Monstrous Femme

Interview with Eric LaRocca

Interview with Eric LaRocca

If you’re on the internet in any horror-bookish capacity, you’ve probably heard of Eric LaRocca. I wish I could pinpoint when I first came across his work. I just remember knowing I had to pick up a short story collection. And then I remember being unable to put down Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. I hadn’t read anything like that before. There was such a revulsion invoked, but also such tenderness. It felt like a moment of growth, realizing I enjoyed it. That I found it beautiful.

So, when I heard there was an Eric LaRocca NOVEL in the works, well, I was thrilled. I pre-ordered Everything the Darkness Eats and read it as soon as it arrived. I talked with so many friends online (and surprisingly in person!) about it. I wasn’t sure how I felt. Was this another moment of growth, where you sit with things, uncomfortable for a while?

It always reminds me of when I started getting into harder music, being a teenager and hearing Linkin Park for the first time. I was uncomfortable before I was in love. I still have that moment sometimes with new bands. But that conflicted feeling wasn’t going away. And then I saw that Eric LaRocca also had conflicted feelings on the book. And they were writing a new version.

I am so grateful to have been able to read the revised edition. I had a list of things I was looking for changes on, and I was surprised to see them resolved in one form or another. I didn’t truly expect my list to mirror the author’s own thoughts.

But I’m even more grateful to have been given the chance to talk to Eric about some of the changes and their work in general. You can read that exchange below.


Monstrous Femme: There is an inherent vulnerability in any writer releasing their words to the world. With the horror genre, especially when we delve into trauma, that vulnerability only increases. What was it like to open yourself up to that again with the same material?

Eric LaRocca: Truthfully, it’s an incredible honor to share my work with such kindhearted and thoughtful readers. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting many fans at book signings and conventions. They are always so sweet and thoughtful when they approach me. I think “horror” tethers all of us in a very profound and deeply intimate way. I think horror strengthens our bonds as human beings. After all, it’s an intensely personal experience—to endure agonizing trauma through the pages of a book and then reemerge on the other side mentally bruised and battered. I’ve had so many readers thank me for writing about human anguish and the resilience of the human spirit during times of carnage or misfortune. I think sometimes in order to fully heal, we need to experience our suffering to the fullest. Perhaps that’s why we consume horror. We want to purge ourselves of our demons, our anxieties, our fears. Horror allows us to exorcise those pernicious ailments in a controlled environment.

MF: I’m going to save this answer forever because it is such a perfect response. This is absolutely one of the reasons I love horror. I want to talk about the new ending for Everything the Darkness Eats. I’ll be vague if you want to preserve spoilers, or feel free to dive in—was this the ending you saw when the book began? If so, what held you back from writing it the first time?

EL: To fully explain the revised ending of the new edition, I’ll have to provide some context for readers about the actual creation of the first edition. I wrote the very first draft of Everything the Darkness Eats in January and February of 2021. This was several months before my novella, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, was published and subsequently went viral on social media. I was living at my parents’ house. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. Naturally, I felt so out of control. Things looked infinitely bleak. I remember having a phone call with my manager, Ryan Lewis of Spin a Black Yarn, and he kept encouraging me to finally start working on a full-length novel. I knew I wanted to write something weird and extreme and fantastical. However, I was so mentally preoccupied with the thought of marketability. In the end, this was a detriment. After a year or so of enduring COVID-19, I didn’t think readers would be receptive to such an overwhelmingly bleak ending. So, I tried to provide a semblance of hope in the finale. I look back on that decision now and I am filled with such shame. The ending to any work of fiction needs to be organic. You cannot shoehorn hopefulness into a narrative that’s so decidedly miserable in the first place. I regret the decision I made to neuter the ending of Everything the Darkness Eats during its initial printing. However, I’m pleased to share that the new, revised version (with the much grimmer ending) will be the definitive version beginning in June 2024. The original printing will eventually run out and will be replaced by this new version as soon as possible.

MF: It is so much darker, and I loved it. For anyone who read the original and wanted a darker ending . . . pick this up now. I’m also so excited to hear it will be the definitive edition!
Ghost, Whitlock, and Malik are all queer. (I loved the not-so-subtle dig at bisexual erasure with Ghost’s thoughts on invisibility, by the way.) History has seen many queer-coded villains. How did it feel to reclaim that in Whitlock, and to explore different sides of the queer experience in all three characters? Do you consider Whitlock a villain?

