A few months ago, I was approached by Jose Oliver De Castro, a college student and contributor to his school's newspaper and magazine. He wanted to interview me for a feature article in the newspaper and I, obviously, was more than happy to comply. Along the way, Jose's editor decided to make the interview part of the magazine. Jose was excited, but he had his reservations. He worried that the story would get dropped, since not everything makes the final cut. I told him that if it did get dropped, I'd publish it myself on Inside Martin. Well, the fact that we've gotten this far should tell you how the story ends. So, for your reading pleasure, I present to you...
FEATURE THIS!: An Interview with Novelist Martin Lastrapes
By Jose Oliver De Castro
“I’m a vegetarian and, as a vegetarian, I was fascinated with the idea of cannibalism.”
This was just one of the ideas that Martin Lastrapes, 34, had in mind when writing his debut novel, Inside the Outside, which tells the story of a young girl named Timber Marlow who grows up as a cannibal in a cult in the San Bernardino Mountains. When she is about 14 or 15 years old, she manages to escape the cult into the mainstream society, where she tries to assimilate. For Lastrapes, Inside the Outside is his dark and twisted version of the coming of age story.
“I always thought of it as a metaphor for growing up. When you grow up you live in a relatively small place. You start off with your house, eventually your house turns into your block and your neighborhood,” Lastrapes said. “At some point you have to leave that small isolated corner of the world that was your own and discover the world is bigger than you realized and there are different people that you have to encounter.”
While writing Inside the Outside, Lastrapes used the metaphor with Timber Marlow in mind.
“I took it to the extreme in a relatively dark book,” Lastrapes said, “where instead of growing up in a neighborhood, she grew up in a cult of cannibals.”
Upon its release, the book reached #3 on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases in Horror.
“There was actually a certain point where I was even ahead of Stephen King, which was very exciting,” Lastrapes said. “It’s been an exciting time and I’m sort of blown away by both the initial success of the book and also the reception of the book.”
Lastrapes was born on December 9, 1977, in the city of Orange and was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, California. After graduating from Alta Loma High School in 1996, he attended Chaffey College, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State San Bernardino. While at Cal State San Bernardino, Lastrapes met James Brown, a creative writing professor and acclaimed author of The Los Angeles Dairies and This River.
“The time when I met James Brown is really when I got serious and focused about my career as a writer,” Lastrapes said.
Brown described Lastrapes as a serious, determined student when they first crossed paths in the classroom years ago. As Brown’s student, Lastrapes made it easy for him as a professor.
“I’d like to flatter myself that I helped improve his already strong writing,” Brown said, “but all I can really take credit for is encouraging an already talented writer.”
In 1996, during his first year in college, Lastrapes took his first English course with S. Kay Murphy, author of Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford. It was Murphy who Lastrapes credits with being the first teacher to take notice of his writing and encourage him to pursue it.
“Martin’s essays were far and above the writing level of the rest of the class,” Murphy said. “I enjoyed his casual yet fluid writing style, and often wrote notes in the margins of his papers about his writing ability.”
Growing up, Lastrapes' first significant creative influence was his older brother, Greg, a filmmaker and musician. As a kid, Lastrapes watched his brother perform on stage at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood, while also making many television appearances as an actor and singer. Greg made it a point to tap into his brother’s creativity early on.
“Since the day that Martin could read, we have been collaborating,” Greg said. “I always work him into whatever project I've got cooking, and that has included writing projects.”
While Lastrapes had many creative interests growing up, from comic books to movies, it was his discovery of creative writing that lit a fire inside of him.
“Writing became the ideal medium to sort of exercise my creativity,” Lastrapes said. “I fell in love with it when I was 18 and we have had a passionate love affair for the last 15 years.”
For the next 15 years, Lastrapes is looking ahead as he evolves and develops as a writer.
“I’m definitely not done growing and I plan on getting better,” Lastrapes said, “otherwise it would just be boring if this were the end of the road.”