We are extremely excited today to present our interview with Michael LaPointe, author of Unworthy.
So what is the one thing you can do to make a horror novel truly terrifying? You describe it exceptionally well. That is what makes Michael LaPointe’s novel really hit home. The beautiful detail in which he describes every gruesome act.
Unworthy is the story of Ezra Kale, the twisted offspring of thrill killers, born into a world of depravity, bloodshed, and cannibalism. From the Dustbowl of the Great Depression to a notorious lunatic asylum, Ezra reinvents himself as a revival preacher, traveling the American South and using his calling to conceal his true nature, leaving a trail of ruination and death in his wake.
What gave you the idea for your book Unworthy?
I always stumble a bit with this question, because it’s actually rather awkward. We live in strange times, and the core idea came from a sense of outrage over people justifying their evil through religion. It seems as though nearly every damn day, someone is hiding their hatred, ignorance, intolerance, fear, and lunacy behind the ‘sanctity’ of their faith, as though believing in something gives a person or group of people the right to be horrible. That’s the macro view. The micro view is that when I was young I had some experiences with a church that were pretty awful, so this is my way of dealing with those experiences. It was an incredibly cathartic process, I’m happy to say.
Tell us about your writing background. Any other published works? Contests?
I’ve been writing for years, but this is my first published work. I was a regular contributor to the UK-based horror site Zombie Hamster, which was an extraordinary experience. Our goal was to go beyond the simple movie review and do in-depth critique and analysis of films we felt were important to the genre.
My first bit of film writing was about the 1970s classic Vanishing Point; I didn’t know what to do with it, so I posted it on Amazon. My biggest joy came when I found that the film company that produced the movie had re-posted the piece to their website. Confidence boost? Oh, yes.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
Bursts of intense creativity followed by stretches of sullen inactivity. Sit down, write. Get distracted, check out facebook, get irritated with facebook, do actual research. Write more. Go for a run. Get inspired and write for six straight hours. Repeat until finished.
What got you into writing horror?
I’ve always loved the genre. I love the thrill of a good scare, the many things a scary story can convey. I think it has the most potential to really tell human stories even if, on the surface, you aren’t dealing with humans. There is real freedom in exploring the human condition by way of the things that scare us. If you’ve got the will and the stomach for it, a person could learn a hell of a lot about themselves and others by reading horror. Horror, real horror, strips away all pretensions and shows us things as they really are, blood and guts and all.
Did you self-publish or go through a traditional publisher? Which do you think is better and why?
I spent a year trying to land an agent or publisher. At the time, all anyone appeared to be interested in was zombie, vampires, and dystopian young adult titles. Nothing against those type of books, but my dirty little tale of Depression-era depravity and bloodshed doesn’t fit in. So, I researched, found enough favorable stories about self-publishing, and jumped in.
I can’t say which route is better. This way, I have to do my own publicity, an area in which I have no experience or knowledge. The whole notion of putting my work out there for free, in exchange for the vague realm called “exposure” seems absurd to me. In my eyes, it reeks of desperation, effectively saying “I have so little faith in this that I’ll give it away and hope you like it.” To hell with that! When I go to the bookstore and see something from an author I’ve never heard of, I don’t go to the clerk and tell them I want the book for free so the author can have exposure. This is my work, my blood, and my tears. I feel that has value. More than anything, I would love to see my novel on a bookstore shelf. This is a means to that end.
What obstacles if any did you encounter or have to overcome while writing your book(s) (ie. research, finding your voice ) etc.?
I think I was fortunate with this one. My voice came naturally, at times feeling as though I was connecting with a favorite author, and holding my work to their standard. Yeah, there were times when I’d go back and realize I’d written a half-dozen pages of shit, but that’s just part of the process and it was well worth a couple of laughs at the end of the day.
The only real obstacles I faced (and continue to face) were my own insecurities and believe me, that was enough to keep me busy.
What are you doing next?
Research and more research in a couple of areas, and trying to decide which direction to go for the next story. I tend to like period pieces, so I try to immerse myself in whatever era I want to write about. This time I’m looking at the 1970s, a decade very near and dear to my heart. Not saying much more about it.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t aspire to be a writer – just be a writer. Write your story. Don’t do something to please other people, because that never works. Don’t pander to your audience or dumb things down. It pisses me off as a reader to have every twist and turn hand delivered, with a spotlight shining on it. Respect the reader and let them make the discoveries for themselves.
Avoid gimmicks: things like plot cards and “How to” books, pay-to-enter contests, and vanity awards are bullshit to sucker writers out of money. If you want to be a better writer of fiction, read more fiction. Want to be a better horror writer? Read good horror.
Understand that writing is a long game, and that you’re not getting rich overnight. On that note, if you’re looking at writing to be your big money ticket out of…whatever, you’d better invest heavily in lottery tickets.
Most of all, write because you’re a writer. Because most people who talk about writing a novel never do and once you’ve done that, realize that you’ve done something pretty badass. And someday, a stranger is going to reach out and tell you that they dug what you wrote, and you can own that. But you’ve gotta write the damn thing first.