Friday, December 31, 2010
I couldn't think of any better way to kick off 2011 than with a interview with red hot debut author John Rector. John's debut novel "THE COLD KISS" was followed up with "THE GROVE" , both hitting shelves in 2010 to high praise. Be on the lookout for a third novel coming your way in the near future. It is my pleasure to introduce Mr. John Rector. Welcome John.
1) Your first book published was "The Cold Kiss", but your first book written & second published was "The Grove" . Can you explain the path or process that led to it happening this way?
JR: I wrote The Grove in the summer of 2006 and signed on with my agent that fall. He shopped the book around New York in early 2007, and while we got a lot of great feedback, we didn’t get any offers. So, I went back to work and wrote The Cold Kiss. That one was picked up by Tor/Forge in the summer of 2009, and later that year by Simon and Schuster UK as the first book in a three book deal.
2) "The Cold Kiss" has now been released in the U.K. Was it as well received there as was in the U.S.?
-- JR: I think so, but I’m not over there so it’s hard to get a feel for how it’s doing. I’ve had a lot of nice letters from readers in the UK, and wonderful reviews in places like The Irish Independent, and The SUN. I do know that everyone at Simon and Schuster has been fantastic, and my editor has championed the book from day one. It’s been a great experience, and I’m hoping to get over there this year.
3) "The Cold Kiss" has been optioned for a feature film. Has there been any movement that you can share with us?
--JR: It has been optioned and there’s a director and screenwriter attached, so I’ve got my fingers crossed. Beyond that there’s not much I can share.
4) "The Grove" was the first novel you wrote and was released as an E-book on Amazon and became a best seller there, and has subsequently been published by the Amazon Encore Imprint. Why did you chose to go that direction with "The Grove" and were you satisfied with how it worked out?
-- JR: I released The Grove on the Kindle right around the time Tor/Forge made an offer to publish The Cold Kiss, and the only reason I did it was to try and build an audience. I thought if I could sell a few hundred copies on my own, maybe those readers would turn around and pick up The Cold Kiss once it was released.
Turns out, The Grove did better than I thought it would. It hit #1 on all the horror, hard boiled, and mystery lists and stayed there for several weeks. Eventually Amazon noticed, and in January of 2010 I got a call from an editor at their Amazon Encore imprint asking if they could re-publish the novel. I jumped at the chance, and The Grove was re-released in November 2010.
I’ve been very happy with how things have worked out with that book.
5) I saw where you almost didn't write "The Cold Kiss" because it was dark as was "The Grove". So tell me, what's wrong with writing dark material, especially if you're good at it as you are?
JR: -- There’s nothing wrong with writing dark material, but I tend to gravitate toward endings where everyone loses and usually dies. The Grove was downright happy compared to what I’d written before, and when the comments came back that it was too dark, I started to rethink my approach.
The reason I stopped writing The Cold Kiss seventy pages in was because I saw where it was heading. I couldn’t think of a way to pull my characters out of the suffocating, claustrophobic nose-dive they were taking, and the last thing I wanted to do was write another book I wouldn’t be able to sell. I wanted to learn from my experience with The Grove, but all I ended up doing was second guessing myself.
Luckily, my wife is much smarter than I am. She read the first few chapters, loved them, and told me she needed to know what happened next. So, I kept going.
6)Can you thank your wife for us on behalf of all your readers, in regards to "The Cold Kiss".
JR:-- Sure, thanks.
7) Nebraska has given us two terrific crime fiction writers in yourself and Sean Doolittle. Are there others that you know of who we might be on the lookout for in the future?
JR: -- Not that I’m aware of, but you never know who’s out there. I know Alex Kava lives here, but that’s about it. Nebraska has a surprisingly strong art/music/lit scene. You’d never guess that coming from a state most people can’t find on a map.
8) You just finished up your first book tour for "The Cold Kiss". What were some of your impressions from that tour and some things you'll be looking to do for "The Grove" book tour coming up?
JR: -- Having the chance to travel around the country and talk with readers and booksellers was a great experience. The people in the crime/thriller genre are incredibly generous and supportive. I met a lot of great people and made some good friends. I can’t wait to go out again, but not for The Grove. I’ve had enough of airports and hotel rooms for a while.
9) I know you attended Bouchercon in Indy & S.F and just took in your first Noir Con in Philly, what were some memorable moments from those and are the big conventions something you'll want to keep doing?
JR: -- I’ll keep going as long as they keep publishing my novels. It’s fun to see everyone, almost like a class reunion, except these are people you actually want to see again. It’s nice to catch up.
As far as memorable moments go, Thriller fest in 2009 is the one that sticks out in my mind. I’d just signed my first contract a couple weeks earlier, and I got invited to the Tor/Forge offices in the flatiron building to meet my editor and the team that was working on the book. It was the first time the reality of becoming a published novelist hit me, and I’ll never forget it.
10) Did you meet any writers at those events that left you kinda star struck?
JR_-- All but a few of my favorite authors are dead, so I don’t get star struck too often. The closest I’ve come was when I met Sara Gran after the Mulholland panel at Bouchercon in San Francisco. I’d gone to meet Daniel Woodrell and ask him to sign a book, and as I was talking to him I heard Megan Abbott introducing Sara Gran to someone behind me. I turned and immediately stumbled over my words telling her how much I loved her books. She probably thought I was some psycho to be avoided, but that’s okay. Come Closer was a huge influence when I wrote The Grove, and she’s one of the very few contemporary writers whose books I’ll buy the day they come out.
11) Can you express what it felt like to walk into that first book store and see your book on the shelves for the first time?
JR:-- The first time I saw The Cold Kiss on the shelf I had just enough time to snap a couple pictures before being dragged off to the kids section by my four year old daughter who’d noticed a big, looming cardboard cutout of Harold and the Purple Crayon. In my house, Harold’s books are infinitely cooler than daddy’s books.
The experience that really got to me was walking around NYC with my wife and my editor the week after the book came out. We spent a day visiting various bookstores and signing stock. It’s one thing to see your book in your local Barnes and Noble, but it’s something completely different to go into Greenwich Village and see it featured on the front shelf at Partners & Crime. That was cool.
12) When are we gonna get you down to St. Louis for a Noir @ Bar because you should know that no writers career can be considered a success until he's made an appearance there? Really !!
JR:--I’ve heard the stories about what goes on down there and I’m a little intimidated, but if that’s what it takes, count me in. Once I get an invite, I’ll bet there.
13) Was being a writer something you always dreamed of from an early age or did you just drift that way?
JR:-- English was my worst subject in High School, and I avoided it during my time in college. I never once dreamed of being a writer until I sat down and decided to give it a try. I was always an avid reader, though, and that was enough for me.
14) What writers do you read and do you think you're voice was shaped by some of those you read?
JR: --Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ross Macdonald, and Walter Mosely had the biggest influence on my style and voice. There are others, but these are the biggies.
15) The Cold Kiss" is a wonderful crime Noir novel that feels like it's set in the 70's but really it would feel at home in the 30's-50's as well. That is saying alot really. I think you & Megan Abbott would fit right in with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, or Dorothy B. Hughes. What are your thoughts on that?
JR:-- The Cold Kiss is fundamentally about the choices people make, and if the book does translate to different time periods, I’m guessing that’s why. It’s basically a locked room story in that you have an eclectic group of characters trapped together in one isolated location, no modern technology, surrounded by endless snow. When you strip a story down to just characters interacting with one another like that, the period it takes place becomes somewhat irrelevant.
But for the record, The Cold Kiss takes place in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. There is a brief mention of a cell phone in there somewhere.
16) Where are you at in regards to Book 3?
JR: --Finished, thank God. I’ll have edits soon, but for now I can focus on something else.
17) You've said that Book 4 was "screaming to get out" and "will be your darkest yet". That has to have your readers just about salivating. Does it have a working title yet & can you share any more light on it other than it starts with a kidnapping?
JR:-- Sorry, can’t talk about it. I’m being superstitious about this one.
18) You've said that your first draft is just a starting point, how much time typically do you spend on edits?
JR: --I’ll keep editing books until I can’t physically look at them anymore. I’m kind of a perfectionist. When you read The Cold Kiss, you’re actually reading the manuscript I originally submitted. The only edits I had on that book were very light copy edits.
19) Does music play a role in your writing process and if so in what way?
JR:--I usually write in silence, but when I wrote The Cold Kiss I listened to a song called Playground Love by the band ‘Air’ pretty much non-stop. It’s a mesmerizing song to begin with, so I put it on a loop and let it run until it became white noise and I forgot about it.
20)How much time do spend in doing research for your books?
JR:-- It depends on the story. I’ll usually hold off on research until the first draft is done, but if a scene depends on specifics, like say the stages of decomposition a dead body would go through if left outside in the Midwest in the middle of summer, I’ll track down as much info as I can so I don’t have to do it later.
21) What kinda jobs have you done along the way and what do you currently do for a living? They say only 5% of writers write only.. do you hope to someday join that group, "give up the day job" and write full time?
JR:--I’ve had a lot of strange jobs. I spent fifteen years as a musician, so I job hopped a lot. Bar tending, telemarketing, psychic on a 1-900 psychic line, cemetery groundskeeper, gas station attendant, waiter, network engineer, graphic designer… Pretty much anything I could find that paid the bills.
As far as giving up the day job goes, I don’t know if I could. Part of me doesn’t think I’d ever leave the house. I’m not the most social person to start, and it might be worth it to keep the job just to have contact with other people. Still, it would be a nice choice to have.
22) Frank Bill?
JR:-- In his novel, Donnybrook, Frank Bill describes one of his female characters as having “a body shaped like a hunger”. That line still makes me happy. I’ll read anything he writes.
23) Do you think that E- books, blog sites, on line reviewers, are helping writers to get the work out there these days?
JR:-- The best thing you can do is get people talking about your book, so yes, I think those things are a great help. I’ve found a lot of great books after reading about them online.
I think social media can be an incredible tool, but I also think you can overdo the self-promotion thing. Reviews and interviews are great and can introduce a lot of people to your work, but when I see a writer on Facebook or Twitter posting the same post over and over, day after day, to try and get people to buy their book, my interest drops to zero. Maybe it’s just me, but I like the mystery. Books are fascinating. Writers are boring. If I’m overly aware of the person pulling the strings, it diminishes the experience.
24) When you’re not writing or working...what do you like to do for enjoyment?
JR: --I’ll hang out with my family, read... The usual stuff.
25) Do you already have a publisher for your next two books and if so whom?
JR: -- We’re ironing out the details on that as we speak. Hopefully I’ll have something to announce soon.
26) If it seems to good to be true..it probably is. Good thing Nate & Sara never listened to that advise?
JR: --Reasonable characters that follow good advice, play by the rules, and always try to do the right thing work just fine in places like Mitford, but they definitely don’t belong in noir fiction… Unless someone is stabbing them in the throat, I guess.
27) The snow worked so well here, a perfect setting..was that the setting from the get go or did it come to you later as you wrote?
JR: --I usually start writing without knowing anything about the story. Once I meet the characters, I’ll sit back and outline what I think will happen. With The Cold Kiss, I wrote the opening scene in the diner and the snow was already present, so it became part of the book.
Final Question: "The Cold Kiss" has drawn comparisons to books such as "A Simple Plan", "The Getaway", and "No Country For Old Men". That's great company to be in, Scott Smith, Jim Thompson & Cormac McCarthy. Although there are minor similarities in their story lines, it is the ability to write great characters and great prose that sets them apart. Would you agree or disagree with that?
JR: --I totally agree. Great characters and great prose will set anyone apart.
I’ve never read The Getaway, but I did enjoy A Simple Plan when I read it years ago, and No Country for Old Men is one of my all time favorite books. The simplicity and beauty of McCarthy’s prose in that one is absolutely stunning, especially if you understand how hard it is to write that way. Any writer who can strip a story or a novel down to its bones and still create such a vivid and heartbreaking picture like he did is really something special.
