TIH 490: Novel and Novella of the Year, This Is Horror Awards 2021

TIH 490 Novel and Novella of the Year, This Is Horror Awards 2021

In this podcast we announce and speak with the winners of the Novel and Novella of the Year in the This Is Horror Awards 2021.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

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 the world's best writers and creatives about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today is the first in a series of very special This Is Horror awards 2021 episodes. And yes, that is right, these awards are for 2021. So it's been a testing year for many of us and we're a little bit behind. But we do promise to give you the best awards episodes that we have ever given yet. See, instead of putting together one long episode with quick conversations with each of the award winners, we are now presenting a series of longer conversations with two winners each and today we are announcing the winners of the novel of the year, and then novella of the year. But before we get into that, let us have a quick advert break.

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Bob Pastorella 2:31

Author Carson Winter presents soft targets and develop new word horror out March 22. From tenebrous press, a pair of office drones to discover a loophole and time that makes some days less real than others, allowing them to act on their darkest impulses without fear of reprisal. Their morals become more slippery and their fantasies more violent. And soon they have to decide what line they won't cross soft targets in a timely reality bending novella about the easy surrender to violence and the addictive appeal of tragedy is entertainment. More information at tenebrous press.com.

Michael David Wilson 3:02

So it is almost time to talk to the winner of the novel of the year in the This Is Horror awards 2021. And the nominees are as follows. My heart is a cane sold by Stephen Graham Jones, Queen of Tiefe by Haley Piper, red X by David dem Chuck, summer sons by Lee Mandela. And this thing between us by Gus Moreno and those who listen to every single episode will know this is the only award winner. We have actually already announced lbs in quite a covert way. So for those in the know, you're about to hear an extract from a conversation we have previously add on This Is Horror. That extract is almost exactly 22 minutes. So if you don't want to listen again, do skip that far ahead for the novella of the year. But for those of you still with us last hear from the winner of the novel of the year, in that This Is Horror awards. And I mean talking about subverting expectations and talking about the slasher genre. We're going to take this moment to announce the winner of the novel of the year in the This Is Horror awards. And listeners may be able to predict or what could it be? It will be very bizarre if the novel in the year was not by Stephen Graham Jones. Award another offer made conversation. No it is of course, my heart is a chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. So then there is, if you're watching the video version, he held it up. He's still holding it up, in fact. So firstly, congratulations on that. And I mean, as I kind of come in along the lines of what we're talking about, this is what one might, a literary slasher would kick us sounds like a kind of contradiction in and of itself. So you've done it again. And of course, the spoiler is that you're gonna do it for free books, because so so yeah, we've got a follow up. Don't fear the Reaper, and it's marketed as a trilogy. So unless your server Yeah, there is on the video, don't fear the Reaper. But unless you are subverting expectations by putting out two books religiously, then we do assume that that will be that book in the trilogy? Yeah, that'd be a heck of

Stephen Graham Jones 6:03

a subversion. You know, there's only two books, Michael? Yeah. But no, I've already I've already written the third one. I turned it in in August. So um, yeah, it's coming out, man. I know. I now know how Jade's story ends. And, um, I don't know if people are going to I don't know if people are going to celebrate it or like, um, sacrifice me. I don't know.

Michael David Wilson 6:25

Yeah, I mean, we, we hope that you won't be sacrificed. But at the same time, it's a hell of a way for a horror author to go. I mean, does it get better than that? Really?

Stephen Graham Jones 6:41

I could be like The Wicker Man, you know, that'd be fun.

Michael David Wilson 6:46

That's exactly what I was thinking now. If Yeah, I mean, is there a more iconic sacrifice than the sacrifice and the end The Wicker Man?

Stephen Graham Jones 6:57

I don't think I don't think there is I think that's as iconic as it gets. I guess the runner up would be very asters, midsummer, tied up in a bear suit or something.

Michael David Wilson 7:06

Yeah, yeah. Well, a modern day classic that is. mid summer, it's just, it's gotta be one of my favorite films. And in the last 10, maybe even 20 years, and it's so harrowing from the start. I mean, those first five minutes when she realizes what's happened to her family, and that scream. Holy shit.

Stephen Graham Jones 7:35

Yeah, no, that's, uh, you know, in both in hereditary and midsummer Esther does the same thing where the first sequence that leads up to like the terrible thing like in hereditarians the head get knocked off by the utility pole. And in midsummer, it's the parents man did both of those, it's like, you know, a novel is usually like this, like, this is the beginning and you go up along so incline, you reach a tip, and then you go down precipitously to the end, you know, I think every actor stuff works differently. You start out up here, with that high scene, that initial sequence and you're like, you're rocking back and your heels, you're like, This is just the beginning, you know, but then after that, he takes a long slow slope down to the end to like, the big surprise at the end of midsummer, you know, um, and it's a it like I talked about how to keep the readers unbalanced and kind of satisfy while also subverting your expectations. I think that's what Esther seems like he's doing you know, he's saying, you all know her novelist traditionally shaped or a story is traditionally shaped. I'm going to turn it exactly backwards and still give you the the terror in the fright of the dread all that stuff.

Michael David Wilson 8:38

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 8:41

But you're talking sacrifice. What do you remember the Sentinel? What is that from? 7778? Wow,

Bob Pastorella 8:48

I haven't seen in a long time.

Stephen Graham Jones 8:51

Yeah. At the end, at the end, if I remember correctly, that woman is like, Oh, I'm gonna be the new Sentinel. You know, and that's, that's a big sacrifice to watch the like, the date of hell or whatever it is for the rest of her life, you know?

Bob Pastorella 9:03

Yeah. And that was based off of a novel Jeffrey convicts or something like that, wrote it.

Stephen Graham Jones 9:10

I've never read it. I've only heard about it. But yeah, I think I've heard about it anyways, it's with Oh, I think Mandela affects my myself on a daily basis. I don't know what's real anymore.

Bob Pastorella 9:22

It should be a paperbacks from hell. Yeah, for sure.

Stephen Graham Jones 9:25


Michael David Wilson 9:27

assuming it exists. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. If not, then I guess Grady Hendrix has to write it since he's like kind of a paperbacks from him guy.

