>An Interview With Michael Louis Calvillo
Hello folks today for your reading pleasure I’d like to present an Inter with Michael Louis Calvillo
GNOH – Hi Michael how are you?
I’m good. And you? All is well with your Ginger Nuts I hope? 😉
GNOH – Can you tell us about yourself?
Sure. I’m a thirty-something high school English teacher who is lucky enough to be married to a wonderful wife and blessed with a brilliant daughter. I love horror fiction (all thing horror, actually) and have been reading it since junior high school. One day, I figured, “I can do this. I write my wife letters, and I got style, and I know what scares me, and I got a nice grasp of the English language, and I know how to put sentences together,” so I started writing my own scary stuff.
My first novel (I Will Rise, Lachesis 2007) was met with a level of success and enabled me to keep on going and the writing thing has blossomed into a nice second job. I love it and I’ll keep doing it as long as publishers will have me and folks keep reading my stuff.
What else? Hmmm… Well, recently, unfortunately, I was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve been doing what the doctor’s tell me to do, fighting it, undergoing treatment, and I can envision an eventual remission, but still, it’s scary, and I’ve lost a bit of time dealing with health crap that could have otherwise been spent on the writing career.
GNOH – Michael Louis Calvillo Must Be Destroyed? How many people have tried to? Why did you choose this name for your blog, not that I can talk about blog names.
Just trying to be clever. I actually started with Everybody Hates Michael Louis Calvillo, a sly play on Everybody Loves Raymond. Chris Rock’s show came along and took my idea, so I changed it to Must Be Destroyed in homage to one of my favorite bands, Gwar. They have an album called America Must Be Destroyed.
The website isn’t an official blog spot, just a traditional website with info on my books and the appropriate links. I plan on changing this and developing it into an active blog with news and musings and whatnot (which I will have to force myself to keep active). I suppose that’s my big, summer project. I want the finished product to be slick and beautiful, so I’ve got some work to do. I know next to nothing about setting it up – I’m used to using Dreamweaver and Photoshop and building sites from the ground up – but all of these new sites (wordpress, etc…) seem pretty intuitive and ready to take my hand and walk me through it.
By the way – I think Ginger Nuts of Horror is a pretty great name. It makes me smile and I certainly won’t forget it. Kudos!
GNOH – Thanks Michael, it started off as a joke, with me being a Ginger, and a bit nutty for horror. Sometimes I wonder if it is too silly to be taken seriously What first inspired you to start writing?
Reading. I love to read (as all writers do, I suppose). At some point (my early twenties I think) I figured I can do as well as, if not better, than a lot of the genre stuff I was reading. Besides, I have that thing, whatever it is, that compels me to write. It’s not a chore or anything I set upon with trepidation. I really, really do love it. I’m a hopeless romantic and the narcissist, the overly passionate, look-at-me, hear-me, artsy type screaming inside simply has to get it out – my wife has shoebox after shoebox of letters to prove it. In the beginning, she’d stroke my ego and tell me how awesome of a writer I was. She’d encourage me to give it a go, to really commit and start submitting stuff. So I did.
GNOH – So why horror?
It’s really the only thing that floats my boat you know? I can’t get into mystery or romance or whatever else. I’ve tried, but unless I know something grim is coming up, I kind of lose interest. There are plenty of mainstream and literary authors who aren’t writing horror, but they know how to pull off horrific scenes and fill your heart with dread. I can go for that. It doesn’t always have to be horror, but it has to get under my skin and wiggle around just right.
GNOH – Who are your heroes of the genre?
Stephen King. Clive Barker. The biggies. I like a lot of modern fiction writers – Chuck Palahnuik, Amy Hemple – who write literature, but do some pretty haunting things. I love George RR Martin and his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s gritty, and violent, and lush, and a joy to read. I’ll start in on one of those beefy volumes and before you know it I’ve devoured a thousand pages without feeling any wear. If an author can hold me for over a thousand pages that author has something special going on.
GNOH – What do you love and hate about the genre?
