Local Author Wins Award for Debut Novel

Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by John Liviero

Author Christian Laforet finds few things as unsettling as apartment buildings. “They’re kind of strange, when you think about it,” Christian muses. “Especially in North America, where we have these big bubbles of space. But then we choose to live in these cramped buildings with hundreds of strangers in them. And there’s all these weird noises and weird smells that aren’t yours. It’s your home, but it’s infested with people you don’t know.” 

Christian’s path to words was—if you’ll forgive the pun—a storied one.

Initially interested in cartoons, Christian studied animation at St. Clair College. However, it wasn’t long before he realized that his interests were a bit less collaborative.

“I had a eureka moment after graduating,” Christian recalls. “I realized that it wasn’t so much the drawing and the animating that I liked, it was the storytelling. Being able to just write something and not have to draw 7,000 pictures to go with it was a huge relief!”

After discovering his real passion, Christian abandoned frames for pages. For a time, he focused on comics, churning out scripts for different artists.

Although eventually, another eureka moment hit him “like a truck.” 

“It eventually dawned on me that if I just wrote prose fiction, then I didn’t need someone to draw it,” Christian explains. “I didn’t need to work with an artist. I could just let the words speak for themselves.”

Inspired by this realization, Christian began his writing career in earnest. At the age of 29, he sat down and furiously pounded out his first novel, The Sands, in three weeks.

And the end result was—“The worst!” Christian laughs. “It was no good! But I thought it was incredible at the time. And the experience was unbelievable. I was hooked after that.” 

For the next few years, Christian did what all young artists do. He experimented. He attempted different stories, different characters. He embarrassed himself. He tried to please his increasingly fickle Muse. But, as with all young artists, the few pearls of wisdom he discovered during those years were enough to keep him moving forward.

“I spent those years focusing on short stories,” Christian recalls. “I decided that if I worked on these bite-sized projects then I could learn the craft and wrap my head around storytelling.”

Christian posted most of these stories on a blog he maintained at the time. He even submitted a few to literary journals and received some “very nice” rejection letters.

And eventually, Christian found a place for himself among other local writers. 

“I had some friends who were amateur writers as well,” Christian states. “We ended up joining a now-defunct writing group. Every two weeks we would meet, show off our stuff, and get it critiqued.”

Fortunately for Christian, some of the members of the group were established published writers.

“They were all very kind,” Christian explains. “They would go through my work and tell me the mistakes I didn’t understand I was making. They would say stuff like, ‘You went from limited to omniscient perspective in this scene.’ And I would just blink at them!”

But Christian’s talent was always there. And before long, thanks to some guidance and encouragement, his skill started to keep pace. 

Christian continued to hone his craft on short stories, eventually publishing a collection: The Space Between Houses. 

And meanwhile, he was sinking his teeth into what would eventually become his debut novel.

“I spent five years on that novel,” Christian admits. “And it wasn’t even because it took that long to write, necessarily. It was because I wrote it and rewrote it. I did multiple drafts.”

After about three years of labor, Christian was unsatisfied with the results. He put the whole project on ice and changed his focus.

“I started working on a crime novella in the meantime,” Christian recalls. “And it was while working on that project that my writing voice truly emerged. I really liked the way I wrote that story. It felt like me.”

Christian tried to revise his manuscript using the new skills he’d developed. But unfortunately, he found the process impossible.

“It was like dumping out two boxes of puzzles and trying to put it all together,” Christian states. “I eventually realized that fixing it would take longer than just rewriting it.”

So Christian did the one thing that haunts the nightmares of all writers. He opened a fresh Word document and typed in: “Chapter One.”

And one year later, Christian had Infested.

The novel tells the story of Olivia, who wakes up in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm to discover that all her neighbors have been infected by parasitic insects. After trying to escape, she finds that an unseen force may be keeping her there for nefarious reasons.

Infested is a simple premise, written in a way that allows for maximum impact.

“The whole book takes place in one night,” Christian explains. “And I want the act of reading the book to reflect that. It’s very in-the-moment. You feel like you’re moving in real-time with Olivia. It’s less like a rollercoaster and more like a funhouse. There’s no breaks.”

Infested was published in 2022 by Eerie River Publishing (under the penname C.M. Forest). 

And now, a full year after its release, Infested won the 2023 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best Horror Novel.

“The award took me by surprise,” Christian admits. “Eerie River submitted the book to the horror category, but that was a long time ago. And the book had already been out for a whole year. Then all of a sudden I got a notice that it was a finalist!”

While all the accolades have meant a lot to Christian, the praise from his writing community has meant the most to him. 

“I’ve come to know an accomplished author named Craig Davidson, who publishes under Nick Cutter and Patrick Lestewka,” Christian states. “I reached out to him to do a blurb for the book, to see if he liked it and was interested. He gave me just this glowing review. That meant so much to me, as a fan of his. And in talking to him since then, he’s continued to champion the book. He really talks it up to people. It was surreal!”  

And now, having experienced his first true success, Christian is doing what all young artists do. He’s continuing to experiment, attempting different stories and different characters. And now, instead of just trying to please his Muse, he’s trying to appease his new legion of adoring fans.

It’s not a task for the faint of heart, but Christian is up to the challenge.

Just don’t ask him to swing by your apartment complex. 

Infested is available where all books are sold. 

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