Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Michael J. Seidlinger Interview - Anybody Home?

Photo Content from Michael J. Seidlinger

MICHAEL J SEIDLINGER is a Filipino American author of Anybody Home? (CLASH Books, 2022), Scream (Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons), and other books. He has written for, among others, Wired, Buzzfeed, Thrillist, Goodreads, The Observer, Polygon, The Believer, and Publishers Weekly. He teaches at Portland State University and has led workshops at Catapult, Kettle Pond Writer’s Conference, and Sarah Lawrence.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
If we’re talking true firsts, it was an accident. It wasn’t any good and it took a good couple failed, truly dead and buried, novels to stumble into something that I didn’t hate. That book’s called The Sky Conducting, which I view as the first actual novel I published. It ironically had to do with America dying and everyone leaving the country in a mass exodus. Like most of my pre 2018 publications, it’s obscure and/or out-of-print.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I don’t know. I was a real slacker. I skipped as often as I could and when college finally was on the cards, I took 21 credit hours, lots of sociology classes, and obsessed over making up for lost time and getting the hell out of the university bubble and back into the perils of the real world. I never wanted to be in academia and didn’t feel like I belonged.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Seeing people reading and responding to my stuff. It’s the best thing possible, and makes it worth all the worry and despair that goes into writing any novel, no matter if it’s your first or your fiftieth.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Oh, I hated reading when I was a kid. I thought it was a waste of time. I blame grade school and high school English classes where they shoveled The Odyssey and other books down your throat. I was always hard-headed and rebellious so I never read, took to the Cliff’s Notes and film adaptations, or just failed, every book report or assignment. I found all this much later, on my own. On a whim, too. I guess I had to discover the joy of reading on my own.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Patience, have patience. Also practice—you’re going to suck at things for a long time. Eventually that voice that becomes recognizably yours will find you. That’s how it worked for me at least. There was a lot of pining over other writers’ marvels, their uniqueness, but eventually you get tired of that and the ideas that possess you end up being the stuff that helps you form your voice, and your own stories/books. It becomes less about influence and idols and more about making sense of those ideas and listening to your characters.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I can’t say much right now, unfortunately, but I turned in another novel that I wrote based on a prompt to the same publisher that put out Anybody Home?, so that is in the cards. I finished another novel and have a few more in the works, but it’s too early and too close to say much at the moment.

In your newest book; ANYBODY HOME?, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
It’s about a seasoned home invader teaching a new generation of hopeful invaders how to successfully perform a home invasion that not only goes unsolved by authorities but also captures the collective consciousness and becomes a part of popular culture, to be picked apart and devoured for the public’s fascination and entertainment.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they’ll feel complicit in what’s happening on the page, enough that they’ll stop and assess why they can’t help but keep turning the page, can’t help but continue to read up on the latest crime, listen to the latest true crime podcast, and/or gravitate towards real-world horrors for their own entertainment. I’m not saying not to read, watch, or listen to such content; Anybody Home merely asks readers to consider why we turn to such things in the first place, and why we are entertained by it.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
This isn’t a character-driven novel. Many of my other books are, but in the case of Anybody Home?, like a certain breed of horror novels/films, the character becomes the intent, the very stage, in this case, the home invasion itself, and the star here is most definitely the pull-off, or the performance of the home invasion. That’s not to say the invaders, the seasoned invader, or the victims/family aren’t realized characters; it’s more like they are performing their own roles in accordance to how much “screentime” they have. Because if every story focused on intimate character building, world building, plot-development, etc., we’d have nothing but 500 pager tomes.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t “relate” to any of the characters in the book… it’s more like they are going to be realized composites for a lot of familiar faces in your own life.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing ANYBODY HOME?
Probably the fact that it fell out of me, almost like a bloodletting. I wrote it in 2 weeks and then took another week to edit it down a bit. The result is what you see between the covers. It was one of the first times I started to understand what some writers talk about when they say the book/story wrote itself, using them as a vessel for the telling.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
It would have to be the seasoned invader and they’d likely meet online, maybe via Twitter, or perhaps the character from another book would have already reached out to the seasoned invader for a consult. They’d get to talking. Knowing the seasoned invader’s ability to speak their mind and get a character motivated, we would probably have another invasion/performance in the works.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve ever given someone?
Oh, tough one. I’ll go with what came to mind first: I planned out an entire weekend excursion where they didn’t have to do anything, I planned everything, and we flew to their favorite spot in the country, where I booked out everything from private paranormal investigations to restaurant reservations. You know, that feeling of being free, and truly lost to the culture and curiosities we often take for granted.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Disappear for a week somewhere. Completely disengage from all technology and means of contact and be by yourself for a week, free to explore wherever it is that you choose to escape to. Drugs and booze optional.