Stephen Graham Jones 9:41

Yes, man. He reads all that old stuff. He's got he's got it. This is a beer. This looks like beer. This is apple. This is apple juice.

Michael David Wilson 9:50

I mean, isn't necessarily an alcohol. Imagine inviting someone on that right? This is alcohol free. It'll

Bob Pastorella 10:02

be like the opposite and say this. It's not.

Stephen Graham Jones 10:07

Yeah. I was I was in the city. I was in the studio a few weeks ago, maybe two or three months ago recording the acknowledgments for chainsaw and reefer and biggest sort of lives. And so I'm in a little in the booth, you know, with the headphones and the mic and all that junk. And, um, and I do my first little read, and they come through my headphones, the producer from all the way and he was in New York City, I was in Colorado, and he says, Okay, that sounds good. But we're getting a lot of mouth sounds. And I was like, Well, I do have a mouth. This is probably gonna be a continuing problem, you know? And then he had, he had the people in the studio bring me a glass of apple juice, and I don't like Apple's gonna drink it. And something about the like the chemistry that pH I don't really understand it. It made my mouth no longer make mouth sounds, you know. So now I try to juice when I do podcast because I don't smack and sound like a sleaze tech as much.

Michael David Wilson 10:57

Right? Yeah. Yeah, I think I think the tips for having your voice sound good with a lack of mouth sounds like, well, the first one I'm breaking right now it's like a good idea to not drink caffeine. But also, we started this at 5am. So it is imperative that I'm drinking caffeine right now. Yeah, yeah. Also, you know, queuing gum beforehand is a good idea. I know that you were doing that. I don't know if that was a happy.

Stephen Graham Jones 11:38

No, it wasn't. No, well, no, you know, all through all through high school and junior high and a little bit of college I dipped, you know, so I always had like Copenhagen in my look, I'll go to get I got to where I had to get when I went to sleep. I couldn't get on my lip just so I could wake up with it. You know that much before. But I Finally Quit. And the nicotine is a little bit hard to kick, of course. But what was really hard for me to kick was that sensation of having something in my lip, you know, and so now I always have gum in my mouth, and I stick it I stick it in my lip. And it just makes me happy. And I realized I don't need the nicotine. I need something in my love.

Michael David Wilson 12:09

Yeah, yeah. The final tip. And I wonder if this is why Apple Juice is good, but it's actually a good idea to eat an apple beforehand. Really, again, yeah, again, another thing that I have not done for this podcast, because I don't know about you. But I don't wake up at 5am and think, oh, I want an apple right now. It's not my body in any way. But

Stephen Graham Jones 12:41

yeah, apples or apples are so complicated. Whenever I see a brown part of an apple, I'm like, That's it. I'm off apples for six weeks, you know, because it grosses me out so much. And so. And also I have to cut on my apples, I can't bite into an apple, I guess I could like physically I have teeth and I've got a mouth so I can physically bite into an apple. But I don't like to because I never know if it's going to be brown underneath. And so that absolutely terrifies me, like so, so much. So I'm really sure to cut all my apples. But also, like my core, my apple is nearly as big as the Apple because really, I just liked the skin. So I just love the skin. The inside of the Apple doesn't really interest me very much. And I love that.

Michael David Wilson 13:17

Yeah. What about if it's brown bits on a banana? Are you okay with that, too?

Stephen Graham Jones 13:25

That's like panic, you know? No, I don't I don't mean, I've had to stop eating bananas because they are way too dangerous. Like, I think they bruise a lot easier. You know? And yeah, and I just can't I can't tolerate that. So don't get mad at us anymore.

Bob Pastorella 13:43

But we're shelf life of like, two hours. Oh, no. Put them on the counter. Hey, I'm having banana maybe tomorrow. And it's like you better eat him now. Because I'll be starting to turn brown. For sure

Stephen Graham Jones 13:56

for sure. But it's I'm not hopefully nobody catches this for me this weirdness but I'm also I prefer to eat my potato chips from a tube like Pringles or Lay's or something because eating potato chips from a bag. I have such like mental psychological difficulty with that because I never know what kind of chip I'm going to pull out you know, is it going to be like a messed up one it's going to be folded like I can't eat folded chips while the chips are read off. You know I just put eating chips if I get a folded on. I get I love eaten at Chili's gonna win for salmon. But when you get chips, they're they're they're grease is hot enough in the back that lots of their chips they put in fold. And so they're all like double chips. And that to me is a nightmare because I don't know what's in that fold. You know, it's terrifying to me. So I'm really wimpy as far as I'm really wimpy.

Michael David Wilson 14:43

And yeah, I'm imagining if you publish this lessons to every conversation that you've done to promote this book, and it's like, right, well, we've really curated the podcast we've had. This Is Horror is one of the well known podcast asked for horror fiction and the fact that these guys had just gone on in the last six and a half years,

Stephen Graham Jones 15:12

we're talking about dread and terror. Just fixate on your chips for me.

Michael David Wilson 15:19

Yeah, yeah. And it's a damn good. You have the I decided, right? We'll just like, weave this segment for the awards section into that episode because it's like if we did just done 20 minutes, right? It's like was that was the most bizarre, except they announced the award. They then spoke about area, followed up with food. But again, remember Stephen Graham Jones, he's subvert your expectations. You think you got to accept an award and talking about the book. Now? That would be what a conventional author would do if I could even do that. But, I mean, going back to Bofur, then the novels in the trilogy. How did Jay Daniels enter your life?

