By Emmanuel Gutierrez |Features Editor|
Acclaimed author and CSUSB alumnus Martin Lastrapes published his second novel, “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl”, topping Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Vampire Horror during its first week on sale.
Lastrapes won the Paris Book Festival’s grand prize and the Hollywood Book Festival for General Fiction for his first novel “Inside the Outside”. He was runner-up for the New York and San Francisco Book Festivals.
Lastrapes earned his Bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing and graduated after completing his master’s in Composition in 2006.
“The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” is a “whimsical vampire horror,” set in the Inland Empire, following Adam and Jesus—the vampire and the hunter—vieing for the heart of Olivia when an unbeknownst, fateful presence changes everything.
The first chapter of the novel is available free of charge to those who sign up for the mailing list on martinlastrapes.com.
EFG: You have two novels published, “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” being your second, as well as three short stories self-published on Amazon, you’ve won the Paris Book Festival’s Grand Prize and Hollywood Book Festival for General Fiction (congratulations), host a podcast, grown an awesome beard, and teach English. Is there anything you can’t do?
ML: Well, thank you very much! In particular, thanks for noticing the beard. I was beginning to think nobody cared. The three shorts were published by Exciting Press, which is run by my buddy Will Entrekin. Now, to answer your question: I’m terrible at growing hair on top of my head.
EFG: Under which genre would you classify “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl”? From the synopsis alone, I anticipate some good scares, action, romance, and a bit of humor. How would you say these elements are proportioned in the story—who are the literary fans you’re trying to appeal to?
ML: Funny you should ask. As an independent publisher, it’s my job to categorize my books for booksellers. It’s a lot more stressful than most folks might think, especially when it feels like your book can’t really be pinned down into one or two genres. Anyway, that said, I’d say “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” is whimsical vampire horror. I just made that up right now, but it feels apt. There are lots of scares, plenty of action, a fair amount of romance, and more than a few laughs. When I thought about who would eventually read this book (and ultimately the trilogy), my primary goal was to write a vampire novel that anybody could enjoy, especially people who assume they don’t like vampire novels.
ML: “Inside the Outside” marked my first attempt to set a story in a real place (i.e. The San Bernardino Mountains and the Inland Empire). It was a conscious decision, because I hope that, in my own small way, I could represent my corner of the world in literary form. So, “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” is set primarily in Rancho Cucamonga—where I grew up—for the exact same reason. As best as I can tell, it’s the first vampire novel set specifically in the Inland Empire.
EFG: Approximately, how long did it take to write “The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl”? Was there extra work or planning required due to it being the first of a trilogy that may not have been necessary for a stand-alone novel?
ML: It took me approximately five years to write the trilogy. When I first sat down to write it, my intent was to write a single stand-alone novel. But, after I finished the first draft, it was pretty long—about 150,000 words or so. So, I decided to break it up into three books, but, in so doing, it went from being one robust book, to three anemic books. A lot of planning went into the revisions, both to flesh out each novel to make sure they were substantial enough (the shortest of the three novels ended up being 300 pages) and also to make sure that each individual book told a satisfying, self-contained story, while still contributing to the larger story that the trilogy was telling.
EFG: Where do you stand on the whole write what-you-know vs. write what-you-want argument?
ML: Well, I think you should always write want you want. That said, writing what you know often turns out better, because you have a more intimate relationship with the material. But, if you want to write about something you don’t know, then you can always take the time to learn about it. For that very reason, I do lots of research when I work on my novels. Of course, when you get into the realm of fantasy and sci-fi—such as a vampire tale—it opens the doors to writing about things that only exist in your imagination, so you can’t really get it wrong.
ML: The most important thing I do to combat writer’s block is not validate it as real. Writer’s block—in my estimation—is an extension of the writer’s fears and insecurities. All writers, especially the good ones, are insecure. They’re afraid that they’re not good enough, that their writing is garbage. But, they write anyway with the hope that the work they’re doing will eventually be worthwhile. Writer’s block, then, is that same fear paralyzing a writer’s willingness to write—notice I didn’t say a writer’s ability to writer. Writers always have the ability to write. Your brain is never void of ideas. It’s working nonstop, even when you’re asleep. So, writer’s block is simply a writer’s fear that the ideas they have at the given moment of their literary paralysis aren’t good enough to write down. The remedy to writer’s block, then, is to write. If you think what your writing is garbage, write it anyway. Just barrel through until you reach the good stuff.
