurb. And I was just, I was beside myself. Because he's such an icon. He's like you said he's very elusive. You know, very elusive, but just such an icon of horror. And it really came about because I, I basically just I asked my publicist who I'm working with, for my novel that's coming out in June from Clash books. I asked her, you know, what are the chances we could get Bentley, little, like a blurb from Bentley for for the, for this book? And she said, Well, let me let me reach out to his agent and see, you know what we can do? And she reached out and the agent responded pretty promptly and I don't know if may brenly had heard about me, but you know, regardless, like he was interested in reading the book, and we sent it to him, and it wasn't even like a week or two later, and I got a letter in the mail from him with a little letter, you know, like types and everything and the blurb attached on another sheet of paper. And you know, we've gone back and forth now a couple times just like sending each other letters and it's just like, so special. Like, I never, I never imagined I'd be able to, like, interact with these authors that I read, like growing up, you know, in high school when I was like, hiding in the school library during lunch. Yeah, just reading. It's just mind blowing to me.

Michael David Wilson 20:48

Yeah. Yeah. And so it almost sounds like it was a bit of an offhand comment that you made to your agent and you never actually expected you know, to get this blurb or to get it so damn quickly and with the personalized letter as well.

Eric LaRocca 21:07

Yeah, it was unreal. I mean, I never I really didn't think anything was going to come of it. And he was just so prompt and so so gracious. So kind. Just a very like I am a I'm, I am forever a Bentley little fan. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 21:31

Shame mentioned your alien. Is your agent a new development in the neck in the last year? Did you have this agent beforehand?

Eric LaRocca 21:41

Um, I believe I had her when when we spoke last. She Her name is Priya. And she has a an agent based in New Jersey and she also represents Jonathan Jan's. So she she worked with him. And she's phenomenal. I mean, she's just so great. I know that she's in my quarter 100%. And, you know, it was Ryan, my manager who because he works with Jonathan Jan's as well, Jonathan signed with Priya first, maybe two, three years ago. And when I was kind of receiving all of the initial success from things have gotten worse since we last spoke the original novella from weird punk. Ryan was saying to me, you know, we really need to look at seeing if we can get you in touch with an agent, because that's when kind of offers were starting to come in from various publishers. That's when I started working with Titan. And, you know, Ryan Ryan just thought like, it'd be great for us to have an agent on the team. And we met with a couple of agents. But I really, really gravitated toward Priya just because she's so kind and so gentle with, you know, giving notes giving feedback, giving bad news even. She's just very, very skilled at interacting with writers. And she's an agent who like loves writers. You know, I mean, like, I mean, all agents, I feel like love writers, but, you know, she, she's really entrenched in in that world, and just very just this very supportive person. So it's, it's great to have her in my corner.

Michael David Wilson 23:34

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, my understanding is in terms of clientele, that you and Jonathan Leon stand out a little bit, because it's not all kind of horror, right, is that she represents so maybe she's now kind of gravitating in that direction, or diversifying her portfolio. But I do remember because like, I've looked at her website before, and I did think, Wow, you and Jonathan stand out here.

Eric LaRocca 24:07

We do. We definitely do. She's more of like a literary fiction agent, I would say like, even nonfiction. But she's great with what genre fiction too. And I mean, what matters to her really is just a compelling story with you know, interesting, rich, dynamic characters. And you know, she, I think she's opened up a lot more so with Jonathan and I now kind of being represented by her. I feel like she's now more in that in that horror space. And she appreciates the genre, I think. Yeah, I think I hope

Michael David Wilson 24:56

Yeah, one imagined so she wouldn't have you in jail. But then the thing? Yeah, yeah. But at the start, you were saying about how you know, it's important that you write an authentic story. You operate on so many different levels. And each story A yours is incredibly unique. So I'm wondering, what is an authentic Eric law rocker story? And how do you know when you're delivering something authentic, as opposed to when it is not quite ringing? True?