Stephen Graham Jones 16:19

You know, when I first wrote My heart is a chainsaw. It was called Lake access only I read it in 2013. And I wrote it coming out of many, many readings of Jeffrey Eugenides amazing novel The Virgin Suicides. And that Virgin Suicides is told with like a royal first person, a Greek chorus, like a Wii instead of an eye. And it just seems like every word of that is so precise and so elegant. And I'm forever in love with that book. I read it enough times that I thought, you know, I can do this, or I wanted to do this anyways, and but I thought, what if it wasn't about like boring stuff, what it was was about slashers that's what I always think like it was interesting. And so I did that I smuggled that, that royal first person, that Greek chorus kind of Narrator into a slasher story. And immediately I had Indian Lake and Prufrock and Terra Nova. And I think I had the dam the dam didn't have a name and had camp what I believe to, but um, instead of jade being at the center of things, there was the way you think is like the chorus, like the communal voice of the people or something. And then at the end, you realize it's been a little it's been a little 10 year old kid and Iron Mask, like the mental health cover of quite right, you know, he's he's wearing that kind of mask and, and he thinks he's away, because he doesn't know who is who his dad is. He's got like, 10 people who could be his dad. And so he keeps that for him makes him feel plural until he narrates, like that he was. He was the Jade I guess. But um, it wasn't working either. That novel didn't work. That novel dependent upon a species of turtle I had made up and it was kind of a hard sell at the end, you know, to get people to believe in this turtle and this, this whole ecosystem that I had dreamed up and, and so I put the book on the shelf for five years, I think five years. And I've got a lot of other books in that five years, including mongrels, I guess. And then after mongrels came out, my agent said, Alright, what's next? And what I did was I wrote two novels, I wrote a novel called American Neandertal, which is a science thriller about finding, like 100,000 year old bones in America, which happened to me, maybe Neandertal has a title kind of, I guess, gives away and I'm here, I love that novel. I love that novel, but nobody else loved it. I mean, my agent loved it. None of the editors we sent it to love, but it's getting roundly rejected. And, um, and then I wrote a novel called Texas is burning a crime thriller Bigger, bigger Melville like 150,000 words. And it kind of is very similar in tone to my novel, not for nothing, it's set in the same area. And, and I wrote that novel over and over so many times. And we didn't submit it as wide as we did American Neandertal. But I still got rejected by the few people who did see it, so that if none of it ever gets published, I kind of liked it, but something must be broken about it that I can't see. And I forgot what the question was. What was the question? I was going somewhere.

Michael David Wilson 19:19

Oh, I was asking you how J. Daniels came into your Yeah,

Stephen Graham Jones 19:22

yes, I'm trying to that's what I'm trying to get to Jade. And so then, when American Neandertal and Texas burning had both been like roundly rejected and, and I was like casting a vote like, well, I guess the world hates me, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I picked that novel back up off the shelf. And I was like, you know, this, this community, the slasher has potential. And so instead of rewriting that novel, extracted, what I thought were the good elements I had to share if he wasn't a party then but I pulled him out, uphold the community and the environment, the setting out, and I'll tell the novel in a completely different way. And I believe in that first version, that I tried Jade styled herself as a journalist in this book, she was writing on the murders, the Indian lake was going to be her ticket out of there, you know, take it to the world. And, and it was I thought it was fun, but that there used to be in three parts then like Jade told the first third of it. And sure, I've already told the second, third and least until the third third, which I thought was really fun. But everyone I gave that novel to, they gave it back and they said, Yeah, it's okay. But we were everybody said, we were really sad when we had to go to the second part and leave Jade. And it was weird, because I didn't think that I thought she was just a, like a delivery vehicle for the story. But everybody who read it told me no, she's the beating heart of this world. And so then I rewrote a few more times, like not just like touch ups, like complete overhaul like start a new file kind of stuff. And I mean, I think I think the hard to change that probably comes 100 to 1000 words, I bet I wrote easily. Three quarters of a million words to get that story down is doesn't need to be done. And, and then. So Jane started to get her own story. And so with Jade, she appeared initially as a tool, just a device to like a funnel, I had poor pieces of the setup of this world and but then due to my first readers, she actually became a central and then the driving force and then the emotional core. And so I'm lucky like this is I mean, hopefully everyone out there listening to this knows, but listen to your first readers, you know, and you don't have to, like take what they say as prescription but if they say we were really sad when we left this character, then listen and ask yourself, What can I do to make them not really sad, you know, turns out with Mark as a chainsaw, it will stay with you.

Michael David Wilson 21:50

Yeah, yeah. And then of course with the follow up you know, we of course have Jade in don't fear the Reaper, but we do get some sanctions. We have our perspective. So I mean, after you'd got the feedback from my heart is a change. So were you reluctant like, Oh, God, I'm deviating from Jade again, we can have a repeat. Yeah.

Stephen Graham Jones 22:15

No, that definitely had that uncertainty. But um, as I was saying, I think with a project with a novel, you always had to wade into uncertain waters, you know. And so I knew that I couldn't do the thing that people were expecting me to do, which was put the spotlight on Jade the whole time, like it was in the first book and chainsaw, I knew I needed to have that spotlight shine on more aspects of the story in the world. And also, I wanted to use the switching point of view trick or, you know, jumping heads trick that is used and don't fear the Reaper. I wanted to use that kind of a setup for Book Three, too, as a way to keep the reader on their heels a little bit.

Michael David Wilson 23:02

Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. And, I mean, of course, we've both for them as well. You're experimenting with form and deconstructing and dissecting the slasher? And I mean, I think anyone who's been reading you for Well, who's really read any other books by you is going to know that that's kind of part of what you do. And I've, I find it kind of funny as well, that you wrote, The last final gal must be like, about 10 years ago now. And for some reason, when when he wrote that as well, like, probably just my brain being dumb, I don't know, is that gonna be the last final guild that Steven writes about? And at this point, it's like, I think, even if you were to say that, it's like, you're just gonna be writing about Final galas forever. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Stephen Graham Jones 23:59

yeah. No, I'm, I'm like, I'm like motley crew. I'm like, This is my last tour ever. Until next year.

Michael David Wilson 24:07

Yeah, hey, I mean, if it if it sounds to the boat, so you gotta do what you gotta do.

