TIH 516: Eric LaRocca on Why He Wrote Everything the Darkness Eats, Split Narratives, and Controversial Scenes

In this podcast, Eric LaRocca talks about why he wrote Everything the Darkness Eats, split narratives, controversial scenes, 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 about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are chatting to Eric law rocker for the second and final part of our conversation. Now in the last episode, we got a little bit into the mindset of everything the darkness is and what was required for Eric to write it. But here, we are diving even deeper. We are talking about the story. We are talking about the split narrative, the incredibly controversial sexual assault scene, and a lot lot more. So it's going to be a fascinating episode. I think Garrett dives even deeper into his writing philosophy. So please do stick around. But before we get into the meat of the episode, a little bit of an advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 3:03

Okay, we're not sad. Here it is. It is Eric la rocker. On This Is Horror. So Eric, you were talking before about how you keep returning to the reasons why you wrote everything that darkness eats, and it's something that you are mindful of. So that does beg the obvious question, why did you write everything the darkness eats?

Eric LaRocca 3:36

Let's, let's see. I mean, it's a complex answer. I, I initially, my main motivation to write this book, in the way that like I wanted to create a novel was, this was my first project full length project that I wrote, like my first attempt at writing a full length novel. And it was really fueled by my film TV manager, Ryan Lewis, who reached out to me, you know, back in 2020, he read a novella that I had written, and was really interested in representing me. But he said he really needed a full length novel to like pitch around to various agents to get them interested, because at the time, novellas, were kind of not really useful to like any publishers, which is so crazy, because now it seems like the total opposite seems like developers are just like popping up everywhere. So Ryan, you know, and I were on a call one day and he said, I would really love to represent you, but I really can't work with you until you write like a full length novel and I went away from the call and I thought for a while and I thought, you know, I really need to stop, or at least not stop. But I need to take a break from writing novellas shorter length work, and focus on writing something with more meat to it, I need to write like a full length piece. So I just started brainstorming and really thought about what, what I like to represent myself as, like the first full length of work to put out into the world. And I really thought about where I grew up, I grew up in a very small, somewhat conservative town in the northwest corner of Connecticut, a small town called Kent. And I really thought about like growing up there and growing up gay in a small town. And the prejudice that you face, how you kind of are treated like a little bit less than, you know, the bigotry that you face. And I really wanted to write a piece about that I wanted to write something that spoke to those insecurities that I have just about, like, you know, my childhood and how I grew up, and the kind of discrimination that I faced. And I also wanted to write something with religion, because growing up, it wasn't that my parents were like, overly religious, but we had a pretty active life and our Community Church. So Religion was something that like, I immediately thought of when I thought of childhood. So that's kind of where it started. It started from Ryan, my manager really saying to me, I really need you to write like a full length novel, and that kind of lit a fire under me. And that was kind of the motivation for saying to myself, Okay, let me write something full length. And it was really then that I just started dissecting those elements like the bigotry in a small town, the religious elements, I really wanted to, you know, I grew up reading a lot of Stephen King and Clive Barker, I wanted to write something that was kind of like a mesh between those two authors. And I wanted to write something that was like, almost like a Stephen King book written by Clive Barker, or a Clive Barker book written by Stephen King, like either one. And that's really the genesis for everything that darkness eats, like, I just kind of sat down and played with those ideas, and really found myself thinking a lot about like, just God and how we figure in the cosmos and how like insignificant we are, and, more importantly, like how inactive God is with us, like, you know, just being this like, I mean, I'm not a religious, I'm pretty agnostic, when it comes to like, those kinds of forces, but just the way in which, like, deities perceive us, and how like removed they are from us, and how we're kind of just these small little organisms scurrying around on the planet, trying to make sense of everything. And I really wanted to bring that into the book. And I wanted it to be brutal, I wanted it to have those elements that you know, made you flinch and made you want to look away. And that's really, those all of those things that I just described are really kind of where I was at mentally when I first started writing this book. And it kind of went through a journey like I would, I would write pretty much a chapter I would I would write pretty quickly, I think the first draft of the book took about like two months to write, maybe a little bit less. And then from there, you know, I passed it to some close friends, and then eventually gave it to Christoph. And that's when it became, you know, everything the darkness needs to be published by clash. And meanwhile, things have gotten worse, just completely blew up. So I was now faced with this dilemma of oh, I need to follow up with a really impressive debut novel. So I think that's where the stress came from, that I was discussing earlier. Just like that thought of, I really need to follow up something with with things have gotten worse, like I need to follow up with something of substance It's and you know, I look back on the release. And I'm glad that this was my first book I learned a lot about myself writing it, I learned a lot about the business of publishing, just by publishing it. But like, like I said, Before, I really am. I really feel like a different person compared to the, the person I was when I first wrote everything the darkness eats, I was in a completely different headspace, I was a different writer. And I feel like the new ending that's going to be in the hardcover edition coming out in October, I feel like it really speaks to my sensibilities now as a as a writer. You know, someone who's not afraid to to make you suffer as a reader, and put you through the wringer. And that's what I'm really excited about with with the new edition.

Michael David Wilson 11:02

Do you think with the original, that you held something back with the ending? Do you feel that it wasn't as authentic as you often now?

