Friday, 29 April 2011

O'Neil De Neux interview: New Orleans Confidential

New Orleans Confidential by O'Neil De Noux
£2.08/$2.99


Best known for his character-drive crime fiction, O’Neil De Noux writes in many disciplines – suspense, fantasy, horror, western, literary, children’s fiction, mainstream fiction, science-fiction, religious, romance, humor and erotica. He has had eight novels published, six short story collections and over three hundred short story sales in thirteen countries.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

NEW ORLEANS CONFIDENTIAL is a collection of eleven short stories set in the 1940s featuring a lone-wolf private eye named Lucien Caye.

How important is a good title?

Fellow New Orleans writer Walker Percy once said, “A good title should intrigue, without being too baffling or too obvious.” I think titles are critically important. How many times have you thought back to a book and couldn’t remember the title? I work hard at my titles. As a former private eye, I realize how much of the work is confidential, so coming up with NEW ORLEANS CONFIDENTIAL wasn’t that hard. Putting New Orleans in the title has helped draw readers to some of my other books and I continued with the theme in NEW ORLEANS NOCTURNAL (a collection of NOPD police homicide stories) and NEW ORLEANS IRRESISTIBLE (a collection of erotic mystery stories). My eBook collection that is selling the best is NEW ORLEANS MYSTERIES (stories set from the 1890s to the 21st Century). I truly believe people search the eBook database and come across NEW ORLEANS MYSTERIES and try it.

I have other recent titles that I worked hard at, including SLICK TIME (a sexy caper novel), MAFIA APHRODITE (an erotic suspense novel).

Do you have any other projects on the go?

After recovering from Hurricane Katrina and some health issues, I reached a plateau a few years back and have been writing non-stop. As soon as I finish one book, I immediately start another and write short stories as I write novels.

During the last two years, I wrote an epic historical novel that will be released in 2012. At 320,000 words, it is the biggest and by far the best thing I’ve ever written. It was a titanic endeavour, beginning with six months intensive research, resulting in 70,000 words of historical notes. The book should be of interest in Britain as well as the US since it involves the last time the American and British armies met as enemies on a battlefield – The Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. It is the book I was meant to write.

As soon as I finished that book, as I was editing it, I began another and just finished a Lucien Caye private eye novel set in 1950 New Orleans. I am about to start another novel.

How important is a book's central character?

Pretty damn important, especially in our genre. My latest novel, JOHN RAVEN BEAU (a novel about an NOPD detective), is the first book I named for the main character. I write character-driven crime fiction. I try not to burden the reader with all the police procedures (I know them by heart) or weigh the story down with too many plot twists. What the main character does, thinks, feels and his/her reactions to conflict is more important. It is all very personal.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

My friend and short-story mentor George Alec Effinger once claimed he didn’t like writing. He liked to ‘have written’.

I like writing - the entire creative process from the initial inspiration to selecting which characters will inhabit the story, what will happen, to plotting out the storyline, researching, then outlining the story. Most of all I enjoy the actual composition. Writing. I even enjoy the re-writes, chiselling away at the book until it is perfect, shining it up and then moving on to something new.

What was the last good eBook you read?

BARONNE STREET by another fellow New Orleans writer Kent Westmoreland. He has created a very cool lead character, Burleigh Drummond, who isn’t actually a private eye but a ‘fixer’, a man who drives expensive cars, wears expensive suits and does things for the rich they don’t want to dirty their hands with. In this debut novel, Burleigh learns, “love sometimes means having to solve your ex-girlfriend’s murder.”

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

In 2001, I adapted my short story “Waiting for Alaina” into a screenplay, submitted it to a local production company which filmed it for local access TV and it aired throughout south Louisiana for several months. It was a nice, small production.

Encouraged, I adapted my police novel THE BIG KISS into a screenplay and wrote an original screenplay THE LONG COLD (about a private eye). Both were shopped around by my agent with no takers.