Stephen Graham Jones 24:16

You gotta do it. But you know, that question you asked. I hadn't thought about it this way. But I think you're right. I probably will always be doing some version of a funnel girl or a survivor girl. You know, I think they're pretty essential to her. But um, the werewolf is my favorite creature. My favorite horror. I don't consider slashers creatures. I consider them like spirits of vengeance. But um, but I've only done one werewolf novel. You know, Marvel's was initially supposed to be three books. I did a set as a trilogy. And I've got the next two mapped out, not mapped out if you like a page of what happens in each of them. You know? That I initially pitch pitch to William Morrow who did mongrels. But when I pitched that to them, they were like, Yeah, that sounds pretty cool. But we didn't want you to be the werewolf guy. So give us something different, you know? And so then I pitched him what eventually became mine is a chainsaw to them. And they said not interested, you know, and so then I landed somewhere else. And, of course, but um, but that, I wonder, I wonder if I'll write the more werewolf novels. I've tried twice since then to write a werewolf novel, which is really kind of a rewrite of a word with mobile, I wrote in 1989. And it hasn't come together. Like I can tell in the first 10 pages that something with the conflict is being is going awry. And so I kind of kill it in utero. So I don't get like 80 pages in and feel like I'm pushing that boulder up the hill, you know, yet, hopefully I write another word. If no one I want to write a vampire novel to have written a whole lot of vampire stories. But I've got some, some possibilities with a vampire novel that I think could work. The problem is, it's not a problem. It's a wonderful time we're living in but there are so many good vampire novels. And so I have to ask myself, How can I contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way? Because I don't want to do the same thing over and over, like, as far as I'm concerned, because with Christopher Buehlman's The Lesser Dead, I just don't know how I can do better than that, you know, that blows me away. Every time I look at it. It's just as far as far as vampires go. But I do have some ideas. And they're all They're the kind of the same kind of ideas I have for mongrels. Which is basically just a list of like with mongrels, I had this list. When I do werewolves, they're going to be like this and not like this. And so I've got a list like that now, which is quite sprawling with vampires. You know, when I do them, they're gonna be like this, not like this. And, and I have some different ideas about vampire. Not Genesis, but biology anyway, so that could be productive. We'll see. We'll see if anything comes out of it.

Michael David Wilson 26:47

Folks, it is always a pleasure accounting with Stephen Graham Jones. And for those who want more from Steven, that snippet of conversation was taken from our 90 minute conversation which ad is episode 484 of This Is Horror Podcast. So do check it out in the podcast feed, or by all means if you prefer video, then you can watch the video version on YouTube. And I know that the little extract you heard was not exactly about my heart is looking so for a lot of the discussion. But believe me, in the full episode, we talked so much about writing slashes, VA Daniels, my heart is a chainsaw and the fantastic follow up. Don't fear the Reaper. So a lot of good stuff for you to enjoy. And once again, that is episode 484 of This Is Horror. All right, it is time to jump into the novella of the year. And the nominees are. Comfort me with apples by Catherynne M. Valente. Goddess of filth by V. Castro. Nothing but blackened teeth. By Cassandra core. Things have gotten worse since we last spoke by Eric LaRocca and waif by Samantha Lesnick. And now let us go over to our conversation with the winner of the novella of the year. And it is now time to announce that This Is Horror award novella of the year. And the winner is things have gotten worse since we last spoke by Eric LaRocca. Eric, welcome to the show. And congratulations.

Eric LaRocca 29:05

Thank you so much. I am so so honored. This is such an amazing award. And I am so so grateful for This Is Horror. You know, I'm a big fan of you guys. And I'm just so touched that this novella still means a lot to people two years after it was first published.

Michael David Wilson 29:26

Yeah, and I think since we're talking about things have gotten worse, I got to ask you, what have you done to deserve your eyes this week? Eric?

Eric LaRocca 29:40

I've, I've written a lot. I've been writing a lot. So I feel like I've deserved my eyes in that way. You know, that's so funny because like I honestly do think of that phrase quite a bit like that little you know, what have you done to deserve your eyes because it really does creep into my life in the most like unexpected ways, you know, I find myself really thinking and reflecting a lot on like, what did I do today that was really meaningful and really special. You know, and whether it's okay, I wrote like, 2000 words, okay, I, you know, went and took a walk. And, you know, maybe I did something nice for my boyfriend, like, any anything. I really tried to, it's corny, but like, I really do try to be mindful of that, like, every day, you know?

Michael David Wilson 30:34

Yeah. And I think it's a good way to keep you on track. I mean, it's just a slightly more McCobb version, I suppose in something like, you know, why did you get out of bed in the morning? Or what are you doing to keep on track? It's like, let's up the stakes. Why the hell should you keep your eyes today? What have you done to deserve that?

Eric LaRocca 31:00

And exactly, exactly.

Michael David Wilson 31:04

And do you remember when did that phrase first occur to you?

Eric LaRocca 31:10

It occurred to me pretty organically, like when I was in the process of writing that particular novella. You know, I was at a point in the story when the character was revealing some, you know, something personal from her past. And it was similar to something like my dad would say to me, you know, when I was just growing up, like, just be thankful for your eyes, your, you know, your, that you can walk that you can see things and, you know, just be grateful for your health, essentially. And I just kind of took that and inverted it and made it this like, really McCobb thing, like, what have you done today to deserve your eyes. But it really just kind of sprang to me, like, in the moment of creating, you know, which I love, like I love, I'm definitely, I'm somebody who outlines pretty regularly. But I love those moments, in writing, where something just happens. And it's, it's like, you didn't plan it to happen, but it just sort of crept up. And it was like, Okay, this is where we're going. This is, you know, what we're would this is what we're going to do. I mean, those moments are, they're very special. And I feel like I, I feel like I'm at a good point now where I can recognize when those moments happen, and I can, like, honor them and be like, Okay, this, like, I, this is where I need to go, this is what I need to do with writing this piece. But yeah, I would just say it happened like very, very organically and just kind of just kind of came to me and it's spawned, like, so. So many people. I've had people like, DM me on Instagram that they've gotten like tattoos of that. Yeah, like on their body. Like, that's insane to me. That's but like, so amazing. You know, like, that's so special that somebody put like, something I wrote like, permanently on their body. That's just like the biggest compliment I could ever think of you know,

Michael David Wilson 33:31

yeah, yeah, but it's showing keeping I mean, I could imagine having like on on one arm What have you done to deserve your eyes today and then on the other Memento Mori and if you've got those two things written on you, you are gonna get shit done. Reminder and, I mean, have you pulled out a t shirt with that on I feel like it needs to be I mean, there's a month Yeah.