Posted by Rod Norman at 10:06 AM
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Top 10 FILMS of 2010 (in no particular order)
1. Winters Bone
2. Mesrine/Killer Instinct
3. Animal Kingdom
4. The Aura
5. The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo & Played With Fire
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
7. The Wild & Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
8. The Killer Inside Me
9. True Grit
* Red Riding Trilogy, The Fighter, Stone, Leaves of Grass
Top 10 Discovery's of 2010
1. Noir@Bar (St. Louis Style)
2. Frank Bill and Matt McBride
3. Old Crow Medicine Show
4. Howard Finsters Folk Art
5. Blake Crouch
6. Knob Creek
7. John Rector
8. Jim Tully
9. Chris Offutt
10. American Pickers
Crimefactories, "THE BEST OF WHATEVER"
P&M Presses "Switchblade series"
Mulholland Books website
Tyrus Books/Busted Flush Press merger
Top Books Read in 2010
1. The Devil by Ken Bruen
2. Desert Places & Locked Doors by Blake Crouch
3. Pike by Benjamin Whitmer
4. The Cold Kiss by John Rector
5. Think of A Number by John Verdon
6. No Heroes by Chris Offutt
7. Savages by Don Winslow
8. Don't Quit Your Day Job by Sonny Brewer
9. Innocent Monster by Reed Farrel Coleman
10. Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella
* Note..the best thing I read all year, I can't even talk about. Someday maybe !!
Others of Note:
Print the Legend by Craig McDonald
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski
The Poachers Son by Paul Doiron
2010 Favorite TV Series
1. Sons of Anarchy
2. Boardwalk Empire
3. Breaking Bad
4. The Walking Dead
5. American Pickers
6. Bored to Death
7. East Bound and Down
9. Storage Wars
10. The Glades
True Blood, Oddities, Dexter, Billy the Exterminator
2010 was a pretty good year, not a great year, but a good year. Afterall, I got to meet two of my literary heroes ( Daniel Woodrell in April & William Gay in Nov. ). Then there was good times at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, the Delta Blues Book Launch in Clarksdale,Ms. and Ebertfest. I also met Morgan Freeman and I started this website "Signs & Wonders" on Jan 3 and soon we'll celebrate 1 year. During that time I conducted 21 author interviews and man was that a treat. Each & every one was a blast to do, and I will always be grateful to those who shared their insights & time with me, ( as a matter of fact...the interviews were probably the highlight of 2010 for me personally). On the down side, my reading slipped quite bit in 2010. For the past 2 years I had read 65 + books a year, but it fell to 45 this year. I'm sure some of that has to do with this blog, but I'll make that trade and I'll bet in 2011 I'm back on pace. 2010 was also a terrible year for music in the area, especially after a super strong 2010. My only musical highlights were seeing Tom Russell,Gretchen Peters & Nanci Griffith perform together in Nashville, and catching Chris Gay, John Hammond, Blind Boys of Alabama and Loudon Wainwright III. The lowest point of 2010 was losing David Thompson and Barry Hannah. The older we get, the more people we lose and there ain't a thing we can do about it. But the spirit's of those we lost never leave us and are a constent source of comfort.
2011...Well it looks like it has lots of promise. How can we go wrong with the 2011 Bouchercon set right hear in our neck of the woods ( St. Louis, Mo ) in Sept. That alone is enough to keep a guys spirits up. In the coming days it looks like we got some great interviews coming your way as well. John Rector, Blake Crouch & Michael Lister, will all help to kick off the New Year in grand fashion. Hopefully we'll soon be finally getting that amazing interview with Guiness world record holder Martin Strel up & posted. Great things indeed. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year and I'll see you in the year ahead.
Posted by Rod Norman at 9:06 PM
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This has been a year of terrific discoveries for me in the world of books. First I came across John Rector and "The Cold Kiss", Benjamin Whitmer and "Pike", John Verdon "Think Of A Number", and Chris Offutt's "No Heroes" and "The Good Brother". All terrific books and authors I will anxiously look forward to reading more of in the future. However, I am amazed that I had never read or heard of Blake Crouch. How did this oversight occur and why hasn't anyone I know been raving about this guy. Maybe I wasn't talking to the right people. I picked up Blake's debut novel "Desert Places" and the followup "Locked Doors" , at Murder and Mayhem and even introduced myself to Blake while I was there. It was Reed Farrel Coleman's recommendation that really did the trick and man am I ever grateful. I cannot wait to do a interview with Blake because I have alot of questions for him. The two Andrew Thomas books I mentioned previously read like lightening, & I couldn't and wouldn't put them down. My only disappointment was as I got closer and closer to the end of the second book, I didn't want it to end. These books really should be read back to back and they really read that way. After I finished "Desert Places", I immediately started reading "Locked Doors" and it felt like I had just paused and started the next chapter. I'd love to know if Blake wrote them as one book and then split them into two for publishing purposes. There are page turners and then there are "PAGE TURNERS". These books are well written and though some of the characters are serial killers and are truly evil people who do horrible things, he never gets too graphic in the kills or methods used. However, don't think for one second that these books aren't thrillers, they are downright scary, and you may think twice about settling in for your nice safe slumber next time. The Kite family can be summed up in 3 words "THE DEVILS REJECTS". My advise is to seek these two books out now, go over to your favorite independent mystery stores website or e-bay and purchase them both and read them in order..#1 Desert Places #2 Locked Doors and read them back to back. If you do as I ask you'll thank me later and I promise you a helluva ride.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The next time your searching the web, go over to Mulholland Books and read Daniel Woodrell's newest non fiction piece posted there. It's outstanding and gives you some real insight to Mr. Woodrell's world that he so elegantly writes about in his books. Also, make sure you pick up the December issue of Esquire and flip to page 157 for a much overdue shout out to Daniel Woodrell. It looks like were not going to be able to keep him as our little secret much longer. It seems to me that William Gay can't be far behind and is equally deserving.
I was glad to see my buddies Jed Ayres and Scott Phillips made it to Fayetteville, Ar. recently to hear Tom Franklin read from "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter". Envious, jealous, but happy nonetheless, and thank God Jed has finally seen the light to the MECCA of the southern Gothic world, Oxford,Ms. You must go & you must take me with you. The folks at Square Books are just unbelievable nice folk & extremely well read and well versed and did I mention it's the home, or has been home, to Tom Franklin, Jack Pendarvis, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, John Brandon, Ace Atkins, John Grisham, Beth Ann Fennally, and some guy named William Faulkner. Oh, and you never know who will be there, actress Joey Lauren Adams of "Chasing Amy" calls it her home and just the other day singer Tom Waits was there. After you leave Oxford head over to Clarksville and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" where he made a deal with the devil, and you might run into Morgan Freeman at the "Ground Zero Blues Club".
Whatever you do when you head down to the Delta, don't overlook a couple other really cool towns like Greenwood and Jackson.
Greenwood is home to a couple icons, Lusco's Restraunt (present since prohibition days) and the beautiful 5 Star Hotel "The Alluvian". Nearby is Turnrow Books, owned by Jaime Korngay and is a must see when in Greenwood. If you have a couple extra days on your visit, head south to Jackson.Ms and check out Lemuria Books "the jewel of Southern Ms." and spend some time with John whose a treasure trove of literary tales. If you can't tell that I'm passionate about Mississippi..then you ain't listening!
My new passion in the book collecting world is an overlooked writer from the 20's, JIM TULLY, who screams out to be rediscovered. Wait till after Christmas (so I can buy all my copies) and then track down "Circus Parade", Tully's work based on his days working the circus and carnival freak show circuit's.
Hunt down the magazine "COWBOY WAY" and read an enlightening story by one of the best living folk singer's Tom Russell on author & illustrator Tom Lea. Tom Lea lived in El Paso near Tom Russell and the two legends come together for one memorable day. Tom Lea is one of the true greats when it comes to illustrating the western way of life and penned the classic novel on bull fighting "The Brave Bulls".
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:13 PM
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I recently heard my buddy Jed Ayres of "Hardboiled Wonderland" raving about a book he'd just read called "Pike". Well, I just finished up Benjamin Whitmer's debut novel, and the praise was warranted. The book was published by PM Press & Ben was nice enough to have them send me a copy. It may be a bit strong for those who love cozies, because there is nothing comfortable about "Pike". It is in your face, gritty, honest,and it revels in a world few dare to tread. Whitmer takes us on a journey through Hell and back (Cincinnati in fact) and exposes the underworld of dirty cops, drug addicts, prostitutes, and characters you'll love that aren't real like able. The book explores a hard world inhabited by even harder people. "This book is for those who like their Noir straight up, not stirred". I can't wait to see what Mr. Whitmer has for us next. I'll be keeping a close on Benjamin and PM Press.
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:31 PM
Sunday, November 14, 2010
What a weekend!! This was our first Murder and Mayhem in Muskego and we had a blast. The panels were interesting and it was great to see some of my favorite people again, but it's funny how the best part of these events is always the before and after, and the conversations on the side. After driving 6 hours to get there I was pumped to visit Mystery One Books, only to find a "Closed" sign hanging on the door due to working the meet & greet at Muskego. I was kinda bummed but things bounced back shortly after running into Reed Farrel Coleman, Victor Gischler, Sean Doolittle, Daniel Judson, Jeff Abbott, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jen Forbus and her friend Judy in the bar at the Iron Horse Hotel. It was great visiting and catching up with old friends and making new ones. Judy & Jen.. sorry about the mix up at breakfast (our apologies), and Judy you can see already I'm terrible with punctuation as well. Ha One of the great things overall was discovering two new writers that I came away excited about, ( BLAKE CROUCH & HENRY PEREZ ). Before I forget, if you ever find yourself in Milwaukee and don't know where to stay, check out the beautiful IRON HORSE HOTEL located in downtown Milwaukee. It is just stunning! My wife and I caught a film on pay for view in our room that was...unforgettable. It's called "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia", a documentary and I first heard about it on a tip from Jed Ayres,(thanks Jed). If you like southern goth & outlandish behavior then this film is for you. If you're a fan of Hank Williams III then you won't want to miss it as well. Saturday got off to a great start with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel with two of my favorite people, Scott Phillips and Reed Farrel Coleman. On the drive out to Muskego, we had an unusual experience when we stopped at a gas station to get directions & use the restroom and the owner tried to charge my wife 24.95 for a map of Muskego (which was free). He also didn't know where the library was ( 2 blocks away from him on the same road by the way) oh & the map did advertise for a 24.95 dollar oil exchange on the back...so it's easy to see how how he got confused. They probably never need to know how to give directions or read a map in the Middle East. That was interesting but the funniest thing that happened over the weekend was the show of effection Christa Faust's dog "BUTCH" had for Tom Schreck's stuffed beagle. I published the clean version (foreplay) at the top of this story, but if you want the rest of the story you gotta contact Christa for her photo. Let's just say Tom may wanna pick up a new version as this one got ravaged pretty good. It was great seeing Sean Chercover and hearing we're very close to seeing his next novel coming out and visiting with Michael Lister,( a great guy by the way ) and hearing that "Double Exposure" is going to be made into a film. That is very good news as "Double Exposure" was my favorite read of 2009. It was great to see Anthony Neil Smith, Chelsea Cain, Victor Gischler and Sean Doolittle again as well. Sean Doolittle needs to be doing audio books, he has a great voice for it and the guy is super smart as well. If there is a funnier writer out there than Victor Gischler, I haven't met him. Scott & Christa did a terrific job on their panel and kept the 50 & over group awake and on their toes. We had a event free trip home but we did enjoy our stop in Kenosha,Wi. at the MARS CHEESE CASTLE..it made me homesick for Wisconsin. I found the tollway on 294 interesting, pay the toll, don't pay the toll..your choice, quite interesting, and I missed all that downtown Chicago traffic. Good ending to a great weekend.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:53 AM
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
As I boy I grew idolizing professional athletes like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Johnny Bench and Reggie Jackson. I grew out of that phase, but I have to admit even at 45, I am still star struck by a couple of my favorite authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, William Gay, and Ken Bruen. I have been waiting to meet William for about 5 years now and had several close calls in the past with no success. There was a time I ran into Tom Franklin in Oxford,Ms. and we were in a discussion on William when Tom pulled out his cell phone, and says lets call him. Unfortunately,.. William never picked up. So, I waited patiently for William to make a public appearance for a book signing, but his new novel, "The Lost Country" has been held up for several years now. Then it finally happened, William was gonna be at The Southern Festival of Books & at Landmark Books in Franklin, Tn. I called up my friends and family and made plans and everything was set. On the day before he was scheduled to appear I got a call from Jed Ayres with the news William had cancelled both appearances due to his health. I can't begin to tell you how bummed I was at that moment. HOWEVER, the good news is William has made a full recovery, is feeling much better and rescheduled his signing at Landmark Books for Nov. 7th and it went off without a hitch. I was walking out of the bookstore following Madison Smart Bell's reading and book signing earlier that day, and I walk right into William Gay leaning against a car smoking a cigarette and it rendered me speechless, and for those of you who know me, that's quite an accomplishment. I soon recovered, and literally had one of the great evenings of my life. Sonny Brewer talked about how the book came about in the first place, ( an inspiration from John, the owner of LeMuria Books in Jackson,Ms.) which was pretty cool because I had just spent a couple hours in John's office this summer listening to tales of William Gay and other southern authors who had stopped in over the years. Then William pulled out his reading glasses and read his entire story from "Don't Quit Your Day Job". The packed crowd was delighted & the entire story was witty and quite amusing. William Gay has a wonderful talent for story telling and being able to find humor in himself and those around him. Sonny Brewer has put together quite the collection of authors here including many of my personal favorites such as Larry Brown, Pat Conroy, Tom Franklin, John Grisham, Silas House, Daniel Wallace and of course William Gay. Chris Gay, Williams son, also wooed the crowd with his talent as a musician. Check out the previous story to find out more on Chris. Following the reading's William hung around and signed books and spent quite abit of time in conversation with those lucky enough to be there for this occasion. I was thrilled that in the middle of telling William about an exciting new talented author who had admired his work, William says " would he like for me to blurb his book"...do bears #@%!* in the woods. Oh my goodness, I couldn't wait to get home & tell the author of the offer. I hope it works out! William also spent time sharing his thoughts on meeting Hal Holbrook,and his books being made into film (Bloodsworth & That Evening Sun) and just as I was asking him about "The Long Home" & the screenplay that Scott Phillips & Jed Ayres had done, we were interrupted by a young lady needing her books signed. I certainly understood the urgency and I forgave her but I sure would have liked to have heard the answer. The evening was everything I dreamed of and could have hoped for. William Gay is one of the nicest & coolest authors I've run across and I hope he enjoys the bottle of homemade rhubarb wine I took him..it's good stuff!