Eric LaRocca 25:40

That's a great question. Not to, you know, generalize too much. Because every story is different. And every, every process I take to complete, a new story is a little different than the last. But I would say like a true Eric Baraka story is, you know, unabashedly queer. And it is, you know, dealing with complex psychological, sometimes, like, sexual components. And to decipher, if I've delivered that, I can usually tell pretty pretty quickly, I, I get invited to anthologies pretty regularly, and I sometimes have to turn turn them down, to be honest, because I know that I couldn't deliver my best self in the theme of what they're looking for. I'm someone who, I don't always love writing with kind of like a, like, the story has to be about this, like, I kind of stumble and fall when it comes to that stuff. I like to be a little bit freer. I'm an outliner, like, I love to outline. But I struggle with kind of being pushed into a certain box and being told, like, it needs to include these ingredients for it to me, like in this anthology? Well, I do, I do struggle sometimes. And I do find that, you know, there are times when I come out of a story, and I finish writing, and I thought, you know, I tried, but it, it just didn't work for whatever reason. And those are the stories that I kind of, well banished to, like, you know, the depths of my hard drive, and maybe like, all right, pilfer sections of it and scavenge for, you know, tools that I can kind of take and put them in, you know, other other pieces. But it's an ongoing process, like learning what, learning what your strengths are as a writer, and really, what you want to say. And honestly, I feel like I'm still kind of discovering myself as a writer. I know, that might sound really weird for some people to hear. But I feel like I'm still growing. And I don't know, like, if I if I want to keep writing to strictly horror, like, there are parts of me that wants to branch into, you know, literary fiction, and, you know, not, you know, not genre specific fiction. And I mean, there are stories in the trees group, because I bet there like there are stories in that book that, I mean, they're horror, but you could easily classify them as, as, you know, just literary fiction as well. You know, they are horrific and bleak. But, you know, sometimes I get, you know, I don't I don't necessarily, like, engage in like, the genre label. Like when I when I write a story, like I'm just writing what really interests me and what captivates me. And there are tons of people that read my stuff. And they say, Oh, well, this isn't really horror. And my first initial, my initial reaction when I see stuff like that online is I don't get upset because it is horror, and it's not horror, like it's horrifying, but like, it can be anything. You know, it is what you think it is. Like, it's not my job to tell you okay, this is explicitly horror. What I'm writing is, this is the genre. I mean, it's marketed as horror, but it can really be They can be anything like, yeah, my piece is anything they want to be. And I think I like that freedom of just being whatever I want to be and telling the story that I need to tell at that time.

Michael David Wilson 30:15

Yeah. And I think when people say it's not horror is like, you know, okay, so that's completely valid. But I don't even know if that genre classification, apart from from a marketing and selling point of view, is that important? I think the better question is like, well, who did you enjoy it? Did it resonate with you? Did you get something from it? That's what's important about the story, not whether we call it a horror or literary or social commentary. And by the way, you know, I think you fiction has elements of all of those things. And I mean, I think it is literary a lot of the time because like, just on a, a sentence by sentence level, there's so much poetry. And I think that kind of certainly gives it a literary essence. But as I say, classification is ultimately unimportant. It's like, did this piece move you? Did you feel something? That is what it's all about.

Eric LaRocca 31:25

I totally agree. And, you know, at the end of the day, like, I love being a horror writer, I love that people know me as a horror writer. But if someone says like, this is a horror, I really, I really don't. Like, I don't care. Like, I just care if the story worked for you, if, like, I, I don't set out to write a story and say, Oh, I really want to, like, you know, scare people, I really want this to be like, you know, I want this to be as horrifying as possible, I really just want to tell the story and have something that's impactful. And that's emotionally resonant with people. With readers, I, I really don't care. I mean, at the, the, the end result is kind of like the marketing and marketing it as, okay, This Is Horror, you know, but in the beginning stages, when you're, when you're crafting the story, when you're building the bones, and like the framework of everything, you know, the genre is really not that important. It's really about the characters and what story you're telling. And, and I think that that's, that's something that I really just, that's what's on my mind, mostly, when I'm when I'm starting a new piece is I'm not necessarily thinking like, Okay, I need to like, this is going to be a horror piece, like, you know, I need to have these sort of ingredients, these elements like, I don't think like that, I think more like, just structure of characters and you know, their arcs, and you know, how I want certain beats to go in the story. That's just, that's just how I work.

Michael David Wilson 33:18

Yeah, yeah. And you've got a three book series coming from Titan. So I'm wondering, how did that come about? And did you write the initial book and then you were asked about, is there a series in this? Or was it originally conceived as a free book thing?