Eric LaRocca 11:15

Yes, I do believe that, I think that I went into that book, everything that darkness eats. And I think, I don't mean to put any of the blame on anybody. But I think because at the time, I was really looking forward to working with Ryan and getting like agent representation. I think I tried to write an ending that was like marketable, that was like happy and satisfying in some way. And I look back on it, and it was such a faux PA on my part, to really like go, I don't want to say too much, because I know that there are people that like that ending and I know that there are people that like the book the way it is now. But I feel I feel like just so uninhibited now to just write the ending that I want to write. And I think both endings work in different in different ways. Obviously, I prefer one ending over the other. I obviously prefer the new ending. But I think in a lot of ways, like I was frightened to write something. I think I was taught so much in undergrad with my writing professors. And my creative workshops that I did with with other writers. You know, people readers will read a book. And if there's a real downer of an ending, they'll come away thinking, Well, what was the point of any of that? Like, why did I read that that was just fortuitous suffering for the sake of suffering. And I shied away from that, because I didn't I wanted there to be some little semblance of hope, some semblance of meaning at the end of it at the end of this book. But the more I think about it, the more I think about how a lot of suffering, especially for queer people, a lot of it is just pointless. A lot of it is just pointless suffering that we endure for no reason. And I think that's really terrifying. And I think that that's what I want to convey at the end of this new edition. Is that Yes, it is pointless. Yes, it's bleak. Yes, it's, you know, just suffering, to suffer. But that's life. That's the way I view. A lot of life is just like suffering and just being uncomfortable. And I know that that's going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, but I'm not here to like hold your hand and skip through a meadow. Like I I want to make you uncomfortable. I want to make people react in such a way. And I think I was afraid of doing it. Originally, I knew that certain scenes in the book, were going to rub people the wrong way. I knew that certain elements from the book were going to be really, like very talked about and really just, you know, maybe frowned upon. But I was so hesitant to make it all gloom and all depressing. And now I'm kind of like what you said Bob about John Carpenter, were like, I don't give a fuck. Like, I'm going to write the ending that I want to write and I'm not going to make it commercial. I'm not going to make it marketable. I just want to enjoy myself and write what's in my heart.

Bob Pastorella 14:47

So much fiction we go into we think that we got to have these these like these endings that have some type of hope of closure and some of the best stories that I've ever read had none of that at all. And they affected me. I mean, I mean, like a great example is is is the mist both both the novella and the movie, have, you know, completely different endings? One, one of which is bleaker. But the first one, the original ending is still bleak. Because there's no end. In other words, like you're still there. It's like the mist isn't over. You know? And, and to me, that's just as bleak. It's like, you have this existence that you don't know what's going to happen. And I can see how people say, what's the point? It's like, there's no, there's no point in it? Well, I mean, that's how the cosmos is. There's often no point to anything. You know, so and I felt that your version that we just that we just read was, it had a glimmer of hope. But man, there's some fearless writing in there. That really, really inspired me. They mean, and, and, you know, it's, it's reminded me, you went in that direction, like Joe Lansdale did, and you know, at the night, they missed the horror show. And there's a little bit at the beginning, he says, you know, for so and so I can run a guy's name. Yes. You know, write me one doesn't flinch. And man, you don't flinch, and didn't flinch at all. And I understood, you know, the glimmer of hope. And I liked it. But knowing that there's another version, and we were going to take it in the other direction. I'm, I'm excited for that. I want to I want to experience that as well. And that way I can, I can have both, you know, both sides of the coin. And we don't we don't get an opportunity like this very often. And I'm excited for you to have that opportunity. Because you really in me, if you think about it, there's we don't we don't get these kinds of opportunities. A remix is I don't know now, you know, talking back with Michael about you know, They're Watching. It's kind of it's it's opened a glimmer of hope of possibility for Michael. I'm still not. I'm still not on the fence. I mean, I'm on the fence now. But you know, and so I haven't climbed over the other side. But, man, you there's some there's some brutal shit in there. In your book, Eric and it's a with a with I went into it expecting it and I got it. And I was like, Oh, yeah. Effectively, in in because we whether you know what, no matter what your orientation is in life, you you've come, you've come across these people and in the real world, and it's sometimes it's harrowing. It's just to see done on the page. But it's it's a reflection of round realities.

Eric LaRocca 18:10

For sure. Yeah. And I wanted to reflect that, like I wanted this book to be upsetting for any, anybody that reads it that can have empathy for those characters that are going through trauma. You know, if you're a human being you know about suffering, you know about the horrible things that we do to one another. And that's what this book is about. This book is about cruelty, and it's about hatred, and how that hatred, how I mentioned before, like it corrodes everything around us, like acid heating away, like metal, you know, it just, it just destroys everything. And that's really, that's really the crux of this of this book is just that cancerous hatred.

Michael David Wilson 19:02

Yeah, and this one feels very personal. I mean, of course, you've got the homophobia, the averring, the conflict for those grappling with their sexuality, wanting to be out and loud and proud, but also kind of wanting to just fit in and survive. So I mean, this feels like it is your most personal book. It's like you've tapped into all of the elements and the thematic concerns of your stories and then you have hit us with a sledgehammer in terms of his book you have delivered.

Eric LaRocca 19:42

Thank you. i It does feel like a very personal book because, you know, the character of ghost especially. This is someone who's haunted who's filled with guilt, who wants to be himself, but can't I really articulate who he wants to be completely. And that was exactly who I was like in high school. I was, you know, just, I knew what I was, but I didn't know how to properly like, articulate it, I didn't know how to like, convey it. And I didn't know if I even really wanted to acknowledge it. So ghost for me is like, probably one of my most cherished characters, the new edition, I really didn't change anything with ghost, I kept him as is, just because I feel like I really got into the muscle in the sinew of his character the first time I wrote him. And I felt like I didn't need to really change anything with him. But yeah, I mean, this book definitely goes to some very dark places, and is it's very personal. For me, I haven't experienced the level of kind of just awful homophobia that Malik faces in the book, thankfully, I haven't experienced that. But I really wanted to write something that, like I said, was about cruelty, and just about, I'm just really interested in stories about people doing horrible things to one another. I think that's where real conflict lies. I think that's where true drama thrives. And that's where a lot of this book came from, was just the thoughts of people just doing horrendous things to one another, and how we justify those things and how we kind of go along with them. Just to kind of save face or fit in into the community.