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:29 PM
I wanted to give everyone a heads up on a terrific musician I stumbled across that you may not have heard of yet, but I believe you will down the road. His name is Chris Gay, and he's the son of the very talented writer William Gay. I went down to Landmark Books in Franklin,Tn. on Nov. 7th for William Gay & Sonny Brewer's book signing for "Don't Quit Your Day Job". Well Chris came along & brought his guitar and really made quite the impression. Chris performed 4 songs he had written, starting with, "Go Crazy,Quietly" and "Lordy Elvis", before taking a request from his Father, "Statesboro Blues" and a request from Sonny, "Throw a Rock in the Road". Chris is a very talented musician & has recently recorded 3 songs in a studio in Nashville,Tn. and we'll be awaiting word on there availability. I talked with Chris afterwards and he's a heck of a nice guy, who's cut his teeth on his father's & Larry Brown's literature. I had a great time visiting with him and I hope to do a follow up interview with Chris very soon.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:27 PM
Friday, November 5, 2010
Jed Ayres is one of the hosts of St. Louis' own Noir@ Bar. His short stories have been published in anthologies, magazines & on the web. He has just finished his first novel,"Peckerwood" and he writes screenplays. Jed acted in, wrote & produced the film "Mosquito Kingdom" which played at the Tivoli at the St.Louis Film Festival. Mr. Ayres also runs the website "HARDBOLIED WONDERLAND". He is a husband, and father of 2 boys and I'm proud to call him my good friend. It's my pleasure to bring you a new interview with Mr. Ayres who is currently in Philadelphia at NoirCon and is the envy of all of us who got left behind!
1)Noir @ Bar just met for the 7th time. Has it lived up to your expectations, is it something you hope to continue indefinitely, and would you like it to grow?
Noir at the Bar has surpassed my original expectations. I didn’t know if we’d register interest from anybody for it. I’ve been to some awfully dull literary events and we didn’t want our baby to resemble those bloodless readings in any way. The enthusiasm the event has garnered in the crime community has been very exciting, and I’m always floored and humbled when a writer I admire will come participate in our tawdry little production.
I would like to see it grow in a few ways. First, I’d love to see St. Louis become a destination for crime writers and hungry young talent to make a mark. Second, I’d love to see the city really embrace the event. Our budget is whatever is in my pocket… ummm, nothing. So, advertising is pretty much nil. The Riverfront Times has run some pieces on us and that’s been much appreciated, but we’re relying on word of mouth to promote it. Third, I’d like for Subterranean Books to prosper and independent bookstores and small publishers especially to get a shot in the arm from what we’re doing. And fourth, I’d like to become disgustingly wealthy from the whole affair.
2) Who first got the ball rolling, you or Scott? Was its origin based on the Philly Noir at the Bar?
When Scott came back from NoirCon in 2008, he mentioned that there was an event in Philadelphia called Noir at the Bar, so named by Peter Rozofsky(SP?), and wouldn’t it be fun to do something like that in St. Louis? Uh, yeah. It would. I have no idea if our events bare any similarity other than the name. I’ve heard that Scott Montgomery and Harry Hunsicker put on a Noir at the Bar Houston style recently and I’d love to have seen that, but again, I have no idea how similar an experience they may be.
3) Who's on your dream list of authors you'd like to see in St. Louis at N@B someday?
Here’s where I’m going to get in trouble for leaving somebody off, but the list truly is infinite. One of the first things that occurred to me when planning it was that it would be great to pair newbies with my heroes – kind of level the playing field and treat everybody equally – let the work speak for itself. So there are a bunch of writers without book deals that I would love to have participate alongside luminaries like…
4) Have you gotten an opportunity to read Scott Phillips's new book "RUT" yet and your thoughts if you have?
I read Rut a couple years ago in manuscript form and loved it. Scott’s got a real strength for creating ensembles of memorable characters to bounce off of each other in hilarious, perverse and tragic ways. He’s also great at seeing things through to their natural conclusions and consequences, for instance, nobody is ever neatly killed off in his books, once dead they pose new problems that have to be dealt with – he may have been a real sack of shit in life, but now he’s a literal sack of shit on the living room floor and we have to hide him - So, the opportunity for him to go a few years into the future and deal with the behavioral trends taken for granted now and play around with the consequences of it all with a fantastic stock of characters was not to be missed.
5) HARDBOILED WONDERLAND,is one of the best, if not the best, crime-mystery related sites on the web. What are some of your favorite websites to peruse?
That’s too much, really, but thanks. I have no idea how you’re supposed to do it. I have no idea what the gadgets and tools that ‘blogger’ offers do or how to install them, I’m totally useless there. I peruse very lightly and am often overwhelmed by a site’s main page – so many flashing lights and videos and advertisements and links – I skip ‘em. I’m an old fart. I get overwhelmed by print magazines that get too creative with their layout too. I check out The Rap Sheet and Spinetingler, Keith Rawson’s video interviews are great and The Nerd of Noir is always entertaining and insightful – I actually read the non-fiction portions of Crimefactory before the fiction too, they’re doing nice things over there. Mulholland Books has come out of the gates with a dizzying display of quality essays from top-notch talents. I don’t know how long they can keep that pace up, they haven’t even published a single title yet, but as long as they’re rolling along at this clip, I’m checking them out. Actually, I’d love to see a print collection of those essays. I’m a Luddite like that.
6) I know that you and Scott have been to L.A. recently pitching some screenplays and a TV series. Have you gotten any feedback or movement in that area since your return?
Scott and I have some scripts and concepts that are pretty kick ass, but I haven’t quit my day jobs yet.
7) You've been working†on your first novel for a while now, are you in the editing process now & how close are you to having a finished product, and shopping it around? Have started looking for an agent yet?
The novel’s working title is "Peckerwood" and it’s looking for a home now. I’m currently gathering dirt on various agents and publishers whom I hope to intimidate and coerce into making me wealthy.
8) You've written a novel, directed a film, acted in a film, written screenplays, had several short stories published,run a terrific website, and write a column for Barnes and Noble. Oh, I forgot you also help run St. Louis's own, N@Bar. AND..you’re a husband & a father of two wonderful boys. How do you do it or do you just change in a phone booth somewhere?
I have an amazing wife.
9) Otto Penzler recently commented on Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis’ stature as legends of the crime noir, by saying that there are three current writers who may well be held in the same esteem some day. They were Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen, and Tom Franklin. Would you agree with that and is there anyone else you would add to that list? Also, I gotta note here that I've interviewed 2 of those here at S & W's, (Stuart & Ken), you think you can help me get one with Tom?
I don’t think there’s any arguing that those are three great contemporary writers, but there’s no way to say, with any kind of objectivity, what’s going to be carried on a generation or two down the road. In the case of Thompson, when he died he was out of print. I don’t think many people were banking on him having a resurgence or the legacy he does now. And he’s certainly not the first writer, (or artist of any field), to die in obscurity only to be greatly influential and appreciated a few decades down the road. So who’s to say who that could be now? But if you want to point out some folks creating exciting prose styles that are already being imitated and innovating the way we experience the written word, you’d have to throw in names like James Ellroy, Daniel Woodrell, Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh, plus a bunch more.
10) Tell me about Mosquito Kingdom, what did you enjoy about the experience and what did you dislike about it?
How long have you got? I enjoyed writing it. My second son was just born and I would literally be up in the middle of the night, rocking him to silence with my foot while typing away. In retrospect, I’m glad that I was such an integral part of the process of getting the film made. There were four of us that really got it done – Brad Hodge was the fearless visionary who had the sack to do it in the first place, Derek Elz is the only one who was present for every single second of production and post production, our workhorse and also responsible for the cool look and editing of the film, our star Chad Bockholdt kept showing up no matter what happened the last time we shot. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how many times I thought we’d lost him for sure, but Chad’s a dedicated actor and apparently has no standards or sense of shame. And I wrote it and rewrote it everyday into post-production just to make it coherent. It’s not a great movie. But it’s a movie. A finished and watchable movie. One that I’m proud of. I know more people with half-finished films that will never see completion and ideas for scripts that they’ll never get made. I didn’t want to be another one of those guys. I’ve got a finished film, dammit. Now I can try to make a better one. Anyone who has ever made a film can testify that even making a bad movie is very difficult.
11) I thought you did a very nice job acting in that one. Is that something you would be interested in doing more of in the future?
Thanks. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not something I’m seeking out.
12) You and Scott Phillips are pretty good buddies, how did your friendship develop and tell us something about Scott that we might not know.
I was a bookseller when The Ice Harvest film came out. I’d never heard of the book, but when it came in with the movie cover on it, I picked it up to check it out. The movie credits shocked me. Richard Russo wrote the screenplay? Get the hell out. I figured that if it was worth Russo’s time it was worth mine. And it was.
I found out that Scott lived in town and approached him through his website to do an appearance in my store. He came in to sign some books and I slipped him a copy of a short story I’d written and he very graciously read it and offered to give me some notes on it. He’s been very supportive and I don’t think the fact that I possess some incriminating photos of him from his Paris days even factors into it. He’s the best.
13) The best 3 films I've seen this year were Winter's Bone, Mesrine & Animal Kingdom. How about you, can you give us your fav's and something we might have missed?
My theater going has slowed down to a pretty pathetic rate these days. What I’ve seen is hardly representative of what I’d like to. For instance, I missed Mesrine, Red Riding and The Square during their theatrical runs. I probably wont even get to see The Town or Jackass on the big screen and Valhalla Rising never even came around. I did see and enjoy Winter’s Bone, Animal Kingdom and The Killer Inside Me over the summer, and I thought Brooklyn’s Finest was worthwhile, but far and away my favorite film of the year is A Prophet. It’s out on DVD now. You have no excuse.
