Claire's pet is a human, but his murderous impulses are animalistic in Michael J. Seidlinger's new novel, My Pet Serial Killer. The second book in Cinestate's "Fangoria Presents" series, My Pet Serial Killer is now available to add to your bookshelf, and as a special Halloween treat, we caught up with Seidlinger in our latest Q&A to discuss the twisted love story at the dark heart of his new novel, expanding upon his original story to release a new version with Fangoria, and exploring the deadly power dynamics of his book's killer relationship.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Michael! When and how did you originally come up with the idea for the twisted love story that is My Pet Serial Killer?
Michael J Seidlinger: Thank you for having me. The idea behind the book came to me when I was watching the South Korean film I Saw the Devil. The movie itself is now somewhat lost on me, but there was one plot point that still sends shivers down my spine and excitement through my mind. The protagonist, stereotypically a cop, hunts the antagonist, go figure a serial killer, using a tracking device lodged into the killer’s neck. The protagonist watches from afar until right at the point of murder and/or rape and he runs into the scene and beats the ever-living shit out of the antagonist and leaves him nearly dead. The antagonist, frustrated and demoralized, can’t help but continue his behavior, just as the protagonist can’t help but seek vengeance. This play with the power dynamic gave the idea for the “pet” aspect in My Pet Serial Killer. I let it gestate, sitting in my mind for a bit, just what a pet serial killer might be, and not too long after, Claire started talking…
How long did it take you to write My Pet Serial Killer? Did you decide to make any major changes in the story along the way, or did Claire and the Gentleman Killer’s crimson-stained journey unfold as you originally envisioned it?
Michael J Seidlinger: It took me about three weeks to write the initial version (the version that came out years ago). The one you’re reading now, the Fangoria edition, was severely revised, adding in a part two, essentially becoming 80% new. Between both versions, Claire and the Gentleman Killer really came into their own quickly, which you can probably tell in the way the book is so voice-driven. Claire was one of those characters that I didn’t really need to grapple with in terms of motivations, traits, etc. She arrived to me readymade. And the Gentleman Killer (and the other killers)? They never needed to be much more than the sum of their own neuroses and flaws.
My Pet Serial Killer originally came out in 2013, but Fangoria’s Cinestate has now given it new life, bringing your story to a whole new audience of horror-loving readers. How did My Pet Serial Killer’s journey to Cinestate come about?
Michael J Seidlinger: It’s been amazing, working with Fangoria and seeing the book gain new traction with horror readers and devotees everywhere. The original edition went out of print not even six months after pub-date. I’d occasionally get people reaching out to me asking if I had any copies they could buy. Hear that enough times and you bet you’re going to revisit the book AND try to see about giving it new life. In the case of My Pet Serial Killer, new life meant realizing I could write it better and going back and essentially undoing most of it, constructing a larger story, and then seeking publication the old-fashioned unsolicited way. Will Evans, the mastermind behind Deep Vellum Publishing and Deep Vellum Books, initially helped co-found and design Cinestate’s mission alongside Dallas Sonnier. Though Will is no longer with the company, he helped acquire some of the first books in the Fangoria line and in my case, it was as simple as having a conversation with Will at a Brooklyn Book Fest event, sending him the manuscript, and not too longer after, receiving the offer for publication. Dallas and Will saw potential in the book and snatched it up.
This novel subverts and plays with pre-conceived notions of serial killers in pop culture. How important was it for you to approach this subgenre of horror in a unique way?
Michael J Seidlinger: I dove in expecting to do just that—so I’m hyped to see it’s become one of the fulcrums readers resonate with. The novel explores the subversion of power between killer and victim, partner and partner. Likewise, it explores the severity of that power, wherein exhibited in sex and violence, you see the most extreme and dominant forms of sex as violent, the most extremes of violence bordering on sexual. I was fascinated by this paradigm and Claire, the main character, thankfully became the marquee specimen from which these themes could be explored. Oh, and thanks for calling it unique. So often we call something a “tour-de-force” when really it’s just a “tour-de-bore.”
You don’t shy away from taking readers to some blood-soaked corners of the hardcore horror world in this book. Was there anything you left off the page or almost didn’t include due to its graphic content, or were you determined to dive headfirst into Claire’s visceral and crimson world?
Michael J Seidlinger: Why shy away from desire? I didn’t leave anything off the page. Even when I went through edits with Will, we added rather than subtracted from the manuscript. It became more fleshed out the more gruesome and bold the details. Claire would never shy away, so why would I?
Were you a big fan of horror growing up? If so, what authors, filmmakers, and other artists in the genre influenced your own writing?
Michael J Seidlinger: Oh, you know it. I was always into anything that explored the darkness of humanity, and yeah, that includes horror. I was always more desensitized to that stuff, probably because I looked at it from a conceptual rather than emotional perspective. Instead of, say, letting a scene really get under my skin, I’d be fixated on WHY it’s getting under my skin, those responses. Studying and analyzing, always studying and analyzing. Guess that’s why I started writing. Maybe I should have gone in a more lucrative direction, like being—I don’t know—a hedge fund douchebag. At least I’d have money or something and would be using those analytical skills. I don’t know. Look me up on Venmo if you’ve got any change that you’re just tossing away. I’m easy to find.
What do you hope readers take away from My Pet Serial Killer?
Michael J Seidlinger: I hope it leaves a mark, and Claire visits you in a sex dream at least once.
With My Pet Serial Killer out now from Cinestate, what other projects do you have in the works that you’re excited about? Will you be working on more horror projects in the future?
Michael J Seidlinger: I have completed a home invasion novel and am working on something new that is more literary and less in the horror space. Always drumming up ideas and potential concepts, and I tend to keep busy, so who knows what else might end up with a couple thousand words and a reason to continue exploring it in a longer, more fleshed-out form.
To learn more about My Pet Serial Killer, visit its official Amazon page.