I enjoy writing scripts and if I could draw any interest, I would write more, but I admit I prefer writing novels and short stories.

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

Yes. Besides mysteries, I read a lot of historical novels (Bernard Cornwell, Alexander Kent, Ken Follett, Jeff Shaara), speculative fiction (Harlan Ellison, Kate Wilhelm, C. L. Moore, George Alec Effinger), mainstream fiction (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton).


New Orleans Confidential by O'Neil De Noux
£2.08/$2.99

Thursday, 28 April 2011

DJ Bennett interview: Hamelin's Child

Hamelin's Child by DJ Bennett
70p/99c


Debbie Bennett is a middle-aged, boring civil servant with a secret life as a writer. She's worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles, which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in her writing. If she makes enough money selling books, perhaps she'll be able to afford counselling instead.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

More of an intro than a sum up: Michael Redford died on his seventeenth birthday – the night Eddie picked him up off the street, shot him full of heroin and assaulted him.

What was your motivation for writing Hamelin’s Child?

I’ve spent all 25 years of my career so far in law enforcement in a variety of different roles both in the office and out on the front-line. One of my jobs was as a specialist drugs investigator – having seen first-hand how heroin is imported, I wanted to explore its effect further down the chain. I’m not sure where the story itself came from as it arrived in my head more-or-less fully-formed and I just wrote it down. What that says about me, I’m really not too sure. I don’t like to dig too deep into my subconscious.

Who designed your cover?
           
JT Lindroos. With a little help from your good self. J

How important is a good title?

Difficult one. I don’t buy books by title, so I can’t say a bad title would put me off. But I like titles that have some relevance to the book, even indirectly. My title Hamelin’s Child is supposed to make you think of the Pied Piper luring children away into a different world. I hope it works.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Plenty. I have another thriller in progress and a couple of fantasy novels I’m about to self-publish. I also dabble in short stories and I’m a submissions reader for various ezines, anthologies and competitions.

How important is a book's central character?

Crucial. My writing is very much character-driven and I like to get right inside the main character’s head and explore what they are thinking and feeling and how that influences their actions. There are a couple of very dark and nasty scenes in my novel. I think they are essential to the story, but I hope that readers will care enough about Michael to live through them with him and see how they affect his life.

What are you reading now?

Fourth Day by Zoë Sharp

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

Does Matthew Reilly count? He’s more thriller than crime, but I just love his completely implausible plots and non-stop action. Or I’d possibly choose Chevy Stevens’ Still Missing – to see if on a second reading, I can understand what all the media fuss was about.

What do you look for in a good book?

Something where the ending is a natural result of the progression of events – deus ex machina is likely to have me throwing the book in the bin and vowing never to read anything by that author again. Something with strong characterisation, where I really care about the people and I’m right in there with them, living the story. Something that makes me look up and realise that it’s 3am and I have to be up for work at 7.

What are your views on eBook pricing?

At the moment, I’m quite happy for the big publishers to keep pricing their ebooks high, as it gives independent authors a chance at the market. My books are priced as low as possible on Amazon as I’m a firm believer that big sales at low prices will work out better for me than small sales at high prices. I just want to get my name out there and be read; there’s no point being a writer if nobody ever reads the words. I live in hope that I’ll sell enough ebooks for somebody to want to pick up paperback rights – I want to see my book on the shelves of my local bookshop and in my local library. Don’t we all?

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Not being famous before they start. It’s so much harder for any writer who doesn’t come with a ready built marketing launch-pad to be “commercially viable”.  I find it frustrating to see media personalities saying they were “asked to write a novel” and given whatever help they needed to do so. As I haven’t slept with a celebrity nor been on reality tv, and I don’t have impossibly large boobs, I’m not sure how I am supposed to get noticed.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Yes. I tried adapting the novel a while back. I bought a couple of how-to books and very quickly realised that writing a script is very different from writing prose. I found it difficult to step outside of a character and write more visually. But I practised, I finished it and I learned a lot from the experience – although I don’t expect the results to ever see production. I’ve also recently written a commissioned (and paid!) short film script for a dark fantasy series that will be made for DVD by a small film company.

