If the path he's on is any indication, there may come a day when Estevan Vega is too big a deal to grant interviews to sites like this one. But at the moment, on his rise up the blood-soaked ladder of horror fiction success, I had a rare opportunity to sit down and speak with the young man, thanks to Vault contributor Marilyn Merlot, who first brought Vega to my attention and made this interview possible.
A fellow resident of the state of Connecticut, Vega has been writing since childhood, and in fact the work that would become his first published novel, Servant of the Realm, was begun at the age of 12. Since then, he has published the dark, psychological thriller The Sacred Sin, and the 21-year-old's third novel to date, Arson, published this past May. Find out more about Vega, Arson, and his other books at the author's official website.
What first inspired you to want to become a writer? Was horror always the genre you were interested in getting into?
My dad has been a huge inspiration for me. If it weren't for my father, Joe Vega, I wouldn't be a writer. He actually pulled me away from the television when I was in fifth grade and helped me write my first short story, which my teacher ended up giving me an A for. It was sick! I started to enjoy writing these stories, and the grades rocked. It was just awesome to have someone want to read something that I had written. So I decided to start writing a book. I thought, "Why not?" I have always flirted that line between horror and the supernatural. I really like doing that. When I go into a book or into a movie, I love that unsettled feeling right in your gut, so I try to emulate that in my writing. Am I horror? Hmmm... Am I real? Hmmm... Am I a writer who loves both and also gets stoked for the supernatural? Oh, yes!
What writers in particular did you look up to or enjoy reading and why?
Stephen King. He is kinda the guy to aim for as far as being a writer. I also really enjoyed stuff by Edgar Allen Poe and Ray Bradbury. I like Ted Dekker... he can write some eerie stuff sometimes. I try to get into a bunch of writers, because it allows me to get new concepts, try different perspectives and so on. Each writer has something to say, and it's cool to bounce around. But I always looked up to King. He's just accomplished so much in his lifetime. Oh, yeah...I'm jealous.
Talk about the genesis of your very first novel and how you got yourself published.
I started Servant of the Realm when I was 12. I had this crazy idea that I'd be famous by the time I hit prom. I was ridiculous. But I was set to change the world with my words. I ended up working on that, and a few drafts later had a book I wanted to actually see in print. So I just started submitting it places and published it with the first person to say they liked it. Maybe not the smartest choice, but you live and you learn, right? Since then it's been a crazy six years.
How useful has the internet been in growing a fan base and getting the word out?
Immensely important. The internet has helped me spread the word about myself using a website, Facebook, Twitter. I've also done interviews like this and with internet radio, and blog tours... none of that would be possible. It's allowed me to get people from around the country and around the world to hear about Arson and about me. It's been a sick tool in spreading the fire! Plus, email and the social networking sites allow me to connect directly with my readers in a way that just ten years ago might not have been possible.
What themes are important to you in your fiction?
Regret. Loss. Love. Fear. Redemption. All of my books deal with these in one way or another.
How would you say your latest book, Arson, is different from your previous work?
Very different but very similar. You can still tell it's me writing it, for those who've read either Servant of the Realm or The Sacred Sin. But the writing has just improved. I've learned a lot in the few years since my last book. I focused intensely on the characters in Arson, more so than I've ever done before. The people are far more important than the situations they face, though those situation do play a role in defining who they are. But I suppose where the three books stray from one another most would be the mood. It's a very slow burn kind of sensation that you'll get while reading Arson. One of those feelings that you're not sure why you're getting that way or where it's coming from, but it stays with you. It's real. I love that. Arson's also my first book to take place in Connecticut, which is cool.
What would you most compare it to? How would you describe it to someone who knew nothing about it?
It's been compared to Firestarter, Twilight, Jumper, Odd Thomas. A lot of people are really getting into it. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, you gotta. It's a cool story. Arson is basically a story about a boy who is trying to grow up. He's struggling with the pressures of maturity, but also coping with the fact that he can start fires with his mind. In some ways, it's a typical story about a boy who has a crush on the hot girl he can't get... but it goes so much deeper than that, it really does. It's got a bit for everybody: boy with superpowers, chick with a mask, psychotic grandmother, and a whole lot of family dysfunction.
Do you have any interest in your work being adapted into movies?
Are you serious? Of course. A few people have shown some interest, but I'm just waiting for the right deal. The book's only been out about 2 months, so I can wait for the phone to ring a bit more. But yeah, Arson would be a sick movie. I have always envisioned my books as movies.
What do you think of the state of horror fiction today?
I think it's a bit splintered. There are people still doing it and doing it well, but even King has broken off the beaten path some to explore other styles of writing, as Anne Rice has done, and I think that's great. Splintered is okay. I do think that horror can be experienced in many different ways, though. Something doesn't have to jump out and make you crap your pants in order to be horrifying, and that's the beauty of writing. You can literally horrify someone and not even be classified as a horror writer, but then you can spook someone only a little and everybody freaks out.
If you could give any advice to aspiring horror fiction writers, what would it be?
Just freakin' write. If you're passionate about something, it'll show. Study other writers. Know your competition and the market. Think about what terrifies you and see if you can make somebody else feel that same feeling. And... burn something.
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