By Emmanuel Gutierrez |Features Editor|
Alumnus and independent, horror author Martin Lastrapes released “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch,” book two of his trilogy, The Vampire and the Hunter, on 4 July, 2015.
The novel is a “whimsical vampire horror” set in the Inland Empire where Dracula himself gives Adam and Jesus—the vampire and the hunter—a task to perform and if they fail, Olivia, the woman whose heart they both vie for, will lose her life.
The interview for the first entry in the trilogy, “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl”, is available here: coyotechronicle.net/martin-lastrapes-alumnus-author/
The following is the second interview between Lastrapes and myself (EFG) where I asked him things and he said stuff, including questions from a few aspiring authors, literary enthusiasts—two of which were Chronicle Editors—on the craft of writing, literary tips, and the personal thoughts of an independent, horror author.
Again, viewer discretion is advised.
News Editor Marion Gil: Do you plan out your whole story before you begin writing or do you let your story evolve as you go along? Some people talk about character development as an ongoing process through the writing of a book; do you think that’s true? Or do some people want to watch the world burn?
Lastrapes: When it comes to writing a novel, I am most definitely a planner. I’m a big proponent of outlining, so I usually spend a week or so—or however long it takes—mapping out my novel from beginning to end. That said, the outline isn’t set in stone.
It’s definitely fluid, so if I want to or because certain changes become unavoidable along the way, then I’ll make adjustments to the outline as necessary.
“I love the horror genre in movies and television, but, ironically, I don’t read a lot of horror.”
When it comes to character development, I’m sort of the complete opposite of my latter response. I’m perfectly comfortable developing a character on the page, letting them evolve in the moment.
That’s not to say that I won’t spend time thinking about the larger character arc, but I don’t generally plan a character’s arc.
As long as the narrative arc is solid, then I trust I have room to play with the characters and trust that they will develop into whoever they need to be along the way.
Opinions Editor Loydie Solange Burmah: I’ve noticed from “Inside the Outside” and your “Vampire” novels that you acclimate towards certain genres. Who are some of your favorite authors or authorial influences?
Lastrapes: Yes, my first couple of books fit snuggly in the horror genre. I love the horror genre in movies and television, but, ironically, I don’t read a lot of horror.
So, my favorite authors don’t tend to be horror authors. The authors I like and have also been influenced by are Tom Robbins, Tim O’Brien, Nick Hornby, Michael Chabon, Chuck Palahniuk, and Jasper Fforde.
Fernando Gutierrez: Are there any courses or lesson you’d recommend for someone who wants to be an author? Should I consider a degree in English a mandatory step to becoming an author?
Lastrapes: Taking creative writing classes centered around writing workshops was exponentially beneficial to my development.
While I know I was profoundly affected in the most positive ways from creative writing workshops, I also know plenty of authors who are plenty good and managed to develop their own skill sets without workshops.
That said, I would say sign up for a workshop—at least once—as there are great benefits to engaging with other authors, reading their work, and exchanging constructive feedback. As far as getting a degree in English, I wouldn’t consider it mandatory.
It doesn’t hurt though because I took some good literature classes that introduced me to novels, short stories, plays, and poems that I might not have otherwise read.
“Taking creative writing classes centered around writing workshops was exponentially beneficial to my development.”
Also, being in an environment where we talked about literature, engaging in critical thinking and analysis was very beneficial to my development.
Ana Luisa Montes: Fantasy and Sci-Fi materials are popular forms of escapism; as an author—and adult human being—do you still try to “escape” from this craptastic world we occupy? If so, which do you probably do more of to escape: read, write, or hit the pipe?
Lastrapes: Oh, sure, like anybody else from time to time I like to use entertainment as a form of escapism. But, I usually prefer going into Netflix and finding a great TV series I can get lost in for a few hours (or days). As for writing, I often use it to escape boredom. Writing is always something that I do for fun.
There are times, however, where I’ll force myself to sit and write, but even then, I usually end up enjoying myself. I’ve never been one for the pipe, unless the “pipe” is a metaphor for cheese pizza and root beer floats.
EFG: In the literary world, the controversy of Harper Lee’s “Go set a Watchman” made headlines and aroused some rather intriguing dialogue.
“I’ve never been one for the pipe, unless the ‘pipe’ is a metaphor for cheese pizza and root beer floats.”
Hypothetically speaking, if one of your beloved authors had a work that wasn’t necessarily greenlit with his/her consent, would you refrain from reading it out of principle or give in to the temptation? Let’s reverse the roles—for the heck of it—and say, hypothetically, a work of yours was published without your consent. How would you feel to have fans read your work?