Ever tried your hand at poetry?

Only when I was a teenager and depressed. It’s awful.

Do you read outside of the crime genre?

My reading and writing roots are firmly in fantasy, having been involved in running the British Fantasy Society for over 20 years in various roles. I used to read a great deal of fantasy, both adult and young adult. I don’t read as much these days as there seem to be fewer authors in the genre who capture my imagination and I’ve moved into more mainstream thriller and crime territory – both reading and writing. But I also read what could loosely be described as “women’s fiction” – Jodie Picoult and the like – and have even been seen reading chick-lit on occasion. Plus whatever teenage-angst books my daughter is reading, any sf or horror I get sent for reviews, the back of the cereal packet and the instructions for the DVD player…

What was your favourite book as a child?

I loved Alan Garner. He’s a local author and I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago to present him with an award, so I can say I have seen the Owl Service! I also enjoyed Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence which had a huge influence on me as a reader and a writer.


Hamelin's Child by DJ Bennett
70p/99c

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Steven Torres interview: Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings

Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings by Steven Torres
£2.10, $2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US


Steven Torres was born in the Bronx, spent part of his childhood in Puerto Rico and has authored six previously published novels. He teaches English in Connecticut where he lives with wife and daughter.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

Photojournalist Lucy Cruz stakes out a farm where Chupacabra is likely to attack. Instead, she captures a murder on film. The murderer finds her and...

What was your motivation for writing it?

Besides money? I wanted to portray a strong female lead character – not at all the bimbo that runs through the woods in high heels. A version of Lucy showed up in my first novel, but I changed her quite a bit. I also wanted to make use of a Puerto Rican legend, El Chupacabra (literally, The Goatsucker, though John Rickards has had fun with that translation…). Not every country has a mythical beast, and not every mythical beast leaves dead livestock in its wake. Lucy’s not much of a believer, but as the series progresses (Did I mention this was the first of about ten planned? If it sells, of course.) she’ll run into more and more strange phenomena.

Who designed your cover?

I did. That might show in the thumbnail at Amazon. I arranged the elements, took the photo, and my sister-in-law, Jessica Carrero, used Photoshop to put in the title and my name, then I resized things to fit Amazon’s parameters and if I went wrong anywhere, it would be there. Or in not hiring a professional…

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Absolutely. THE PRECINCT PUERTO RICO FILES – a collection of about a dozen short stories centered around characters from my PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series, should be coming out around the end of April or the start of May this year. Most of them are previously published. I will hopefully be bringing THE CONCRETE MAZE, a hard-boiled, noir affair, to Kindle in the summer. I have another novel, THE CONCRETE HEART, that I hope will also see light of day this summer as well. 

How important is a book’s central character?

From a marketing point of view, I begin to think it is more important to choose things like the character’s name, age, race carefully if you want big sales. Unless you’re Alexander McCall Smith. Then you can make every mistake in these regards and come out richer than a king.

I think you need a sympathetic character (hopefully more than one, but at least one) to carry a novel. Trollope says this is the key to writing a good book – with a good character, the reader will be happy to watch him do just about anything. With a poorly drawn character, nothing he does matters. I think of THE SUM OF ALL FEARS movie when I say that. It was about the possible destruction of millions of lives and an entire city, but I don’t think I ever saw a more pointless film. I wasn’t attached to any of the characters.

On the other side is a movie like SIXTEEN CANDLES – you like the characters and watch them though their troubles are relatively minor.

Of course, that may all just say something more about me than about readers in general. I’ve always tried to create believable characters, characters readers will care about. My Stoop the Thief character from my second short story collection seems to have resonated with readers. Readers have cared about my Sheriff Gonzalo and about Luis Ramos from THE CONCRETE MAZE.

