Multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author Lisa Morton has hijacked my blog to talk about her new short story collection Monsters of L.A. out now from Bad Moon Books!
At some point in 2010, I looked at the last few works of short fiction I’d written and I realized they all had an odd theme in common: They were all about monsters, and they were all set in contemporary Los Angeles. One, for example, was based on an urban legend about a catwoman roaming the hills just northeast of the city; another was about a real historical figure named G. Warren Shufelt, an engineer in the 1930s who claimed to have invented a device that detected gold beneath the streets of L.A….gold left behind by a race of lizard people. As soon as I noticed the similarities in these stories, I thought I might have the makings of an unusual collection. The remaining fifteen stories in Monsters of L.A. were written in a frenzied outpouring of just a few months.
So, what is it about this intersection between monsters and my hometown that I find so compelling? Let me state one thing right off the bat: I really do love Los Angeles. I was born here (or slightly east, in the San Gabriel valley city of Pasadena) and have spent most of my life here. During my teenaged years when my family lived in San Diego, I couldn’t wait until I learned how to drive so I could come up north to L.A. every weekend. Aside from its remarkable weather (I’d fit right in with those afore-mentioned lizard people, because I like the sun!), there are two things I’ve always most loved about the Los Angeles environs: 1) the mishmash of ethnicities and cultures here, and 2) the creative industries crowding the landscape. We’ve got (of course) Hollywood, but we also have a thriving literary scene, and we’re pretty happening for music and fine arts, too. On a day off, we might have fantastic dim sum in the largely-Asian Monterey Park, check out the latest exhibit at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and maybe shop and eat at Olvera Street (yes, I know it’s kitschy and touristy, but one restaurant there, El Paseo, makes a fine mole sauce!). I’ve worked on-and-off in the film business since I was 20 (and as a screenwriter since I was 29), but I’ve also spent a lot of time managing L.A. bookstores and being part of our local community of horror writers, which includes Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, RC Matheson, Dennis Etchison, David Schow, Peter Atkins, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, Del Howison, Jeff Gelb, Roberta Lannes, and dozens of others. Welcome to my family.
I got to know one of those writers – Dennis Etchison – long before I started writing horror fiction, and Dennis’s brilliant work, which is almost always set around Southern California, was hugely influential on me. Like Dennis, I know that L.A. isn’t just about beaches and vapid blondes; I see its darker side, too. I see the homeless, many of whom probably came here to make it big in the movies or the recording industry, and now they’re as shattered as their dreams. I see the narcissism of those who have succeeded, and the delusions of those who still believe they will succeed. I see buildings that are falling to ruin because their owners simply couldn’t afford to keep them open and repaired. I see Caucasian and Asian and Latino, gay and straight, rich and poor, mixing…but not always comfortably.
Once you become aware of all these less pleasant aspects, it’s not hard to see how they resemble certain classic horror archetypes. Isn’t there something haughty and arrogant and movie-star-ish about Dracula? Aren’t the hopeless meth junkies hiding from their pasts a bit like the Phantom? What are the La Brea Tar Pits if not a black lagoon?
I also wanted my collection to provide a complete emotional experience for the reader. Just as L.A. can induce blissful living or desperation, the joy of success or the constant dulled grief of the most abject failure, so my collection would move from the humor to be found in a giant monster menacing Santa Monica (really, who hasn’t laughed at a Godzilla movie?) to the frustrations of a gay teenager to the horrors of modern technology. I also wanted the storirange from flash fiction to a novelette (the story involving those lizard people), with some interconnecting and even depending on each other. Kind of like how all of us who live in L.A. have to mesh.
I hope SoCal residents who read Monsters of L.A. will nod in recognition, while those who’ve never been here will end the book feeling almost as if they have. And I won’t object at all if you tell me that the book made you feel like there was something dark here lurking beneath all that sunshine.
Thanks for stopping by Lisa! To buy a copy of Monsters of L.A., visit Bad Moon Books! ond make sure you visit www.lisamorton.com