Michael David Wilson 22:04

And you've got this split narrative between ghost and Malik, you've, of course got the story of heart Crowley as well. Was it a tough decision to have the split narrative? And was there ever a point where you consider two separate but related stories.

Eric LaRocca 22:28

So actually, the split narrative came a little bit later into the process of writing the book, I pitched the idea to Ryan, what this book was going to be about. And he, he, he loved the concept, but he said it feels kind of thin right now. And he's like, I feel like you need another story to kind of go back and forth between. So it was really his suggestion to bring in Malik, the, the member of the law enforcement in the town of Henley's edge, to kind of balance ghosts, plate and his story. So it really I really have to thank Ryan for for showing me what to do with with this piece and how to write it in a way that I think is pretty compelling. Because I I really do love that split narrative. I love following separate storylines and books and I love jumping back and forth between different characters. I think that that's really exciting. And I, I tried to do it as efficiently as possible here. Obviously, this was my first attempt at doing something so grandiose and like a full length novel. So I might have stumbled a few times. But I really, I really do love like the split narrative. And I'm really glad that Ryan gave me that note. His notes are usually very thoughtful. Michael, I know you work with him. So you know that his notes are really just just very, very quick and very just wonderful in that he really understands story development, and he understands characters and their motivations and really makes you really thoughtful about why you wrote the book and why you're writing it in a certain way.

Michael David Wilson 24:36

Yeah. Do you find that Ryan is always kind of a first reader for you? Is he part of the process before you send it to any publisher or editor?

Eric LaRocca 24:50

Oh, yes, definitely. Ryan is Brian's the first person I usually send anything to him and my agent Priya. They're both Like my special little team, and I always send them first drafts no matter what I send them what I'm working on, sometimes I'll send them just like an outline of something that I want to pursue. And they always give me really thoughtful, really engaging notes. And it's interesting, a lot of the times, their notes are quite similar. I've never had a moment where they contradict one another. They always seem to be on the same page, even though they don't communicate, like directly with each other a lot of the time. So it's been great. It's been great to have those people in my corner and have a literary agent to kind of guide me and shepherd me throughout the process of like, pitching to big publishers. And it's great to also have Ryan in my corner, who's more on like, the film side of things. And you know, even though he's really invested in the film and TV side of projects, he still has a really great understanding of how things work in fiction, and how they work in like a book. So his notes are always just really, really exceptional. And yeah, I pretty much always give it to Ryan and Priya, and then I also give it to my boyfriend, Ali, who's also like a first reader a lot of the times. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 26:29

and she didn't trust in that per year and Ryan, get it simultaneously because I did wonder if there was a kind of hierarchy like, right, Ryan gets it first and then three second, but now it just because if they got it at the same time, the potential to contradict one another, but that has yet to happen. So I guess it's okay. Yeah. Yeah. No, I, I send it to Ryan pretty early on. But I have a few of us three this first, I suppose. Purely because I'm, you know, I'm a bit afraid on what it what if I've got something disastrous in this fashion? I send Ryan. So we got two or three people I send it to beforehand. Bob is often amongst them, then, you know, send it to Ryan, just before the publisher or shopping to an agent or whatever I happen to be doing with this one.

Eric LaRocca 27:32

Yeah, that's so great. I mean, it's great to have him in your corner. And but it's also great to have like a community around you to kind of just keep you online and and keep you inspired.

Michael David Wilson 27:47

Yeah. Yeah. And I remember before you were mentioning the Stephen King and Clive Barker, influence, but of course, it's also a throwback, but also a modernization of the kind of classic 80s Occult paperbacks. So, I mean, you have to have people like Bentley litho, who blurbed, the book and McDowell and all of their kind of use your suspect. So I feel that this is a homage to that era in a certain way.

Eric LaRocca 28:22

Oh, it definitely is. I was definitely thinking of Bentley Liddell, and Michael McDowell, Robert McCammon. Just like the big names in the 80s for that's, I mean, those are like some of my favorite books. And actually, the trilogy that I'm working on right now is very much like, influenced by the big sprawling epics like swan song and Blackwater, and Salem's Lot, so I'm definitely influenced by the 80s Horror boom, I feel like that was such an amazing time. I wasn't, I wasn't around for it, but it just it's just seems like everything that was created during that time was of such amazing quality and I feel like we're entering another really exceptional renaissance of horror fiction and horror film, just absolutely crushing it. Like on the bestseller lists, and at the box office. I feel like you know, horror creators are really doing amazing work right now.

Bob Pastorella 29:40

Haven't haven't grown up in that era. And the first time that I ever walked in to our local bookstore, we had a Walden books at our mall when the mall finally got built. And I was, you know, a teenager do just getting into horror. And I walked in. And I felt like asking if they had a horror section. But I didn't have to ask. I just walked a couple of feet. And I noticed on the right hand side of the wall, where the all the books were when you got into fiction is there was a whole section that looked like my closet with the black T shirts. It was just nothing but black spines. And I'm like, that has to be the horror fiction section. Yeah. And they had, like, you know, all the books. And it's amazing Debt Debt went away. And now we get to see that, again, in bookstores. And I guess the big differences as now it's like that horror fiction has is yeah, there's, I guess the predominant color is still black, but there's a lot more color and it's a lot more vibrant now. Yeah. And I love that. Because even though the back then it was like, hey, yeah, it's like, well, it's got to have a black spine. You know, it's like, in Italy, in, you know, in 20s, and 30s. All the mystery and horror novels had yellow smiles as geologists, you know, it's so you know, they, they used yellow to signify that, and it's such a vibrant, bright color. And it stands out. And, you know, if you think about it, it's like, why did the shining come out with a yellow cover? Right, paperback? Because it because they wanted it to stand out. So yeah, but growing up in CNN, I mean, I only wish I could project those images into your head. So you could go, God, it was, it was beautiful. It was so fucking beautiful.