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Besides the usual – finding time, promoting, figuring out compelling plots, etc – I find there is a bit of an added pressure to write big stories. People tell you that readers only want to hear about DAVINCI CODE type plots that threaten to overturn millennia worth of beliefs or about nuclear weapons being stolen by angry jihadis (as opposed to the gregarious jihadis…). The small story is out, depending on who you speak to. A romance can’t just be a man and a woman, it has to be a man and a woman on a hijacked airliner. Even a hijacked airliner isn’t enough – a hijacked airliner filled with angry jihadis… and snakes… maybe.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

It doesn’t bother me in the least as a writer – what I’m writing is either quality material or it isn’t. If it is, I expect that I’ll have steady sales (steady doesn’t mean spectacular). If it isn’t, I suspect sales will drop and eventually Amazon will ask me to pay to be on their site. Things haven’t changed all that much except in degree (as opposed to in kind). The good remains, the bad fades out of view. It’s instructive to look at the bestsellers lists from 30 or 40 years ago or more. Or consider that Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disreali were both bestsellers in their day (I think Churchill won his Noble Prize for Literature) but who reads their novels now? (If there is a fan club for either author, please leave me in my ignorance.)

As a reader, I suspect I’m similarly unaffected – I’m such a slow reader that I pick books quite carefully. You can read the first chapter of a book, see what the reviews are (precious few of those for ebooks just now, but that will change… and isn’t so different from paperbacks or even hardcovers nowadays) and decide whether the book is for you.

Which author should be much better known?

So many. I’d nominate three. Manuel Ramos who wrote the Luis Montez series and a stand-alone noir novel called MOONY’S ROAD TO HELL. The prose is silky, the characters are human, and the plots satisfy. It’s difficult to ask for more. (Though I wish he had a better website.)

Will Thomas wrote the Cyrus Barker series which I thought was better than Sherlock Holmes though much in the same vein. I’m not sure if there are plans for the series to continue, but I’d be first in line to buy a copy of the next book. Plot, pacing, characters, these books have it all and make for tremendous fun. Pick up THE LIMEHOUSE TEXT if you don’t believe me.

IJ Parker writes the Akitada series. This is set in 10th century Japan. Aside from being well written with a great cast of sympathetic characters and wonderful plots, there is also a completely foreign historical background that is really fascinating to me. RASHOMON GATE is a smash.


Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings by Steven Torres
£2.10, $2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Simon Logan interview: Katja From The Punk Band