Best date you've ever had?
Probably one that I didn’t even realize was a date until we were on a rooftop and there was that pause, followed by a first kiss.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Is it sad that I don’t remember? Because I don’t remember. My memory is great until it isn’t. I figure I remember up to 10 years minus basics like my name, etc. Otherwise, it’s lost to the ether.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
Springfield VA. I’m in Brooklyn now. Not too far, I gather.

What's your most missed memory?
Everything I’ve forgotten. The ones that people remember but I don’t are the worst. It makes me feel like a bad partner, friend, person.

  • “I can tell you everything. But it’ll be you that’ll have to forget the camera’s there.”
  • “We did it for the attention. We did it because we knew we could.”
  • “Never learned how to pick a lock. Few do. It’s easier to figure out the source of the locked door than the lock itself.”
  • “If you played it right, the wife will have forgotten all about you by sundown.”
  • “You look so good on camera.”
  • “The infrastructure of privacy ends tonight.”
  • “You shine the flashlight on the front of the house. Hold, for one brief second. And then you’re gone.”
  • “Give into the fear. Use it. Just follow my lead.”
  • “We all do it for the same reasons. Perhaps we phrase it differently, but in the end we do it to entertain and be entertained.”
  • “What are you going to decide?”
Your journey to publication
Anybody Home? is proof—to me, to hopefully another writer—that we never really know what we have. I thought this book wasn’t any good. After I wrote it, I shelved it for years. I wrote it years ago and left it as-is, lost in my graveyard of unpublished manuscripts. IN 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, I was on a Zoom call with Christoph Paul and Leza Cantoral at CLASH Books. They had pitched me on a book, a prompt to use and write to the best of my ability. I said yes, of course, and was exceedingly honored to even be considered. I don’t know what got me bringing this one up but I pitched them on a home invasion novel from the perspective of a seasoned home invader teaching newbies how to pull off one. Christoph seemed down to check it out. A month or so later, I see CLASH Books tweeting about feeling unsettled in their own home during lockdown due to a submission they’re reading. Minutes later, I get a Twitter DM and it’s Christoph saying that he wanted to publish the book. Even then, I wasn’t sure what I had. Even now, I’m not totally sure what I have, just that readers are definitely enjoying it. For that, I’m so damn happy and honored that it’s finding an audience. That’s really all we hope to achieve, as writers.

What came first, the home or the desire to invade?

A seasoned invader with multiple home invasions under their belt recounts their dark victories while offering tutelage to a new generation of ambitious home invaders eager to make their mark on the annals of criminal history. From initial canvasing to home entry, the reader is complicit in every strangling and shattered window. The fear is inescapable.

Examining the sanctuary of the home and one of the horror genre's most frightening tropes, Anybody Home? points the camera lens onto the quiet suburbs and its unsuspecting abodes, any of which are potential stages for an invader ambitious enough to make it the scene of the next big crime sensation. Who knows? Their performance just might make it to the silver screen.
You can purchase Anybody Home? at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MICHAEL J. SEIDLINGER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Anybody Home? by Michael J. Seidlinger.


Post a Comment