Eric LaRocca 31:50

It sounds perfect.

Michael David Wilson 31:53

And in terms of the occult aspect of this novel, I mean, how much real life research into the occult went into this.

Eric LaRocca 32:08

So I did a decent amount of research with just like a cult. You know, practices, practices and whatnot. The the name of Hart Crowley obviously comes from Aleister Crowley, yeah, who's a known occultist in, I believe, like the 1800s, early 1900s. So I mean, I've always been fascinated by the occult and the McCobb. And I just, I was really invested in that growing up. And I felt like it was a natural, it was just a very organic decision to base this book, in that, that, you know, that genre of just book of, you know, like occultism. And, and those kinds of practices that just always really, really interested me.

Michael David Wilson 33:06

Yeah, yeah. I mean, anyone with even a passing interest the moment they hear about heart Crowley, it's like, yeah, not really a mystery as to where that name came from. But I mean, yeah, I think having this kind of steeped in the occult, it certainly goes along with liking and contrast to a certain extent that the small religious town, but I think your book shines a light on how like, well, the religion, the religious and the occult, that kind of just the same thing. But with different words and different rituals. It's so much the same thing.

Eric LaRocca 33:55

Right? Yeah, that's a good, that's a very good point. It's like, you know, what's the divide between the two? They're actually very similar. When people believe things with all their heart, they're capable of doing truly wonderful, miraculous things, and they're capable of doing truly hateful and malicious things. So what's, you know, I guess that I suppose that's the big difference is like what you do with your belief, and and how you act upon them?

Michael David Wilson 34:31

Right. Yeah, I mean, I think any belief, regardless of whether it is true or not, it can be used as a force for good or a force for bad just like really anything can this Well, then. Yeah, that that can be almost the dividing line or what you know, separate services. I don't know more Leave us and not morally virtuous human beings are no, I noticed even the word but he was recently has been Coco adapted by people who I'd rather than, Oh, she ate whatever. Right? Ridiculous really how semantics and words are stolen from us. And at the same time, you know, we can take back words to

Eric LaRocca 35:24

Yeah, I mean, we can reclaim words. I mean, I, I totally believe in like reclaiming words that were used to like, make me feel less than I totally think about about that. And how powerful that is. I mean, there are obviously people who feel you know, they don't like those words, because they, maybe they're the last thing that somebody hears before they're like, murdered. Yeah. So I understand the hesitancy, the reluctance to adopt those words completely. But I sometimes there is power and like, reclaiming those things. And reclaiming those words.

Michael David Wilson 36:13

Right. Yeah. Yeah. And something that we have alluded to, but we have scattered somewhat around, is you have a scene you have a kind of last one Tria, Edward Lee moment. And there is a sexual assault scene, let's just call it for what it is, is extremely graphic. It stands out from the rest of the book, tonally. And for better, or for worse, I think this is going to be the most talked about scene, it's going to be the most divisive. So what considerations went into the scene? And what kind of reactions and responses were you both hoping for? And anticipating

Eric LaRocca 37:08

what's interesting, because I remember sending a draft of this book to my boyfriend, right after I had written it. And he read it. And he goes, like, I love the book. He said, like, I loved everything about the book. But that one scene, he's like, you're going to have people really upset with that one scene. So he warned me. And we we've been taught, we actually talked about it relatively recently, because a lot of the responses that I've been getting on just like the review websites, those platforms, a lot of people are upset with the way in which the sexual assault is handled in this book. That said, I was talking to my boyfriend the other night, just about it. And those kinds of scenes, like the any kind of scene with sexual assault, it's, it's very hard to touch without offending anybody. Like those, it's like anything with like, children, or animals, anything where anything brutal happens to, you know, to children or animals, or like, you know, a section of graphic sexual assault, you know, those are kind of like, untouchable in a lot of ways. Because people do get very upset with those things. I'd be lying if I said, I didn't want to cause a reaction from people when they read, when they read that scene. I obviously want people to be upset by it. I didn't write it to be gratuitous for just the sake of being gratuitous. I really wanted to illustrate kind of that pointless, just awful suffering that we as queer people go through that has no logic that has no real meaning behind it. You know, there. There are things that happen to us. I mean, there, there are members of our community who are murdered, and they never find who did did those crimes. There's no justice sometimes for those for those people. And there's no meaning behind. What happens that kind of trauma. It's there's no purpose and I really wanted to just kind of explore that and sit with that for a while. And I think because the sexual assault in the book really serves no purpose other than to be just that like violent act. In the book, I feel like people are immediately put off by it. It is what it is i in the new edition, I haven't edited really any part of that scene, because I stand by what I wrote, I stand by that scene and putting it in there. I know, some people have said that it doesn't really fit with the rest of the book, but I disagree with them, I think it would be a totally different book, if that scene didn't exist in, in that book, you know, the way it's presented. And as a writer, when you put something out, you definitely have to stand behind it. You have to stand behind your work. You have to, maybe you're not always proud of it, because you have complex feelings about it. But you definitely have to get up on a stage, you know, maybe sometimes like an invisible stage and just present yourself in front of people and say, This is what I wrote, This is why I wrote it, and I stand behind it. I wouldn't change that scene. I know, some people have said that they don't like the way that the character refers to they're the person that assaults them as like a god, you know, in the scene. And there's a reason why he thinks that in the scene, it ties in with the whole cosmic element that I'm trying to play with in the book. And, you know, if people don't understand that, that's, that's on them. That's not really, that's not on me. I delivered everything I could to spell it out for people, you know, the point, the pointlessness of the suffering in this book, and I understand that people are going to react in such a way. I'm actually glad that they're reacting in that way. Because it's kind of in a weird way, the reaction that I wanted, I wanted people to like clutch their pearls and be upset and be like, this is awful. This is snuff porn, like, you know, I wanted them to be upset by it. And because it is upsetting. It's upsetting what the LGBT community continues to go through and what we continue to experience and I want to showcase that.

