PGS 2023 Q&A: Larizza Joise Macabulos

Larizza Joise Macabulos, or LJ for short, enjoys gourmet cooking, fine wine, and, of course, scary stories. A lover of all things macabre, horror, coffee, tea, and music, she is a cult worshipper of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and HP Lovecraft. She graduated from AB Literature at the University of Santo Tomas, and her research focused on Gothic literature in the Philippines.  LJ hopes to publish a novel and  “Crimson All Over” is her first published work outside the university. 

Where did the story idea for Crimson All Over come from?

The inspiration for Crimson All Over is a combination of The Autopsy by Michael Shea, and memories from a particularly bad time in my life. I wanted to try telling a story from the corpse’s perspective, both through sensations and what happened around her as she was being autopsied and embalmed. Michael Shea’s descriptions captivated me in their almost prosaic manner of narrating, and a big, morbid part of me wanted to put myself in the headspace of a deceased person having to experience transgression in both existence and the examination of their body. 

What came easy to you when it came to writing this story?

If I were to be completely honest, nothing was easy about this story. Besides the dilemma of having to show readers the scenario of being cut open, eviscerated and embalmed, I also wanted the story to work towards something. I didn’t want a simple gore fest to gross people out, I wanted them to stay and read how we got to that point. There was also the act of remembering bad times to emulate the feelings again, while being careful not to be fully immersed and return to that state of mind. Writing Crimson All Over was exhausting, no question, but I can’t be prouder. 

What was the most challenging thing you had to overcome to complete this story, and how did you deal with that?

There was a lot I had to overcome in writing this story, the biggest being the anxiety of being judged by family or friends. This story is one of my darker stories, and there is always an assumption that your work is a reflection of who you are as a whole. While I won’t deny that writing this was inspired by a particularly bad state of mind I experienced, it doesn’t in any way reflect my morals or my perspectives on life. Because of that possibility, I was reluctant to submit this in the beginning. I used to ask myself if this was how I wanted to debut as a writer, with something this visceral and macabre. The more I wrote, though, the more I wanted it to be read. So, I took that step. 

What are the top three writing tips you would like to share with all aspiring storytellers out there?

Start. It sounds rhetorical, I know. However there are a lot of people who have fully-fleshed out stories in their head, and everything planned out, only to never find the time to actually type or jot them down. I’ve been there countless times, and trust me, regret is inevitable when you don’t start. It doesn’t matter how or where you begin; everyone has their own style and technique. The first step is always the hardest, but once you get the ball rolling, everything becomes much simpler.

Don’t strive to please everyone. Editing is inevitable when you want to write, whether from yourself or other people. The more people you ask for opinions about your work, the more perspectives and possible improvements you can discover. But mind the double-edged sword there. Constructive criticism helps a lot, but never lose sight of your plot. There were times that I accommodated comments so much, I hardly recognized my own work. Accept points of improvement, but don’t be afraid to defend some of the narrative choices you made if you think they get the message across better.

Read. To quote the great Stephen King, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” If you’re aspiring to be a writer, chances are you’re an avid reader too.Literature is transcendent, an infinite realm of knowledge from which we can find ourselves in others, and vice versa. Reading is a ritual that paves the way to that endless plane, and provides tools we can use to traverse it. Writing is the mastery of reading, as you now wield the same ability to shape a world from words alone. So yeah, read.

What’s the one thing not mentioned in your profile that you would like people to know about you?

I absolutely love video games and their storytelling. The Silent Hill franchise is my absolute favorite (surprise, surprise), and one of the reasons I got into horror and gothic narratives in the first place. How each installment depicted transgressions and trauma still give me goosebumps when I analyze them, and the monster design’s are macabre masterpieces. I’d collect their figurines if I could. 

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