I love the creepy feeling a good, scary book can conjure up. I love surrealistic imagery. I love dread. I love it when an author can pull these things off and freak me out. Conversely, I hate clichéd crap. Since I’ve become an active, “working” author within the small press horror community, I’ve read a lot of indie horror books and well, to be frank, a lot of them just don’t do it for me. They wear clichés like badges of honor. From terrible cover art, to stilted, sloppy writing, it drives me crazy and it gives horror a bad name.
GNOH – How would you describe your writing style?
It depends on the piece, but I prefer a really, really, really, close third person. I like to maintain omniscience, interjecting authorial opinion while getting deep inside my characters’ heads. Sometimes it becomes this weird first person / third person hybrid prose poetry type thing. I try not to let rules bog me down too much. I respect form and function and adhere to the basic tenements of grammar, I don’t subvert language for subversion’s sake, but I like to make things…funky. Rhythm and timing are supremely important.
GNOH – As a writer of literary horror, do you still enjoy reading the trashy side of the genre?
Love it. The trashier the better. Understanding of course that there is a difference between bad writing and trashy writing. An author can go there, you know? They can get down and dirty and weird and freaky and stupid and push melodrama to its maximum, but to pull it off they need to know how to write first.
GNOH – Your debut novel I Will Rise was nominated for a Stoker Award? That must have been a career high point. How important do you think the Stokers are?
It was a pretty great honor. My wife and I got to attend the awards ceremony and we had a great time. We got to dress up and had an evening where we were made to feel special. I lost to Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, but just being nominated did wonders for growing my career. It got my name out there (Google me) and opened up lots of doors. Publishers actually approached me, and as a result I have a number of editors who are always happy to receive my work.
I’m still reaching for that brass ring, for mass market stardom, for a steady writing gig that allows me to let my imagination do its thing, but being a Stoker nominated author (a two-time finalist – my short story collection, Blood & Gristle, is currently nominated for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection) makes it much easier to sell work within the small press.
As far as importance goes? …Awards are kind of weird. Are they popularity contests? Do they really gauge the best writing out there? I don’t know, but it sure feels great to be nominated and thanks to the fanfare I am able to find editors willing to take a chance on me and publish my art.
GNOH – As a high school teacher, when you look at what the kids are reading does it make you hang your head, or is it just important that kids read?
It’s just important that they read. All of us (those reading this interview, those publishing it, and those answering the questions) read regularly and we can enjoy books just as much, if not more than any other form of entertainment media. But, if we think back to when reading was hard, when the words on the page laid there like lumps instead of rising to create images that flew cohesively within are imaginations, it was boring. Many kids become adults without nurturing their reading skills. They still hate reading books. Non-fiction and magazines are fine, but a work of fiction? They don’t have the time. The words don’t come alive for them because somewhere along the line they missed out on being taught how to read. It comes easier for some than it does others, but if a kid is willing to practice and try that’s all that matters.
GNOH – What would you suggest would be the best starting point for readers who want to start reading your work?
Hmmm. That’s tough. My first book, I Will Rise, is stylistically different than any of my other works. It’s a first person, fever dream thing. As Fate Would Have it (Bad Moon Books, 2009) is a character study about co-dependence. Blood & Gristle (Bad Moon Books, 2010) is a collection of weird shorts – some attempting profundity, some just going for the gross out. Bleed For You (Delirium Books, 2011) is just nasty fun. The two novels coming later this year, Death & Desire in the Age of Women (Bloodletting Press, 2011), and Birdbox (Bad Moon Books, 2011), are action-oriented, thrill ride type narratives. Okay. So then, one to start? If you like freakshow apocalyptic stuff go with I Will Rise. If you like a quieter narrative that stabs you in the heart (repeatedly) I’d go with As Fate Would Have It. Then read the rest.
GNOH – As Fate Would Have It, deals with cannibals, what was the appeal of writing about them?