Bob Pastorella 42:21

We've read again, if we can't write about the tough things, the hard things, the painful things in our fiction than why are we writing fiction to begin with? Yeah, a lot of this is not to be gratuitous and not to titillate. And not to do that. But we're like you said, you're exemplifying the pointlessness of cruelty of hatred of violence. And, you know, I hate to use the word, but it's probably a better word. But you know, the page is our playground for that. And I hate using that word, because I don't mean, it's like we're playing around. But that's where the real horror is. I think that that particular scene is quite balanced out against the occult violence that occurs, there's a balance there. And I think that they they kind of thematically, they're the same Now in reality, once way worse. And reason why is because it's fucking real and exist. And if we can't use the page, to exemplify that, then what are we doing? You know, that's, that's what we have to ask yourself. That's, and that's, that's part of writing fearlessly. You know, that's what the page is for. Are those are those my stories to tell? I may have one, you know, but we have to be able to, to explore those things.

Eric LaRocca 43:55

I totally agree. I totally agree. And I'm not going to be silenced. I'm not going to be bullied into not telling those stories, because some people I'm going to continue to write what I want to write and I'm going to write fearlessly and write you know about violence and about difficult things to stomach and people are going to continue to be upset, but that's their problem. That's not my problem. I'm just I'm a writer. That's why I'm, that's why we're the artists and they're the public. Exactly.

Michael David Wilson 44:31

Yeah. And in terms of writing such an unflinching scene, what are other writers or other artists that you look to that you took inspiration from that you read or that you watched films of before setting out to write the scene? And I wonder, too, I mean, logistically, how much did you have to go over this film to kind of create the effect that you were looking for and to get that right.

Eric LaRocca 45:05

That's a great question. Um, you know, you mentioned Lars von trir. I definitely watched a lot of Lars von Trier, especially antichrist, which is one of my favorite films. I love that film. And that film is such a great exploration of two people doing truly awful things to one another. I mean, that is just like, my jam, just distilled into like an hour and a half like that film is just so perfect to me. I definitely watched a lot of Takashi Miike. A, a lot of David Cronenberg, a lot of who else a lot of like South Korean. Like vengeance, thrillers like old boy and Lady Vengeance. I definitely watched a lot of that but as far as a reading, I obviously am a huge fan of Jack Ketchum. I feel like he wrote really unflinching, brutal, just awful, awful scenes in a complimentary way. I mean that in like books like the girl next door, and read. And other than that, like I also read, I've also been a great admirer of Billy Martin or Poppy brain, who wrote like exquisite corpse and lost souls. In fact, I named ghost after the character ghost in lost souls by Poppy z. So I read a lot of a lot of Billy Martin. Kathy koja comes to mind. Yeah, just like really just visceral. Uh, unflinching, scribes that write really transgressive, nasty things like I, I was just really a student of them for a while. And I recall that scene that we're talking about the the sexual assault scene, I remember sending it to a few friends just as a chapter on its own. And I remember asking them, like, Did I go too far here? It's you think like, it's, it's working? Like, is this? Like, am I gonna get canceled for this? And I mean, I took some feedback. But a lot of my friends, you know, they are, they believe in my work, they believe in my writing. And they want to see me right? Without inhibitions. They want to see me write the really nasty shit. And I'm really grateful, really grateful for them and, and their guidance. So I had a lot of different teachers throughout writing this whole book. And I was really mindful of a lot of different writers while I was writing, like, anything I write,

Michael David Wilson 48:10

yeah, I'm surprised that you send this scene out of context to people because I feel like, firstly, like, if you read it, as a standalone versus read it in the book is going to be a completely different feel. It's a different story. And, also, I mean, for me, personally, I want it to turn a fancy dance like unexpected with no idea that that's going to happen. I mean, I've got a scene in my forthcoming novel that I know is going to be divisive and probably for some people, could be a did not finish, but I didn't ever send it to someone out of context, because i don't know i i want to see how you react to this just happening as is so I mean, did did that take a lot what was there some trepidation in terms of sending this to people as a standalone? Or was that just necessary to see like, look, how offensive is this if I just give it you in its raw wrist, most undiluted form? And if you can still stomach it, if you can reply to the email, then I guess we can continue absolutely is.

Eric LaRocca 49:32

Right. Yeah. I mean, like, I sent it to very close friends. So I kind of expected I wouldn't get I wouldn't get like ghosted, I wouldn't get like, oh, I never want to talk. Again, Eric. I didn't expect some like pretty volatile reactions just because of the nature of the scene. But at the end of the day, I expect that I should be able to present whatever I feel comfortable presenting to friends. And they should be comfortable to share their thoughts with me if I'm asking what they think I'm curious about what they think. And it worked out beautifully in the sense that pretty much everybody I sent it to, you know, just gave me like a few notes just to fix a few things. But no one was like, this is really distasteful. Like, I don't agree with what you wrote here. Just because like, I feel like there's a certain I don't know, I feel like writers can be a little bit more like forgiving when it comes to like material like that. You know, some of the reviews I've seen for everything the darkness eats, like, some of them just seem like hall monitor reviews. Like they're just like, checking off like, they're just checking off like, oh, this offends me. Oh, this offends me. Yeah, you know, and it's just like, I mean, fine, do your thing. But I, I don't know, I don't really I don't consume books like that, like, you know what I mean, I don't go into a book, just marking off a list, like what offends me? I don't know. That's just the way I feel.

