Friday, April 13, 2018

Interview With M.R. Tapia

The short stories of M.R. Tapia have appeared in Schlock Webzine, Deadman's Tome, Empty Sink Publishing, and Hindred Souls:  Dark Tales for Dark Nights.  His short story, Stella Reign, was a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.  His latest short story, Bloodstream Revolution, appeared in Deadman's Tome:  Monsters Exist.  He writes for and runs Hindred Souls Press out of Northern Colorado.

I met M.R. (Manuel) at the recent Colorado Book Festival.  I learned that he set-up and now manages a press, and that his writing is adventurous and edgy.  I thought the readers of La Bloga would appreciate learning more about this guy and his ambitions and plans for the future, as well as a few insights into his current work.  The result is this short interview, exclusively for La Bloga.


M.R. Tapia
Tapia:  First off I’d like to thank you very much for your time and this opportunity.

Ramos:  Welcome to La Bloga -- always a pleasure to spotlight new writers and people who are risk-takers and adventurers for literature and culture.

What is Hindered Souls Press?  Why did you start this press?  What is the goal or mission of the press?  Are you looking for authors to publish?

Hindered Souls Press is an independent publishing house I created last year. It began with an experimental horror anthology I put together in 2016. At the time, I found it difficult to find short story publications who didn’t ask for reading fees or exclusive submissions, and had nearly nonexistent probability of any response unless one was accepted. So I created the Hindered Souls anthology and offered responses to every story submitted and no reading fees.

At the time I had been working on my novel Sugar Skulls and began shopping it around. All of the offers I received offered a small royalty percentage and little to no marketing. The royalties were going to help pay the publishing houses, editors, formatters, and book cover design (one where I was to have little say.) I found that outrageous. It was then I built upon the same idea of my anthology and created Hindered Souls Press.

HSP offers the lion’s share of its royalties to its authors. We make sure the author is involved in the creation of their book cover and soldier alongside HSP with the marketing, as we are a team.

HSP specializes in horror/transgressive fiction. As Cesar Cruz said, we aim to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” We hope to expose the darkness of the world that is sugarcoated or hidden on a daily basis, wrapping it within a great story with great writing, ultimately humbling the world to realize that things are tough all over.

We opened our submissions call last year in November for novels and novellas. Being that we are a small press still in its infancy, we can only open for one month, hoping to find 2-3 projects to fill up the following year’s lineup. Any more and we’d be robbing the authors and their work of the time and respect they deserve. This coming November we open once again to help fill our 2019 lineup.

How would you describe your writing?  Who are the readers of your writing? 

My writing can be described as transgressive. I enjoy wordplay and the layout of the actual story. Bending the traditional rules of writing is another pleasure I partake in. The feeling of confinement by what is expected in literature is a looming threat to which I shove back. I love dark topics with a hidden story. In Sugar Skulls I integrate deaths of loved ones, drugs, broken relationships, and of course, Aztec lore among other cultures. It deals with different social classes, as well. I find there are deeper stories to discover with the outcast characters. People who are frowned upon by society for whatever reason. Those who feel oppressed by whatever and whoever can find solace in mine and HSP’s works. We have recently adopted the slogan Rebel Literature as a way of saying we are anti-status quo. Pro anti-normalcy.

I find stories deep within your average Joe or average Jane characters, everyone has skeletons in their closets. My writing relates to a diverse demographic as we’ve all witnessed and experienced ugly in the world. Macklemore said, “I can’t control life but I control how I react to it,” and I enjoy exploring how different characters react to the world’s ugliness, as even then we can find some beauty within. At the end of the day, I want my readers to feel an inkling of inspiration. To get a sense of humility, and the fact that we are all a part of the same energy. Besides money, we are no different than the next person. Things truly are tough all over and we all have issues and struggles we deal with and hide daily.

Central to the theme of Sugar Skulls is the concept of mortality and the puzzle and mystery of death.  You agree?  This concept and the puzzle and mystery are also key ingredients in Mexican culture.  How important are these ideas in your own life and art?

Very well said. The Mexican culture has very deep views upon life and death. My parents were from Chihuahua, MX. Spanish was my first language. Mexican culture, my roots. My foundation. In Sugar Skulls, the protagonist, Micah, deals with having to not only recount pertinent deaths from his life, but relive them in order to find out how he died. His name is actually a play on the name of the Aztec ruler of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli. The deaths Micah deals with are mostly based on my own experiences. I lost my mother in 2002 and my father in 2017. I’ve also lost many friends and have come close with others. Throughout all of my own experiences I have learned that one never becomes accustomed to celebrating a lost one’s life, or mourning their death. Family is the core to Mexican culture, and I have been blessed with a very loving and supportive family. Mexican culture is also rooted in struggle and perseverance. My art carries a lot of this weight on its words and stories. In the end, we as humans are always attempting to learn from our past, define what we are living for, and leave a mark—whether positive or negative— before our time comes to an end.

What were you trying to do with Sugar Skulls? Do you think you succeeded?

Sugar Skulls started as an idea for a short story. Once I began writing, Micah showed me how much we had in common. How much deeper his story went. In a sense, a lot of my own pain was carried by Micah. With it first being an idea for a short story, the ultimate outcome surpassed my own expectations.

Was Juan Rulfo an influence on your writing of Sugar Skulls?  Or another Mexican writer?  Is Sugar Skulls noir, fantasy, horror, gothic?  Something else?

Mexican and Mexican/American culture has always played a huge influence, including my own experiences. Sadly, this is the first time I’ve heard of Juan Rulfo, but I have added his works to my reading list as of now and am excited to read them. Guillermo del Toro is definitely an influence. I have studied Mexican figures such as Zapata and Villa and the struggle of the Mexican people. There are many commonalities that have become universal in the States. I tried to touch on many of them in Sugar Skulls. My novel contains elements which can be sorted into many categories: horror, transgressive, mystery, gothic, noir, drama, suspense, and thriller.

What are your writing and publishing plans for the future?  Any works in progress?  Where can readers find Sugar Skulls?

As far as the moment goes, I plan to keep plugging away for Hindered Souls Press, i.e. my own works and our first signed author A. A. Medina’s and his novella Siphon. Keep preparing our two forthcoming authors: Renee Miller’s Eat the Rich July 13th; Leo X. Robertson’s Jesus of Scumburg in December. We have many events lined up this summer where we will have a booth: Starfest; Denver Punk Rock Flea Market; Estes Park Comic Con; and the Fort Collins Comic Con. We hope to add a few others as we progress through the year.

Hindered Souls Press has garnered some attention—we do not want to stop there. We look to continue growing, gaining readers and notoriety. For myself, I have a work in progress that is rooted in a taboo subject and touches on the amount of secrets we carry as humans while portraying great Samaritans.

Sugar Skulls and my novella The Die-Fi Experiment can be found on our website, there you can find our other authors as well as HSP merchandise. Amazon also carries HSP literature.

Thank you, tocayo.  Good luck with your publishing venture and your writing.  See you at the next book fair.



Manuel Ramos has three noir short stories in the literary pipeline: Night in Tunisia (Blood Business, Mario Acevedo and Joshua Viola, eds., Hex Publishing, 2017), Snake Farm (Culprits: The Heist Was Only the Beginning, Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips, eds., Polis Books, 2018), and Sitting Ducks (Blood and Gasoline, Mario Acevedo, ed., Hex Publishing, 2018). His next novel is scheduled for publication in September, 2018.

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