Eric LaRocca 33:47

Yeah, it was, it was originally conceived as a three book project as a trilogy. I hope I'm allowed to talk about this, but I'm just gonna go for it. You know, I, I started just developing the story that I I was just very passionate about still, obviously still am. And I started developing it like last year, in the autumn. And I started just outlining the first book and compiling notes and everything that I wanted to submit to Titan for, like review and, you know, see if my editor was interested there. And we heard from her that she could take a proposal of mine to the team and you know, sell it as a proposal as opposed to like a finished work. It's more in in traditional publishing it's, it's a it's a little tricky because you do usually you need a finished product or you need at least like a sample of the project done. But Titan and I have been working together for quite a bit, I have two books coming out with them. In 2024. They're, they're pretty much publishing like all of my material. So I have a very good relationship with Titan. And I have a fabulous relationship with my editor TAS at Titan. And, you know, she took the books to, or she took the proposal to acquisitions, and they loved it, they thought it was a fantastic direction for me to go in. It's, it's horror, but there's a, there's a bit more fancy, fantastical elements to it. It's still rooted in, you know, human beings doing horrible things to one another, that I that's just something I love to explore. But, you know, there is some fantasy, there are some fantasy elements and in the in the trilogy, but, you know, I have the whole trilogy outline, I don't necessarily think there will be more than three books. But I'm about halfway finished writing the first book As of recording this, this interview right now. So I'm looking forward to keep moving forward, and it's going to be my life for the next year or so working on the rest of these books.

Michael David Wilson 36:20

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, it's such a kind of surreal experience to particularly the way that publishing works to then be like, you know, you've kind of got mapped out your publications until 2026, like, you know, a point where we're, then we're near read the next decade, then it's gonna feel a little bit strange.

Eric LaRocca 36:46

It does it also like, it forces me to pause and be very grateful. Because, you know, a couple of years ago, I didn't have these opportunities, I certainly didn't have these privileges. And to be able to work with a publishing house as great as Titan. And to work with, you know, such a phenomenal editor. It really is, like, such a gift. And I'm just, I'm just very, very, very grateful that I have these opportunities now. And it's, it's really, because of things have gotten worse since we last spoke, that book just opened so many doors for me and really showed folks that, you know, people were interested in what I had to say what I had to write. And you know that, you know, that book just means a lot to me for how many doors that opened and how many people I met because of it.

Michael David Wilson 37:49

Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, it sounds like you have a very special relationship with Titan and indeed with your editor. Kathe. But how did you know that this was kind of the relationship for you? How did you know? Okay, this is a good kind of thing that we've got going on here.

Eric LaRocca 38:14

I think because I received such like gentle care with her, like, going through edits. I, she she really cares about my work. And, you know, my, my team, me, Priya, my agent and my manager, Ryan, we're like a little just microcosm little group. And it's so special to have an editor like Kathe, come on board, and really champion and champion your work. When you find an editor who is kind of like, works with you effortlessly, where it's not a struggle to, like interact with with that editor when you have that relationship. And more importantly, when you have an editor who's willing to go to bat for you, and pitch your material to the powers that be that you can't buy that you can't buy that kind of relationship. And I knew it was the right the right fit, like, almost immediately, just based on her. She's based on her warmth and her positivity with editing the collection, things have gotten worse since we last spoke in other misfortunes. That was a phenomenal experience. And, you know, going forward, we sold her a novel that I wrote, and a novella collection both are coming out next year in 2024. So she's, she's just been so supportive of I work and I always feel very valued whenever I'm interacting with her. And I think that that's, that's the key, like, if you find an editor that really believes in your work, and really champions, you know, the rest, the rest will fall into place.

Michael David Wilson 40:22

Yeah. Yeah. And it's apparent from talking to you, particularly when we talk about, you know, your really good relationships, that the thing that people have in common is being gentle, and being really supportive and passionate. So it makes me wonder, does this mean kind of prior to this, that you've had some professional experiences where it's kind of the opposite, where people have been very aggressive or dismissive and basically treated you in all the ways that one would not want to be treated?