Michael David Wilson 51:25

I totally get that. And I've had a few reviews that have made me feel similarly, you know, I've had people before be upset that you know, a number of my stories center around like, a white guy living in Japan, and like, oh, you should really have like, the main character as Japanese. And I am a white guy living in Japan. So you're saying that, like, it's not diverse enough for like, I'm being offensive somehow, if I'm writing about something based on my own experience, and when, when I see things like that, I kind of feel like the person writing it is actually doing the opposite of what they're intending to do. They're trying to say, this isn't diverse enough, because you should be writing about this Japanese experience. But what you're actually doing is saying to, like, you know, that the foreigner in Japan, the outsider, so the minority in Japanese culture, that they can not write about their own experience. So you've actually done a reverse of what you intended to do. You're, you're saying don't have diversity in Japanese stories? Because in a Japanese based story, it would be having protagonist and people who aren't just Japanese,

Eric LaRocca 52:54

right? Yeah, I mean, you'll never, you will never appeal to every single person. And I think I'm coming to terms with that, that no matter what I write, no matter how exceptional, I think it might be, there will always be somebody who disagrees and thinks it's rubbish. That's terrible. But I mean, those are just opinions. They're people's opinion. You know, at the end of the day, I'm still going to create, I'm still going to write what I want to write what I'm interested in. But I'm not going to think so much about my audience. I'm going to think about what excites me as a writer, and what like story I want to create, like what vision I want to share with the world.

Michael David Wilson 53:48

Do you think with the exception of everything the darkness sees and particularly the ending? Do you think previously with other stories you have thought too much about the audience when you should have just been thinking about authentic vision?

Eric LaRocca 54:06

I think everything I've released has been my authentic vision. I really believe that. Aside from the ending of everything the darkness eats I truly think that every single release I've done has been me unfiltered. And me just completely raw, doing what I love to do, which is tell transgressive in your face stories. You know, I think of like we can never leave this place which is like a novella that I wrote. That is released with journal stone. That book, it was very different for me it was like more of like a dark fantasy, still kind of a splatter punk edge to it. That book is really dark, really bleak. And you know fucks with the reader the way it should the way I want it to too, they were here before us, which was published with bad handbooks. That release, like, doesn't give a shit about the reader and doesn't. Like, it just does whatever it wants to do and doesn't really care what people think about it. I think with this book, I think with everything that darkness eats, I was really, really thinking of making it as marketable and as like commercial as possible. And I know that sounds stupid, considering, like the very graphic sexual assault scene in it. But I really wanted to write something that would appeal to like, a wider audience. And I feel like in a lot of ways, I think it was like a disservice. Because at the end of the day, I ended up really writing whatever I wanted to write. And I ended up writing a really divisive polarizing book. And I think that's really, like, that's where I am at my element. Like, I'm really doing what I love to do when I'm writing just really graphic, unapologetic fiction. I really don't know how to write any other way. And I could try, I could try to like, change the way I write and the way I tell stories, but I don't think I really want to I think I'm really pleased with the way I tell certain stories. And I think people respond to the way that I write and like my vision. So I am just going to keep doing, I'm just going to keep doing what I want to do, basically. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 56:43

Yeah. And I mean, I'm sure it's obvious to you from all the conversations and correspondence we've had, I always think your stories feel like an authentic, unfiltered, low rocker story. But it was just because of the way you know, you were talking about, like having to give less of a fuck and just deliver something kind of unfiltered. And I mean, that's kind of like the typical thing where we are like, super critical of like tiny slip ups. And it's like, well, hang on a minute, Eric, you literally only want 100% authentic for like this tiny bit in his novel. So, but But yeah, I did wonder Well, hang on does. Does this mean the other stories aren't completely authentic? Because they sure as fuck feel like it? They are data. Yeah. Yeah. I do think though, that what's happened here with you kind of thinking about commercial considerations and getting a wider audience is completely natural. It's something that I can only assume the vast majority of writers go through. I mean, it's something that I've thought about before. Like, quite recently, in fact, because I was looking into getting an agent and I thought, Well, I mean, can I write something more agent appropriate? And I'll tell you, every time what happens, I start planning out this more commercial novel, but then because it's me and I want to go to something authentic and interesting. It just fucking gets weird. Like, like it like in one of them. It was gonna be quite a commercial thriller. And then I wrote this odd calisthenics sex cult into it. And it's like, well, there's the commercial element right out the window. But like, I guess, too, you know, we see for, for one of a better word formulaic, very safe novels, and then we see them doing so well, we see that monetary says, But anytime I get into that mode of thinking, well, if it's all about making money for me, if that if that is the primary concern, of course, it is going to be a concern, but if that's the primary motivator, don't be a fucking fiction writer, do something else, because there are easier ways to make money. And so yeah, I just have to deliver what is authentically me for better or for worse, you know, see what happens. But But I think, too, you know, we all enjoy fiction that would be considered not commercial could be considered quite bizarre and experimental. And I think, Well, if there's an audience of all of one as an audience of two and so like, if we're writing something true and authentic, then we will find that tribe, we will find our audience. But if, if we're writing something that even we're not feeling, then the reader is not going to feel it.

Eric LaRocca 1:00:12

Totally, I think, you know, if you have a really clear vision, I think you will find your tribe eventually, like you said, you just have to be, we've said this before, like I've said this before on, on this podcast, like, you just have to be fearless and just not just not think too much about how people are going to perceive it, just right from your heart, believe in what you write and stand behind what you write. And if you think something's off, like I thought, but with everything that darkness eats, maybe you have an opportunity to remix it and just like, put out something new and it may not fix entirely the way you feel about the book, but it will, it will be like a balm for your soul and a lot of ways because you should put out something that you really do believe in. I totally, like I am a firm believer of that. If you can't stand behind your work, and you can't get up there in front of people and talk about it. Like there's no point in writing it.

