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Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Author Michael J. Seidlinger discusses the writing process of his new literary horror novel, Anybody Home?

Michael J. Seidlinger is a Filipino American author of Anybody Home? (CLASH Books, 2022), Scream (Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series), 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. You can find him online on Twitter and Instagram.

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Michael J. Seidlinger

In this post, Michael discusses the writing process of his new literary horror novel, Anybody Home?, his advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Michael J. Seidlinger
Literary agent: Lane Heymont, The Tobias Literary Agency
Book title: Anybody Home?
Publisher: CLASH Books
Expected release date: August 16, 2022
Genre/category: Horror / Literary
Previous titles: Fiction: Dreams of Being; My Pet Serial Killer; Falter Kingdom; The Strangest; Messes of Men; The Face of Any Other; Mother of a Machine Gun; The Fun We've Had; The Laughter of Strangers; The Sky Conducting. Nonfiction: Scream (Object Lessons); Runaways: A Writer's Dilemma; Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves: Bookmarked. Poetry: Standard Loneliness Package.
Elevator pitch for the book: A seasoned home invader teaches new invaders how to not only pull off a home invasion but also deliver a performance that invades the collective consciousness.

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

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What prompted you to write this book?

We go toward fear so often, especially with horror, that sometimes we lose ourselves in the gore, the shock, and the terror. With Anybody Home?, I wanted to turn the lens on the reader and ask them why. Why do you turn those pages, why do you find the terror entertaining?

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I wrote the manuscript years ago, over the course of a frenzied two-week stint. It was essentially where it is today after a bit of editing on my part.

I must have finished it back in 2015, shortly after completing another novel My Pet Serial Killer, but I didn’t return to it until 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic, when Christoph Paul and Leza Cantoral reached out to me with a writing prompt that they wanted me to pursue in full. I told them about Anybody Home? and a month or so later, Christoph bought it.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

The fact that it reached publication is a surprise, perhaps like any manuscript crawling its way to publication. I didn’t think the book was any good. I had no faith in it and so I shelved it for years. It was only because I trusted CLASH Books and felt completely humbled that they reached out to me with a solicitation that I went ahead and dug it up.

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

It’s a surprise being able to take an idea along to its conclusion. It was a surprise to thread the narrative through an uncompromising voice and vision of a home invasion without ever looking away.

I want to say I had many a sleepless night while writing the novel, but you may be surprised to hear that I remember sleeping a lot during the writing process. A full nine hours or more. It was like my subconscious needed a break from the invasion or something.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope readers can look past the horror and dig into some of the novel’s themes, including the toxicity of social media, societal fixation on external validation, the impermanence of popular culture trends.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Hold the act of writing close to your heart. It’s the one thing you have control over—not publishing, marketing, or even gaining a readership.

The writing is where you have full control, and it’s where what we love most about all this truly comes alive. Be selfish about it, and enjoy even the horrible moments, when despair tries to derail your work-in-progress.

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