An Interview With Martin Lastrapes

Hello folks today we hve an interview with author and actor Martin Lastrapes 
GNOH – Hi Martin, how are things with you?

Things are great, brother.  Glad to be here.

GNOH – Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure.  I grew up in the Inland Empire, which is a rather large region of Southern California.  Specifically, I grew up in a city called Rancho Cucamonga.  I didn’t do much reading as a kid, despite the fact that reading came very easily to me for as long as I can remember.  I liked comic books, though.  And professional wrestling.  I either wanted to be a professional wrestler when I grew up or Batman.  Or a comic book artist, as I loved drawing pictures of superheroes.  Batman mostly.  He was something of an obsession for me for quite a few years.   
   
GNOH – You’ve said there is not enough good stand up comedy out there, who would you say are some of your favourite stand ups out there?

Louis C.K. is pretty brilliant and I adore Ricky Gervais, but I almost feel like they’re too obvious.  Greg Fitzsimmons is a really funny and smart comic, who, incidentally, studied English, so there is a witty, literary nature to his comedy.  I loved Mitch Hedberg and Greg Giraldo, both of whom I was fortunate to see perform live (a few times) before their untimely deaths.   I was at a comedy club just the other day and saw a tremendously talented comic named Thai Rivera who I just loved.
GNOH – Can you remember what first inspired you to put pen to paper?

Yeah, I had a terrific writing professor my first year in college named S. Kay Murphy (she’s an author, so you can look her up).  I wrote this essay for her class and, even as I wrote it, I sort of knew I was breaking the rules and I wasn’t exactly following the assignment, but I was feeling creative, so I didn’t care.  Of course, after I turned in the assignment, I figured she would think I was being disrespectful and that would sour our student/teacher relationship.  Turns out she loved it and encouraged me to do more of it.  I’d never thought of myself as a writer before she told me that’s what I was.  From that day on I’ve been a slave to the Muse. 
GNOH – Who would you say are some of your literary heroes?

I’d probably start with Woody Allen, who aside from being a brilliant filmmaker and, in his former life, a brilliant stand up comic, is also a brilliant writer of prose.  His voice and his ideas are just so strange and funny and original.  Franz Kafka also inspires me, as I love his ability to create such strange realities, without making them feel made up.  Tim O’Brien’s writing is just pitch perfect.  Nick Hornby and Tom Robbins are a couple of my all-time favourites.  Jasper Fforde I discovered a few years ago and I continue to be astonished by what he does in his novels.  I’m sure I could go on and on, but I reckon you have other questions. 

GNOH – How would you describe your particular style of writing?

I would first describe my writing as very economical.  I don’t like to waste words, they’re too valuable.  For any given sentence, I never use more than what is needed.  But in terms of tone and voice, I like to think of my writing style as playful and quirky with some sharp edges and more than a few dark corners.  Of course, my novel Inside the Outside is something of a refuge for those dark corners. 

GNOH – As an English professor, how concerned are you about what the students are reading?  Do you believe there is a place for everything, or do you think there is just too much mediocre stuff out there?

Anytime I learn that my students are reading at all, I’m happy.  Whether it’s a book I’ve assigned in class or just something they discovered on their own.  Of course, I might see one of them reading a book that I think is crap, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling good to see them reading.  And, for that reason, I absolutely think there is a place for everything.  I firmly believe that for every writer there is an audience and I see no good reason why they should ever be apart. 

GNOH – Can you tell us about your novel Inside the Outside?


Inside the Outside is the story of a teenage girl named Timber Marlow who is raised as a cannibal within a cult in the San Bernardino Mountains.  At first glance it’s a horror story with plenty of blood and scares, but, as you get deeper into it, it’s a very human story about a girl who comes to realize the world is a much bigger place than she ever knew it was.  And it’s about her innate curiosity to go out and explore that world.

GNOH – Why did you choose to write a novel about cannibals?

I’ve been fascinated by cannibalism since I was a kid.  My godfather, Willard E. Pugh, is an actor and in 1984 he starred in the Wes Craven film The Hills Have Eyes: Part 2.  I’d never heard of a cannibal before that movie and it scared me to death.  Right around the time I became a vegetarian, which was a little more than 10 years ago, I started kicking around the idea of a story about a society of civilized cannibals, primarily because I was caught up with learning about the lives of farm animals and how horrific it must all seem from their point of view, regardless of how humane the farmer might be.  Cannibalism just seemed like the most appropriate metaphor at the time for me and it’s a big theme that, as you know, made its way into Inside the Outside.  Also, it just sort of seems like cannibals are a bit under-used in the horror genre.   

GNOH – Why do you think cannibals as a subject matter are so under used in the horror genre?

It’s hard to say, but I think maybe it has something to do the fact that, ultimately, cannibals are people.  They’re not demons or vampires or zombies or what have you, they’re people, kind of like us.  For me, that makes them all the scarier, because it means that there are cannibals out there right now going about their business as we speak.  There may well be a cannibal who is, at this very moment, reading this interview while he eats his breakfast.  You can’t say the same thing about vampires.

