Thursday, February 25, 2010

DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI Interview 2/25/19

Duane Swierczynski, is the author of the nonfiction titles "This Here's a Stickup" and "Big Book 'O Beer". His fiction titles include " The Wheelman",
"Blonde",and "Severance Package". He writes for Marvel comics and has a new book coming out in March entitled "Expiration Date". Duane makes his home in Philadelphia.

It was a real thrill to have had the opportunity to do this interview. I want to say thanks to Duane, it was a pleasure! So.. lets get right to it...Mr. Duane Swierczynski.

1) Have you ever done the "Rocky" thing where you sprint the steps to the top of the Art Museum or attend Eagles games and throw batteries or snow balls at opposing players?

No. But my kids have. And they've never seen any of the ROCKY films. Creepy, huh? It's like they're programmed to be Philadelphians at a genetic level.

2)Philly gets a bad rap at times, but its your hometown & obviously you love it. Your books are all set there as well. What should we know about Philly but probably don't?

I have a love/hate thing going with Philly. Love its history and neighborhoods, but hate the dumb asses who ruin everything. By that I mean the thugs and the politicians.

3) Bukowski spent time there, so you got that go in for you... what's the best writer's bar in Philly and where can we get the best Philly cheese steak? My arteries are hardening just thinking about it. Ha

Oh yeah -- I love that Bukowski spent some time here. I keep meaning to dig up the Philadelphia Inquirer article about his Philly haunts. I do know he spent time drinking near Broad and Fairmount, and I used to live nearby. (Not at the same time, obviously.)
The best writer's bar? I'd say McGillin's Ale House on Drury Street.

And best cheese steak? What, are you trying to get me stabbed?

4) How good are Tasty Kakes really? They are legendary, and Marvin Harrison brought them with him to training camp every year. Can you send me some?

I'd send you some, but I believe it is against the law to mail something as sweet and awesome.

5) One million dollars for a comic, are you kidding me? The Superman #1 just sold for that. Did you collect comics as a kid & do you remember your first love?

I didn't collect them -- I bought them and read the living shit out of them. My grandmother would give me a dollar every so often, so I used that to buy one comic and one candy bar. I read a lot of Spider-Man, Iron Man and Moon Knight back then.

6) My mother burnt all my comics in a burn barrel while I was at school one day when I was about 12 or 13. Hundreds of Batman, Superman, Thor, Flash, Spiderman, etc.. from the late 60's and early 70's. She didn't burn my Archies & Richie Rich or Casper though. Do you believe in the death penalty or is that to harsh?

Man. What did you do to your mother?

7) I heard they misspelled your name on one of your early book jackets, how does that happen and how many of those made it out there into collectors hands?

Actually, it was the spine of the actual book, not the jacket. So it's well-hidden. It was the entire first printing of "THE WHEELMAN", so if you own one... it might be worth five cents more on eBay.

8) You published a book entitled, " Big Book O' Beer" ...I assume that required many hours of research, and did it do any permanent damage? Your favorite beer is?

Writing THE BIG BOOK 'O BEER was grueling, man. Every day, I'd come home from work and have to open yet another beer, take some notes, open *another* beer, take more notes...

Okay, it was actually pretty awesome.

Favorite beer? These days it's Shiner Bock. Brewed in Texas. Hard to get here. Which is probably why I like it.

9) I've seen where you signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics, is that a long term deal and is it a very lucrative thing?

I make it rule to never discuss business and/or money unless we happen to be sitting around a giant pile of cocaine with guns in our hands.

10) I saw where you were once editor of Men's Health & Details, are you a fitness buff & can you give me any fitness tips I can use while I'm on my computer for hours at a time?

I was the minority hire at both magazines. At Men's Health, I was the tubby one. At Details, I was the un-hip one.

11) You and your brother are both named after members of the Allman Brothers. So, your family must have been big fans. Whats your favorite Allman's tune and have you seen them in concert? Good thing you were named after Duane Allman, & that none of the Allman Bros. were named Sue, or we'd be having a totally different conversation right.

I saw Greg Allman, at Woodstock 2. Duane Allman died before I was born. Catching him would have been a little tricky.
Hell, I'm just glad my parents weren't Sonny & Cher fans. My little brother was picked on enough in school, without him being named "Cher."

12) Your mothers maiden name was Wojciechowski, and Swierczynski translates into "dweller near a fir tree". Is there such a thing as to much information in today's cyber world?

The Internets a wonderful thing, isn't it? You can just lie your ass off and Wikipedia picks it up!

13)On a serious note you named your youngest son Parker, after Peter Parker in Spiderman. What qualities did you admire in Peter Parker or did you just like the name?

Actually, Parker's named for two of my literary heroes: Peter Parker (as you note) and Richard Stark's (a.k.a. Donald Westlake's) Parker, from the long-running crime series. I figure with two role models like Spidey and Parker, my boy will be able to handle anything.

14)Which art form to enjoy working in the most, novels or comics?

I love both, but novels are ultimately more satisfying -- for better or worse, it's just you in the pilot's seat.