14) Do you think you'll look back someday & go "OMG" I helped host Frank Bill & Matthew McBride's first public readings? What do you think the future holds for these 2 youngsters?
I already do. I accept full responsibility for all of their success and apologize profusely to the world. I wouldn’t rule out jail for either of them.
15) Give me 5 living writers that you couldn't live without?
The dude who wrote “may be harmful if swallowed” on the cans of paint. That guy saved my life more than once, but I don’t know if he’s still around.
My bosses (2) who write my name and theirs on paychecks.
The lawmakers who crafted government support for my economically vulnerable family.
Nicholas Sparks. Without him reminding the world that books exist no one would buy them any more. Ever. As someone who’d like to make a living selling books some day I’ve got to say thanks for that, Sparks.
16)What are some books you have read lately that everyone should seek out immediately?
Pike by Benjamin Whitmer, Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya, The Cold Kiss by John Rector, Savages by Don Winslow, Misadventure by Millard Kaufman, Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith, Nobody’s Angel by Jack Clark, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks, Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff… are all 2010 books that I really enjoyed… I know I’m leaving off a bunch too… dammit.
17) I know that you and Scott wrote a screenplay for William Gay's first novel, "The Long Home.” Any movement or word on the chances of something happening there?
Haven’t heard anything new on that front for a while. I think people are waiting to see how the other Gay adaptations perform. We’ve had some nice attention from it. People say they like it, but I haven’t quit my day jobs.
18) Off the top of your head, are there a couple of books that you would love †to have a chance to†write a screenplay for?
The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell. That’s the one of his that just screams “movie” to me, though I hear the rights have recently been snatched up on that one. I’d love to write an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s short story The Hardened Criminals. That is one of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever read and I think it could make a hell of a potent, scary movie. Duane Swierczynski’s The Blonde would make a great movie and it’s more or less structured like one already. I’d love to swoop in and take the credit for “writing” that kick ass film. Easy A.
19) You are a terrific interviewer, is there a dream interview still out there waiting to happen?
20) St. Louis will be hosting Bouchercon in 2011, are you planning any big events for N@B in connection with the mystery conference? It seems like a great chance to gather some very special writers for a night out on the town after hours at the Delmar Lounge.
I’m really torn about it. B’Con sounds like “play time” to me and I want to enjoy it. Noir at the Bar, especially on an epic level, sounds pretty stressful to carry. What I’m thinking at the moment is maybe an event the night before B’Con with the real nuts who are in town a night early. Could be a marathon event too. You comin?
Final Question: Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?
Between Abbott and Bardsley on the bookshelves.
Posted by Rod Norman at 2:48 PM
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The William Gay booksigning with Sonny Brewer at Landmark Books in Franklin, Tn. that was cancelled in Oct. due to health reasons, has been rescheduled for this Sunday at 5 p.m. Author, Madison Smart Bell, will read and sign his newest book at 3 p.m. before the Brewer/Gay signing. This is a don't miss event as William does not make many public appearances these days. Hope to see you there.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:36 PM
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I am offering 2 free tickets to the St. Louis Speaker Series to hear Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the amazing best seller, EAT,PRAY,LOVE on Nov. 9th at the Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis. All you have to do is be the first one to post you name & address in the comment section & I will mail those tickets out to you tomm. Good Luck!
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:36 AM
Saturday, October 30, 2010
It is a real pleasure to bring you this interview with Frank Bill. I really believe he will be a key voice in the future of crime writing. His short stories can be found all over the place at Thuglit,Plots with Guns, and Beat to a Pulp, amongst others. He is a midwesterner, a "Hoosier" and he writes from the heart and leaves blood on the page. I for one, anxiously await his debut and it's my pleasure to welcome him to "Signs & Wonders". The interview below was done all the while as Frank continued editing and writing and somehow still found time to squeeze this in. It is with great appreciation that I give you Mr. Frank Bill.
Q: I think everyone is excited about your debut. What's the title, the publisher and when can we expect to see it on the shelves?
A: Crimes in Southern Indiana, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, it’ll be my first book. It’s a group of stories connected by characters surviving within a small town. There’s not a tentative date, but it will hit shelves sometime in the Summer/Fall of 2011.
Q: Do you have anything else already in the can or are you already working on the next book?
A: As of this writing I’m working on edits for CISI. I’ve another novel written that needs some polishing and is very personal, my agent has it. And I’ve another I’m about 30 or 40 pages into called HOUSE OF FLIES and two other projects on the back burner.
Q: With your debut set to be released soon, will you be doing any book tours in promoting it & if so where will the first signing be?
A: Well the debut is still a ways off. I’m hoping to do a book tour but as of this writing I do not know when or where. That’ll be something discussed with my Publicist, Editor and Agent. But when I know more I’ll let everyone know.
Q: I asked this same question to Stuart Neville, but would we be seeing Frank Bill getting published, (thank goodness we are) without the short story? I mean you already have a following based on all your short stories that have been published all over the place.
A: I think so. My shorts and the characters that evolve within them were coming out on the page and regardless of the short form or the long form, they were looking for a home.
Q: Why is it all the really cool & crazy people are from Indiana? Did I mention we're both Hoosiers.
A: Every state has its share of interesting characters. Indiana has David Letterman, Woody Harrelson, James Dean and Steve McQueen and by Murder by Death (Great band).
Q: This isn't a very original question but I have to ask it because I really want to know. What writers have influenced you the most or made you want to be a writer?
A: My influences came in phases. I never read a lot of fiction growing up. As a kid I read Outdoor Life Magazine and books about Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Sandy Koufax and a lot of comic books. In my teens I read a lot about serial killers like Ed Gein, Henry Lee Lucas and Gary Heidnik. In my twenties I read books on Taoism, Buddhism (eastern religion or philosophy) and weight lifting. Sometime around 98 or 99 a movie came out called Fight Club. I read in the credits that it was based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The bookstore I went to didn’t have Fight Club, so I ordered it and found out he’d written two other novels, one of which was on the shelf. I bought it, Invisible Monsters. After that I was hooked on Chuck’s work and style. And I began reading every interview on Chuck that I could find. I wanted to understand where his writing came from, understand his tone and style. I began writing like mad, mostly about things I knew little about. Filling up notebooks.
During this time period I read Irvine Welsh, Brett Easton Elliss, Jason Starr, Jim Thompson, Andrew Vachss, Craig Clevenger, A.M. Homes, Hunter S. Thompson, Will Christopher Baer and Larry Brown. There were others, but these writers molded me with style and mood.
I finished my first novel, Acting Out, in 2003. And it’s now in the Beat to a Pulp Anthology. It represents my anger as a young man during my twenties, in many ways I was still maturing as a writer. I hadn’t found my niche nor my subject matter. I’d found my voice but I was far from being mature.
The writer who really stuck with me was Larry Brown. I kept going back to his books cause I could relate to his stories, the characters reminded me of growing up around my grandfather, father and mother and cousins and all of the people I’d interacted with. I began rereading Larry’s work and searching out interviews with him while looking for similar writers and digging deeper into my own roots.
Eddie Little, Tom Franklin, Dorothy Allison and William Gay were next and they like Larry showed me that I could write about things I knew and where I came from but also things I didn’t. Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, Silas House, Ron Rash, Chris Offutt, Pinckney Benedict, Gurney Norman and Chris Hollbrook came later. And in 2008 I discovered Donald Ray Pollock, Neil Smith and Kyle Minor.
Looking back, I’d say Larry Brown’s JOE, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Ron Rash’s One Foot In Eden, Chris Offutt’s The Good Brother, Tom Franklin’s Poachers, Chris Holbrook’s Hell and Ohio, Harry Crew’s A Childhood and William Gay’s The Long Home, those novels really shaped my mind and told me you can do this. They brought back a lot of characters, stories and life experiences from when I was a kid.
And others I’ve got on my shelf and plan to read are Alex Taylor, M. Glenn Taylor, Benjamin Percy and Chris Holbrook’s new book of shorts.
Let me add this, one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years was Philipp Meyer’s American Rust. My father and uncles are form Pennsylvania and my grandfather worked in the steel mills. So this book was a real treasure.
Q: Keith Rawson ( someone I really respect) said that he felt the future of crime writing or noir was going to come from the backwoods, not the classrooms. When I think of that description I think of William Gay, Larry Brown etc... What do you think of that comment and what is it these writers bring to the table that other "schooled or trained writers do not" ?
A: Keith is a true friend and great supporter much like Neil, Jed and Scott. I think what Keith was saying is that the future of crime writing or writing in general will come from a natural person not schooled. Someone who has been or is down in the shit and dirt, who knows real problems associated with loss, dysfunction, abuse and acceptance. Rather it be a laid off factory worker in the unemployment line or the town sewage worker who drops a dime every evening at the local bar cause his wife left him for meth. They’ve lived and viewed scenes within life that others have not and they can relate this raw human condition through words on the page.
William Gay and Larry Brown bring the same thing Earnest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Erskine Caldwell brought to the table, a natural style from their everyday surroundings. It’s something a writer learns without direction but through hours and years of reading, writing and paying attention to life.
There’s nothing wrong with learning to write in a classroom but if you want to be a writer, you have to have a lot of life experience to draw from, you gotta ask questions and know how to make others see and feel your answers. And you have to make it interesting from the first word and each and every word that follows.
Q: Who's the craziest amongst you, yourself, Matthew McBride or Anthony Neil Smith or Jed Ayres?
A: Probably McBride.
Q: You participated in the very 1st Noir@ Bar in St. Louis, Mo. along with Anthony Neil Smith. Tell us about that experience, were you nervous, pumped, etc.?
A: That was a good time. Neil was and always will be a great a friend. He, Jed and Scott Phillips have helped me out in ways that I can never repay them. But back to the question. To be honest I drove 4 hours with my big buddy Don The Law Dog. And I was nervous because I’d never read my work to other people, let alone an audience and I’d just drank two double espressos back to back and when my turn came my nerves were rattled. My arms were shaking so bad from the caffeine that I had to hold the story I was reading with two hands. But it went well and I made some friends for life. Scott, Jed and Neil were great hosts and they killed it with their reads.
Q: I know you're planning a little book signing, or get together next year in Indiana ,with Jed, Anthony, Matt, and John Rector I believe. Can you share a little about that here? It sounds like a don't miss event to me.
A: At this point it’s only an idea. I’ve spoken with Rector, Smith, Ayres, Minor and Pollock. They’d like to do it. And if we do it’ll be at my buddies’, Thad Holton and Scott Alford’s family pub, Beef O’Brady’s here in Corydon. Have the local bookstore, Arlston’s Booksellers supply the books. Just a night of reading, drinking, hanging with friends, family and hopefully selling some books.
Q: What did you think of John Rector's debut novel " A Cold Kiss" and have you read his next novel "The Grove" yet? Oh, and thanks for the heads up in regards to John's work.
A: Rector’s ‘A Cold Kiss’ is AMAZING! I read it two or three sittings. It was one of those books you hated to put down, a cross between Raymond Carver and Cormac McCarthy. And I have not read ‘The Grove’ yet.
Q: Matthew McBride, wow...this guy is absolutely crazy and I mean that in the nicest way. You've read some of Matthew's work. Do you think Matt has what it takes to be the next big thing in crime fiction? He reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson to a large degree.
A: I’ve read some of his work. He’s hitting it. My belief is he’s got the chops but he’s still a ways from writing to his full potential. His writing tone and style are still maturing. That takes a good long while to do, you gotta waste a lot of pages to find the few that matter. But he’s on his way. He’s lighting fires at the heals of Ayres, Bardsley and Shea. Some others to watch are Patti Abbott, A-9, Nolan Knight, Chris Benton, Jimmy Callaway, Jason Duke, Matthew Funk, Michael A. Gonzales, Dan O’Shea, Steve Weddle and even the editor writers/reviewers David Cranmer and Keith Rawson. There’s an entire underbelly of writers waiting to explode. It’s pretty damn amazing.
Q: I know you are a big film fan. I also know you have a very dark since of humor. Can you tell us some of your favorite films or some of the directors work who really grab you?
A: Man, that’s a long list. But here are a few.
