Welcome back for our first interview of March! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the amazing Larissa Glasser! Larissa is the author of F4, a novella from Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author series, as well as numerous short stories.
Recently, Larissa and I discussed F4, as well as her story for last year’s Tragedy Queens anthology, along with what she’s working on next.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I started writing steadily during high school. Up to then, I had thought I was going to be a musician. I’d studied jazz guitar for about five years, and during my teens I balanced music and writing, and I found a creative outlet with each, although each is a different creative process. I played in a lot of bands, which was usually a collaborative effort, jamming and improvising whereas writing is usually a solitary process. Gradually I became more involved with writing and it took over. William S. Burroughs and Clive Barker were huge influences on me when I first started writing. There are so many authors of whose work I admire and study now, but a few writers who totally changed my universe are Clark Ashton Smith, Monica J. O’Rourke, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Damien Angelica Walters. Then there’s Torrey Peters, she’s a trans writer out of New York and her work really liberated me, encouraged me to come out of my shell with writing trans narratives. Along with Torrey, Jack Ketchum also recently changed my outlook–his work taught me how horror can be character-driven to a greater effect, that our uniqueness in our own trauma helps us resonate with the reader.
Your novella, F4, was released last year from Eraserhead Press to rave reviews. How did this book develop? How long did it take you to write it, and did the process have any surprises along the way?
F4 came from so many different places. I had thought of the middle part first, inspired by coverage of the Taylor Murphy assault trial. Laverne Cox (trans lady actress, Orange is the New Black) was reporting on it for The Huffington Post where she detailed the media’s horrific treatment of the main prosecution witness Claudia Charriez, a trans woman Murphy had physically abused during their relationship. I morphed this tabloid journalism with my main protagonist Carol, a witness to a murder who then becomes a target of media harassment just because she’s a trans woman. This all still happens in real life, and as a former journalism student I wanted to call that out.
I also grew up with kaiju movies. When I was a kid I used to watch Creature Double Feature on Saturdays, and those were usually Godzilla and monster movies. They made a huge impression on me, larger than life beings stomping cities into paste and they wouldn’t stop until they just got bored. A lot of the kaiju films haven’t aged well, but they fired my imagination back then and I wanted to infuse that enthusiasm into the concept of F4. My degrees of success or failure on that front are up to the readers–the trans readers, especially.
Your story, “Rituals of Gorgons,” was featured in last year’s highly regarded Tragedy Queens anthology. What was the inspiration behind this particular story?
In 2016, I had an opportunity to participate in a writing workshop created by Topside Press specifically for transgender women. Topside had pretty much been one of the first presses to spotlight trans authors and release their work. Previously to that trans women hadn’t had much representation in mainstream publishing. Anyway, this workshop got about fifty or so trans women together from all over the planet, and I workshopped an excerpt of a story about the trans daughters of rockstar celebrities who both fall in love while being plagued by the paparazzi. After I met Leza [Cantoral] of Clash Books and she told me about the idea for the Sylvia Plath-Lana Del Rey theme of the anthology, I wanted to morph the story idea into “Born to Die” by Lana Del Rey and “Edge” by Sylvia Plath. The latter mentions “a Greek necessity” so that brought Gorgons to mind, and I decided to roll with that.
I’ll share here that I’m going to expand the “Rituals of Gorgons” idea into a new work with the same basic trans lesbian love story idea. But this will have more of a folk horror theme. I’m developing into a novel with the working title “The Brightening.” I’m excited about it.
What is it about speculative fiction, in particular horror and bizarro, that appeals to you as a storyteller?
I grew up with horror and sci-fi, and more recently bizarro for me seemed like the perfect genre to mash the two and expand them into new places. I also grew up with British comedy, and that early 1980s show “The Young Ones” still seems like greatest precursor goddess of bizarro. You could have non-sequiturs and sudden infusions of the ridiculous in a situation and since the writers had built that world with the four main characters who couldn’t have been more different from one another and yet were stuck together in that dilapidated London apartment, everything could still entertain the audience. I think what made “The Young Ones” work so well is because it aired during an oppressive political climate of Reagan-Thatcher-Pinochet. It was also the final end run of The Cold War so their absurd, violent sense of humor also played into that. Laughter and satire are great remedies for fear. So that’s how I see horror and bizarro working well together.
To follow up on that last question, what would you like to see as the future for horror and bizarro?
I’d like to see more queer voices in both, and to see them get recognition. I don’t know if I’ll be part of that, but I’ll do my best and to raise the voices of others like me and to encourage them.
Do you have any specific writing rituals, such as writing at the same time or writing to certain music?
I usually just write when I can, usually in the evening because I am a terrible morning person. I usually write to ambient or chamber music, because lyrics distract me.
What’s next for you?
As I work on my next books, “The Brightening” and “Princess of Rabies,” I’ve got a busy con schedule ahead, including but not limited to Necon, StokerCon, The Outer Dark Symposium, and Necronomicon. I’m also doing research about my dad, who was a spy during The Cold War. That could turn into a nonfiction book, hopefully. On the professional front, I’m looking into academic library jobs in New York City so I can finally relocate to Brooklyn (if anyone hears of anything, please hit me up).
Tremendous thanks to Larissa Glasser for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Twitter and on her blog!