Michael David Wilson 1:01:23

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's good to have these flirtations with commercialism, because it's good to get it out of the system. And to realize, look, I tried, it didn't work. It's not me. Therefore, going forward, I can just be me, it's this liberating. It's not a mistake at all, it is a necessary part of the journey. Totally, totally. Not the title. Everything, the darkness is so richly evocative. Where did this title come from?

Eric LaRocca 1:02:06

I think it really came from just thinking about the world in which I was creating like, Henley's edge, and how this bigotry in the town kind of spreads and proliferates. And how it corrodes everything in, in the town, and how it just like poisons all the lives in in throughout the book. That's to me, like that's the darkness of the book. It's not necessarily the being that sequestered in the cellar that like has these like weird powers. The darkness in the book is man and human beings and like what we do to one another. And I really wanted to, like illustrate that with with this book, and just how darkness is ever present and all around us, even in daylight. And that's that's essentially really where the title, the title came from. I actually had this title. Before I even started writing the book. Like, usually, I really can't work on a book unless I have like, at least a working title for it. And this title came to me pretty organically. And it was from there. Like that was another element that really inspired me to write the book was just that I had this really evocative title, everything the darkness eats, and I kind of built the whole world of Henley's edge around this one title.

Michael David Wilson 1:03:45

Yeah, and I mean, something that also complements the title is, of course, the cover, which is both simplistic and complex at the same time, and we've got the text literally being eaten by the black, that darkness. And it, it's so far removed from your other covers, but it's just as striking and effective. So I mean, let's talk about getting the cover. Right. And was this concept your idea? Was it the cover artist? Was it slash books? Where did this come from?

Eric LaRocca 1:04:26

So we had been working with a bunch of different artists and at one point we were going to do a painting by Rf paying Bourne, who's a really popular artist on Instagram. We ended up using paying borns painting, which is called finally some piece around here. We ended up using it for the interior of the book. But the idea to really do like a black on black cover was the the cover artists whose name's Joel, who works with clash pretty well. They work on a lot of projects together. And he came to us with this idea. And because we were doing like an official print run, we were doing like a printing with a press based in India. Christoph said that we could do something like really complex with the books. Paperback like the way it looks. So Joel presented us with this idea of doing like a matte black cover with the title lettering like embossed and shine. And I think it looks like absolutely stunning. We're obviously going to do like a different kind of cover for the hardcover edition coming out in October. It's more of like my traditional painting cover with Kim Jacobson's paint one of his paintings featured on the cover. But I think this was like a really interesting departure for me to kind of show people that I am thoughtful about, like, how I put these how I package these books. And I don't just rely on one aesthetic, I wanted to, like explore other options, I wanted to do something that was like a little bit risky. I know it's like really unconventional to have a black on black cover. Like it doesn't, it pops on the shelf. But like from pictures, sometimes it may not translate completely. But I just really wanted to show that like I, there's complexity to my work. It's an interesting book. And I felt like obviously, the the black on black, just really suited the book and just gave it that elegant feel that I wanted it to have. Because at the end of the day, like it is a very, it is a pretty elegant book and how it's written. You know, there's a lot of like lush descriptions in it. And that's really kind of how the the cover came to be the the Titan edition of the book is a little bit more colorful, and has like, like it's a shot of a long corridor. And there's a doorframe at the end of the hall. And there's like a white kind of coming from the end of it. And I think that cover works brilliantly as well. So I can't necessarily say prefer one over the other. I think they're both stunning. And they both work on different levels. But getting the cover right for the US edition was definitely a labor in that we went through a lot of different covers before we eventually landed on that final one.

Michael David Wilson 1:07:50

Yeah, and not only is this cover, perfect for everything the darkness is but it's apparent that going with a Kim Jacobson piece of art for the reimagining the remix, whatever we're going to call it is also the perfect move because you are going all out on the ending. So you got to go all out with the artwork to it's like, the time to be understated. Is is gone. This is Sledgehammer time.

Eric LaRocca 1:08:29

For sure, and that's what we want to do. We want to like, we want to separate this from the paperback in that we want to show folks that it's a new edition. It's almost like a brand new book. And it's we're not fucking around anymore like this is. This is the new edition. This is gonna break your soul. And we're here to hurt you and to have fun.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:57

Yeah, yeah, like even some of the things we say. When when we're talking. I feel like you come out with things that would be great story tie. Oh Voki tie ons. It's like we're here to you and have fun that is brutal. Maybe home invasion, transgressive stuff like that. Now you should

Bob Pastorella 1:09:23

love Rocco, were fun.

Michael David Wilson 1:09:28

I want to know with Kim Jacobson art, is it an original? Is it something that was specifically commissioned? Or did you look through the art that was available and choose the one that best kind of represented the book or is it some amalgam between where there is an original but then there's some adjustments to it.

Eric LaRocca 1:09:53

So it's a painting from Kim's portfolio on his website that I saw I was like, this is perfect for this is perfect for the cover. So we just kind of went with that. It's really just visceral, like a lot of Kim's paintings and just really brutal in the way in the way like, plays with like shapes and colors. And I'm really, I'm really pleased with it. And it just like you said, like, it really separates this, these two editions, like the US black on black cover, and then the new Kim Jacobsen addition, the cover with Kim Jacobson. It just, it really ups the ante, I feel like it just provides like that visceral experience that I really want for readers when they when they encounter my work.

Michael David Wilson 1:10:53

Yeah, yeah. Well, there are so many other elements of everything that darkness eats, we could talk about, but I feel like if we haven't sold people on this book at this point, then we we never will. We've been talking about it and the process for two hours. So goodness, I hope this has intrigued people enough to go out and pick up a copy and certainly to pick up a copy of the rerelease. The reimagining as well, but you know, people have to pick up both because you, you know, you got to contrast the darkness with the light. So the current one, even though it's cooled, everything that darkness eats, this is the lighter edition. Come Halloween. No, boy, boy, that ain't no light left.