Full Metal Jacket, Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, A Perfect World, The Getaway (Old version),
Buffalo ’66, Chopper, Straw Dogs, Narc, U-Turn, Your Friends and Neighbors, Five Easy Pieces, Cool Hand Luke, Deliverance, Indian Runner, Cold Mountain, Chrystal, Sling Blade, 21 Grams, Devil’s Rejects, Come Early Morning, Audition, Old Boy, Bonnie & Clyde, A History of Violence, Frontiers, I Stand Alone, Big Bad Love, Crank 2, Hostel, High Tension.
I like drama and horror and directors who write their own material. Two films I recently caught, That Evening Sun and Winter’s Bone.
Documentaries like, Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus, The Rough South of Larry Brown, Born Into This (Bukowski), It’ll Be Better Tomorrow(Hubert Selby Jr.), are also of interest.
Television, which I watch less and less of, but Deadwood, The Wire, The Shield and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are great.
Q: Let's talk music for a moment here. Who do you listen to and does it have any place in your writing regiment?
A: I grew up listening to my mother’s 45’s of Elvis Presley or my grandmother’s boyfriend’s 8 tracks of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr.. But it took me years and years to rediscover this.
Here are a few that I listen to:
Drive By Truckers, Hank III, Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll, William Elliott Whitmore, Son Volt, Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, R.L. Burnside, Blue Mountain, Bob Dylan, Todd Snider, Scott H. Biram, Justin Townes Earle, Tom Waits, Dock Boggs, CCR, Fred McDowell, James McMurtry, John Prine, Lucero, Lightin’ Hopkins, Lucinda Williams, Malcolm Holcombe, Old Crow Medicine Show.
Really too many to name. But like books, music has to be something that I can relate to. I’m more into singer/songwriters or real old country or Delta Blues. I’m not a fan of new country which isn’t even country music anymore. I can’t relate to the sound nor the voice. It’s too damn clean and flashy.
For me, music sets the canvas when I’m driving around and hashing out characters, actions and scenes for landscape or memory. It’s my soundtrack. When my cousin, Denny, comes in from Michigan the first thing we do is get the drinks going and listen to tunes, catch up and go over the old days and all of the crazy shit we used to do.
Q: What writers, publishers, people in general have reached out to you on your way to getting a book deal? Surely there has been help from someone along the way?
A: The following Editors, Lady D of Thuglit, Anthony Neil Smith of Plots With Guns, Aldo Calcagno of Darkest Before the Dawn, Elaine Ash and David Cranmer of Beat to a Pulp have all been really good to me. Really supportive. Neil and Lady D really helped me see the writing on the wall. Made me take more time in the realm of editing. Neil and Scott Phillips have been great friends and mentioned an agent to me. Jed Ayres, Kyle Minor, Kieran Shea, Greg Bardsley and Keith Rawson have offered a great amount of support, advice and friendship and they’re also great writers.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer, and at what time in your life did you first start putting pen to paper?
A: I’ve always kept a journal. I started trying to write fiction when I was twenty eight or twenty nine. And pen to paper is how I write. I keep notes in a leather bound journal and I carry a Mole Skin in my back pocket at all times. I’ll be at work on my fork truck and that voice will render it’s self and I gotta stop and write it down. Same goes in the car or at the grocery.
Q: Do you "put pen to paper" or do you write on your computer solely? It's funny how pen & paper and the typewriter are starting to disappear these days.
A: I write pen to page. Compile notes. Take it back to my computer and work it all out. Print it to hard copy and edit. Then compile more notes and ideas and brainstorming. It’s a vicious circle.
Q: Up to this point in your life you have had to make a living another way other than writing. What kinda jobs have you done to pay the bills? You can make up another name for hit man if you like?
A: Well, I still don’t make a living at writing. But I started washing dishes at a restaurant when I was fifteen. Delivered pizza when I got my license. I’ve worked in a lumber yard, a Home Quarters, a rent to own store (loved that job), then when I turned twenty one I got a job in factory and I’ve been doing that for 15 years. It pays well and I got insurance. But if a person can do what they love and make a living at it, I say go for it. Life goes too damn quick to waste it on the mundane.
Q: Why is writing important to you?
A: Telling a story and being able to show the flaws and frustrations of a person and the depths to which he or she will sink is interesting to me. Especially when the story is un-predictable. So to me it’s important to create fictional lives that represent a class of people who’ve struggled all of their lives and show what they come up with or don’t. I wanna give a voice to real people and tell their stories regardless of fault with no apologies.
Final Question: Was Bouchercon in Indy your first one & what was it like to you? Your impressions and did you use it at as a means of making connections or were you there just hanging out, and taking it all in? Will we see you in St. Louis in 2011 for Bouchercon?
A: Yeah, Indy was my first. I was a bit awe struck. I mean I’m walking around as a fan but being introduced as a writer. I hung out with Neil Smith all day. Met and hung out with Stacia, my super agent, we had drinks and lunch with Joelle Charbonneau, Dan O’Shea, Victor Gischler and Kieran Shea. Neil introduced me to Gary Phillips, Megan Abbott, Sean Doolittle, Christa Faust, Craig McDonald and a lot of others. I met with John Rector and long time friend on-line Greg Bardsley. The night before Jed stayed down at my place and we got to hang out and drink and discuss life, it was pretty surreal. Only thing I hated was not getting to stay longer and share drinks with Scott Phillips. But I plan on being at the Bouchercon in 2011 and hopefully making another Noir at the Bar.
Posted by Rod Norman at 4:25 PM
Friday, October 29, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I just wanted to give everyone a heads up on some exciting interviews soon to hit this site. I am very excited about both of them. The first is with Martin Strel a.k.a. "THE BIG RIVER MAN". Martin has swam the entire length of the Amazon, Danube, Yangtze, and Missississippi River and he is a fascinating man with quite a story to tell. The second is with a truly amazing debut author, Frank Bill. It won't be long till he's a household name, because he's that good. I'm just like everyone else here, I can't wait to here what they have to say. So stay tuned, it won't be long now!
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:23 PM
I was in St. Louis a couple weeks ago & I was browsing the shelves of Subturranean Books in U. City when I stumbled onto an unusual looking book called "I AM NUMBER FOUR". I didn't buy it at the time but I did order a library copy to check it out later. I didn't know much about it other than it involved aliens living amongst us here on earth, and that the story was being told through #4. There were 9 to start with and 1-3 had been peviously killed. Now #4 was being hunted and on the run. If they die, then we die as well. I started reading it out loud to my wife and within 50 pages I was totally engrossed in the book. I am not a big sci-fi guy either, but the story is well told, fast paced, with lots of interesting characters. Half way through it I didn't want to put it down, but the biggest surprise was that as I finished the book I couldn't wait to read the next book in the series. It was that good. I'd highly recommend it to you, but I do have one disclaimer, it's for teens. Please don't let that stop you though. Yeah I know, it's kinda embarassing admitting you're reading teen lit but its a worthy indulgence. Dreamworks and Steven Speilberg must have liked it as well since they're hard at work on the movie version. I for one can't wait to see it and this may very well be the next Harry Potter, or Twilight series. Just remember you heard it here first!
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:48 PM
The fall is usually my favorite time of the year. This fall has been particularly beautiful, so why can't I shake those summer time Blues? I guess it's because I'm one of those people who get depressed when there is nothing going on that makes you feel alive. I need a reading event, a concert, a movie...something to be excited about or something to look forward to. This fall has offered none of those. I had to sit and listen to others rave about how wonderful Bouchercon was this year in San Francisco. Next week, I'll get to hear about how killer Noir Con was in Philly. Yes, I'm stuck here in the Midwest dreaming I was there. I finally had something to be excited about when I heard William Gay was making an appearance in Franklin, Tn. I've been waiting about 5 years for William to make an appearance and I wasn't going to miss this one. I even found sidekicks in Jed Ayers & Scott Phillips to go along. So, naturally he cancelled the day before the event. Then I missed my first Noir@ Bar in St. Louis since the first one, due to work. I missed Crime Factory's Cameron Ashley & Jonathon Woods as well. I've been waiting for weeks on a couple interviews I was excited about as well, so it's like Groundhog Day...everything seems in limbo lately..a perpetual holding pattern. I'm waiting on something or someone to break me out of these doldrums. Anybody got any good news to pick this downtroden fellow up?
I mean come on, there's only so much a guy can take. This summer I caught "Winters Bone" (twice), The Killer Inside Me, Animal Kingdom, Mesrine, both Dragon flicks, and now...NOTHING! Last year, I caught Tom Russell, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Slaid Cleaves, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Levon Helm while Lucinda Williams & Tom Waits hit St. Louis as well. This Fall, "NOTHING" NADA, ZIP !!
Someone please give me something, throw me a crumb, give me something to get excited about. I do know that Murder & Mayhem in Muskego is rapidly approaching (Nov. 13th) and I plan on attending before the guys in the white jackets and butterfly nets show up looking for me.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:13 PM
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I really thought about keeping this a secret, so maybe I would be one of the few to attend. However, I know how much this rare opportunity means to me and I'm betting there are others like yourself out there who would be just as excited. William Gay, author or "THE LONG HOME", "PROVINCES OF THE NIGHT", and "TWILIGHT" will make a very rare appearance at Landmark Books in Franklin, Tn. on Sun. Oct 10th at 5 p.m. William Gay will be signing along side author Sonny Brewer, both will sign Sonny's new book "Don't Quit Your Day Job". This book is actually about authors who have done just that. Maybe we'll get lucky & Tom Franklin will show up as well. Tom is also featured in Sonny's book. If you are a huge William Gay fan I highly recommend this event, but do yourself a favor & show up early to have some time to explore Landmark's wonderful shelves and walk around beautiful historic Franklin. If you do go, come up & say hello...I'll be the one with a smile that just won't quit.
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:00 AM
Friday, October 1, 2010
Jonathan Safran Foer, was in St. Louis on Thursday giving his last ever reading from his latest book "EATING ANIMALS". Foer spoke to a packed house at Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University and then hung around to meet and greet and book signing. J.S. Foer is the author of two previous novels, "EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED" and "EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE". His latest novel "EATING ANIMALS" takes a good hard look at Factory farming and all it's evils in regards to animal cruelty and Foer's own decsion to become a vegetarian. Personally, I loved his first two novels but have not yet read his newest for a reason...I LOVE MEAT. I'm sorry but I do, I could, and often do exist on chicken, pork chops or steak in one manner or another. Vegetables, I can take them or leave them. So, the thought of a life without meat makes me cringe just thinking about it. However, on this night I was intrigued by Foer's witty insights and humor. He impressed me to the point of selecting "Eating Animals" for my book clubs first selection of this year. His passion wooed me and I do love animals so the least I can do is read it, contemplate it, and see what happens. The worst thing that can happen I suppose, is to follow Foer's request and cut out out meat at least one day a week. I mean is that really too much to ask after all. I'll keep you posted on this one. By the way, Jonathon Safran Foer published his first novel at the age of 25 and has been selected for a list of the greatest 20 writers under 30 alive today throughout the world. He is definitely one to watch.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:47 AM
When my wife and I get to over to St. Louis, (as often as we can & afford) their are several places we usually try to get to while we're there. Those special places include Ted Drewes, Left Bank Books, Blueberry Hill, Big Sleep Books, Subterranean Books, The Tivoli Theatre, Plaza Frontenac, St. Louis County Library, The Fox Theatre, Vintage Vinyl, U. City, Central West End, The Hill. They all hold a special place in my heart and my wife Judy & I , have shared many special moments there. On Thursday evening, we headed over to St. Louis on an absolutely gorgeous evening to hear & meet Jonathan Safran Foer at Washington University at 7 p.m. We were running a bit behind due to a fender bender before we left town, so we didn't get into town till about 5:45p.m. Nonetheless, as were driving over to Wash. U., there it was. The neon "Open" sign of BIG SLEEP BOOKS, and like a moth to a flame I was drawn inside for a chance to say hello and visit with the stores dear owner, Helen Simpson. Even if I didn't buy a book (and I always do) it's worth it to just stop by and listen to Helen regale stories of her 20 + years in the book business and especially the mystery field. She knows her product and the authors who produce it. Over the years she has led me to many wonderful books. She has always been courteous and kind, a smiling face. She has even appeared in one of Robert Randisi's books as herself. How many booksellers can make that claim? On this night, I was rewarded as I knew I would be, as we spent a half hour just discussing writers, bookstores, book events, and exchanging stories from the past. Helen has many wonderful stories from a long career in the mystery world. I won't give her age, or I might become a casualty the next time I'm in the store...but I only can hope and pray that I'm as sharp, clever, witty, and as lovely as she is when I reach it. Helen does more, much more than sell books...she has lived a life immersed in the mystery world, she has transcended it. If you want to find out for yourself and make a new friend, drop by Big Sleep at 239 N. Euclid in St. Louis, or you can look for her at Printers Row in Chicago, or Bouchercon or the book event in Muncie,In. She'll be there, selling books, promoting authors and turning book lovers on to a new author. In my opinion she is an Institution herself in the Mystery World. p.s Thanks for the D.W. story! Just another wonderful night in St. Louis.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:45 AM
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I feel like that bear just coming out of it's cave after a long winter in hibernation. Having just wrapped up another school baseball season and taking a month long sabatical from writing, it's good to be back. If you check in to this site regularly, I have a suggestion for what to do in the future during one of my sabaticals due to coaching. Type in http://spaceythompson.blogspot.com and head over to Jed Ayers website "Hardboiled Wonderland" and you will instantly feel at home. During my absence from my site I have been reading, catching some movies, watching some TV series, and gathering new writing material. Their were 3 items inparticular that I was going to write about, the new TV series BOARDWALK EMPIRE, the film, THAT EVENING SUN (based on William Gay's novel) and the film ANIMAL KINGDOM. Here's what I'm gonna do, you know that address I just gave you above for Hardboiled Wonderland, well head there now because Jed already hit on all 3 of these and did a better job than I ever could. He continues to amaze me, as I really think his site just keeps getting better and better. I'm even gonna steal Jed's tagline (sort of) for his Barnes & Noble column (Ransom Notes) since they say theft is the greatest form of flattery. So, Jed consider yourself flattered my friend.
