What: A participant of the great Los Angeles Music Scare of the 1980s. After his burgeoning career in rock and roll stopped burgeoning, Les found a job writing screenplays about rock and roll musicians whose careers had stopped burgeoning. He’s written some movies and television including the miniseries, Taken, for which he won an Emmy. His novella, FLIGHT 505, was just published by UpperRubberBoot, and his new album, Moved to Duarte, will be up and out any minute. He is currently producing his series, Shut Eye, for Hulu.
Where: Los Angeles
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited. Leslie Bohem guitar photo by Bonnie Perkinson.
I finished FLIGHT 505 in one sitting. How did you come up with this dark, funny and heartbreaking story? Why was 2015 the right time to tell it?
Well, first thanks. A lot. I’d had a first chapter for a while—not the Chapter as it is now; a scene of Al, fixing bar games in a bar where he used to play. And the story just sort of took off.
Why now? Honestly, I just finally got around to telling it. I think I had to get enough distance from my own days in music—and then, a few years ago, I began writing songs again, and that sort of brought me full circle.
The origin story in FLIGHT 505 is set in the early 80s LA new wave scene, which you were part of. How much of the book is autobiographical?
Oddly, not that much. Although it’s the world I was in, I’m not really in the book. The three main guys are, at least in part, three of my closest friends from back then, with many fictional touches.
Of the three main characters in FLIGHT 505, are you self-destructive like Mickey, ego maniacal like Billy or down-to-earth like Al?
I’m definitely not as self-destructive as Mickey, although I always admired that sort of single-mindedness. I have very little in common with Al, other than maybe some of the buried frustration over dreams that didn’t come true. I don’t know that Billy’s ego-maniacal—maybe that means I have more in common with him than I’d like to believe.
- Code Blue
- The Model
- The Plimsouls
I’d like to think Gleaming Spires.
After leaving music as a full-time occupation, you became a screenwriter. How did you make the transition? Did you have a writing background?
Longish story. My parents were both screenwriters, but long out of showbiz. Nepotism sadly did nothing for me, but my idea of what grown-ups did when they went to work was they went in the other room and typed. I had written one script with a friend and some short stories, but I was still harboring dreams of being John Lennon, not Ernest Hemingway—and none yet of being Billy Wilder. A friend I had been in a band with became a producer. He got involved with Atlantic Records and a film company.
I was in France on a Sparks tour. He called me and said that this company had an idea about rock and roll and that he’d told them that I was in a band and spoke in complete sentences. They flew me back from Paris. Pitched me their idea. I told them that it sucked and they hired me on the spot. I’ve never been able to recreate this moment of arrogance. Then, for a long time, I wrote scripts about rock and roll that didn’t get made. And the rest, as they say, is history.
How does your experience writing screenplays influence your fiction?
I think that screenwriting, for good and bad, has given me a sense of structure. For good, it’s made me work towards saying less and showing more.
Was FLIGHT 505 always meant to be a novella? What is appealing to you as a writer about the novella format?
I thought it would be a longer novel, but then the things that happened happened and the story was over (no spoilers). What appeals to me is exactly what you did—you can read it in a sitting.
You’ve also published several short stories. Does your approach to short-form fiction differ from your approach to longer works?
I think the story lets you know how long it will be.
Any other publishing plans for 2016?
I’m almost done with a novel, but I’m producing my TV show, Shut Eye, for Hulu and trying to finish my album. So it’s an ambitious year, and I’m probably full of shit if I think I’ll finish the novel. A few more short stories should be up and out shortly.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION!
S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in September 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in March 2016.