Eric LaRocca 1:11:50

Exactly, exactly.

Michael David Wilson 1:11:53

Have you settled on a name in terms of like, will it have like a kind of sub tie or like a rocker addition? Or is that like a Yeah, yeah,

Eric LaRocca 1:12:05

no, we're doing it's gonna be called everything the darkness eats and then a colon. And the subtitle is hymns for a decaying God, which is actually one of the it's one of the parts of the book in the in the first edition. But in the new addition, there are no parts separating the chapters. It's just straight through. So we took the name of the I think it's like part four, Part Five In the book. And that's that and that's now the subtitle hints for decaying god.

Michael David Wilson 1:12:41

Yeah, yeah. So I believe in terms of your future releases, the next things that will be coming out after this i Your novella collection, this skin was once mine and other disturbances and a full length novel, each living thing is here to suffer. And, yes, believe Bofur out in 2024.

Eric LaRocca 1:13:11

That's correct. They're both out through tighten. The skin was once mine and other disturbances is the novella collection that comes out in April of 2024. And then each living thing is here to suffer is the full length novel. And that is out in September of 2024.

Michael David Wilson 1:13:31

All right, sorry. It looks like you've slipped into a two releases per year pattern, much like Dean Koontz sounds,

Eric LaRocca 1:13:42

I'm trying I'll see how long it's sustainable. See how long it lasts?

Michael David Wilson 1:13:49

Is that something that your agent or publisher has encouraged? Or is that just the way it happens to have gone?

Eric LaRocca 1:13:58

Yeah, I mean, my agents really mindful of that. And she, obviously with the bigger presses, they kind of prefer like one book a year, just so that you market that one book really heavily. It's looking like I can kind of get away with two books a year. But I've definitely been encouraged to slow down and not release as much and just, you know, kind of enjoy the ride and just focus on the upcoming projects and, and, and just take my time.

Michael David Wilson 1:14:34

Yeah, yeah. Well, what is it that you're working on now?

Eric LaRocca 1:14:41

So I'm working on the trilogy for Titan books. So I'm working on Book Two of the burnt Sparrow trilogy. Book one. Book one is called we are always tender with our dead and that comes out in September 2025. I I'm, so I'm really looking forward to that. And I'm, like I said, I'm currently working on the second book. I hope to wrap that up probably by the end of this year. And then hopefully start books three, the beginning of next year.

Michael David Wilson 1:15:15

I usually now I want to ask questions about abundance power trilogy, but it's like, okay, come down, we can do this podcast, we can do it in near the time of release. Like, we'll definitely do it. Yeah, I can't, like, you know, ask questions about it now. And then, in a few years, we like right refer her back from two years ago to get this kidney. So yeah, yeah. But it's just so good that you're releasing so many different things. And I yeah, I feel like we never know quite what we're going to get from you. But I feel wherever we love it, whoever we hate. Whenever we feel something in between, we will never be indifferent. We will never be unmoved. You will always make us feel something. And you know, what more could you want from a piece of writing?

Eric LaRocca 1:16:20

That means a lot to me. So thank you for saying that. I really appreciate that.

Michael David Wilson 1:16:26

All right. Well, to wrap up, do you have any final thoughts rally Smith?

Eric LaRocca 1:16:33

Thank you for listening. You know, I appreciate it. And I appreciate all the readers who are sharing their thoughts about all of my work. You know, I'm really lucky in the sense that I get to be read really widely by like, a lot of different kinds of people. And that really excites me. And it makes me really grateful. Because I wouldn't, I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for the really thoughtful and kind readers who share their thoughts. And, you know, even if they don't like the book, maybe they'll pick up another book of mine, and maybe they'll like that one. So I appreciate it. And I'm excited to continue the journey and just keep writing.

Michael David Wilson 1:17:19

All right. And final final thought was the cap about I've been trying to read this kind of black my own style logo on your baseball cap. And you're wondering, what is this?

Eric LaRocca 1:17:32

It's a it's a brand from the UK called cult Gloria. And they do a lot of like horror focused. Street streetwear like they do a lot of like prints T shirts with like, they did one of martyrs. They've done like possession they've done like begotten. They've done like really cool, cool stuff. So they're like my favorite designer.

Michael David Wilson 1:18:01

Hi, I'm definitely going to check out called Gloria then, because I've been so intrigued by that for the entire conversation. It's been over two hours I hadn't been able to deduce. Well, what is this? Yeah. Oh, Gloria. We'll put a link to them in the show notes and they've caught Gloria here this then you know, you're welcome. If you want more advertising, love

Bob Pastorella 1:18:31

I'm on there right now. I've been seeing it 10 And I'm like, what is it saying? I've seen the glory but I couldn't get the first part of it. And so now I'm definitely going to check out that website. So much for that.

Eric LaRocca 1:18:47

Oh no for All right,

Michael David Wilson 1:18:49

well, everybody go out and buy a copy of everything the darkness is and if you want to connect with Eric then you can do so on Twitter or x at hysteric teeth. Thank you so much for listening to Eric law rocker on This Is Horror. Join us again next time when we will be chatting to Nick cutter and Andrew F Sullivan, about their fantastic new book, the handyman method. But if you would like to get that in every other episode ahead of the crowd, become a patreon. A patreon.com. Forward slash This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each episode, but you can submit questions to the guests that we have on the show. We've got people like Stephanie parent and Sadie Hartman coming up soon. And you can also get exclusive Patreon only podcasts at his story unbox the horror podcast on the craft of writing under Patreon so new q&a session you can So get video cast such as on camera off record. And if you enjoy This Is Horror Podcast in video format then do subscribe to us over on YouTube. We are now putting out every episode as a video podcast a video cast I suppose one would call that on YouTube. So do subscribe to get I suppose that even more intimate look at the conversation. Okay before I wrap up a little bit of an advert break,

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