Katja From The Punk Band by Simon Logan
£1.14, $1.60
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Simon Logan is the author of the industrial fiction novels Katja From The Punk Band, Pretty Little Things To Fill Up The Void, the industrial short story collections I-O and Nothing Is Inflammable and the fetishcore collection Rohypnol Brides, as well as many other short stories. His next novel, Guerra, is set to be published by ChiZine Publications in Fall 2012.
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
Katja From The Punk Band is a fast-paced industrial crime thriller with multiple storylines that constantly intermingle and interconnect with one another – Jackie Brown meets the Sex Pistols.
What was your motivation for writing it?
I’d just finished writing my first novel, Pretty Little Things To Fill Up The Void, which came in at just under 100,000 words so I wanted to write something that was lighter and faster in tone. I often feel, when I am writing, that I should be bulking up the prose a little to make it richer and more detailed and just thought that for a change I would do something very stripped down.  I wanted to write something that was little more than the outlines I’d made for the story and something with the various storylines constantly tripping over one another.  I also liked the idea of just throwing the reader into the middle of it then filling in the gaps later on.
What's your favourite part of the writing process?
I think the initial plotting part is the most liberating when you are just throwing around ideas and building up what is effectively the building blocks from which you construct the story.  At that point you just come up with whatever you want and don’t have to worry too much about whether it will work, how it will work, or if it will all fit together.  With that said, because I plot quite heavily in advance, this means that when I come to actually writing a scene I already know pretty much exactly what is going to happen so that gives me free reign to just concentrate on the actual sentence construction and that is often very enjoyable.
How much difference does an editor make?
No idea, I’ve never really had one beyond simple spelling and grammar checks.
What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?
I think that interviews are the only bits that I don’t mind too much, pretty much every other aspect of marketing myself or my books doesn’t sit comfortably with me.  Particularly with the rise of self-publishing you have a massive amount of writers all wanting to get attention for their work which means an awful lot of self-promotion shoe-horning itself into other places.  In real life I hate attention, doing whatever I can to avoid it, and this seems to translate into the electronic world too.  As much as I know it’s necessary to push my work to ensure it gets attention it’s against my nature to effectively stand amongst all these other people and say “look at me!”  So I do what I can but it’s difficult for me.
How much difference does a good cover make?
Rightly or wrongly I think it makes a massive difference.  One thing I’ve noticed with the eBook revolution is that it doesn’t matter how good a person’s book is, if it has a crap cover it just puts me right off.  I don’t know why people seem to spend so little time on such an important aspect of the buying process and so often I see books with just awful covers, the literary equivalent of a tie-dyed t-shirt or an animated gif.  Covers are a tremendous opportunity to market your book and it’s a shame so many people miss out on it.
What do you look for in a good book?
Interesting ideas and characters which are well-executed, basically.  I think if you’re going to spend a year (or however long it takes) writing a book then why produce something that is similar, if not identical, to a lot of stuff already out there?  For me, writing is about expressing myself, about creating something that adds something or pushes at boundaries so I tend to hone in on books and authors who are quite unique in style or ideas.  Chuck Palahnuik, Will Christopher Baer, Jack O’Connell, these are all authors whose work, to me at least, stands out as being apart from everything else and so they would be the ones I tend towards.  Any author who, when you ask someone who they are like, the person has to struggle to think of anyone.
How do you feel about anyone being able to publish?
I think that in and of itself is a positive thing.  Yes it means that there are more crappy books out there if people can just publish themselves without having to go through the usual channels of publishers and editors which are supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff but the very fact that we have all read books which we think should never have been published shows that those channels are far from perfect.  In addition traditional publishers need to make a profit so will always be biased towards that which is going to make them money whereas being able to self-publish cheaply should provide a far greater range of books to choose from.  Ultimately it’ll be up to the writer to ensure their product is well put together and if it isn’t then they will fail just as they would in submitting a badly-formatted manuscript to a publisher.

Katja From The Punk Band by Simon Logan
£1.14, $1.60
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Monday, 25 April 2011

Julie Morrigan interview: Gone Bad

Gone Bad by Julie Morrigan
70p/99c/99c


Gone Bad has the distinctive flavour of north east England and gathers together 18 titles, mixing ‘flash fiction’ pieces with longer reads. Within the pages you can meet a murderous little boy, a psychotic Scouse backing singer, and a wannabe crime fiction writer with a penchant for hands-on research. Add to that a dishonest lottery winner, predatory girlfriend, long-suffering private detective and would-be rapist and you’re starting to get the lie of the land.

Gone Bad is this prize-winning UK writer’s first collection of short stories. For more information visit Julie at her
Gone Bad blog.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

Short fiction with a noir edge, gritty, sweary, northern and nasty, featuring flawed, foul-mouthed, misguided characters. Some people say it’s funny. But they’re sick.

What crime book are you most looking forward to reading?

Ian Ayris’s debut novel ‘Abide With Me’ is due out later this year from Caffeine Nights Publishing. Ian’s a terrific writer with a very distinctive voice. I’ve read a bunch of his short stories and also some excerpts from the forthcoming book that have been posted on his blog (The Voices in my Head, if anyone is looking for it) and I reckon it’s going to be an absolute cracker.

What are you reading now?

