Friends and fiends! Gather round, gather round!
Today in the MADHOUSE, there are cartoons in our suicide forest as we welcome author and editor, Leza Cantoral. Leza and I recently had the pleasure of (finally) getting to spend some time with each other this year in Los Angeles where we chatted about feminism, darkness and all things magic. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Leza and her work, she was born in Mexico and she runs CLASH Books and is editor of Print Projects for Luna Luna Magazine. She lives in New Hampshire with the love of her life and their two cats.
Below is an interview that her and I did about her collection, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, as well as some dialogue about her interests, influences, and upcoming projects. There are links scattered throughout to purchase the book, as well as a book trailer that Leza shot and edited herself that depicts the central scene from the titular story in the collection. Enjoy!
With hallucinogenic nightmares,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
WYTOVICH: Tell us about your collection. What inspired you to compile it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your process like for choosing the stories?
CANTORAL: This collection has been a while coming. There are some very old stories in it, though most are new. I wanted to have them out there. I wrote the titular story once I knew this would be a Bizarro Pulp Press/Journalstone book. The collection felt slim, even with my novelette Planet Mermaid in there. So I brainstormed for a new story that would be true for me for where I was at. After I wrote ‘Cartoons in the Suicide Forest,’ I wrote a few more. A couple are pieces I wrote in a class I took on LitReactor called ‘Taboo Topics.’ It was taught by Juliet Escoria and she did a bang up job. Another thing that ended up in here is something I wrote for Ladyblog for their ‘Bruja’ themed issue. Rios de la Luz reached out to me for something and I’m very grateful. I ended up writing about my first acid experience and this figure I met in a dream that taught me about focus and learning to fly. One was from a Bizarro Oz anthology that I was invited by Zeb Carter to submit to. ‘Eva of Oz’ might be the most sexually sadistic and twisted story I have written. I had a lot of fun writing it.
|Check out the book trailer here!|
'Cartoons in the Suicide Forest' was a strange story. I was not sure what to write. I had recently quit drinking. The months following going sober were really hard. Not due to some sort of chemical withdrawal but for the psychological crutch that alcohol had become for me.
My main character is on the fence about killing herself. I created a character that was not me but I used elements of my own life, like an abortion I had in my 20s. The story became a way for me to express what being sober feels like. What it feels like when all your feelings come back. It can feel like you are OD’ing on feelings. It can feel like too much. It is a story about despair and making choices. If you do not make a choice someone else will do it for you and you probably will not like the result.
The story became something bigger and the villainess from that story will be the main villain in my upcoming Bizarro novella ‘The Ice Cream Girl Gospels’.
The soundtrack for writing that story was Rihanna’s Anti, btw. It’s a good album.
Basically, I chose the stories that I felt best represented what I can do as a writer.
WYOVICH: In regard to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?
CANTORAL: The hardest part is sticking with it. The funnest part is coming up with ideas and cool settings. I am all about style. I am one of those people that actually reads Proust for fun. The hard part is finishing things. Starting stuff is easy. I often dread editing but that is the easiest part. You already wrote the damn thing.
WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?
CANTORAL: My flash fiction has a surrealistic splatterpunk vibe. My longer stories are more Literary Horror. I like to experiment but I also like telling a good story.
WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend follow either before/during/or after you write?
CANTORAL: I have a lot of influences. Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Garrett Cook, Juliet Escoria, are some.
Before I write a longer project, I get a new notebook. If it is a shorter project, then I just start writing it down. I hand write first. I try to induce a trance state in myself when I write. I submerge myself in the visual or audio media that is inspiring me and I try to get into the head space of my main character. I use method acting techniques that I learned from Stanislavski books and theater classes in college. Once I get the voice down I am good.
The day after I am done with a story I feel like a human corpse.
WYTOVICH: What books are sitting on your TBR pile?
CANTORAL: Too many. I have Glue, by Constance Anne Fitzgerald, Puppet Skin by Danger Slater, Shit Luck by Tiffany Scandal, and a pile of Victorian era literature I have been meaning to get into. I am actually reading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
WYTOVICH: What is next in store for you readers?
CANTORAL: I have a Bizarro YA novella I am working on, as well as a high concept Bizarro Romantic Comedy. I also have a couple poems in an upcoming Civil Coping Mechanisms antho and a story called ‘Saint Jackie’ which will be appearing in More Bizarro than Bizarro, an anthology by Bizarro Pulp Press.
Praise for Cartoons in the Suicide Forest:
"Lyrical and perverse, like a prostitute on acid in a poetry slam, this collection of the dark, erotic, and bizarre flirts with the heroin fever dreams of a William Burroughs and the horrific surrealism of Charlee Jacobs."- Wrath James White, THE RESURRECTIONIST and THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND SINS
"Playful yet accusatory, brutal but sardonic: Leza Cantoral's short fiction will knock you for a loop. And then may administrator a few more kicks for good measure. Enthusiastically recommended."-Adam Cesare, THE CON SEASON and TRIBESMEN
"Leza Cantoral's writing is the product of a warped and dirty mind. You're in for an experience that is equal parts disturbing, surprising, and sexy."-Juliet Escoria, BLACK CLOUD and WITCH HUNT
“Well-crafted, funny, engaging and horrific.”-Laura Lee Bahr, HAUNT and LONGFORM RELIGIOUS PORN
“A bacchanal of language and imagery; Cantoral delivers the subconscious with voluptuous strokes throughout Cartoons in the Suicide Forest.”-Jennifer Robin, DEATH CONFETTI
“In Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, Leza Cantoral masterfully brings readers into bright, bizarre worlds where anything and everything is possible. In the Suicide Forest, trees “glitter and drip manic panic green in the moonlight.” In Russia, two lesbians get married in a winter wonderland, until a purple smoke bomb goes off, warning them that they are wanted by the government. When you least expect it, a star is born—a porn star who finds her power, destroying men with every candy-coated kiss. In Siberian Honeymoon, each world that Cantoral shapes is rich in color and texture, and all characters who navigate these worlds have one thing in common: They must conquer something colossal, something wild. And no matter what happens, one thing is for sure: There will be sex, and there will be the unexpected.”-Ashely Inguantana, THE WOMAN ALONE and BOMB
“Sensual, darkly adult fairytales bristling with erotic, dreamlike surprises.”-Kris Saknussemm, PRIVATE MIDNIGHT and THE HUMBLE ASSESMENT
“These stories are killer!”-John Edward Lawson, RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS
Leza Cantoral's fairy tales are as charming as they are dark and disturbing. They veer off traditional paths towards the uncanny and definitely scary. They could have been imagined by a psychopathic Walt Disney on acid. And that's a compliment."-Seb Doubinsky, WHITE CITY
“Leza’s words burn purple on the page with a fierce, unfettered imagination – she’s painted a strange and vivid world where terrible things happen in beautiful ways. Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, like Planet Mermaid before it, seduces you into scenarios that seems familiar at first but turn out to be unlike anything you’ve read before.”-Andrew Goldfarb, THE SLOW POISONER
"Bubbly with a jagged edge. That's how I would describe Leza Cantoral's writing. She reappropriates the fairy tale for adults with the imperfections, dangers and pitfalls that come with the territory. Sit back, relax, enjoy and more important: don't hurt yourself!"-Benoit LeLivre, DEAD END FOLLIES