Book Club

6 takeaways from Book Club’s author talk with Eric LaRocca

"I love that marriage of the grotesque and the sumptuous."

For writer Eric LaRocca, it might as well be Halloween all year round. As a lover of everything from the horrifically grim to the lighthearted and spooky, LaRocca is always living in the world of horror.  

What he loves about horror is its “honesty,” the author told readers at this month’s virtual Book Club event. 

“Horror says to us, ‘Don’t look away from the grotesque…Look at this monstrosity. Look at everything that’s wrong with the world,’” he said. “I think you can explore really difficult issues, really difficult themes with horror, and that’s why I’m just so drawn to it. That’s why I think it’s a really engaging and compelling framework to tell stories.”


LaRocca joined us to discuss his horror fiction collection, “Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes” with Geoffrey Raywood, manager of Trident Booksellers and Cafe. LaRocca’s book, now out on paperback, was put together after the title novella became a viral sensation in 2021.

The collection, along with other works like the new novel “Everything the Darkness Eats,” has won him praise from readers and critics. He is the winner of the Splatterpunk Award and was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award. 

During the author discussion, the New England native talked about finding horror in commonplace items, the horror writers that inspire his work, and why he thinks New England is the perfect place to set a twisted tale. Read on for takeaways from their discussion or watch the video below and sign up for more Book Club updates.

Horror is a safe space to confront life’s darker moments.

LaRocca grew up feeling isolated in a small town in Connecticut, where he battled anxiety and bullying even as a young child. He fell in love with reading and found horror to be the most cathartic genre because it gave him the room to explore his anxieties and come out of the experience unscathed.


“The advantage that horror has over other genres is that horror really is a safe space to confront fears, anxieties, phobias,” the author said. “With horror…I’m just sitting in my room reading something that may disturb me mentally and may cause some alarm when I’m reading it, but it’s not going to physically hurt me. And that, to me, was really exhilarating. It’s still really exhilarating.”

LaRocca leaned on his own experiences in online chat rooms to write the title story.

The collection’s first novella centers on a queer relationship between two women, Zoey and Agnes, who meet in a virtual chat room and continue an online relationship. 

LaRocca was inspired to write the story because of his own experiences in internet chat rooms as a young, closeted gay man. He wanted to create characters who turned to chat rooms for belonging when they couldn’t find it in real life. 

“I was desperate to chat with people on the internet and talk to anybody [who] would care or understand anything about my identity. The horrifying thing of that story is…part of me thinks if I was in Agnes’ situation and if I had her circumstances, I might do something kind of similar,” LaRocca shared. 

Each story in this collection is about the human need for connection.

LaRocca put this collection together after the success of “Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke” but it wasn’t until after he had arranged the pieces together that he realized they shared a common theme, according to the writer. 


In the book’s second story, a couple grapples with the recent death of their teenage son, and in the last, a man is pulled into an “ever-more dangerous game” after a confrontation with his neighbors. Fundamentally, though, each story is about a desire to feel connected with others. 

“It’s so funny because when I was putting together this collection…I just arranged them at first but it wasn’t until after that I really discovered, oh, they are linked and they are really closely tethered to one another,” he said. “It’s interesting to me at least how the stories really are intrinsically linked with one another.”

LaRocca considers himself a student of horror.

When he first started writing horror fiction, LaRocca went back to the classics of the genre in both film and literature. He watched monster movies like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy” while making his way through Stephen King novels. While he loves all those titles, what he really connected with was the work of Clive Barker, whose “Books of Blood” series made him a staple of 1980s horror. Barker’s work showed LaRocca that there was an audience for the truly “perverted, disgusting, [and] grotesque.”

“It’s beautifully written. It’s really well done and just so poetic and lyrical, and I love that marriage of the grotesque and the sumptuous,” he said. 

From there, he continued to read transgressive horror authors like Poppy Z. Brite, Kathe Koja, and Hailey Piper, who continue to inform his work. 

LaRocca is fascinated by turning the ordinary into the horrific.

Good horror writers have a way of turning normal objects into the stuff of nightmares. Think VHS tapes in “The Ring,” showers in “Psycho,” and Saint Bernards in “Cujo.” In “Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke,” that object is an apple peeler. 


“I love when you consider something really frightening that you hadn’t considered frightening before,” LaRocca said. “I love when everyday, banal things are inverted and flipped on their head and really presented in this new fresh, and grotesque way.”

New England is a great backdrop for dark, twisted stories.

As the product of a small New England town, LaRocca is constantly inspired by the “level of isolation” that can exist in this region. He pointed to Stephen King, who has used Maine as the setting for countless horror novels and short stories.

The writer shared how his own isolation informed his creativity and his love of reading and writing. The story “Enchantment” is set in a hotel inspired by the real-life Oceanic Hotel, off the coast of New Hampshire and his upcoming project is also set in the Granite State.  

“New England is the perfect place for horrible things to happen in fiction,” LaRocca said. “I’m a big fan of New England and I especially love Boston and I see myself writing more stories set here for many, many years.”