I have too many things on the go at the moment and not enough time for reading. I love short stories and there are a few collections I’m currently dipping into as and when: Nigel Bird’s ‘Dirty Old Town’, Iain Rowan’s ‘Nowhere To Go’, and Emma Newman’s ‘From Dark Places’; all of which are hugely enjoyable. I also like to keep up with ezines such as the rather wonderful ‘Thrillers, Killers and Chillers’, which has such a great mix of stories.

Full length reads currently include ‘Mindjacker’ by Sean Patrick Reardon, ‘Broken Dreams’ by Nick Quantrill, and ‘The Vampire Lestat’ by Anne Rice. (I’ve been reading that last one for months. I’m not finding it to be the easiest of reads, but I’m determined to finish.)

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

That’s a tough question - I’ve read so many good ones and yet barely scratched the surface of what’s available. I think I’d go for Jim Thompson’s ‘The Grifters’, a gripping tale of loneliness, dysfunction and betrayal. I love his writing, it’s spare and relentless, hypnotic and intense. Jim Thompson looked into the dark heart of society and shared what he saw with brutal honesty. He didn’t flinch, but readers might.

What makes you keep reading a book?

I think in general it’s a mix of things: voice, plot, characters, action, they all coalesce to make a satisfying read. Mind you, I can forgive just about anything if I care about the characters. Similarly, if I couldn’t give a damn whether they live or die, then the rest of it counts for nothing, no matter how well something is constructed and written. Characters give a story heart, they bring it to life, even if they themselves are heartless and destined to die. They can also ruin a story - I recently gave up on a much-praised book only a short way in because I thought the characters were foul. The premise was that one of a group of friends had been murdered some years earlier - that was as far as I got - I thought murdering only one of them was a wasted opportunity. I’d have happily bludgeoned every one of the smug, over-privileged aresholes to death with whatever came readily to hand.

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Same as always, I think: how to reach readers. There is so much material available for people to read and so many things vying for their attention and their free time that having your stories stand out from the crowd and not only be noticed, but be chosen, is a real challenge.

What are the greatest opportunities facing writers these days?

Publishing is changing. Traditional publishers no longer have a stranglehold over what people get to read: we can put our own books out. That presents writers with massive opportunities and some people will do very well out of it, Amanda Hocking being the obvious example. It also presents new challenges - not all writers are great at formatting and cover design, for example, and then there’s the whole issue of promotion and marketing. I reckon things will shake down and people and businesses will find new roles and new ways of working together. But the old model is irrevocably changed, and I welcome that. Doors are opening and a lot of writers are taking their first steps into a new world full of enormous potential.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Having just woken up to the opportunities provided by e-books, I have plans to make a number of both fiction and non-fiction books available in that format over the coming months. Next out looks like being last year’s NaNoWriMo project, which has the working title ‘Lost Children’. Missing kids, self-destructive parents, lies, hypocrisy, revenge and religion all come together to hopefully amuse and entertain.


Gone Bad by Julie Morrigan
70p/99c/99c

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Josh Stallings interview: Beautiful, Naked & Dead

Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings
£2.14/$2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US