EFG: As a writer and human being, are there any stories or characters, no matter how brilliant and interesting, you’d never wish to share with others (either for ethical reasons or perhaps more selfish, sentimental, etc.)?
ML: Nope. If a character or story is interesting, I’ll write about it. The main thing is it has to be interesting to me. I don’t worry about offending readers. If I write something that somebody finds offensive, it just means they weren’t part of the audience I was writing for.
EFG: In your experience, were there any notable differences, pros and cons, to publishing vs. self-publishing? Did you work alongside an editor during the latter? If so, how did that affect your involvement throughout the process?
ML: The writing process isn’t all that different for traditionally published authors and independently published authors. We all have to sit down, stare at the blank page, and fill it up with something interesting. The main difference is, as an independent publisher, my work doesn’t end when the book is done. It’s my job to find artists, designers, editors, printers, and distributors (it’s not nearly as complicated as you might imagine). Beyond that, the real hard part is financing the book and paying everybody, without getting a paycheck myself. I don’t get paid until the book starts selling copies, so I’ve got to really believe in a project before I go forward with it. Outside of the money aspect, I also spend a lot of time promoting and marketing the books. But, most traditionally published authors also have to do their own marketing and promotion, so we have that in common. As far as editors go, I hired a copy editor to go over the final draft of “The Vampire and the Hunter Trilogy”, but I wasn’t really interested in working with a story editor, so I didn’t hire one. My experience with the copy editor was good. She spent a few weeks reading the trilogy, sent me notes, and I made changes based on her notes. It was pretty cut and dry.
EFG: What advice would you give to writers eager to pave their way in authoring their own works to share with the world?
ML: I am a big advocate for independent publishing—also known as self-publishing. I think it’s important for writers to take control of their own publishing destinies. But, I also know not all writers are interested in engaging in the business-end of the publishing world. Whether you decide to publish your own work or you decide to seek a deal with a traditional publisher, the best thing you can do is be persistent and determined. You’re going to hit roadblocks along the way, no matter how you proceed with your publishing career. Beyond that, the best advice I can offer aspiring writers is to work on their craft. Write, write, write, and write. Pay attention, learn, evolve—try to get better everyday. Your goal should be to become the best writer you can possibly be, because if your work is good, then you can’t be denied. Readers will eventually take notice.
EFG: I’ve read the first chapter—a benefit of subscribing to your website—and you’ve forced my hand; I will immediately purchase a copy, once the old financial aid kicks in. One thing surprised me in your writing, something so insignificant that excited me and it probably shouldn’t have, but for whatever reason, it just did. The story takes place in the I.E. I was born and raised in San Bernardino and it made the reading experience just a little more special with the mere mentioning of the 210 Freeway, Foothill Boulevard—just something I had to tell you.
ML: When I was a kid, I felt like I lived in an invisible city, because I never saw or heard anything about Rancho Cucamonga or the Inland Empire in movies, TV, or books. So, part of the reason I set my stories in the Inland Empire is as a nod to the folks who live there, to put a smile on their face when they see a setting or location they recognize—be it a local restaurant or strip club, etc.
EFG: Is there anything else about yourself that you’d like to share?
ML: I wasn’t a big reader as a kid. I didn’t really read my first novel until I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. That was about the same time I decided to pursue writing. Along with being a late bloomer as a reader, I was also getting a bit of a late start as a writer. This was the cause of much anxiety and self-doubt along the way. I never stopped working and I never stopped believing that if I learned the craft and became the best writer I was capable of being that it would all eventually pay off. Over the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed more than a few payoffs and I can tell you that it’s terrifically satisfying.
“The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl” is available for purchase online on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Additional information on Lastrapes, his published works, and his podcasts can be found on his website, martinlastrapes.com.