Eric LaRocca 34:04

Yeah, I am. I worked with a like an artist designer. And we did like a little things have gotten worse capsule. And there's a What have you done today to deserve your eyes shirt? There's a couple of shirts about you've lost a lot of blood. My other novella that I released like last year independently so yeah, no, I definitely I've definitely been on the on the merch train and have gotten gotten some stuff out there with with like merchandise and I want to do more. I'd love to do more with like, future books. So I'm, I'm definitely open to to anything.

Michael David Wilson 34:48

Yeah, yeah, we'll have to put in the shownotes links to those T shirts because I'm sure there will be people listening who would like to get hold of them. I mean, if you if you pass someone on the street and you read, you've lost a lot of blood, it's like, hang on shit. What's going on? Especially if you've passed the previous person saying, What have you done to deserve your eyes? They've fallen out. Is that blood seeping from my eyes?

Eric LaRocca 35:22

So a little unsettling, but that's okay. Yeah, you know, the world needs some unsettling stuff sometimes.

Michael David Wilson 35:30

Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, obviously, we're talking about how special this sentence is an was, Did you recognize in the moment that you were writing it that like, Okay, this line, that this is something this is going to really come back, and it's thought provoking people are gonna quote it, or was the only kind of after the release when people constantly mentioned this line that you were like, oh, oh, wow. That is the one.

Eric LaRocca 36:04

Yeah, I, when I was writing it, I definitely hoped that, I mean, like, everything we write, we want it to resonate with readers we want it to be, we want it to speak to people. We want it to be memorable. But as I was, I was, as I was writing it, I definitely had those feelings where I was, like, you know, this could be something really, really special. I obviously didn't know the magnitude of what it would become. But it really like the book really had life breathed into it when it was released. And people just started talking about it like on Instagram and Tiktok, especially tick tock. And they started just like quoting it. And, you know, like the tattoos I mentioned, and making like reels on Instagram. That's really when the book, like doesn't belong to the author anymore. It belongs to the public, it belongs to like the readers. And I always get a little sentimental when that happens. But it's like what's supposed to happen, and you kind of have to let go and let the book go and be what it's supposed to be for people and have its own life and its own journey. But I definitely while writing it, I I had Inklings like this, this could be something really special. I thought the title first of all, like the title, things have gotten worse. Since we last spoke, I thought that's a really compelling title. I feel like people are gonna pick up the book just based on that title alone. And I think with the cover art, like the original cover art by Tim Jacobson, I feel like coupled with the title and that really surreal painting that Kim did. I feel like it was like the perfect storm and just like really captured people's imaginations and really like resonated with a lot of people. And I think that that particular line, like what have you done today deserve your eyes? I think it I think it captures people because it's, it's horrifying. But it's also like it is kind of uplifting when you think about it, because it's like really What have you done today? To, you know, have your health and, you know, be functioning, you know, is something I feel like people, I hope people are more reflective and think about those things. So yeah, just to answer I mean, to answer your question, I feel like I did at the time, I had like an inkling that it was it was going to be something special. But it really wasn't until the book just took off by storm that I was like, okay, like I have something you know.

Michael David Wilson 39:05

Yeah. And you talk about your the idea that once you've put the story out into the world that is then kind of owned by the readers, and the story continues to be told, and it can almost have a new life fru I guess like criticism and commentary and things like that. So then thinking about that, I know that you're working with Ryan Lewis, he's your film agent and film manager. So I want to know, you know, thinking about taking different forms. Do you have any film news at the moment where things have gotten worse? And in terms of and is now a completely separate question, so I'm giving you the double in one, but in turn Observe like filmmaking and things like that, as well as getting your work adapted for the film. Do you have any kind of desire or interest in screenwriting yourself?

Eric LaRocca 40:15

Yeah, so Okay, so I'll answer the, the film news first. I can say like, we do we have a director attached for things have gotten worse the film adaptation, I've written the script, we've been basically chopping the script around to various production companies financers, to see who's interested, we've also been chopping it around to various, you know, actors actresses to see, you know, who, who would be willing to, you know, participate in this in this project. And that's kind of where we're at, you know, we're still looking for, for financing. I don't know, like how much i i should say, at the moment, but I we don't have any, like, major cast attached at the moment. So we are, you know, still actively looking for that. But like I said, we do have a director attached. She's amazing. It's i She really like believes in the, in the scripts, and the story, she's a big fan of the original novella. So I feel really confident I feel like her visions going to really elevate the film and, and make it the, you know, the psychological horror drama that I want it to be. As far as, you know, working in screenwriting, like that particular medium, I, I actually went to school for writing for film and television. For my graduate program. I went to Emerson in Boston, and I loved it. It was like, seriously the best two years of my life. I met like such great people, really interesting. Classmates, really exceptional speakers that came to talk to us and kind of guide us on our on our screenwriting journey. Unfortunately, because I'm so like, fixed in the world of fiction right now and writing so much for, you know, projects that are not coming out until like, 2026 2027. I haven't been able to really, you know, delve into screenwriting for a while now. It's been a while so I'm a little rusty at it. But, you know, the last major script I worked on was last summer with things have gotten worse since we last spoke, I adapted that novella to like, you know, a script format. So, but that said, like, I am totally open to working on, on on more scripts. I, I feel I feel more at home and fiction, because I kind of started, I started writing as well, essentially, I started writing for theater when I was really young, but then I kind of moved into fiction and then graduated to like screenwriting. Um, you know, I, I love screenwriting. I think it's, I think it's a beautiful art form. I, I love, you know, the process of crafting and developing characters, but I feel more at home with like fiction, I have to say, just writing fiction. But that said, a lot of my upbringing with writing for theater kind of does creep into my fiction writing, because some of my pieces are kind of, you know, chamber pieces where it's very small cast of characters, kind of limited settings, I'm always kind of thinking, How can I tell this story as efficiently as possible with as few characters with like, as limited setting, I'm always kind of thinking of, you know, thinking like a playwright almost. But, but that said, you know, I, I do, I'm still totally open to working on more, more scripts. And, you know, I have some connections with with really exceptional directors that are fans of my fiction work. So fingers crossed that something happens in that on that front. Kind of see. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 44:45

Yeah, definitely. And I mean, I know the last time that we spoke, we did talk a lot about your playwriting and your beginnings in that sense. So it sounds like today, you're saying saying that as well as doing the playwriting, you had done some screenwriting or some writing for film before, things have gotten worse. Is that Is that right? Or what was this?

