Carryn Larrinaga is quickly becoming one of the most influential names in horror, especially in the southwestern U.S. As an internationally best-selling mystery and horror author, She has won multiple awards for her work, including the League of Utah Writers Gold Typewriter and the Cat Writers Association Muse Medallion. In 2021, she was named Writer of the Year by the League of Utah Writers. Here, she sat down with Weird Little Worlds Press and shared what inspires her (besides her cat, of course).
WLW: What is a question that people ask you a lot about writing and your published works and that you don’t love?
CL: So a question I get a lot is where do you get your ideas? I don’t like it. As soon as someone asks me that question my brain dumps any memory of ever having had an idea, and I just stand there. I’m like, “I don’t know, where do I get my ideas? Do I have them? Have I ever?” Because for real, I can never answer it. But if I’m not asked that, then I know where I get my ideas from.
WLW: What’s a question that you wish people would ask you instead?
CL: I like being asked what I enjoy about writing. I feel like they’re asking it because they’re getting ready to dip their toes in the water. And maybe they want to know if it’s worth it. I could talk at length about what I really love about writing because it makes me feel good. And it’s fun, and it’s immersive. You can block out the world just as effectively as you can when you’re reading. I get excited when someone asks, “What do you like about writing. Does writing make you feel good?” Heck, yeah! You should write too!
WLW: So what do you think is the most pleasurable part of writing then? Why write instead of just reading? What is so attractive to you about the writing process that you don’t get just for reading?
CL: I think that they’re both, for me, forms of escapism. But I don’t feel like I can work out as much of my own feelings and my own anxiety when I’m reading. It helps me relax, but it’s like the difference between doing a thought for the day or going to therapy for an hour. Yes, they both are self-care. But I feel like when I’m writing, I can actually process things in a different way than I could while I was reading.
WLW: You are also involved in a bunch of really unusual other associations like the Cat Writers Association. Could you explain that?
CL: It is an organization for people who write about cats. I found out about it because a story of mine in an anthology that was heavily cat-centric won an award from them. The publisher sent us all the great news. We won an award and I liked the Cat Writers Association. I decided to show up more. It’s a really cool community. My two favorite things are spookiness and cats. As much as I can, I like to put them together.
WLW: Do you have cats? Do they influence your current writing?
CL: I do have orange tabbies. They are very handsome and wild and loud and destructive. And yes, my own captive writing influence.
I was writing my debut novel. It was a thriller. Then my super beloved tortoiseshell cat, Striker, passed away. I was devastated. So, I thought I need to write her into this book, because I never want her to vanish. I put her into the story and it just spun out from there. It became a cozy, supernatural mystery about a psychic who has a cat named Striker and they solve mysteries involving ghosts together.
It’s really fun because when people meet me at signings, or they reach out on social media, the thing I hear all the time is Striker is their favorite character.
WLW: How did you end up getting into horror? Where are you at in your genre journey?
CL: I’ve been writing horror since I was a kid. Or at least what the kid thinks is horror. My very first horror story ever was called A Spooky Ghost. Yeah, and it’s about a spooky ghost, who gets up that morning and goes trick-or-treating. Nothing happens. It’s just this pesky ghost. But I’ve always loved horror and the way that it made me feel, apprehensive, but excited at the same time. That’s what I loved to read growing up. I think that’s what it is for a lot of us. What naturally comes out is what we consume and what we experience.
WLW: But you haven’t stuck with horror. How did you manage to just transition into some of the other genres that you are writing?
CL: Well, I think mystery was always back there. Because when I wasn’t reading horror, I was reading cat-focused mysteries, primary theories by William Jackson Braun. So on the one hand, I’d be reading Clive Barker. And then on the other hand, I’m reading stories about this older gentleman being murdered. So I think that that also was just in me. I like to combine the two. That’s my sweet spot. That’s where I have the most fun.
The urban fantasy is kind of like an outlier. I still don’t really know where that urge came from. And I wrote it thinking this will be a great series. And then when it was written, I realized no, I think that was a one and done. Like, I don’t think that I have that kind of story living in me. My primary focus now is definitely mystery and horror.
WLW: Now, we know that you talk about scary movies as being kind of instrumental in why you went into horror eventually. Was there a movie that you can remember watching as a child that maybe damaged you permanently?
CL: Yeah, for sure. Um, damage is definitely a good word. Did you ever see The Gate with Stephen Doors? The Gate is fantastic and very bad. And I think that it had a pretty solid impact on my anxiety and the way that my brain works, because the premise of the film is that this kid, Mike, has a weird dream about his treehouse falling into this other world, right? And then that night, the tree house or the tree gets struck by lightning and breaks apart and leaves behind the big old hole where the tree was and it accidentally opens a portal to hell. To this day, I’m so anxious about Final Destination-style sequences of events that are like little things that keep building up to the inevitable. I haven’t seen that movie since I was a kid. So I don’t know if it holds up. Don’t take it as a recommendation.
WLW: I would love to ask you a little bit about Mousetrap. This was released on January 3 and it was a massive hit for Timber Ghost Press, the publisher. What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing the book?
CL: One thing I definitely learned about myself is that I will never be done processing grief. I bet the central theme of the majority of my writing and writing mousetrap I was like, Am I ever gonna get over any of the grief that I’ve experienced in my life? Or do we just keep chewing on it over and over?
WLW: Was there like a particular event that inspired this? And if it’s too personal, let me know.
CL: Yeah, I feel like over the last five or six years, there’s been a turning point in, like, the amount of loss that I’ve experienced in my life. I feel like I was able to go a good long time, you know, since losing someone important to me, and then the last five years, there’s been a lot of loss. And going through that loss, which was just a couple of weeks ago, I had that same realization again, like, I’m never gonna stop. I’m never gonna get better at it, you know?
WLW: I have actually been thinking about this a lot lately myself. I think that we never stop grieving. I believe that the form of the grief changes. But I don’t think that we ever discontinue. I think that that’s the gift that we give the dead. Sometimes it’s an outward grief—the lump in your throat or the tears or it’s the screaming, you know, it’s the anger. But eventually what happens is that grief turns into this pearl and it gets put inside. And then we are able to create with that, and it becomes something that is shimmering and beautiful and lasting. But it never stops hurting. That core of sand in that pearl, it’s always there, rubbing us—sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less.
CL: Yeah, everything you just said is absolutely beautiful. It’s 100% true, because the grief fuels so much of my writing. But yeah. Eventually, that feeling does change. We’re able to remember people with a smile instead of with tears.
WLW: So what is your next big project? What are you going to do next?
CL: I’m returning to the world of spooky mysteries. I have a trilogy called The Soul Searchers Mysteries. That’s the one with Striker the cat who pals around with her psychic friends. The trilogy is about the psychic, but I wanted to see what Striker was up to that whole time. So I’m writing a series of companion novellas that are the same events but from Striker’s point of view.
WLW: I am so grateful that I got a chance to talk to you tonight. And hopefully, everybody who hears this is able to go and get a copy of Mousetrap and read it. Because Caryn is a fantastic writer, and a fantastic human.
The Weird Team is comprised of several unhinged individuals that have a love of life and a lust for adventure. They scour the world to find the strangest, scariest, and most wonderful news in the universe.