Welcome To The Screwed Up World Of Michael Louis Calvillo Must Be Destroyed! (Round 2…)

The sophomore slump ain’t got nothing on me. My second book, AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT, was a critical and commercial success. It won three Black Quill Awards, a very cool Darkscribe hosted best-of the year prize. I took home Best Small Press Chill (Reader’s Choice) – Woot! Woot! – and two more for Best Cover and Best Layout.

It’s a beautiful book all round, from Peter Mihaichuk’s eerie, striking, apple-in-the-mouth cover, to Cesar Puch’s slick layout and design work with those carving knife and fork icons between section breaks.

 Bad Moon Books did an incredible job on the edit too. There are few to no typos. As writers and editors, typos are impossible. You bash on fifty, five more pop up in their place. It’s like mental whack-a-mole. It makes you kind of delirious hunting them down.

Three, maybe four, sets of eyes usually does the job. With FATE, I gave it probably ten passes in four or five months of rewrites. Then Super Liz, Bad Moon’s beating heart, did her thing, and then Cesar joined in, and then super-cool reader-collector-friend, Jamie La Chance gave it a pass, and then head honcho, Roy, took a discerning look. By the time the book went to press it was well-tuned and ready to rumble.

 


(This might be my favorite cover of all, but it’s a tough call – some of my other covers are just as killer...)

When I wrote I WILL RISE (read all about it in Round 1), I was big into Chuck Palahnuik, Amy Hempel, and Raymond Carver. Chuck P is big time with movie options and best-selling mass market success (but you all know this). Hempel is a literary darling (if you don’t know, now you know). Carver wrote heart-breaking stuff that found its way into prestigious publications like The New Yorker (bow to the king) and widely read literary anthologies. I wanted to take these literary leanings and throw them into a badass book about one man’s journey to literally destroy the world. I cranked up the juice and wrote in a fever-dream-beat vernacular. I wanted to write pulp lit. But with my next book I didn’t want to do the same thing, I wasn’t trying to establish a stylistic voice so I could keep doing it over and over again (how boring), I wanted to do something completely different.

So I did.

 


(You’ve READ this right? Not seen, but read. Right?)

Though I WILL RISE was written in a searing, self-exploratory, first-person, its narrator is a foolish, foolish liar. The fiction was pure fiction-fiction-fiction. FATE, while narrated by an omniscient, objective overseer, is much more personal. There are painful bits of truth behind the characters actions and words. Where I WILL RISE is an anarchistic comic book (hail, hail), AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT is a think-piece on death, dying, and co-dependence.

Important people went and died on me in sudden, tragic ways. I was also interested in opiates – not drugs specifically, but all sorts of things in our lives that hop us up in the same possessive sense. Food. TV. Buying stuff. Love. ENTER YOUR NEUROSIS HERE.

Crap!

Hold up!

Here we are,  four hundred+ words into a post about a book about cannibalism and I have yet to mention the “C” word.

Yes, the hook here, Loyal Reader, is that our hero, a serial murderer, is also a gourmet chef who uses his artistry in the kitchen to prepare exquisite meat dishes. He’s also a very nice, very screwed up, very guilty guy. I wrote him as endearing, clumsy, lovelorn, and always fretting over those he’s killed and obsessing over the rippling loss his actions have upon his victim’s families. It worked perfectly. Readers seemed to really like my man, Montgomery, the reluctant cannibal. A particularly astute critic said she enjoyed the book so much, that she wanted to grab folks on the street and make them read it (thanks a bunch CW ;-)).

 

(Read like you eat. Words are sumptuous)

I also like the book’s other protagonist, the twenty-two year old junkie, Ashley. She’s colder and almost as screwed up Montgomery, but she isn’t murderous or anything. She’s pretty down to earth. She’s just lost and frustrated with life. Just like me when I was a twenty-two year old burnout.

Her boyfriend Henry is the story’s every-man. He lives like most of us do – equal parts awed and dismayed and delighted by life’s hectic twists and turns. He trucks along and does the best he can. In the end, he gets a bit of a raw deal (NO SPOILERS – I promise), but…

Aw, damn! You gotta read the book for more details on all that…

Then there’s the death. Death, death, death, and more death. It drips from every page. Some note the book is darkly humorous. And I agree, but… The dreary death stuff suffocates the mirth. You half-smile at this turn of phrase or that, or maybe a character’s life philosophy gets you thinking, but there’s always that growing death spiral to spin out of control and suck you down.

Coffins, and trunks, and bathtubs, and operating theaters, and freezers, and refrigerators, and forty-gallon barrels of sulfuric acid populate the back (and for) ground. The book is filled to bursting with claustrophobic little pockets of dread. Pictures of dead folks in picture frames, and cardboard presentation boards with deceased love ones taped up in a morbid display of arts and crafts, creep me out. I get the chills just thinking about all of it. I smell funeral homes. I feel freshly dug soil beneath my feet. Ewww.

 


(Loss hurts. Badly. Art helps.)

 

It’s not all death and doom (only about ninety-three percent). Love finds its way in (as always). At the heart of the story my leading foursome love their significant others with every fiber of their beings, and their significant others love them back even harder. Love is a dominating beast. It also presents the only shot anybody has at passing life’s tragic tests. It represents hope (however bleak).

Which brings us to the end of the line. I can’t tell you what happens because I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t given the book a shot. My analysis has been carefully written to exclude anything of importance to the enjoyment of the story. But the end? The end is a bit of a hot button. While FATE received nothing but positive reviews (a few of which even sparkle), I read a few, uncertain remarks in regards to the finale. Let me just say I went for something unconventional and uncomfortable. It reminds me of (or rather, I was highly influenced by) Neil LaBute’s 1998 film, YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. I believe FATE achieves a similar tone.

So read it, okay?

Loyal Reader, you have to promise me you will eventually (be it today or ten years from now) snag a digital copy and READ IT (hard copies are out there, but they’re expensive – the digital book? It’s only $3.99 over at Crossroads Press. A paperback will see the life of day somewhere down the line)! If you even kind of, sort of, like my blog, I think you will love the book.

 


(In the flesh! The hardcover edition of FATE!) 

Full disclosure here. One of my favorite authors of all-time told me he couldn’t get into it. He had a hang up about some slow-moving action sequences and my story building technique. That’s cool (BTW – I still really, really dig this author – personally and professionally), to each his own. But then, AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT is not an action-piece! It’s not a standard thriller! There are zero car chases (though there is a car-tailing scene), zero drinking detectives, zero fist fights and zero gun fights. It’s about death (and love, and the carnal joys of a nice, tender cut of delicious yumminess).

At the time of this writing I have five books on the market. I am super-proud of all of them for a myriad of different reasons. With AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT, I went for uncomfortable and as it’s author, its dark theme still raises a dread-sick-lump in the back of my throat. Mission accomplished.

If you try it, be sure to hit me up and let me know what you’re thinking (good or bad – I prefer adulation, but can take the abuse).

 

Stay tuned for Round 3 – a break down of BLOOD & GRISTLE coming soon!


(Dani Serra’s Illio for the story, Forever & A Day, from BLOOD & GRISTLE. An explanation of it and the 20 other interiors soon…)

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