Eric LaRocca 45:11

Yes, that's true. That's true. I wrote things have gotten worse the year after I graduated from Emerson for my master's program. Yeah, so I had worked pretty pretty. For two years, I was working pretty extensively just on screenplays that I was that I was developing, and I have like a portfolio have of them somewhere on my, on my computer. And they're, I don't know if I'd ever like go back to them. But I, I definitely, I think about like, where I was mentally when I was writing them. And they are, like, still very special to me.

Michael David Wilson 45:59

Yeah, and I'm wondering, in terms of the film, interest for things have gotten worse, just the order in which things happen. So did you write the screenplay first? Did people contact you about adapting it? Did Ryan contact you? Did you contact Ryan? What was the order that all of this came to be?

Eric LaRocca 46:22

Yeah. So I mean, when the book when things have gotten worse, first came out. It like exploded just on social media and Tik Tok, and, you know, everywhere. And there was film interest. We had studios, kind of like regularly hitting Ryan up and just wondering, like, what are the rights for that book? Like, are they available? And, you know, Ryan, and I had a phone call and and he said, I really think we should develop this as a as a film project. But I would really like to see you write the screenplay, which I love that idea. Because I was, you know, I was a student of screenwriting, I'd spent, I'd taken out so many loans to study screenwriting, so yeah, seemed like, it was just great. It was it was great. And I, we kind of labored over how we would tell the story for quite some time, because it is, you know, it's a very unconventional story in the way it's told, told, you know, just through emails and chat logs, it's like, how do you make that more dimensional and more visual, as opposed to just like, staring at a screen and reading text messages for the entire movie. And, you know, I wrote a, I wrote, I wrote a couple of drafts of the script, I probably wrote, like, two or three, maybe even four drafts, and they were good. But it wasn't until we had this director Come on, that she kind of molded it and helped me refine it, and really make it visually compelling. And ces more suspenseful, more, even more McCobb in certain places. And, you know, the film is now just an escalation of violence from start to finish. It's a really like a really nuanced exploration of one person to send into madness, and her just escalation of increasingly bizarre behavior. You know, under the control of this kind of faceless woman that we never really see until like, the very end of the film. So it really wasn't until the director came on, that we really refined, it got the scripts in the best shape I've seen it in. And, you know, now we're, we're sending it off to, like I said, financers and production companies, but it's such a, it's such a process, like, I'm kind of, yeah, I'm kind of, you know, I'm not the biggest fan of the of the movie making process because it's so slow. And it's just, it's like, you know, none of its real until you're in that theater on opening night and you're watching the movie on the screen, like, you know, it's just, you never know, and it's also such a dance between, like, reaching out to people seeing if they're interested vetting them, you know, they've that you it's just it's a very intricate dance. And, you know, it's not my favorite thing in the world, but, I mean, what can you do?

Michael David Wilson 49:52

Yeah, yeah, no, I relate to that, because I've got similar things going on with The Girl in the Video, although I haven't wrote Right green play for that that's been written by someone else. But I know how it kind of back and forth and slow and now everyone's kind of dancing around. So, yeah, the way that I do it, and I know that Josh Malerman and Ryan Lewis, kind of recommend this too. It's like, celebrate each little victory. So it's like, okay, we've got some interest or we've got a director attached, celebrate that, but don't, in your mind jump to like, Oh, I'm, I'm on the red carpet. It's like, no, no, you're not. something could go wrong, just like enjoy the success that you have. I think this is good for all life. Because I guess it's when we, when we kind of jump ahead, or we assume that we've achieved things that we haven't yet that's when depression can hit and be really crippling and just dunk and, you know, and unfortunately, life can be unfair, and shit can happen that really shouldn't. So we just got to look at where we are, and appreciate that moment. But I, I do know that it's a hell of a lot easier said than done, you know?

Eric LaRocca 51:12

Yeah, I mean, that's advice I should follow more regularly. And I know I don't, I, even in publishing, you know, you really have to celebrate every tiny victory, because it is so slow going. And it is it's not as slow as filmmaking and like that whole process, but it is slow. But you know, you really, I've been such an advocate lately for just like protecting your mental health and protecting your creativity. Because if you're not in a good headspace, and you're allowing yourself to compare yourself to others, or, you know, not take pleasure in the work, like the creation of of what you're writing, you know, your writing is going to suffer. So I totally, totally believe in what you'd said, like, you know, just celebrate every, every little victory because they're few and far between. Especially in filmmaking.

Michael David Wilson 52:20

Yes, yeah. When you said that you and the director made, you know, the screenplay, even more McCobb I could see because of the video, like Bob's reaction was exactly what I was thinking like, wow, you made it more McCobb What What the hell did you do? Oh, God, Eric, what have you gotten done? I feel often when I'm reading your fiction, I'm like, No, Eric, no, Eric, I want to read but I also don't want to read. Like, we are gonna get to that later, when we record the full episode with bodies are for burning, oh my God, but we get to keep on on topic. Now with things have gotten worse. I think Bob has something to say about that I can tell. It's just that

Bob Pastorella 53:19

the you know, to read to read, you know, things have gotten worse. And then your mind fills in gaps. Right. And so, in film, some of those gaps kind of get colored in a little bit, they get filled up, you know, and I know that you know, you don't want to go too far out there, but at the same time with restraint, the possibilities are endless. And so when you say that it's even more McCobb and using that particular you know specific word. I'm like, you know, that's that's what I was like, oh shit. I was interested. I'm like really interested. Now. Let me get my credit card ready? Because, you know, in with in this skilled hands, that's this thing has a potential to to be really, really big. I'm excited man.