Lastrapes: If we’re talking about one of my favorite authors—particularly one of the authors I mentioned above—then I would be very tempted to read their hypothetical book. I like to believe that I’m principled enough to ultimately stay away, but, if I’m being completely honest, I would probably cave and read it.
Now, if a work of mine was published without my consent, I most definitely wouldn’t want fans reading it, because it likely wasn’t published because it wasn’t good or simply wasn’t up to my standards.
That said, if fans sought it out in large numbers, I’d definitely be flattered, but still somewhat mortified.
EFG: Whenever I have a glimpse of awesomeness for a project I’m working on, I immediately jot it down on a miniature journal with my trusty ol’ fountain pen (because physically writing, despite my chicken-scratch typography, has always been preferable to me) or, if I was neglectful, I type it down on my phone and send it to the cloud so I can continue from my laptop.
In this day and age, perhaps with an emphasis on the wonders—and blunders—of smartphones, in respect to your writing process, how do you write? Where do you write? With what do you write?
Lastrapes: I always write on the computer, preferably a desktop. I will occasionally jot down notes with a pen and paper, but I won’t write long form that way if I can avoid it. I think this is because I first began developing an interest in writing at the same time that my family got our first computer in 1996 or so.
I write in my office (which is just a designated room in my apartment where I keep the computer) and I don’t need much more than Microsoft Word and a cozy keyboard to write. If I’ve been doing research, I like to keep any books or articles nearby.
I also like having immediate access to the Internet in case I have any on-the-spot research that needs to get done. I like having all these things around, but if you put me in a room without electricity and let me only with a pen and a pad, I could still be pretty productive.
“Generally speaking, I steer clear of anything that looks like a writing rule, because I don’t believe there are rules in writing.”
EFG: I occasionally write stories in the present tense, a conscious decision, and have been heckled and jeckled by writers and readers alike who’ve all, more or less, said “It’s a dumb trend, good writers don’t do that,” while emotionally clutching “Fight Club”, “Time Traveler’s Wife”, or one of the “Hunger Games” in their hypocritical hands.
From your experience, can you speak on the animosity directed at novels in the present tense? If writing is a creative art form, then the present tense, should be—and is used—as an artistic tool to tell a story, no? Do you think the hate is justified?
Lastrapes: You know, I honestly had no idea that there was any animosity at all with regards to writing in the present tense. I’d be fine with it, both as a writer and reader.
Generally speaking, I steer clear of anything that looks like a writing rule, because I don’t believe there are rules in writing. Writing is, as you said, a creative art form and to apply rules to creativity is tantamount to clipping a bird’s wings.
EFG: I have finished “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” and I’m just about to dig into Book Two, but I have had a few obligations holding me up—stupid summer school. The structure of the first novel really stuck with.
Too me, it was reminiscent in some ways to Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”. More specifically, in respect to the brief character introductions at the end of a chapter, and then, a more nuanced telling of how that character got to where they were in the chapter before—I hope that made sense.
I recall in our first interview that the trilogy was originally intended to be a single novel, but then was later split into three—a division that made the three feel “anemic”, as you said. Was this structural style and execution instituted when the trilogy was one book or did it occur to you in response to eliminating that “anemic” condition?
Lastrapes: First, let me say thanks for taking the time to read my novel. That means an awful lot to me. As for the structural style that you noted, that was something that was instituted early on in the first draft, before I knew the story would become a three-book series.
But it wasn’t something I planned on doing at the outset. Because the book was focused on three main characters, one of the early hurdles I discovered was giving each character an appropriate amount of time on the page, clearly presenting their point of view. The structure I ended up going with developed out of that.
EFG: With how the first novel ends (without spoiling anything for those who have yet to jump aboard the trilogy), the tension worsens.
The first novel was darkly comedic at times with dashes of whimsy, had some good action, touches of romantic ventures, and a great setup for the villain—in these respects, how will “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch” differ from the first? What should we look forward to?
“The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch also introduces new characters, some of which become important for the duration of the trilogy and some who won’t make it out of Book Two.”
Lastrapes: The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch has plenty more comedy, whimsy, action, romance, tension, and thrills. It differs from the first book in so far as certain characters didn’t make it out of Book One.
It also differs in that certain minor and peripheral characters in Book One become major characters in Book Two. The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch also introduces new characters, some of which become important for the duration of the trilogy and some who won’t make it out of Book Two.
Both entries of the trilogy are available for purchase in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as his short stories available exclusively on Amazon as e-books.
Additional information on Lastrapes, his published works, and his podcasts can be found on his website, martinlastrapes.com.