Wednesday 3 August 2011

Josh Stallings interview: Out There Bad

Out There Bad by Josh Stallings

Josh Stallings is your average ex-criminal, ex-taxi driver, ex-club bouncer, film-making, scriptwriting, award-winning trailer-editing punk. His first novel BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is garnering great notice from readers and reviews. 

Can you sum up Out There Bad in no more than 25 words?

Guns, strippers, sex-trafficking, vengeance, Russian mobsters, Mexican hit men, a straight razor, Moses McGuire and Gregor, all rolling straight to hell in a V8 supercharged road beast. (That’s 28, but who’s counting?)

What was your motivation for writing it?

I read an article in the LA Times about sexual trafficking, a firsthand account of a young woman who had been taken from Russia and smuggled into Mexico and finally into the US to be used as a prostitute. It struck me hard. So I started digging deeper. Somewhere along the road I knew there was a novel I had to write about the subject. I wanted to shine a light on the cost of turning girls into commodities, in human terms. It was the next logical place to let Moses McGuire loose; an avenging mad man wreaking havoc on these bastards.

Word is you get very close and personal with your research. Any truth in that?

My mother asked me the other day if “I did those things I write about, you know, with strippers.” At first I was offended. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this. Yet they never ask if I’ve shot a man in the face, and that is also in the books. I think the reason for the question is that I write with honesty about both violence and sex. And I do research what I write about. I have spent many hours hanging in strip clubs interviewing dancers, bouncers and bartenders. For Out There Bad I went to Mexico and spent nights on the street hanging with pimps and bordello bouncers and hookers. I think because of my tattered past I am allowed into their world. I both love and respect these people of the battle zone.

How do you feel about reviews?

The reviews I’ve gotten so far have been stellar so I love them, and when and if I get a bad one, I hate them. No really, I find the good reviews help quiet the negative voices in my head. I try and not get too wrapped up in them. Both of these books were completed before any one reviewed them; Beautiful, Naked & Dead was soundly rejected by multiple agents and I didn’t let that stop me from writing Out There Bad. It does however feel good when someone gets what I’m doing and cares enough to write about it. The most powerful review I got came as an email:

“Hello my name is Xtc. I met you a couple weeks ago at the Playpen Club on Sante Fe/ Sacramento. You gave me a copy of the book you said you had recently published. I really appreciated the gift. First off, I really enjoyed the book, I read about seventy pages the first night. I love that the setting, for the most part, took place in LA. I loved all the descriptions that you mentioned throughout the book. I would definitely say you really grasped what "the strip club world" is all about. Also another aspect that really caught my attention was the description of Kelly. I really feel like I can relate to her. I loved how Moses described her as having the looks to be a stripper, but not the strength of character. I really feel like thats exactly how I am there... You did a great job writing this book and really making sure the reader felt every emotion that was expressed throughout. I cant wait for the next book. Thank you for the Gift.”- Xtc.

That meant the world to me

Which author should be much better known?

Matthew McBride. He wrote Frank Sinatra in a Blender, absolutely blew my socks off. His stuff is visceral and funny and fucking brilliant. He has a truly original voice.

Another author to watch is Thomas Pluck. He has had a few short stories published and is fantastic. I can’t wait to see what he does with a longer form.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Paul Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon, loved the hell out of it. It feels both fresh and like classic old school Noir. Before that I read Street Raised by Pearce Hansen, another amazing writer. I feel like the e-book has brought on a renaissance in crime writing. With so many fine new books and reissues of older books like Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith, there has never been a better time to be a reader of crime fiction. Only problem is how to find time to read all I want to. A quality problem.

Do you enjoy writing?

Absolutely, yes. I love writing. What I hate is getting ready to write. I torture myself, convinced that I shouldn’t even bother, that if I write a new book everyone will discover that the first two books were a fluke and really I suck. It is impostor syndrome. I go through the same crap whenever I start a new movie trailer (I’m an editor by day), even though I have cut hundreds of successful trailers over the years. I have learned to accept it as part of my process and type my way through it. Once I’m actually writing, the world goes away and I fall into the novel. I’m riding shotgun with Moses as we tear up the countryside from East LA to the heart of Mexico. What’s not to love?

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

I have been lucky enough to work with some fine writers over the years. Having them care enough to tear apart my work. One piece of craft I got from fantasy writer Tad Williams, who said every character that appears on the page should be interesting enough that if the novel followed them off stage their story would be equally compelling. I think I have done a better job with that in Out There Bad. I experimented with having multiple points of view. Moses is the central voice, but the novel leaves him to follow a young Russian girl being trafficked and several other characters. I love Beautiful, Naked & Dead, but this is a bigger and better novel because of this freedom to roam.

Out There Bad by Josh Stallings


  1. Great interview with a great guy who writes great books. :-)

  2. I didn't read OUT THERE BAD, but I know Josh is terrific and Moses McGuire is an amazing creation.

  3. Brilliant interview, Josh really lives in his characters and that's what makes the difference when you come to read his work.

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Josh. It meant a lot dude. Hope you sell the fuck out of some book brother!

  5. Josh, thank you. If I write something a fraction as powerful as Out There Bad I will consider a stunning achievement. You certainly Tad Williams' advice to heart, because I'd read a book about the Hunter and the Tarot card killer any day, even Gregor! I said it when I reviewed your first novel, you're going places, and Out There Bad reminded me of reading Andrew Vachss for the first time.

  6. Wonderful interview, Josh. I love the letter you received from Xtc. You're ability to go inside the world that you write is what makes your books so unique. You are amazing, my friend.

  7. Enjoyed the interview, Josh. Best for OUT THERE BAD.

    Ed Lynskey

  8. Josh sent me the 1st book for review and this one sounds so good I've just bought it for my kindle. Cool interview.

  9. Thank you Allan, great site and I'm proud to be part of it. And thank you all for the kind words.

  10. Cheers, Josh. Always a pleasure. And thanks for the comments, folks. Much appreciated.