James Ellroy says noir means 'you're fucked.' Works for me. Eddie Muller said the essence of noir was 'you will destroy yourself.' I like that too. Dennis Lehane said noir was working class tragedy - not somebody falling from a great height, but falling from the curb. I'll take some of that. I think it's a flavor or a sensibility more than a strictly definable genre. I think my leanings on noir are 'you're fucked - it's your fault that you're fucked - and even if you're offered a way out, you'll choose to fuck yourself all over again.'
Where does your grit come from?
Some of it probably comes from being a preacher's kid, and thinking long and hard about eternal damnation and grisly martyrdom every day of my childhood. When I hit puberty, my sexual fantasies got all mixed up with my martyrdom fantasies... Sex and violence and sin and salvation all rolled up in a psycho burrito I ate everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout my formative years.
What parts of Jed wind up in your stuff?
Most of my characters are versions of myself being allowed to follow their worst impulses all the way to the end of the line. I'm not too interested in writing about people making good choices or characters who have their shit together. I think I feel like I'm personally in danger of falling off the edge of good behavior - moral or responsible living - all the time, and I think that part of my fiction writing drive is trying to scare myself with the characters and lifestyles some part of me really thinks I could become.
How has your life changed since you met me?
I'm not so insecure about the size of my penis anymore. Thanks, Ryan.
How did Noir at the Bar begin? How has it spread across the US?
It was just a thing that Scott Phillips and I decided nobody else was going to do if we didn't. We were kinda sick of dull-ass literary events where authors either read very safe passages from their work or answered dumb-ass questions from the audience. What would be the opposite of that, we wondered? Noir at the Bar is what we came up with. We push our authors to read something they'd get their books burned for at any nice literary event. The name came from an event Peter Rozovsky held a few times in Philadelphia a few years ago, and I think, in the wake of the popularity of the many events I think he's going to revive the Philadelphia N@B - which is great news. So much great local talent in Philly. And I gotta say, it's been amazing how much local and regional talent we've discovered in St. Louis. Let's face it, it's not a literary destination, so we've made do with folks who were passing through anyway or we could convince to come to town just for the event. We try to get out of town names and pair them with some local or regional newbies who are always stepping the hell up. I'm proud as hell to have offered so many writers their first public reading event. (And now they're all getting book deals and shit - that's great.)
Why in God's name do you live in Saint Louis?
Haven't you heard? There's a kick-ass Noir at the Bar event in this town.
Tell me about your stories being made into short films. Because I am super-fucking jealous.
I've had great fortune with some very talented film makers expressing interest in my stories. Julian Grant was the first - he found A Fuckload of Scotch Tape in Out of the Gutter #5 and something clicked for him. Of course what he heard turned out to be singing and he made a full-on musical out of one of the darkest, stories I've produced. By the way, his movie, A F*ckload of Scotch Tape, has a North American distributor now - Revision Entertainment who are distributed by R Squared Films, have just secured all media rights for it. I hope that means it gets a larger audience soon. Congratulations, Julian. And Paul von Stoetzel made a hilarious short film, Viscosity - based on my story of the same name that appeared in Out of the Gutter #6 - and it keeps getting picked up for film festivals. That perverse little flick has played all around the world at this point.
What's next on the agenda?
Same thing we always do, Pinky.
If you had to fist fight a bear, what breed do you think you'd have the best chances with?
I once wrote a story about Dick Cheney fighting a bear. Whatever kind of bear could be killed by Dick Cheney in a fair fight - I guess that's the kind I'd choose to go up against.
What made you want to begin writing in the first place? You say that parts of you wind up in your characters, getting hosed as a way to help you to avoid choices you might otherwise make. Was it always that way?
I started writing because I was a very mediocre, frustrated musician, and I needed a creative outlet that didn't require me to rely on a bunch of other people (bandmates) to exercise. Funny thing looking back is that my musician personality and my writer personality are very different. The whole scare myself thing, that's all writer-me, so I'm not sure when to say that started.
If I gave you a pound of bacon, what kind of weapon could you make out of it?
If you gave me a pound of bacon, I'd be very suspicious...