Eric LaRocca 54:17

I am. I have to be totally honest with you both i. And this might be controversial to say I prefer the script. Over the novella. Things have gotten worse. I think that the changes we made to that story and like the developments we did and we strengthened certain character arcs, I added new characters. I think it fills in the world and really informs the audience. Why Agnes descends the way she does. I I'm I'm actually like quite, quite proud of that script. I think it's like the best script I've written. And I really just hope the movie gets made. Because I think it's really special that I know readers would, would really appreciate it. And it would be just a great companion piece to the novella, almost almost as if, you know, don't view it as like a literal adaptation of the novella. Look at it, like a companion piece, to the novella. It's like, almost like a cover song of like, an original.

Bob Pastorella 55:28

Yeah, that's, so we're drawn out of Michael David Wilson spout because, yeah,

Michael David Wilson 55:34

I do have to say that. Yeah, we've

Bob Pastorella 55:37

been, you know, going through a similar process, you know, writing the script for They're Watching. And it is, you know, I think that Michael even suggested that, hey, you know, maybe we could do like, you know, a director's cut of the book, you know, after if we get this thing. And that does sound really cool. But at the same time, I mean, the book is the book, I think the you know, it's like, if you go back and tinker with that in here, and you say that you liked the script better than the book. Does that even tempt you to go back and tinker with the novels and say, you know, preferred Arthur's edition or something like that?

Eric LaRocca 56:21

I think that's a great question. But um, no, it doesn't. Because the novella already exists, it is what it is. It's, you know, it was published with weird punk. And then now it's rereleased through Titan books. There was a there was a point when it was sold to Titan, that I thought, oh, maybe I'll go back in and like, add some things and change things. But by that point, the book I felt like the book didn't belong to me anymore. Like the book belong to readers and it belonged to people on Tik Tok it belong to YouTube, it belonged to Goodreads Like, it wasn't my place anymore to change it and, like control try to control the narrative of the book because the book already had, like, its narrative and its lifecycle, and it's still having its life cycle. And it's just not my it's not my place to change that anymore. Like, I have to kind of accept I can't control it. So I mean, that's kind of where I stand on that.

Michael David Wilson 57:26

Yeah, yeah. And I do think it's such a great place to be to be adapting for the screen and then feel like you know what, I think this is even better. And I mean, I I think to your point I think that about They're Watching I don't know if I've ever expressed that to Bob is like what the fuck do you think the script we're writing is bad the book God dammit. But I just think it like adds of layers. And then the story is continuing. But in my mind, these fictional characters that we create, they kind of exist, even though they came from our minds. So then it makes me think, well, well, let's take like, you know, in They're Watching, we've got Brian and Yuki are the two main characters. It's like, well, what, what are they really doing? What really happened to them? Because there's deviations in the script and, and book or, or if we got some weird kind of reality where there are different timelines. I mean, maybe maybe that exists to maybe there's another reality where, I don't know, I reckon, Bob hosting This Is Horror. This this is the the timeline that we've got now it involves me, but I had to know. I'm not sure if there's a question attached to the, my, my kind of weird timeline stories. Throwing out there. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Eric LaRocca 59:02

No, I mean, I think that's really interesting. I mean, like it kind of what you were saying just about, you know, the different versions of the same story, it kind of creates, like a little universe for you that, you know, people who are so invested in your work, they can kind of live in this little universe that you've created and really, kind of enjoy every, every, every aspect of it. I think that's really that's, you know, fodder for really rich storytelling.

Michael David Wilson 59:36

Mm hmm. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And that at the moment, I'm adapting my short story. What would Wesley do? And because it's a short story, it's obviously now the screenplay is much longer, but now that's making me think, oh, you know, I could rewrite this and expand this into a novella or a novel and of course, That's one a ruukki Murakami did with the windup bird chronicle I initially started as a short story. Now, don't worry, I haven't lost the plot. And I'm not having these illusions of grandeur where it's like, well, Haruki Murakami, Michael, David Wilson did the same thing. But I do you think? Yeah, there's probably more mileage in terms of transforming a short story into like a novella or a novel, rather than, you know, I guess, like having a novella. And him being like, well, here's another version of the novella. And, and I guess, too, it depends, you know, in terms of the reach of the originals, so like, we've we've that particular story, here, it was on no sleep podcast, and that's the only audience it's had. So pretty niche. But you know, we're things have gotten worse, as you say, that went viral. And so it's not like people are gonna be like, Oh, it's like, yeah, I think I've read the story before.

Eric LaRocca 1:01:01

Right? Yeah. And I mean, people are going to have, you know, if the movie does get made, people are going to go to it and expect certain things and maybe be disappointed with certain choices that I made in the in the scripts adaptation process, but I think people will really appreciate the complexity I've added to Agnes and Zoe's relationship. And just that, like that escalation of violence was just like really important to me in the director to kind of just carry the film through its through its structure. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:41

Yeah. Which industry we're talking about? Yeah. The novella, why do you think the novella is such a perfect form for the horror story?

Eric LaRocca 1:01:54

I think because it's, I think, because it's concise. I think horror, really, I think Richard Matheson said this, at one point, he said, like horror, you can't really sustain dread for more than, like 300 pages or 400 pages, like the those kinds of books. You know, those books are great, but it's very difficult to capture someone and keep them horrified for long periods of time, because they're obviously going to like set the book down. They're going to, you know, do other things, reflect on it, and then come back to it. But with a novella, you have all of you have like a little micro novel there. And people can just sit down and read it in one sitting, and, you know, be kind of lost in this world for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, the two hours it takes to read the novella. I love novellas. I think they're, they really are like the perfect form of horror fiction. And I'm so excited that novellas have kind of made like a comeback lately, especially in horror, like the indie horror scene, I see a lot of presses opening for novella submissions, even like larger imprints they seem to be interested in in the novella. You know, even like, Tor Nightfire, we'll look at Yeah, we'll look at novella submissions, which is pretty rare for a publisher of that status to look at something less than a novel like word count wise. So yeah, no, I just I feel very strongly about novellas, I would, I wish I could, I wish every project I could write were a novella. Because they're also very, they're, they're very satisfying to write in that they don't take a lot of time for me at least to write. I can really get lost in that world, write it. And it's not as time consuming as writing like a 70,000 word book, you know, a 2020 or 30,000 word novella. It's it's not as not as time consuming for the reader and for the writer.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:19

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And, yeah, I mean, talk tour Nightfire writing, hopefully, they're gonna bring the novella even more into the mainstream, because, you know, of course, we've got kind of smaller presses like tenebrous press and ghoulish doing a lot of good things with the novella but to see someone like Tor really champion there. I think that's just an exciting time for all of us.