Random Thoughts: In my time away I got quite caught up on some things I had been missing. I watched all 3 seasons of Deadwoood...amazing, great actors, vulgar, and dead on. I caught Season 2 of Sons of Anarchy & I thought it was even better than season 1. I watched Season 4 of Dexter and it was by far the best season yet thanks to the terrific John Litgow & the explosive finale. I loved the premiere's of Boardwalk Empire and The Event. I also caught a couple episodes of Justified and loved it. I'm really looking forward to Season 1 coming out on DVD.
I did get a chance to catch 4 movies over the last month. I got to see WINTERS BONE for a second time at The Avon Theatre in Decatur, Il. I liked it better the second time if that's even possible. I caught things that I missed on my first viewing. I was awed by its slow pacing, and its visceral beauty. Shot in the Ozarks it is rugged & brutal but beautiful as well. I hope that come Oscar time it gets the BEST PICTURE nod it richly deserves.
Another fine film I caught at a private screening at The Avon was "LEAVES OF GRASS". It's directed by Tim Blake Nelson a Coen Bros. favorite and his work here will remind and please those die hard Coen Bros. fans. The film stars Steve Earle, Keri Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Blake Nelson and Susan Sarandon but it is Ed Norton" who steals the show. Norton plays two different characters, brothers who are actually in scenes together. Some tough feat that is to pull off. However, it works here. You can catch it on DVD as it hits video stores in early October.
I caught 2 films at The Tivoli in St. Louis, ANIMAL KINGDOM & MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT and I would highly reccomend them to any fan of gritty crime flicks.
I also caught some really good films on DVD, the best of which were "The Red Riding Trilogy", "The Take" a 2 Pt. BBC miniseries, La Sierra, Harry Brown, That Evening Sun, and "The Square".
For those looking for a good book to curl up to here in the Fall, I would like to recomend the following: "The Cold Kiss" by John Rector, "Savages" by Don Winslow, "Think of A Number" by John Verdon, "Still Missing" by Chevy Stevens, "The Poachers Son" by Paul Doiron, and "The Hanging Tree" by Byran Gruely. I also read Larry McMurtry's "Hollywood" but I won't advise you to read that one. Go back to his first (of his 3 memoirs), which is about his time as a book dealer & book scout and stop there.
The Fall also brings some great new books from James Ellroy, John Rector, Reed Farrel Coleman, Tom Franklin, Tom Schreck, and Scott Phillips to name a few.
Well all I can say is you can see I used my time wisely and that we'll have much to discuss in the near future...and some really cool interviews are headed your way starting with Martin Strel ( THE MAN WHO SWAM THE AMAZON).. all I can say is it's great to be back & be good to one another till next time.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:32 PM
Out of Print Clothing
Click on the above link to go to the website:
Check it out by clicking on the link above. The sad thing is I had the same idea years ago but didn't know what to do with it. You snooze you loose. That's why I'm gonna make an offer right now...anyone who wants to bankroll my other idea, I'm ready to go. You've all seen American Pickers right, well how about a new series called "Book Pickers" . Jed Ayers and myself head out across the Midwest hitting peoples homes, garages, storage units and used bookstores, in search of literary treasures. Jed you have some contacts in L.A. so how about putting out some feelers. I'm willing to drive, all we need is someone to spot us some gas money & some cash to buy the books. Heck, we'd even cut you in on the spoils & give you dibs on the jewels we find. I'm just saying....
Click on the above link to go to the website:
Check it out by clicking on the link above. The sad thing is I had the same idea years ago but didn't know what to do with it. You snooze you loose. That's why I'm gonna make an offer right now...anyone who wants to bankroll my other idea, I'm ready to go. You've all seen American Pickers right, well how about a new series called "Book Pickers" . Jed Ayers and myself head out across the Midwest hitting peoples homes, garages, storage units and used bookstores, in search of literary treasures. Jed you have some contacts in L.A. so how about putting out some feelers. I'm willing to drive, all we need is someone to spot us some gas money & some cash to buy the books. Heck, we'd even cut you in on the spoils & give you dibs on the jewels we find. I'm just saying....
Posted by Rod Norman at 3:32 PM
Just a heads up here. On Sept 30th, (Thurs.) at 7 pm., the wonderful writer, Jonathan Safran Foer will be at Washington University in St. Louis,Mo. from 7-8:30 and the event is free to the public. You won't want to miss this opportuntity to hear and meet the author of "Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close".
If you find yourself in St. Louis with some time to kill, drop by Subterranean Books in U. City, and check out their new collection of classic T-Shirts of literary greats. I picked up 2 for Banned Book week, (The "Catcher in the Rye" and "On The Road" versions.) super cool and cost about 25 bucks, plus tax. Even more surprising..they are made right here in America, New York in fact. I thought EVERYTHING was made in China. If you can't make it out to see Kelly at the store, you can go to the website www.outofprintclothing.com and order it directly. However, if you can make it to the store you can also check out their art exhibition of prison paintings and find some really unusual books as well.
While I was at the Tivoli to see "Mesrine:Killer Instinct", I also saw an amazing trailer for a new film entitled "Stone" starring Robert DiNero and one of my personal favorites, Ed Norton. Oh yeah, and Mila Jovovich ain't bad to look at either.
Another film I here good things about is "CATFISH" ,and it's showing at Ronnie's 20 in the Lou. I'm really looking forward to seeing "WAITING FOR SUPERMAN" & I'm sure it'll be at the Tivoli or Plaza Fronteac in the near future.
Hey, here's another overlooked venue you might wanna check out if your near Collinsville and hungry or thirsty. The Westview Wine Cellar has a great selection of beer and wine and a terrific array of delightful sandwiches. They often host artwork and on many nights they have live music including folk singer Pete Morrissey. My brother Pat works there so tell him I sent you. Did I forgot to mention it's climate controlled with a sensational view of downtown St. Louis, especially at night. It's located just off HWY #70 on the hill above the McDonalds restraunt. Take the frontage road in front of the McDonalds & keep your eyes open on your left a 1/4 mile later.
Posted by Rod Norman at 12:31 PM
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT (PART 1) - AUGUST 27 | MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1 (PART 2) - SEPTEMBER 3 (2010 movie)
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT (PART 1) - AUGUST 27 | MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1 (PART 2) - SEPTEMBER 3 (2010 movie)
I'm not a film critic, I'll leave that to the experts like Illinois' own Roger Ebert. He's amazing in his knowledge & understanding of film. However, I know what I like and I know what captures my attention. Mesrine: "Killer Instinct", is one of those films. It grabs you from the opening scene & holds you by the throat till the credits role. It's relentless, and Vincent Cassel is terrific as the French version of our Scarface. Don't even get me started on the subtitle issue, I can't believe intelligent people who won't watch film's with subtitles, or B& W or silents. Some of the best films being made today..(shock) are not being made in America, and when you eliminate films with subtitles you just denied yourself some of the best films period! I saw this film yesterday in the comfort of the Tivoli theatre in U- City section of St. Louis, Mo. The films based on the true story of the French gangster Jacques Mesrine's life in the 60's-70's. If you see Pt. 1 which is "KILLER INSTINCT", you will know how PT.2 ends beforehand. My mistake was waiting till 7 pm to see Pt. 1 and then my wife didn't want to hang around for Pt. 2 at 9:30. I reluctantly agreed knowing we still would have a 2 hour drive home after the film. However, I really wanted to see "PUBLIC ENEMY #1" despite knowing how it would end because "KILLER INSTINCT" was that good. I may try to catch it next week but if not that's what Netflixs is for. Also, Scott Phillips you were right as always.
Posted by Rod Norman at 8:29 AM
Friday, September 17, 2010
David Thompson was amazing, inspiring, a true friend, a publisher, bookseller, reviewer, a husband, so much to so many. I for one miss him very much and for those who have known him longer & even better...your hearts have to be breaking. I have put off writing my own tribute to David since his passing on Sept. 13 until I had time to find the peace and quiet necessary to write from the heart the things I wanted to say. I was fortunate to get to know David over the last couple years thanks to Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman. David made my world a much more enjoyable place to be. David sold me alot of books,and David refered me to alot of new authors. He was a champion of many authors in the mystery field. He worked diligently at keeping many authors books in print. His publishing company BUSTED FLUSH PRESS (recently purchased by Tyrus Books) was amazing. It championed wonderful authors such as ACE ATKINS, KEN BRUEN, DANIEL WOODRELL, and REED FARREL COLEMAN..some of personal favorites. But it was David's warm personality that won your heart. I finally met David in person for the first time at Bouchercon in Indianapolis last year after a couple years of phone calls, e-mails and texts. I was a customer yes, an avid book collector yes, but in the mystery field or book world I was a nobody, and David treated me like a somebody. Not just a somebody, but like a important somebody. We shared a passion for books, a love of reading, of authors and films and a love for life and that's all that mattered. The last phone conversation we shared was when David called very excited about a couple new authors with debut novels that he wanted to let me in on. The one he was most excited about was John Verdon's "Think of a Number" and went into detail as to the plot of the book. He said that Mr. Verdon wasn't going to be doing any book tours, but he would be signing copies for Murder by the Book and did I want one. Most definitely I did, because if David recommended it, you knew it was gonna be good and worthy. So, I find it fitting that as word spread and I heard of David's passing, that I was reading , "THINK OF A NUMBER" ,and as always he was right. There will be know one to replace David Thompson, for he was irreplaceable. He loved what he did and wanted nothing more than to share that with you...YOU being everyone. And, as I write this tribute and tears flow, my heart breaks like so many others out there for he belonged to all of us, the big and the small. He will remain in our hearts forever and just a thought of him brings a smile. However, the world just became a little colder place when your flame blew out. Gra Mor,and until we meet again, may you rest in peace.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:17 PM
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I've been away from here for about a month and now we're back with a vengance! Here we have an interview guaranteed to grab you by the throat. I posted a story on Matt McBride earlier here at S&W's letting you know he's an author to look for to the future. Well, now we have an interview with Matt, red hot on his trail of short stories soon be seen at Crimefactory and Plots with Guns. This is not an interview for the timid and weak at heart. It is an interview done with complete honesty and straight from the heart.You gotta love and respect that. It's a privlege to call Matt my friend and I hope you dig his Q & A. Thanks to Matt for his time & patience. ENJOY THE REAL DEAL !!
