What: A freelance editor, creative consultant and former lawyer. She teaches writing across the country, as well as at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. The author of the non-fiction series on writing THE QUICK AND DIRTY GUIDE TO… she has also published numerous flash fiction and short stories. She is also editor for the Romantic Times Digital Extras magazine, creator of the Anthony Award-nominated Sirens of Suspense website, and Fan Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime 2016.
Where: New York
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Welcome! You were recently named Left Coast Crime Fan Guest of Honor for 2016. What kind of shenanigans and hi-jinx can we expect from you in Phoenix this February?
I’m still waiting for the message from the LCC board that this was all a big mistake. But, if they’re too embarrassed to tell me, I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth. Definitely stealing the light rail train that runs in downtown Phoenix, or as I now call it, “Chantelle’s Mystery Train”. And that’s one of the tamer plans. I’ve heard talk of a sedan chair. People tell me I have an issue finding the line between “not boring” and “massive embarrassment”.
Given your impressive and varied experience—film, law and politics to blogging, writing and international fine art sales—what does this LCC honor mean to you? Looking back, does your own career path even make any sense to you?
It’s late, there’s wine, you buy some degrees online, things happen. Honestly, Mr. Lauden, very little makes sense to me. After all, my life motto is (to paraphrase) “How do magnets work?” followed closely by “I’m confused”. Which, at least, explains my career in politics.
It really is a tremendous honor for me. As you’ve mentioned, I’ve had a lot of careers, but none which came with such a supportive, fun, creative, intelligent, wonderful community—I’m so proud to be a member of it. It’s flattering and no small measure overwhelming that they would recognize me in such a way. After all, they actually know me, and still decided to honor me. Obviously, these are my kind of people.
How do all of those varied experiences influence the fiction that you write?
I have room in my garden to grow eggplants now that I can kill people on the page.
French, Spanish, Italian and, of course, English, are my strongest. I studied Latin, Ancient Greek, Mandarin and Arabic (but do not consider myself particularly conversant). I also speak the international language of Our Lord Cthulhu. Someday, I hope to learn Esperanto from Kris Kristofferson.
You are an award-winning mystery writer, with short stories and flash fiction in anthologies, literary journals and e-zines. What is the appeal of short fiction? If you had to pick one favorite short story that you wrote, which one would it be?
If I had to pick a favorite story for what, exactly? To never see the light of day? To re-write? To make sure I’d be institutionalized within the week? My pieces on unintentionally-assisted suicide and cannibalism hold special places in my heart, but I continue to be amused that I was ever published in a literary journal. It was my short piece “The Phone Call” in Foliate Oak Literary Journal.
It mostly comes down to time—of which I have little—and boredom—which I have in spades. With short and flash, I can sit down and write something while waiting for a plane, or on a train (or any of Sam-I-Am’s preferred conveyances), and have a near-finished product by the time I have to move. Any small idea or prompt can inspire it, and I don’t have to worry about maintaining that plot for an entire novel. As for the boredom, I tend to have an issue finishing projects once I know how they’re going to end. Since I’m really not plotting when I write short, I avoid that issue.
As an editor, do you think that short fiction is a craft that is important to the development of up-and-coming mystery/crime writers?
First, you’ve got the whole “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” aspect of writing fiction. The more you write—anything—the more you’re able to write. It tones the muscle, so to speak. If you’re the type of person who needs writing credits, I suppose it gets you those too. Additionally, it’s a great way to try out a plot or character without committing long-term. (Have you sensed my commitment issues yet?)
If you had to distill the wisdom of your QUICK AND DIRTY GUIDE TO… series on writing down to a single sentence, what would it be?
Skywriting, hands-down. If you can’t afford that, talking to bookstores and librarians in person is the single best thing you can do. These are the people who influence readers. Goodreads giveaways and Twitter are also great places where your audience already hangs out. But if you look like you’re self-promoting, you’re doing it wrong.
Tell me about A Twist of Karma Entertainment, LLC. What elements do great screenplays and great manuscripts have in common? Or are they different animals completely?
It’s all a fancy way of saying I’m a freelance editor. I specialize in mystery/thriller and science fiction/fantasy, and work with publishers, veteran and aspiring authors. I love what I do.
Though at the core, they are similar, it does tend to be different personality types. Screenwriters are usually more visual people, have a cleaner, tighter style, and are stronger in dialogue on the page. Novelists tend to be more verbose, because they are the only one creating the world and everything in it, they have sole control, and no constraints. What really matters is that your passion for the work comes across.
What are your publishing plans for 2016?
I’m curating and editing several major mystery anthologies that will be released in 2016-17. I’ve got a robot-based short story coming out in the 2016 Origins anthology.
What will it take for the world to see a Chantelle Aimée Osman novel?
Money, a case of wine, and wrestling the time-turner from Hermione Granger’s cold, dead hands.
S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.