15)What writers have mentored you, guided you, or helped you along the way?

Allan Guthrie, a brilliant Scottish crime writer, has been a close friend and mentor to me for geez, six years now. He was my first fiction editor, and his advice and counsel over the years has been invaluable. Plus, he's not utterly shite in bed, either.
And so many other pros have been ridiculously kind to me over the years -- Ken Bruen, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, Terrill Lankford, Bill Crider, Ray Banks, Tom Piccirilli, just to name a few. The most talented writers tend to be the most generous.

16)Was being a writer something you always dreamed of from an early age or did it just happen and you went with it?

It wasn't a dream at an early age so much as something I loved to do. Even in college, I never thought I could survive writing fiction for a living -- which is why I became a journalist.

17) Whose books made you want to be a writer?

If we're talking back in high school.... God, so, so many. Stephen King's IT. Joe Lansdale's COLD IN JULY. Clive Barker's BOOKS OF BLOOD. Robert Cormier's FADE. David Schow's LOST ANGELS. Skipp and Spector's THE CLEANUP. An anthology called THE GREAT AMERICAN DETECTIVE.

18) This Here's A Stickup, was a great book but we don't hear as much about it as we do the others. Why is that and what was your inspiration in writing it?

Thanks, sir. My inspiration? An editor I knew wanted a book on bank robbery. He gave me an advance and three months. I got to work.

19) I recently read and followed along on the website for "Level 26". It was a interesting concept, the cyber world working hand in hand with literature at the same time. What kind of feedback have you received and just how much involvement did you have in that project?

I wrote the novel from Anthony Zuiker's detailed notes -- and he wrote and directed the "cyberbridges" (filmed sequences bridging some of the chapters). I think the best way to enjoy it is on something like an iPhone, where you have the pages right there, and you link to the cyberbridges instantly. It's a totally different way to experience a novel.

20) In Level 26, the serial killer is just flat out creepy, who came up with his profile and in the real world could sleep at night knowing someone like him was really out there waiting?

Sqweegel was 100% Zuiker. The man is sick, sick, sick... in all of the right ways. The moment I heard about Sqweegel, I was like, "Sign me up."

21) I was just blown away by "Severance Package", and the word on the street is that Lions Gate Entertainment has picked it up with Brett Simon directing. Also, I hear your co- writing the screenplay which is great news. Is there any news of possible cast members yet and can you tell everyone a little about Brett Simon and the work he's done. This movie has a chance to be a great flick doesn't it?

Everyone should check out Brett's debut, ASSASSINATION OF A HIGH SCHOOL PRESIDENT. It's out on DVD now -- and very much a noir flick set in high school. I loved it. We wrote the script together, and now we're waiting for the next step. Stay tuned.

22) Obviously your a film buff, so can you tell us some of your favorite films, actors or directors who you admire?

I could literally sit here for hours, talking about favorite movies and directors -- I think your readers will have nodded off long before I finished. My all-time favorite movie remains Paul Verheoven's ROBOCOP. If I could ever pull off that blend of action, big ideas and black comedy, I'd be a happy man.

23) I see that Noir Con's in Philadelphia in November of this year. What can you tell us about it for those who've never been to one?

I seem to remember a lot of heavy drinking.

24) Do you ever really know what to expect when your on one of those panels at something like Bouchercon? In Indy, you were on a great panel with Michael Lister and Reed Farrel Coleman and I remember thinking, Duane's the wild and crazy one of this group... and yet you ended up moderating things. A complete role reversal?

Wait, *I'm* the wild and crazy one? When did this rumor start?

25) Whats your back ground musically? Who do you listen to and how much of a role does it play in your writing if any?

I used to play in my father's bar and wedding band -- and some of that experience makes it into my next novel, EXPIRATION DATE (due out March 30th at finer bookstores everywhere!)
When I write, I tend to listen to movie soundtracks. Today, for instance, I've been outlining a new book while listening to the soundtracks of some 80s neo-noir: TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., MANHUNTER and BODY DOUBLE.

26) Are you a sports fan, casual or passionate? If so any of the hometown teams...Eagles,Phillies,Flyers or 76'ers?

Not a sports fan in the least. My father isn't either, and I think that's key. I think you have to grow up with it.

27) I saw on Wikipedia a while back that your considered a member of the ( Ken Bruen posey) along with Jason Starr and Reed Farrel Coleman. Now... that's a group I want to hang out with. Is there a secret handshake or password you could let me in on?

"Hey, guys, can I buy everybody a round?"

28) Whens the next book due in stores, its title and anything you can you can share with us? Set in Philly?

As I so ham-handily mentioned a few questions ago, it's called EXPIRATION DATE, and about an out-of-work journalist who moves into his grandfather's apartment and becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. All of my books, it's the most Philly-centric. It was originally slated to be one of the New York Times Magazine's fiction serials, but sadly, they cancelled the feature not long after I started. I finished it anyway and made it my next book.

Final Question: Where would you like to see yourself 20 years down the road?

Answer questions for part two of this interview: SWIERCZYNSKI, TWENTY YEARS LATER.