Eric LaRocca 41:03

Well, I'm a very sensitive person, like, I own that. I'm, I'm very sensitive, and I can tell when somebody doesn't like me, or when I'm not a priority for somebody. And I feel like, I feel like anybody can really tell that I mean, it's, it's pretty apparent, like if, you know, if you know, somebody is just not interested in you and like your craft and furthering your career, like, it's pretty obvious. As far as like working with previous presses, like, I've, I've been very lucky in that I haven't really worked with with that many jerks. I've I've pretty much everybody I've worked with has been phenomenal, like in the indie indie circuit in the horror scene. But you know, that being said, Like it really, it is important for me for to have like a relationship with an editor. And then just be kind and considerate and just easy to approach. That's a big thing is that if they're kind of guarded, and maybe not even that responsive, you kind of know that, like, you're not you're not their priority. So with with Kathe, and with Titan, I know that I'm, I'm her top priority, like, I know that, you know, she's going to answer my emails, I know that she values me as a writer. I know, she wants to continue to work with me. And, and that, in and of itself is just worth so much. And I think, I think you're right, because a lot of the pretty much everyone I talked about, like is very gentle and very, like kind like, you know, Priya, my agent, she's very understanding, Ryan is just, my manager is just like the sweetest guy, you'll ever mean. Just so compassionate, and thoughtful. And it's, it's rare. When you find those people in, in any community, you just want to like, hold on to them as much as possible. Because for every, you know, there, there are, there are just, you know, there are unfortunately, there are not great people out there. And when you find the people that you click with, it's important to just keep them and, you know, develop that relationship.

Michael David Wilson 43:36

Yeah, yeah. I mean, Ryan is so warm and sweet. And so god damn smart as well. And it, I didn't know, I can, I can not sing his praises enough, because he's kind and compassionate. But he also knows when to take a deal. And when not to take a deal. There's like the perfect combination of what you want, with somebody representing you. And I mean, I think this is why we get representatives because I suppose as right as it's like, you know, someone wants to publish a book, or someone wants to make it into a film. And it's like, okay, let's take that. And it's like, Whoa, no, let's step back. Let's look at the deal. Let's make sure that we're taking the right thing rather than the first thing. And, you know, that's what managers and agents can really help us with.

Eric LaRocca 44:32

Totally, I mean, my dad always tells my dad, like, doesn't know a lot about the writing industry. He was a pilot for American Airlines. So he's like, not in the writing world at all. But his major advice to me when I was first starting out was to find people that, you know, would be able to guide me and offer just assistance to me when I needed Uh, you know, expertise on something. You know, it's important to have those relationships because you obviously can't know everything and you need I someone to like bounce ideas off of I mean, I'm when when deals are presented, I'm very quick to just be like, Oh yeah, that's fine, let's just go with that. But Priya and Ryan are much more thoughtful than I can be with, with stuff like that being presented. And it just makes for it makes everybody, it just benefits everybody more in the end, when you're, when you have those people on your team that can be like, alright, Eric, like calm down, we're going to take this slow, we're going to like, think about what we're going to do next, we're going to do this. It's just very important to have have those people that can kind of guide you and talk you off the ledge when you need to be talked off the ledge.

Michael David Wilson 46:01

Yeah, yeah. I believe you now having so many projects on the go, and so many things that you'll be working on for the next few years? Has that shifted your writing routine? And what does that look like in terms of the time that you're dedicating to writing and then of course, the other things that you have going on in your life?

Eric LaRocca 46:28

Yeah, so um, I work a day job. So I, I work part time at a day job, a research company in Boston. I'm like an admin assistant. And I do that for like, five hours every day. And once I'm finished with that, I, you know, close my computer, I work remotely. So that's great. I can just, you know, stay in my apartment all day. And I start my next, basically my next shift, which is my writing. And yeah, I do that, like late and late in the afternoon, early evening. And when I'm working on a project, like I am right now, working on the first novel of that trilogy, I really try as much as possible to write at least 2000 words every day. And I write Monday through Friday. So I take Saturday and Sunday off usually just to like, recharge and, you know, spend time with, with my partner and just, you know, do things other than stare at a computer screen for like, four or five hours. Yeah, so, yeah, so I, I try to average, like 10,000 words every week. And I do find that, you know, there are times that I push myself a little too hard. And it does result in like, a little bit of a burnout. But I do, I do try to limit myself, if I'm not feeling particularly inspired that day, or maybe I don't want to write, maybe I just don't want to write, I won't really push myself. Because I don't, I don't want the work to suffer, I don't want to write something that's just not in my heart. I don't want to create, you know, I don't want to have to redo it later, I'd rather, you know, do it as efficiently as as much as possible. Like, obviously, it's not going to be perfect the first go around, but, you know, I want to be as present and as focused as possible whenever I'm writing. And, you know, there are days that that just doesn't happen, there are days that, you know, other other stuff comes up and, you know, the priorities are just very different. And, you know, you have to focus on answering emails, or, you know, doing zoom meetings, and, you know, your mind just isn't on the writing. So I try not to push myself too much when I'm kind of in the, in the trenches working on working on a book, but you know, I, my, my schedule is very nice. And that allows me that flexibility to work, like in the morning for the day job, do routine, and then kind of switch off, you know, switch off that that part of my life and then move into writing the writing, which is obviously my one true love.