1) You recently gave your first public reading of "Gunpowder & Aluminum Foil" at Noir @ Bar in St. Louis,Mo. I'm feeling lucky because I was there to see the lift off of a future star. Were you nervous that night & in hindsight what are your memories of that night in particular?
A – It seems like I was nervous, especially since I'd never read my writing before in public. As far as the memories, I'll never forget Scott's [Phillips] introduction where he spoke of my ability to leave funny voice mails. The greatest thing was seeing everyone laugh while I read. [Still not sure if they were laughing with me, or laughing at me] but Scott and Dennis Tafoya were definitely laughing their asses off. As long as you're making people laugh, you're winning.
2) You've had several short stories published in some impressive places, where are you at in regards to getting that first novel published. Are we getting close to a finished product that can be shopped about?
A - I wrote my novel back in 2003 and it's been rejected at least 100 times. Maybe more. It's currently with two different agents. Still playing the waiting game, but if they aren't interested I'm just going to burn it and move on. No, just kidding. I'll revise it [again] one of these days, then start the process all over. I haven't actually looked at it in years. Every time I try to read it I can't even enjoy it, because I start making new changes within the first paragraph.
On a side note, at one time I did have a contract on it back in 2005, but my deal went down the shit pipe at the last possible minute. And by that, I mean the Publisher went out of business the month it was supposed to be released and they never even bothered to tell me. I was not very happy about this.
3) What kind of writing background do you have? By that I'm really referring to your school days, did you have any interest in writing when you were in HS?
A - Even in HS I always liked to write, but it just seemed like such an uncool thing to enjoy doing. I can remember my first creative writing project in English comp. We had to write a 2-3 page story about whatever we wanted, but it had to be a fictitious story and we had a month to do it. I waited until midnight the night before it was due and pulled an all nighter. The story ended up being about 12 pages, which was about 8 or 9 pages longer than anyone else's. When she read them out loud she had to stop right in the middle when she came to mine because it was too inappropriate. I used words like fuck, and cocksucker. I did get an A+ on the story though and I still have it. Somewhere.
4) You know it's been said that many writers, only live the wild life in their heads & on the pages. Scott Phillips, has called you the "real deal" and a guy who lives what he writes. What are your thoughts when you hear that?
A - First of all, anything Scott Phillips says I take as a total compliment and I hold both his friendship and his praise in high regard. If he were to call me an asshole, I would find some way to view this statement in a positive light. As far as living what I write, I guess that could be true. I've done a lot of wild and crazy shit. Done a lot of, um, illegal shit.
Jail, check. Drugs, check. High speed police chases, check. Spectacular car crashes, bar fights, broken bones... Some people live life on the couch, I sorta live life on the edge. I fly by the seat of my pants. They always say life is the best experience for a writer, so I've packed as much dynamite in my suitcase as I can fit.
5) I read somewhere that you & the Black Hogan or BH are working on a documentary together. Is that a project that's still in the works or is it something you worked on and are going to come back to later?
A - We went to Vegas back in March and shot some video, but it was pretty difficult because he literally got mobbed every couple of feet. We started shooting video at the Minus 5 Ice Lounge at the Mandalay Bay, but then we ended up getting tanked and it all quickly went to shit. We did manage to shoot a video that we stuck on YouTube. Here's a link [I'm the drunk guy that yells at the end] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKQ1plxCGBc&sns=em
6) This a tough one, we share a mutual admiration of Steve McQueen and Hunter S. Thompson. Both were individuals who did things their way & gave the finger to the establishment. They both loved adventure, guns, violence. I can see their influence on you. I know you'll shoot straight so, I guess my question to you is, do you personally not worry about the fact that you yourself could die ? I guess I ask that because you had a motorcycle wreck at 100 MPH, and you could've been killed on your trip to Mexico where you were robbed by the military. You seem willing to put your life on the line. Am I wrong?
A - No, I guess I don't really worry about shit like that. In the end, everybody dies. I have no control over such things, so I may as well just enjoy the ride. I am a risk taker, and everyday is an adventure if you want it to be. I have no real regrets that I can think of, only memories.
7) Lets talk about that trip to Matamores in Mexico. Is that a 100% true story? It is something straight out of Hunter S. Thompson. It is absolutely believable, I mean it's nuts down there. Life is pretty cheap and it is often hard to tell who's the good guys & the bad guys between the drug cartels & the military police. Getting killed isn't real hard to do down there. Yet... you set out to buy Valium, and you had grass with you, when you encountered the military who robbed you of $166 dollars at gunpoint... machine gun's at that. Where you not a bit leery before you even left and while it is a hell of a story with a good ending, weren't you ever scared?
A - Yeah, that's all true with the exception of Doug shitting his pants. Those cocksuckers [Mexican soldiers] actually robbed us too. It was about three AM and we were somewhere between Matamores and Laredo when we came up on a military roadblock of some kind. Upon entering Mexico we'd wasted no time procuring as many drugs as possible so our pharmaceutical arsenal was in strong supply. The most important thing to remember in situations such as these is to stay cool under pressure and have a damn good hiding spot(s). A good rule of thumb is: the longer it takes you to hide something, the longer it takes the cops to find it.
The only time I was really worried was when this fat, bald headed soldier pointed that machine gun at me, but I was probably more pissed off than worried. At first I actually thought about attempting to disarm him, because every tough guy movie I'd ever seen flashed through my head. I knew we were in a tight spot and there was no reason to try and be a hero, but I also had no intentions of being a victim either. Everything worked out in the end though, because Doug's girlfriend was Mexican and she was able to negotiate a deal. It was just a money thing. After it was over I can remember being grateful they didn't steal my expensive bottle of cologne that was in the door pocket.
A funnier story [and one I probably shouldn't tell] happened a few days later. Doug announced that he and his girlfriend were going to make a run to some other town. After the previous ordeal, I was less than enthusiastic about the thought of another moonlight excursion across the lawless badlands of Metamores, so I stayed back at the Hotel. Besides, somebody had to watch the drugs.
Well, Doug didn't come back for 2 days. The problem was, all of my money was in Doug's truck. Well, the next day people started beating on the door to the room demanding money. I didn't know what to do and I didn't know when Doug was coming back. Or IF he was coming back. What I did know was there was enough cocaine in that room to kill a small herd of elephants, so I spent the next two days getting tweaked out by myself and staring out of the window. Then I'd think somebody was outside the room, so I'd lay on the floor and try to look under the door. It was horrible. I was afraid to leave the room and the ONLY thing on TV was The Firm with Tom Cruise. But Tom was speaking Spanish, and the only words I knew in Spanish were Senorita, Margarita, and Pharmacia. At one point I heard the door start to open, so I jumped off the bed and dove into the closet. To my horror, the housekeeper walked in and looked around the room for a minute while I was spying on her from the comfort of my hiding spot. It was at that point I remembered the mountain of blow on top of the TV, but I guess she never saw it. Then, and this is the craziest part, she just lied down on the bed with her hands by her side. She just stretched out on her back and took a nap I guess. I began to freak out. It was madness. I just layed down on the floor of the closet myself and fell asleep. When I woke up she was gone.
8) Did Doug really shit his pants, and would you go back?
A - See question seven ^ and I seriously doubt that I would ever go back. Cancun, maybe. But we were in the darkness and the chaos that was the Mexican underworld. Mean streets that had no name. At least not one that I could read. There were guys that operated out of storage sheds and they were selling cocaine out of trash cans. It was fucking crazy. Everybody was super cool to us, but American's do get kidnapped left and right down there so you had to watch your ass. One of the things that helped us was the fact that we were so much bigger than everyone else, and big people are hard to kidnap. I have so many stories about that place, because in a testament to how truly crazy Doug was, he ended up moving down there to be with his girlfriend. For 6 or 7 years he lived among the junkies and the killers. His own neighbor was a police officer named Carlos, and one time that son-of-a-bitch even got kidnapped himself. And he was a Mexican. I do not know how Doug survived, but he did.
9) I know you're a big film buff and a fan of the Coen brothers & Steve McQueen. What is your favorite McQueen film, ( I loved the Cincinnati Kid personally), and give us a list of some of your all time favorites. The films you couldn't live without.
A - I hate to sound cliche' but probably Bullitt, because I have fond memories of watching that on TV when I was a kid. It just seems like it was always on. As far as other movies, that's so hard. PULP FICTION was a film that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of chaos. The dialogue was so natural and one of the most subtle, yet interesting scenes in cinema history, [at least for me] occurred in that movie.
In the scene where Vincent Vega and Jules were driving down the road and there was that black dude in the back seat, and then the gun went off. That was just so BAM IN YOUR FACE unpredictable. Yet so completely believable, because that shit happens. It was so random, but it was such a strong, unexpected scene. The whole movie was just powerful.
I also love gangster films, or any movie about organized crime on any level. Millers Crossing was awesome to me. Goodfella's, Casino, The Departed, Heat, Snatch, The Road to Perdition, Smoking Aces. I love anything violent. Gladiator, 300, Apocalypto, Braveheart. For me to really love a movie it has to have strong characters and well written, well executed dialogue. I have a strong suspicion Tarantino could write dialogue in his sleep.
I appreciate strong, powerful scenes. The kind where everything is perfect. The words, camera angle, believable acting. I want to become a part of what ever I'm watching. I absolutely love Sin City and The Watchmen because I love spoken narrative and the words in those films are like poetry.
10) If the Devils Rejects isn't on the list I'm shocked. It just seems like a Matthew McBride kinda film. What did you think of it?
A - I love THE DEVILS REJECTS. Love it. Captain Spalding is a true gentlemen and a genuine role model that I feel others should strive to emulate.
11)Since your a fan of Hunter S. Thompson I gotta ask if you're familiar with Charles Bukowski's work? Here's another legendary icon who thumbed his nose at society and the man.
A - I don't know much about Bukowski but I have had other people tell me that I'd like him. His work is definitely on my list.
12) Speaking of "THE MAN" what's the outcome on the incident down at Vienna, Mo. where you were cowardly attacked and had 5 bones broken in your face when you & you're friends were jumped by a gang of thugs. The last I heard the DA & police department weren't doing much other than looking the other way. Did the St. Louis news ever pick up on the story?
A - Nothing has happened as far as justice goes and nothing ever will. I hope all of those assholes who attacked me die a very slow and painful death. Seriously.
13) Can we expect to see Vienna, Mo. show up in one of your novels someday?
A - The town is such a tremendous shit hole, the only way I'd ever write about Vienna is if I created a character who murdered everybody in the town starting with the Prosecuting Attorney and then set fire to the donut shop. [and by donut shop I mean Police station]
14)Steve McQueen kicks James Dean's butt any day wouldn't you agree? However, they are both Midwesterners as was Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp and Hugh Hefner. Whats with all the rebels in our neck of the woods?
A – McQueen always. - I'm not sure, but it seems like someone who feels truly devoted to their passion will stop at nothing to make their dreams come true. Sometimes your passion just pulls you in a new direction and you become a slave to it. Plus, maybe there's a certain feeling of suffocation that comes from living in the midwest. There really isn't a lot of shit going on around here. Movies are in California and the literary world is in New York. Some people are just true searchers and explorers.
15) Lets talk writing influences for a moment. I think Daniel Woodrell & William Gay are two of the best living writers writing real stuff alive today. These guys are real people who have experienced much and write about the lives of real people trying to make the best of a bad situation. I could see you and Frankie Bill being the next Woodrell's & Gay's. I think Keith Rawson said it best when he said the future of writing is not going to come out of the MFA's of N.Y., but in the backwoods in the heart of America? Do you think a college degree or a writers workshop is necessary for great writing?
A - Holy shit, that's one hell of a compliment. As far as myself, I'll work as hard as I can to make it happen. I'll do whatever it takes. If an agent told me jumping off the roof of our farmhouse would secure me a book deal, I'd call home and tell my wife to set the ladder out. Now, Frank Bill on the other hand is going to be a rock star one day in the literary world. Hell, he already is. DONNYBROOK is going to karate chop the whole world in the throat.