EL: It’s fascinating because I’ve seen some reviews state that this book felt like I was “checking off boxes” when it came to applying diverse representation in my novel. I always chuckle when I see those comments because they couldn’t be further from the truth. My whole world is queerness. I surround myself with queer people every chance I get. To me, heterosexuality and heteronormality are elusive things. I don’t encounter them too often in my world. To that end, I think queer characters should be allowed to be complex the same way heterosexual characters have been permitted to be complicated. I think there’s this insidious desire for assimilation from certain queer people. They think any villainous queer character will be harmful to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Or they think that queer people have suffered enough and there’s no need to write about the plight of queer agony. I vehemently disagree with those assessments. I think neutering queer characters for the sake of “positive representation” is a grave mistake.

To specifically answer your question about Whitlock and whether or not he’s a villain, I suppose it’s a complicated answer. It’s cliché to say, but every villain considers themself to be the hero of their story. Whitlock is no different. I think he’s operating from a place of strong conviction, doggedly believing in his cause. Naturally, he does some unspeakable things throughout the course of the novel. But is he the true villain of the story? Or is Saint Fleece the actual villain? Or is God the villain? Who shares the most blame for the atrocities committed in Everything the Darkness Eats? This is a novel about hatred and how such loathing can disintegrate the world around us until there’s only darkness left. I think every character in this book is culpable of harm in some way. There aren’t any definitively good or bad people in Henley’s Edge, Connecticut. Only the morally gray seem to exist there.

MF: Number one way to tell that a reader is straight: they think you’re playing Pokémon with identities. I think so many of our communities mirror yours, so much so that it’s more surprising to have only one queer character in a narrative. I won’t comment further here on who I think the villain is, your answer answered my thoughts perfectly. It’s definitely open to interpretation.

You changed some names for the remixed version. I know I can spend . . . a long time finding a name for my characters. Was this an easy choice to make? Was it a practical decision, or is there any significance you’d want to share? 


EL: I’m afraid there’s nothing too specific about the reason for the name changes. I decided that certain names weren’t working and decided to salvage the names of some of the characters from previous drafts. Character names are so vital to the feel and the experience of a story. I spend far too much time agonizing over names when I’m drafting a book.

MF: Always happy to know agonizing over names is universal. You are currently promoting an upcoming release of a new short story collection, This Skin Was Once Mine. Has this release changed at all for you with the experience of Everything the Darkness Eats? Anything you want people to know about what’s next?

EL: The only thing that’s changed significantly with This Skin Was Once Mine was the inclusion of an extra story at the end of the collection. Initially, we were planning for the book to contain three thematically similar works. But right after we announced the project, I finished a novelette (called “Prickle”) that seemed like the perfect fit to close out the collection. I informed my editor, and she was delighted to take the extra story. It seems like it was the right decision as many early reviewers have cited the closing story as their favorite of the collection.

MF: My excitement for this one grows every day. Do you have any favorites amongst your stories? If that’s an impossible question, do you have a recommended place for new readers to start?

EL: Oh, it’s so difficult to choose a favorite! But, you know, I always tell folks to check out my very first short story collection, The Trees Grew Because I Bled There: Collected Stories. I wrote the stories in that collection several years ago when I was falling in love with my boyfriend, and I can so distinctly recall the intimate process of crafting those tales while we were first discovering one another. That collection is a perfect capsule of a very specific time in my life when I was feeling unfettered, but also so passionate and excited about the future. I’m really proud of that book.

MF: I’m always wondering where to tell people to start when I introduce them to your work, so this will be my answer from now on. It’s a fantastic collection, so many of those stories have stayed with me.

The queer community is a community. Please take this space if you’d like to shout about other queer horror creators/projects you’re loving or excited for. 


EL: Yes, of course! There are too many talented folks to name and I’m sure I’ll forget a few, but readers should check out the following authors: David Demchuk (Red X), Gretchen Felker-Martin (Manhunt), Cina Pelayo (Children of Chicago), Hailey Piper (A Light Most Hateful), Alison Rumfitt (Tell Me I’m Worthless), and V. Castro (Goddess of Filth).

MF: Well, I can at least say I’ve read one of them! Thank you for expanding and re-prioritizing my TBR. And thank you again for sharing with me and all of us at Monstrous Femme.