Josh Stallings is your average ex-criminal, ex-taxi driver, ex-club bouncer, film making, script writing, movie advertising editing, crime writing punk. Time has mellowed him. Lucky for those nearby. Beautiful, Naked & Dead is his first novel.
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
A suicidal tittie bar bouncer’s best friend dies ugly. He goes on the road, fueled by booze, drugs and rage, he is out for revenge.
What was your motivation for writing it?
Truth, James Crumley wrote too slow. I was happy working as a film editor and occasional script doctor / screenwriter gig. But I had a hardcore addiction to Crumley and it was sometimes three years between books. So it was time I filled the gap. My first attempts were dreadful mockish tripe. But I kept slamming keys and over a few years I found my own voice. No longer attempting to fill a Crumley sized hole, I was trying then and now to fill a Stallings sized hole. Fits much better.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Ok, you have to promise not to tell... Winnie the Pooh.  I don’t think any book influenced me more until in high school I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Who designed your cover?
I did. Funny since I work at BLT & Assoc., one of the top movie ad agencies in Hollywood. I’m surrounded by print people and graphic designers, all crazy busy, so I took a crack at it. I like the 70’s/80’s look that came together. Simple and eye catching I hope.
How important is a good title?
Vital - my first title was Price of Love. It was going to be a whole series of Prices, Beauty, Lunch you get the idea. Deborah Beale, author and editor pointed out that they sounded like romance novels. Pissed me right off.  Hell I had a plan. I spent a weekend coming up with every title I could think of, Beautiful, Naked & Dead came to the top. I’m glad she pushed the point. 
Do you enjoy the editorial process?
Do I? Fuck.  I turn my tiny defenseless story over to cruel bastards who cut it to ribbons and then leave the pieces in a bloody box on my doorstep with a note, ‘FIX IT.’ The writing on this first note looks strangely like my wife Erika’s hand. She is my first and toughest critic. Brutal, she is the cage fighter of tact. I suck it up and try not to cry in front of her.
On Beautiful, Naked & Dead I have been blessed with editorial notes from writers Tad Williams, Deborah Beale and Charlie Huston. “You’re a good enough writer to be treated like a pro, so gloves are off.” Tad said that before spending the next three hours telling me why my manuscript sucked balls. And after plastering up my bleeding ego I thanked him. Then I spread the broken and battered parts out on a table and started to stitch it back together. Somewhere in the rewriting it gets to be fun again. My internal editor shuts up and I get to spend time doing a craft I love.
What is your clear obsession with strippers?
Why do you say that?  Because my novels take place in strip clubs, and the indi- film I directed and co-wrote with Tad Williams took place in a strip club, and my latest short story is set in one... Hmmm.  Yes, I see how it could look. My mother asked the same question after reading the book,  “was it because your father left us for a stripper?”  she asked.  Could be, or the fact my sister was a stripper when she was a teen. Or maybe I just like naked women, I mean really who doesn’t?
I can’t tell you how many men ask me - “how much of the book is based in reality?”  What they want to ask is “do you fuck strippers?”  I never answer the question. All good novels are the absolute truth. All good novels are complete lies.
Fact is sex for hire fascinates me, the laws make no sense but then again neither does how we feel about it as a society. A coal miner can choose to take a job that ruins his body and kills him with black lung by fifty. But that same man can’t choose to be paid to give a blow job. In Los Angeles strip clubs you can’t sell booze if a dancer shows her vulva or nipple. This has created two classes of clubs - A) clubs where girls grind their parts in your face, but you are stone cold sober.  It’s no place to party, more of a GYN training session. B) clubs where the girls dance in bikinis and you can get drunk and play pool and party. The girls press the law and wear the smallest G-string possible (no pubes showing is the law.) And for a top they put black tape X’s over their nipples. This really highlights the tiny pieces of flesh real estate that has people all in a lather.
I watched them demand a strip club’s billboard get taken down while across the street a billboard hocked cellphones with a picture of a girl humping a phone, no lie. We use sex to sell everything but sex. And I find all these dichotomies fertile ground to plow.
Do you have any other projects on the go?
I am editing Out There Bad, the second Moses McGuire novel. It should be out this summer. I am in the early plotting stages of the third McGuire novel.
28 Things I’ll Never Do Again is a memoir I have notes on and it will need to be rewritten. That and a day job as a movie trailer editor. Life is full. Life is good.

Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings
£2.14/$2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US
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Friday, 22 April 2011

Barry Graham interview: How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy?

How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? by Barry Graham
£1.14/$1.58/$1.00


Barry Graham is an author, journalist and blogger whose novels have received international acclaim and whose reporting has helped more than one corrupt politician leave office. His previous occupations include boxing and grave-digging. Born and dragged up in Glasgow, Scotland, he has traveled widely and is currently based in the U.S., where he teaches Zen and witnesses executions.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

A hyperviolent, hypersexy, contemporary noir set in a sprawling desert metropolis.  