The whole cannibal thing is really just a sensationalistic device. I used it as a counterpoint to heroin abuse. It’s used in a very satirical, tongue-in-cheek fashion. The characters addicted to human flesh treat it like a designer drug – it empowers them and gives them an edge over their yuppie peers. Quitting becomes something of an odyssey – a physical and emotional journey that forces them to really analyze their relationship with one another and the world-at-large. Plus, what’s grosser than cannibalism? It’s fun to write about.
GNOH – There seems to be a theme of love running through your work, what made you decide on this commonality?
It’s all about love. Everything I write, whether it’s weird or degenerate, or funny, or sad, or creepy, or inspirational – it’s all powered by love. Take it away and you have nothing. The great thing is everybody understands it. Everybody gets it. Manipulating such a universally understood emotion yields universal results (generally). You can’t go wrong telling a love story.
GNOH – Some of your books are hard to come by, are there any plans to release them as E-Books?
Business, business, business. I hold my head in my hands and abhor the word. At the moment our industry is in such a chaotic state I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to sign with any old e-book publisher. I want to weigh my options and find the best deal I can. My catalogue, which is made up of mostly limited edition, numbered, hard covers, will be re-released in both e-book and trade paperback eventually, but I am still negotiating the shark infested seas of royalties and rights and foreign rights. I’m waiting for the right moment to make a move. I suppose I should do so soon, but with each limited edition I release, I grow a bigger fan base. I have three more titles coming out this year alone. Once they’ve sold out, I need to step back and assess the situation.
GNOH – Does working with another author teach you anything about your own writing?
Absolutely. It makes you look at your own writing in a different way. Comparing, contrasting, giving the nuts and bolts a closer look – working with another author shifts focus and forces me to really tighten things up. Working solo, when I get a rhythm going, I let fly and I usually don’t go back and edit until my streak has burnt itself out. Certain sections might not get as much love as other sections. In the end, upon publication, I want to kick myself in the head over a sloppily written passage. If I’m working with somebody else it’s less likely to happen because I tend to edit before, during, and after sending the work back and forth.
GNOH – You are working with Benjamin Kane Ethridge, can you tell us how this project is coming along?
I met Ben through the HWA (Horror Writer’s Association) and we hit it off right away. He’s become a really good friend. What’s more – I really dig his writing, so working together is a blast. Thus far we’ve completed a novella and novel together.
The novella, a nasty, little goof entitled Ugly Spirit has sold to Bad Moon Books and is coming out in late 2011 early 2012 (hopefully). We took a cool haunted house story Ben never finished and then we passed it back and forth between us. The end product is pretty wild. I’m looking forward to its release.
The novel, Order of Death, is an epic, dark fantasy with series potential. I think it’s pretty damn awesome. A little Tarantino mashed up with some George RR Martin blended with some Snoop Dogg. Hopefully the right publishing house will feel the vibe. We are currently shopping it, so we’ll see.
We don’t have anything else going at the moment, but will probably work together again someday. We complement each other well.
GNOH – What does the future hold for you?
Well, I’ve got those three releases coming this year – My novel, Death & Desire in the Age of Women, an apocalyptic, love story, is shipping on June 15th and is currently available for pre-order from Bloodletting Press (order one up, pretty please!). Birdbox, another novel, a freaky kids-in-peril vs. an evil, blood witch thriller, is coming from Bad Moon Books (no official date just yet) and a twisted, little, novella about human evolution, 7Brains, is coming from Burning Effigy Press in late summer.
The cancer has slowed me down a bit, I haven’t written too much in the past few months, but I’ve always been pretty prolific, so I’ve got a number of things complete and ready to go (three novels, three novellas, and a handful of shorts). I just need to get pushing and selling. I’m hitting The Stoker Weekend in June, so hopefully I’ll make a few deals.
What else? I have lots of work to do in terms of the whole e-book market and building a better online presence. I have to devote more time to career building. I’ve got to kick cancer’s ass.
I really gotta get cracking on some new material. I’ve got tons of ideas and I’m excited to see where they lead me once I start hammering away at them.
GNOH – Many thanks Michael for taking the time to pop on over. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I wish you a speedy recovery. Take Care.