As far as a college degree, no way. Not in my opinion. I recently returned to college for the second time in my life and I hated it. It was just like the first time I attended college. Only this time I drove a better car and I wasn't smoking weed out of a Mountain Dew can.
I believe writing is something that comes natural and all the education in the world will not teach you to create an idea with your mind. Then transfer it to your fingertips, have the self-discipline to spend thousands of hours building it, tearing it apart, then rebuilding it, knowing where to send it when it's done, having the patience to wait for eight months or a year before hearing if an agent likes it, and then not give up when you get rejected. Because you will. Over and over again. I don't think they teach a class that can prepare you for that experience. I think it's just an inner drive that pushes you to succeed.
As far as a writer's workshop goes, I can see that being completely beneficial for any writer, regardless of your level of publication or success. One can never learn too much about the publishing business and the networking opportunities alone would be worth the price of admission. Now, this is just my opinion, but it seems to me that writing is a business and I think a writer with any real ambition to succeed should treat themselves as a component of that business, and treat their writing like a product. Networking and building both personal and professional relationships are crucial to a writer. I just try to be myself. People won't always like you, but if you're not offending someone than you're just boring. Fuck boring. Nobody cares about boring.
16)Give us some background into Matthew McBride, the jobs you've had and how those experiences have shaped your writing.
A - I worked as a dishwasher, a floor buffer at a nursing home, I worked at a pool table factory, two hat factories, a t-shirt factory, a company that washed the dirty blankets for a Hospital, a factory that made parts for refrigerators, I worked at a day care, a rent to own center, I almost worked at a grocery store, a box factory, and I worked at a tent factory once for fifteen minutes. That was all before I was 18. What that taught me early in life is that I'm not really cut out for shitty jobs.
And then I went to work for Chrysler. We built mini vans, and that was really the place that may be responsible for helping to shape my writing background. I actually wrote my novel on the assembly line in between jobs. It took me two months, and I was on fire. I was consumed by the need to tell this story. But the auto industry was a horrible place to work and I had a 90 minute drive each way. Those bastards had stolen the best years of my life and I'd finally had enough and said fuck this place. I jumped ship before it sank in December of 2007 and I never looked back. The industry was in the final stages of a downward spiral and I could see the writing on the wall. I don't think a lot of other people could.
17) Are you looking forward to the time when you can put the chainsaw down and write full time or is that even something you want to do?
A – That's why I left Chrysler, to create a new destiny for myself, and that would be my version of the American dream. But I think every body's version is different. The bottom line is, if you're making a living doing what you love, or even enjoy, than you've already won. Cutting down cedar trees [what I do now] in full safety gear in 103 degree heat is a lot like cutting wood in Hell. Having said that, I feel lucky to have the job. I now make 1/3 of the money, but I work 11 miles from home. Money isn't everything, but I work with good people and I'm not trapped inside of a building. Chrysler was a prison for my mind, but it did teach me to think and to occupy my time. Most importantly, I have a lot more time to write. Even more if I can stay off my motorcycle.
18) Who do you read and what writers have had an influence on you so far?
A - I feel like a real asshole saying this, but I've read very little crime fiction in my life. I know it sounds odd coming from a guy who writes it, but it's true. I just never really knew any of it existed. I was just never exposed to it until recently. Previously I'd read a lot of Stephen King, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, a lot of mainstream authors whose work is always in the front of Barnes & Noble. Those bastards. I pretty much blame them for this you know. I've since learned these little independent bookstores owned by people who love books, not money, are the best place to go for choice material. Avid readers should seek these places out and support them before they're all gone, because the death of a good bookstore is a very sad thing indeed.
For a while I read a lot of Dean Koontz books, but I had to give them up because I felt like he just kept retelling the same damn story every time. I'm not trying to disrespect him or any of his literary accomplishments, it's just that I grew tired of what seemed like the same cookie cutter formula in every book. A male character, usually he was independently wealthy for whatever reason, and always single. Then he'd meet a women. Somebody would have a dog, and in the end it seems like at least half the time everybody lived happily ever after.
It was a formula that worked for him and brought him great success, but it showed me the kind of writer that I didn't want to be. Instead of writing 100 books that are all the same, I'd rather write 10 books that are all completely different.
19) What's your favorite thing you've written and why?
A - With all of the recent praise for Gunpowder and Aluminum Foil, that's probably the first thing that comes to my mind, but I'd have to honestly say at this point it's the story I just wrote for PLOTS WITH GUNS called HAVE CHAINSAW, WILL TRAVEL. I put many hours of time and research into the story, which is [loosely] based on something that happened to me when I worked security at an MMA fight.
It's a violent tutorial of sorts about dismemberment, and I've gotta thank Anthony Neil Smith for making a few suggestions and forcing me to see a different perspective on what the story could actually become. It was a challenging exercise which taught me a few things about the craft of story telling that I'd otherwise never have learned.
I also need to take this opportunity to thank a few of the people that have taken pity on me and allowed me to con my way into their lives. Scott Phillips, for one. He was one of the first people to actually believe in me and he suggested I write a story and submit it online. That story was called Mr. Parker and the Gun, and it was published at A Twist of Noir by Christopher Grant. He's been very supportive of my writing, and he's helped a lot of new writers by giving them a place to submit their work.
Also Hollywood movie producer Brad Wyman, for liking my book so much that he put me in touch with DHS Literary Agency. That was something very cool that he didn't have to do. He may even turn me into a baseball fan before this is all over.
Keith Rawson is another one. That fucking guy is everywhere. Writing, reviewing, coediting CRIMEFACTORY. He's given me good advice along the way and all of it's greatly appreciated. Plus there's Cameron Ashley, who helped me with great editorial direction on the story RED DONKEY that will soon be coming out in their Kung Fu Factory edition.
Aldo Calcagno, for publishing a few of my stories and for all he does in general for writers, not to mention Steve Weddle, who is currently working with me on a story for the upcoming issue of NEEDLE. That's turning out to be a pretty sick publication by the way and it has the potential to be the future of crime fiction as we know it. I can't forget about Jedidiah Ayres or YOU either Rod, for being so nice to me and giving me exposure. Between Noir@Bar and your blog posts/interview, you've both helped to draw attention to my writing and that's greatly appreciated.
20) You have a very entertaining blog called "GOT PULP" that you started I believe this past Feb. How is it coming & has it helped you move things along in regards to promoting your writing?
A - Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I'm new to the blog world and the first thing that comes to mind is that they're a lot of work. My goal when I began this blog was to create something interesting where I can do some unique things that I didn't really see on other peoples blogs. I know a lot of people do an everyday blog, but I don't know how they can find the constant daily motivation. I try to do a new post once or twice a month.
For my posts, I usually tend to focus on pop culture people or events. Coming up at the end of the year, I'll drive to Graceland and do a story about Elvis. I've been to Graceland before, but I just read ELVIS Still taking care of business, by Marshall Terrill, and I learned a helluva lot more about his life. He was one of the first real mega stars who had an entourage wherever he went. Plus, he was radically unpredictable and he pulled guns on people and shit. Now I feel like I need to go back and take another tour, and after knowing so much more about him than I did before, I think it would mean more to me this time.
21) When you started writing, did you ever think you would be a part of an interview series with the likes of Ken Bruen, Craig McDonald, Megan Abbott, Ace Atkins, Charlaine Harriss to name a few. Those are pretty big shoulders you're rubbing up against now.
A – No, I sure didn't, but I'm happy to be a part of this. Those are some great writers and I'm honored to be rubbing shoulders with them. Thanks for taking the time to get to know me.
22) You taught me one thing already on "Got Pulp" if you're going to Mexico or going to run from the cops...make sure you got a full tank of gas first. Am I right?
A - Fuel is important and a guy like me always tries to roll with a full tank. Just because you never know. Once when I was 21, I lead the cops on a high speed chase in the middle of a snow storm. There was ice all over the road, but I was in an all wheel drive Eagle Talon and the cop was in an old shitter Crown Vic. My first move was to hit the back roads because I knew he'd be fucked in that rear wheel drive cruiser. Unfortunately, that's when I realized my gas light had been dinging. I had just enough time to rid myself of any illegal substances [it's always best to do this at a visual landmark for future retrieval] and I just went ahead and pulled over thinking my best chance would be to try and bullshit my way out of it.
The cop was so pissed off he pulled a gun on me, cuffed me, then threw me in the back of his bacon wagon. But after he calmed down I started laying the charm on pretty thick. He'd clocked me at 137 in a 35, but by the end of the whole ordeal he only wrote me for doing 65 in a 35. Then, in an act of pure coolness which blows my mind to this day, he followed me to the nearest gas station and even went so far as to offer me gas money. I can say with complete honesty this was the best experiences that I've ever had with police. Hans, you rock brother.
23) I always wanted to go to the Big Lebowski Festival in Louisville, Ky and you are the first person I've met that has been there. What can you tell others about it & would you recommend going?
A – For me, Lebowski Fest was a combination of White Russians and Vicodin. Oddly enough, I'd just had my second motorcycle “mishap” in less than a month the night before we left. I was riding with my buddy Big Johnson and the headlight went out on his custom bike, so he was following me, riding my back tire so he could use my headlight. Suddenly, two huge dogs ran out in front of me. The first one made it by, but the second one slammed into me on the right side.
To make a long story short, I wasn't about to let this unfortunate situation do anything to fuck up Lebowski Fest. My ankle and wrist were trashed so I spent the whole weekend on crutches, but it was worth it. For three days everyone in Louisville was dressed as a character from the movie, quoting lines and posing for pictures. [For those interested the full story is on GOT PULP?] Would I recommend it? Absolutely. If you're a fan of the movie, or a fan of people watching, then hell yes. I had a blast on crutches, so an uninjured “Achiever” would be amazed.
24) What's your favorite line from the "Big Lebowski" ?
A - "Shut the fuck up, Donnie" - Walter Sobchak
25) What's on your bucket list of things you want to do but haven't yet?
A – Get a book deal, act in a movie, and survive a plane crash.
26) What's your Mom & your wife think of all your mishaps and accidents?
A – They probably hate me by now, but I'd say they're used to Hospitals. In the last two years I've broken 9, maybe 10 bones, spent the last two summers in casts, and been to at least three different Emergency Rooms. My wife Melissa takes super good care of me though. After the motorcycle wreck, besides broken bones, I had severe road rash all over most of my upper body [because when I piled up, I was wearing a sleeveless shirt, like an asshole] my left knee was pretty much ground down to the bone, and my right ass cheek was completely smoked off. She'd wrap me up in this medicated gauze and it would take like an hour. By the time she was done, where she'd started bandaging would already be bleeding through. This took place two or three times a day for a couple of months.
27) The one person dead or alive you would want to meet & why?
A – Jim Morrison or Elvis. Jim was an explorer and he's my favorite poet. I was obsessed with my parents old vinyl when I was younger. I remember playing The Doors and Jefferson Airplane in my room all the time and writing stuff. Elvis has always been an endless source of fascination for me ever since the first boss I ever had turned me on to the king. My very first job, and one that I forgot to mention earlier, was at a welding shop, and my boss was a guy named Clyde Zelch. Clyde is probably the most amazing welder I have ever seen, and he will probably tell you that I am the shittiest. Clyde would always play Elvis in the shop while I attempted to weld and I've had a soft spot for the king ever since. If it came down to it, I'd probably have to flip a coin.
Oh fuck, wait a minute. I just remembered about Hunter S. Thompson. I'd probably resurrect that crazy bastard instead. Why? Because one of the first books I ever read was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and I don't think I've ever been the same. It branded an indelible impression on my guts and it drove a screwdriver through my brain. It was amazing and chaotic. Like a butterfly inside a tornado.
Final Question: Can I please be your sidekick on a future adventure, preferably one we live through? Ha
A – I'd be happy to have you Rod, but I can make no guarantees on our survival. Or even our safety, for that matter. What I can offer you, assuming we pull through, is a shovel full of memories to store on that computer chip inside your brain. I'm ready when you are brother, just say the word.
Posted by Rod Norman at 1:42 PM