Eric LaRocca 1:04:49

I do too. I mean, you really don't see that and I think it's great. I think, I really do think like, novellas are going to be more prominent in In just fiction in general, because I think, you know, our attention spans are, are shortening. Yeah. I think novellas are like the perfect read for people. Because like I said, they're not too time consuming, and you can get through them pretty quickly. And you can, you can develop that atmosphere in a really short period of time and, and just kind of surrender to, to the book that you're reading.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:31

Tolkien about kind of, I guess, diminished attention span, I've noticed and it's kind of at the fringes at the moment, but there's a little bit of a rise in people writing episodic fiction, and I think Amazon are going to be pushing this in terms of with eBooks as well as so rather than, you know, releasing a novel or a novella, there are people aromas, releasing chapters, or sections or, or episodes, is that anything that you've considered that you'd be open to? And what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of exploring that as a form to tell a story?

Eric LaRocca 1:06:21

I've definitely thought of it. I was talking to Doug Murano of Bad Hand Books. And we were talking at one point of doing like something episodic, just like releasing bits of a larger story. The drawback to that I see is I wouldn't feel comfortable releasing the episodes until I had finished the whole piece. I can't imagine. I can't imagine, you know, releasing something like a snippet of something. And then, you know, going forward and then realizing, Oh, wait, no, I have to change what I wrote. Like in the first segment I released like, that's the only major drawback I can, I can see with something like that. But otherwise, I think it I think it's great. I mean, I know. Like Stephen Graham Jones to a, maybe not an episode, episodic series, but he did something like on Amazon, like a small short story. Like a series, I think that was like part of a series. Maybe I'm mixing it up with someone else. But I think I think the shorter the shorter fiction is, it's where I feel like I thrive especially. And I'm totally open to, to those sorts of projects.

Michael David Wilson 1:07:47

Yeah, yeah. And I have seen two approaches to this. Obviously, the, the safer one I consider is, as you say, writing the whole thing first, and then releasing the episodes, but there are certainly writers that they write kinda like the first episode, but they haven't written everything yet. And certainly, in the way that I write, like my novels, it's like, that seems very dangerous, because there's only when I finished the entire thing, it's like, oh, yeah, I've got to go back to chapter one, and put this in to foreshadow what's actually going to happen. So I just couldn't imagine. Because then you're almost too committed, and you're gonna get a situation like the television series Lost, and you interview in the cast. And it's like, well, how is it going to end? It's like, we don't have a clue. We didn't know until we filmed that episode. So I, I just think, you know, you don't want to get lost, like lost.

Eric LaRocca 1:08:59

I think yeah, I think you're totally right. I mean, we could talk more about this in the next segment, but yeah, I am. I don't know if I'm allowed to really reveal this, but I'm gonna say it anyway. Um, I'm working on a trilogy of books that Titan has purchased. And they're going to be releasing like 2026 2027 and so on. But I'm, I'm I sold the books on proposal, but I want to make sure I finished the trilogy before the first book is published, like in print, because I, I can't like all the books have been outlined. And I know the structure and I know like the character arcs that I want, I want to convey and everything and illustrate but I can't imagine releasing part of of something and not having the other components like kind of done in some way. That's just how I operate.

Michael David Wilson 1:10:02

Yeah. Yeah. Well, congratulations again, on winning the novella of the year. For listeners who wants to hear more Eric rocker, and I would assume that as all of you, then you can listen to our conversation from last year, episodes 431 432. And at the time that you're hearing this, you will also be able to hear another two parter, which actually, we're literally going to record in a few minutes. So I can't tell you exactly what we're going to talk about. But it's mind blowing some of the revelations that Eric comes out with, and Bob has a moment too, so you're gonna love it. That's probably gonna be about episode four, a six and 487. But you can use the search function to find out exactly when those came out. So congratulations again, Eric.

Eric LaRocca 1:11:03

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Michael David Wilson 1:11:08

If you like that, yeah, we're very then we recently add another three or so hours with him. Check out episodes 486 and 488 of This Is Horror Podcast for more. In 486, we have a catch up with Eric in which we talk about authenticity, time Titan books and his writing routine amongst other things. And then for eight, eight, we deep dive into his brand new short story collection. The trees grew because I bled there. And you know, I think that could be a contender, certainly for being in the running in the short story collection of the year for this year. 2020 free are kind of early into it at the moment so there's a lot of time to go but it is gonna take some beating. And that was a fantastic book and I'm so thankful if I haven't read it. Okay, before I wrap up last have a quick advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:12:17

Author Carson winter presents soft targets and develop new word horror out March 22. From tenebrous press, a pair of Office drugs to discover a loophole in time that makes some days less real than others, allowing them to act on their darkest impulses without fear of reprisal. Their morals become more slippery and their fantasies more violent. And soon they have to decide what line they won't cross soft targets in a timely reality bending novella about the easing surrender to violence in the addictive appeal of tragedy is entertainment. More information at tenebrous press.com. 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. Women 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 White Party and meet your new neighbors horror on main.com.

Michael David Wilson 1:13:23

Now if you want to support This Is Horror, the best way to do so is to become a patreon a patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. And not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you get to submit questions to every single guest. And coming up this weekend. We are talking to Carson winter, the author of the fantastic book soft targets which is coming out very soon from tenebrous press on March 22. So if you have a question for Carson, do consider becoming a patron@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Now coming up next episode, we are going to be chatting with the winners of the short story collection of the year and the anthology of the year. So definitely something to look forward to. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thisishorror.co.uk/tih-490-novel-and-novella-of-the-year-this-is-horror-awards-2021/

1 comment

  1. Thank you for the transcript! I couldnt hear the vampire novel Jones had commended.

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