Michael David Wilson 49:45

Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, I imagine because I can't recall if you mostly pants or plot but I assume there must be at least an element of plotting the I think that, you know, you've outlined three books. So you have to have some sort of sense as to where you're going. So yeah, yeah. And so then in terms of those 2000 words, I, you when when you kind of sit down, are you going over the previous day's words as well? Or is it pretty much a case of like, you just start where you left off, and then, you know, the next draft will be the next draft rather than kind of drafting as you go?

Eric LaRocca 50:37

Yeah, I, I edit while I write. So I'm able to kind of go through, right that day, the scene or the chapter, whatever, whatever 2000 words gets me and I can go through it, edit as I go, stop, Once I'm satisfied, and then go back in and look at what I've done, edit a little bit more. And then that night, or the following morning, while I'm doing other things, I'll be thinking of, okay, what's the next what's the next thing, what's the next scene or, you know, chapter that I'm gonna, I'm going to focus on. And every every project I write is, is different in that, you know, it's a different sort of routine, for the most part. But it also, it's also similar in that, you know, I, I plan as much as possible. But I allow myself the freedom to have those moments where, oh, a character did something unexpected, I'm gonna go down this path and see where it leads. And it might lead nowhere, or it might lead somewhere that I hadn't really thought of before. And it might be, you know, perfect for, for what I'm trying to convey with with this particular character. This, you know, the story that I'm trying to tell. So I try to be as like, flexible as possible. While I'm, while I'm writing, but it is. It's when I'm working on a project like it. I'm kind of useless for all other things. And I apologize to my boyfriend repeatedly, because he'll be talking to me and asking me stuff. And I'm like, I'm listening. But I'm like, not listening, because I'm thinking about what I'm going to be writing tomorrow. But he's also a writer, so he understands.

Michael David Wilson 52:41

Yeah, what kind of genres is he writing in?

Eric LaRocca 52:45

He writes, young adult fantasy. So very different than an horror. He does read all my, all my stuff that I write. So he's a great beta reader. Really great. Feedback.

Michael David Wilson 53:02

Yeah. How does he get on with your fiction? You know, because there's a lot of things that they're uncomfortable, that difficult to stomach. And if you're weld is more, why a fantasy? I mean, this is intense for him, Eric, given him some really harsh stuff.

Eric LaRocca 53:23

I know. I feel like I'm always apologizing to him. When I look for like a new man to read. I'm always like, I'm really sorry. There's like, so much dismemberment in this one, there's so much mutilate. But he's, he's real supportive. I mean, he's, he's phenomenal. And another person that is very supportive, despite the subject matter, is my mom, you know, my mom still reads like a lot of my, a lot of my material that I publish, she's another person that I will just send, like a new short story to. And, you know, she'll give me back. And actually one of her favorite short stories that I've written is, I'll be gone by then, which is one of the short stories in the collection, the trees grew because I bled there. Which is surprising because that story is all about, like, a person fantasizing about getting rid of their mother. So it's likely that my mom would respond so well to it, but I think she's able to, like separate. She's able to separate me from the fiction and my boyfriend is able to do that as well. So third grade, third grade first readers,

Michael David Wilson 54:47

and is a good kill, because a lot of bad things happen to partners and family members within your fiction, but I think you know, I mean, it's clear from every time we speak to you how much love you have for the people close to you. And I remember you saying last time that your parents are kind of always there at various like book readings and events, and they've just been like a constant source of love and support. So in spite of what may happen on the page, it's pretty evident that there, yeah, one can separate the art from the artists, thank goodness.

Eric LaRocca 55:29

Right? Yeah, no, they are very, very supportive. And they do come to my events when I have them. And, you know, my mom has been my, my number one fan, like, as long as long as I've been alive. So, you know, she's the one that really introduced me to horror when I was really little. So I feel like I've really just strong attachment to her and a lot of gratitude for her for, you know, introducing me to this, this great genre.