GNOH – What challenges did you face by having the protagonist of your novel a cannibal?

It was a huge challenge, because I knew that, as a cannibal, Timber was going to have to do things that readers wouldn’t necessarily enjoy or be able to sympathize with.  And I wanted readers to sympathize with Timber, I wanted them to care about her, like I did.  So, yes, that was tricky, trying to find that balance.

GNOH – Did you find it difficult making Timber Marlow a character that the readers would care about.  Do you agree that that if a reader needs to become invested in the protagonists of the novel?

Ultimately, once I figured out who Timber was, it wasn’t too difficult to make her a character I thought readers could care about.  Once I came to care for her myself, it was just a matter of sharing who she was with the readers, showing them what I saw in her.  And, yes, I do think it’s important to have a protagonist that a reader can invest in, because, in so many ways, when we read a book we become that character and, in my estimation, readers don’t want to become characters who they wouldn’t otherwise like or care about.

GNOH – Where did you come up with Timber’s name?

The name was relatively simple.  Because I knew she was going to grow up in the mountains, I wanted to give her a name that sounded woodsy, so I named her Timber.  The Marlow surname was much more random.  I just kept tagging names to the end of Timber until one stuck that felt right.  And so she became Timber Marlow.

GNOH – How much research did you do for the novel?  Did you draw on any famous historical 
cannibals?

I did a lot of research for Inside the Outside, primarily for the cult that Timber grows up in.  The cult itself is isolated up in the mountains and, with the exception of a handful of people, nobody knows they are there.  And, more than that, they are completely off the grid.  So I had to figure out a way to create a plausible setting where a community of cannibals could survive on a hidden combine, while still providing themselves with a reasonable amount of shelter and resources.  But, I also did research regarding the human anatomy and, among other things, how a body changes after somebody dies.  These things all seemed relevant to a book about cannibalism, so I wanted to get it as right as possible.  As far as historical cannibals, no, I didn’t draw on any really. 

GNOH – How well has the book been received by the general public?

So far, the reception has been very good.  Surprisingly good, really.  As much as I love the book, I really didn’t know if readers at large would be able to connect with a book about cannibalism.  But I’ve been blown away by all the kind words of praise readers have been sending my way.  And, honestly, I think it has everything to do with the character of Timber Marlow.  I think readers are connecting to her and her story.  

GNOH – How was the journey from finished manuscript to getting it published?

It was long and frustrating, but, at the end of the day, very gratifying.

GNOH – If you could go back in time and do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I hate to give you a cliché answer, but I don’t think I would do anything differently.  The book became what it is as a result of everything I had to do to get it published, so, for that reason, I wouldn’t change anything.  That’s not to say I haven’t learned lessons that I won’t apply to my next novel, but, as for Inside the Outside, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

GNOH – What album would you select as the soundtrack to the book?

I love this question and I wish I had a better answer for you.  I would say the soundtrack would probably be some cross between Nine Inch Nails and Mozart. 

GNOH – I see that you also appear on IMDB as an actor / writer, can you tell us about this?

That’s all my brother’s doing, Greg Lastrapes.  He’s a filmmaker and he likes to involve me in his projects.  I enjoy the acting, though I don’t think of myself as an actor.  The writing, on the other hand, is a lot of fun.  You can actually watch a short video of me dressed as a blue gorilla on GregLastrapes.com…I can’t believe I just said that.

GNOH – Does working with your brother result in any family fights?


No, not at all.  It’s a lot of fun. 

GNOH – How would you describe your acting style?

I would describe my acting style as subtle, I suppose.  Outwardly, when I act, my performances tend to be understated.  Inwardly, on the other hand, there is a lot more going on.  As it is with my writing, I like to understand the characters that I’m playing and then let the performance come out of that.

GNOH – Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

I’m working on my second novel right now.  It’s a vampire novel.  I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so in terms of tone, it has been pretty influential to the new book.  As far as story and characters go, however, I’m going in a much different direction.  I love the way Buffy fused comedy and horror, while still developing three-dimensional characters and telling intelligent, witty, literary stories.  So, those are all the things I’m trying to accomplish in the book and, so far, I’m very excited about its progress.  I hope to have it published no later than 2013.








INSIDE THE OUTSIDE




By the time Timber Marlow is fifteen years old, she has already killed three men. Despite the bloody and violent nature of their deaths, Timber is hardly a murderer. She has lived her entire life as a cannibal within a cult tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains called the Divinity of Feminine Reproach. The Divinity keeps itself isolated from the Outside, which is the mainstream society beyond its invisible borders. When the opportunity presents itself, Timber escapes into the Outside, bearing witness to some dark and unsettling truths about the world around her and the integral role she plays in it. But no matter how long she stays away, Timber finds out the past isn’t as far away as she thinks it is. In this debut novel, laced with scenes of horrific violence and uplifting humanity, Martin Lastrapes has written a one-of-a-kind story about love, friendship, sacrifice and cannibalism.
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