What was your motivation for writing it? 

I had come to Phoenix, Arizona, from Scotland, and felt like I was on another planet. To understand anything, I have to write about it. So I knew I wanted to write about Phoenix, but wasn’t sure how or what.

My first summer in Phoenix, I was sitting in my tiny apartment on a Saturday afternoon. It was 112 degrees. There was a knock on the door. The guy was middle-aged, bald, built like a powerlifter. He said his name was Wes, that he was a handyman, and that the apartment manager had  sent him over to fix my broken toilet.

I talked with him while he worked. He looked at the shirt I was wearing and said, “Dutch army, right? Moleskin.”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

He told me he’d spent most of his adult life in the military, and it remained his passion. He had killed people, and didn’t regret it. “It’s not my job to die for my country, it’s my job to make him die for his.” When he quit a couple years earlier, he got a job flying planes full of tourists at the Grand Canyon, but had to quit that job too when he went deaf in one ear. “How’d you like to be in a plane with some deaf guy flying it?” he said. So he decided to become a handyman. “I can do anything.”

He told me about a friend of his who lived in the VA hospital because he didn’t have a face. “A bullet took his face right off. This is a very intelligent man, a very sensitive man. If you saw what he looks like, it would frighten you. That’s why he doesn’t leave the hospital – he’s sensitive, and he doesn’t want to do that to people.”

He told me that he’d recently separated from his wife, but hoped they’d get back together. “She’s a woman who’s used to being treated badly, and I think maybe that’s what she wants, but I’m not prepared to do that. I’m a gentleman.”

I liked him. And when I saw where he was, trying to find a life for himself in a context he didn’t understand, I might as well have been looking in a mirror.

A few days later, I started writing How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? Its protagonist is a former soldier now working as a handyman. He is not a pilot, he is a martial artist and former reporter, and he is not Wes. But, like a child conceived during a one-night-stand, the fictional character Andy Saunders was born as a result of that one conversation with a man I never saw again.

How much difference does an editor make? 

A good editor makes a big difference. By the time I decided to publish this as an e-book, it had been through various drafts, and critiqued by editors and other authors, so I knew it was as good as it could be.

Who designed your cover? 

The cover is by Vince Larue, a brilliant French artist. I have a book coming out in French translation, comprised of two novels - including this one - and a nonfiction piece, about witnessing executions - and the publisher got Vince to do a drawing for each part of the book. I love his work - we’re now collaborating on a graphic novel - so I asked him if I could use the drawing he did for the French book as the cover for my e-book.

How much difference does a good cover make? 

For me as a reader, it can make the difference between whether I buy a book or not. If I don’t know the author’s work, but like the sound of the story, the mood of the cover might be the deciding factor for me.

How important is a good title?  

I recently had a discussion with my friend Helen FitzGerald, a terrific author. She said that the title is the last thing she comes up with. I told her it’s always the first thing I come up with, and I can’t start writing the story until I have the title.

Do you have any other projects on the go? 

I recently finished another novel, which is now in the hands of my agent, and I’m writing a new one. There’s also the graphic novel I’m collaborating on with Vince Larue, and I’m also writing a couple screenplays, so I’m keeping busy.

I also have a blog, Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky, which I post on almost every day. As well as How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy?, which had never been published before, I’ve also published my first novel, Of Darkness and Light - which came out back in 1989 - as an e-book. It’s a kind of supernatural noir set in Glasgow, Scotland, where I’m from. I also e-published a book of stories called Scumbo. A novel called The Wrong Thing is being published by Switchblade Press in July.

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose? 

Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella. I read it a few weeks ago, and was blown away by it. I’ll reread it again soon. My favorite novel of all time is The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, and I think Johnny Porno might be as good. I never thought I’d say that about any book.


How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? by Barry Graham
£1.14/$1.58/$1.00