Michael David Wilson 56:03

Yeah, yeah. And, of course, you said that you'll, what count that you're aiming for each day, is 2000 words. And I know that when I started writing, I would always think of like a kind of minimum word count. And I chased the words, and I'd be really hard on myself if I didn't meet them. But I think it's something that I've learned in recent years is as well as having a minimum word count. For me, at least it can be helpful to have a maximum word count, because there just seems to be diminishing returns when I get to a certain point. Or, if I don't, I guess because of my personality, if I don't set a maximum, I could just keep going and going and going, and then, you know, be kind of harder on myself, because it's like, oh, well, that day, you somehow pumped out 11,000 words, and today, you've done 4000 If the hell is wrong, are you? So? Like, I wonder, do you to find if, you know, you don't kind of stop at some point that there are diminishing returns? Or is this something where it's like know that the time you have you can you can fill with absolutely Baraka gold?

Eric LaRocca 57:32

I don't know about I don't know about that. But I, I think, you know, my goal is to hit 2000. I don't, I don't beat myself up. If it's lower than that. If it's like around 1000, maybe 1500. That's, that's not a problem. You know, there have been sessions that I've written, I've written five 6000 words in, you know, one seated writing session, I find that after I do that, I am harder on myself, because I'm like, Oh, you just wrote all this material yesterday, you know, why aren't you duplicating that today. But once again, it's all about reframing your mind and realizing that some days, there are going to be days that you write more than other days, and that's okay. You know, you're still ahead in the game. And honestly, I try not to even really think of word count that much while I'm writing because if if you write like, even two or three words a day, like they will add up eventually, like, I hope people realize, like, you know, there are really no rules when it comes to like writing, like words how, you know, like, just write until you're satisfied. And if it's not working for you, like, just step aside, put it aside and do something else, and then come back to it, or don't come back to it and, you know, work on a different project. But I try to be like, understanding toward myself, and I try not to, you know, put limits or put, you know, unrealistic unrealistic expectations on myself, because then like, I'm just miserable. And I'm just I feel like I'm just like a machine, you know, crafting something. And it's like, it's not authentic then.

Michael David Wilson 59:39

Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 59:41

You said something earlier about you when you write and then you your next day, you're thinking of the next scene. Do you do you leave yourself off at the end of a scene? And if you do, do you have a hard time getting back into the scene because I mean, something that I learned along time ago, is that if you finish the scene, and you're pretty much done, you know you've you've spent, at least start the next scene. Yeah. And then words like when you go to the native er, if you end a chapter, start the next chapter. You don't have to do anything with it, but at least get a senator to down to where you have a starting point instead of staring at a blank page going off, Chuck.

Eric LaRocca 1:00:26

And that's exactly what I do. That's what I do. Yeah, I usually if I end a scene, I will always write like one or two sentences of the next section, just so that I can slip back into the story. Because if I, if I don't do that, I'm like you said, I'm just staring at a blinking cursor. And I can't put myself in the mental framework of what I'm what I was thinking like yesterday, you know? So I always tried to finish a finish a scene, finish a chapter, and then go into something else, and then stop. So that way, I don't ever start cold.

Bob Pastorella 1:01:15

Right? And someone told me that sounds like, it's like you're tricking yourself, because you know, as a writer, you're also a reader. And so as a reader, you don't want to be left with a cliffhanger. So why would you leave yourself in creation with a cliffhanger? And that's the way it was presented to me. And I was like, Well, man, it makes sense. Because I was, when I first started, I was writing I'd write a chapter to be like, Okay, well, I guess tomorrow, I'll write chapter four. In this, like, what, where do I go from here? So yeah, that's, that's why when you said it earlier, I was like going, Oh, man to see if he's strong enough to where he just thinks about the next scene and can start with a blank page. That's, that's some strength there.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:58

You know, and that's kind of the Ramsey Campbell approach as well writing the next sentence in the chapter because I remember that was one of his tips he gave us when he was on the show. And, yeah, if you do that, then you're hopefully never going to be stuck, or you're going to at least minimize being stuck. And I mean, I tend to find the hardest part of writing Danny's story is literally that first sentence. And, I mean, yeah, I can spend so long, agonizing over it. But I do find for the first draft, it's like, look, just bloody well write any first sentence, because you can come back to it, you can do this after you've done everything else. And actually, when you've done everything else, it will be easier for you to find the perfect entry point to the story. But until you've got the story as a whole down, it is going to be difficult, if not impossible to craft that opening sentence.