You're a comic book guy, eh? I was before I started playing drums back in the day. One replaced the other, I guess. I've tried to keep up but that's become impossible. What do you look for in them? Grittiness? Or are they your colorful, light-hearted escape?
I like comic books, but I'm pretty new to them and really don't have a matured palette. First comic book that really rocked me was Scalped - I was blown away by the scope as well as the race for the drain trajectory of the 'heroes' and the intense emotions it was pulling out of me. So, yeah, that one - grit. But I've enjoyed some pretty silly ones too. My favorite thing right now is The Sixth Gun. I read it myself and then to my kids. We all love it.
Hardboiled Wonderland. You review things over there. If it weren't for guys like you and Benoit LeLievre I wouldn't know about a quarter of the movies out there today. What made you fire it up?
I wanted to leave a comment on somebody else's blog and had to establish a Blogger ID to do so. It was a fluke, really. I just followed the steps to create my own blog, decided on a name and fired off a quick opinion piece on a bit of casting I'd heard about - Jude Law was slated to play Brant in an adaptation of Ken Bruen's Blitz, and that sounded like an odd choice. Jason Statham ended up in the movie... and now I think I'd like to have seen Law's take (though, c'mon, Brant should be played by Brendan Gleeson - or maybe Ray Winstone - and it should be a BBC series).
Let me ask you about your newest offering, Fierce Bitches. First, can you give us an overview? Sell it to my incredibly discerning audience, please.
Fierce Bitches is a non-linear, multiple POV novella about salvation, sin, suffering, retribution, redemption and learning your place in the world. It's also a love story. I hope it hurts to read.
You used multiple points of view throughout it. Why that decision? I love the idea and have played with it before myself. This was an ambitious thing for a short work.
The multiple POV thing was there from the beginning. It was actually first conceived as a full-length novel, where every chapter could stand on its own self-contained, but that each chapter would illuminate the others and you'd end up with a wild-ass mosaic of crime and horror and romance. Several of my other short stories were chapters of this book including A Fuckload of Scotch Tape and Mahogany & Monogamy (if you're paying attention you'll find the main character from FLOST in Fierce Bitches). I liked the idea of the multiple POVs that would paint this world the way various characters saw it and that it would change a lot in tone and view. Each character is the star of their own story and tell it their own way, and I like having them wander through somebody else's telling of it like a supporting player. Layers, man. But yeah. I gave up on writing the whole thing. I thought that these three chapters fit together very nicely and accomplished a satisfying microcosm of the original idea.
Politoburg, your jacked up Mexican desert town full of whores and gangsters ... was it based on anywhere you've been? Please say yes. Maybe Saint Louis?
It's pure allegory. It's hell. Some of the residents see their stay as punishment; others see it as their reward for all their hard work. No matter the perception, they're all stuck in the same shithole with the same company and conditions.
The introduction by Scott Phillips for your book A Fuckload of Shorts describes your stories as "mere delivery devices for a particularly warped kind of black humor and the kind of sex that might make Larry Flynt reconsider his position on the First Amendment." Do you think you've earned such accolades?
I don't know if I've earned them, but you'd better believe I was trying to. I admire Scott's work, big time, and "The kind of sex that might make Larry Flynt reconsider his position on the First Amendment," is possibly my favorite thing anybody's ever said about my work.
What would be your theme song that plays every time you enter a room?
I'd like it to be Sexy MF by Prince, but Never Gonna Get It by En Vogue is more likely. Let's split the difference with Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man - I could live with that.
A note from Ryan - All right, 2013 has been both a blessing and a burden. One of the biggest things that's come about is I've gone back to school. Physical location. Twelve credit hours. Twenty-four hours a week. I still work full-time. My family is getting larger by the minute. Joe Clifford keeps trying to sniff my panties.
All that translates to I don't have time to write the intros anymore. Zelmer Pulp is crushing it. I'm working on my Subtle Arts of Brutality follow-up, a few special things, and quite honestly, I think I'm rehashing the same dick jokes and poop messes for every intro. So, sorry.
I'm actually a week late posting this because I don't have time. Having written that, we have lots more in store for you. I've got people lined up for months, actually. Okay, enough about me whining. Hammer down. Go buy the new Zelmer Pulp. Find us at Amazon.