Eric LaRocca 1:03:06

Totally. Um, I think even Harlan Ellison said something like that. He said, like, you know, never, never go into the your next writing session, where you're starting from scratch, like if you're, if you're on fire, and you're writing. And, you know, you feel like you're in the groove, and you've been writing for a while, stop and set it down. And that way, you will never start cold, like, you'll come back. And you'll be engaged and ready to, like, chip away at the rest of that. But it's when you it's when you stop a scene, or you get to a point that you're maybe frustrated and you know, you don't know where to go. Don't stop there. Because you're just going to be frustrated when you come back to the computer later.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:04

Yeah, that's really good advice.

Bob Pastorella 1:04:06

You know, something has to be said, though, for when you nail that first sentence. Yeah. You know, this, like, new sometimes that can like create the whole momentum that you need, you know, but I'm also like, Michael, it's like, well, you know, I got to start somewhere. You know, just move on. Just get it on the page.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:35

Yeah, I think as well. And we've certainly kind of touched on this with what we're saying anyway, but just in case we need to make it more explicit for people. It's important to concentrate with the words on the quality over the quantity. And I mean, if you just decide, right, well, I have to hit, let's just say 2000 Words, where you might just start bashing out right really bad words to hit that quota. But actually, it'd be far more effective to spend the day and to have 500 meticulously crafted words than just 2000 words that you're gonna have to go back to anyway. It's almost like you're comforting yourself by hitting that word count. But actually, you're creating more work long term. So you think you're being productive, but it's actually counterproductive,

Eric LaRocca 1:05:29

right? Yeah, it really does come down to quality at the end of it is, how many of those 2000 words are going to be cut, or you're going to have to rewrite. So try, like, it works for me to think like that. And, you know, write like, Okay, today, I want to write between 1002 1000 If I don't get there, it's no big deal. But what works, what works for me may not work for another writer. That's why writing advice in general is just very, it's very difficult to pass on to people because everybody's creative process is so different. And every creative process, whatever process it takes you to write a novel, or get a story finished is totally valid. So however you work and however, you get the words on the page, as long as you get them on the page somehow, and they're not just in your head. That's all that matters, really. And telling the story as you know, effectively and compellingly as possible.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:47

Thank you so much for listening to the This Is Horror Podcast conversation with Eric La Rocca. Join us next time for the second and final part in which we will discuss his forthcoming collection. The trees grew because I bled there. Now if you prefer your podcasts in video format, and do not forget to subscribe to us on YouTube at This Is Horror Podcast. You can also watch video clips and little bytes of goodness and writing advice over on Tik Tok, which is again at This Is Horror Podcast. And if you want to financially support the show and get a load of perks then please do consider becoming a patron over@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. And if you want to support us, but you don't want to commit to our monthly donation, we now have a coffee or it might be pronounced Kofi or Koh Phi or call phi either way. The website for that is Kayo hyphen F phi.com forward slash This Is Horror. If you know the official pronunciation then you let me know I think it's coffee because it is literally pitching it as buying someone a coffee. But then as well Kayo FYI, well that isn't how we spell coffee is it is SEO WF Gabor li so who knows but either way, if you want to support the podcast, you can do it at Keio hyphen, FYI. So I'm gonna call it.com forward slash This Is Horror. will forget all that coffee nonsense and just become a patreon case you get loads of things like early bird access story, unbox the video cast on camera off right in off right in fucking now on camera. On camera off record. Jesus Christ I think I need a coffee after this. I I think it's time that we take a little bit of an advert break.

RJ Bayley 1:09:05

It was as if the video had unzipped my skin, slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.

Bob Pastorella 1:09:13

From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson. After a teacher receives a weirdly rousing video. It's like descends into paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything and everyone he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring meets fatal attraction for iPhone generation. Available now in paperback ebook and audio are 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 young guests, 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 1:10:18

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is from Martin Scorsese is talking about scripts but I think it can apply to any story. The more personal your script is the better succinct but I think there's some truth in that one. All right, I'll see you in the next episode for part two with Eric law rocker. 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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