What: Multi award-winning novelist, best known for his literary suspense thrillers DOUBLE EXPOSURE, BURNT OFFERINGS, and SEPARATION ANXIETY, as well as his two ongoing mystery series, the prison chaplain John Jordan “Blood” series (BLOOD CRIES) and the hard-boiled, 1940s noir Jimmy “Soldier” Riley Series (THE BIG BLAST).
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
What makes the Florida Panhandle the right place for your fiction?
It’s home. I’m connected to it like no other place on the planet. I love it like only an indigenous person can. It’s both my natural and spiritual home. It’s a unique and largely undiscovered part of Florida.
My mom was a second grade teacher. Read to me all the time. I started with The Hardy Boys. Have loved crime fiction ever since.
You are a former chaplain for the Florida Department of Corrections. How did those experiences help shape your writing and storytelling?
My first series involves a detective who is an ex-cop and a prison chaplain, so my experience as a chaplain not only gave me a million incredible experiences and thousands of stories, but my main series.
Given your personal connection to the BLOOD series, how does your approach to writing differ for your historical hard-boiled thrillers, THE BIG GOODBYE, THE BIG BEYOND, and THE BIG HELLO?
I’ve always loved film noir and classic hard-boiled detective novels. The “Big” series is an homage to them and my spin on the genre. They are fun to write and different enough from my “Blood” series that they use different writing muscles—and each series inspires aspects of the other.
The writing in your literary novel, DOUBLE EXPOSURE, has been compared to Cormac McCarthy. Would you count him as an influence? Who are some of your other influences?
Absolutely. He’s one of my favorite prose stylists. It was an incredible compliment to me. Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Graham Greene, Hemingway, Ron Hansen, and Paul Auster—just to mention a few.
You have also worked as a screenwriter. How did that experience influence your fiction?
I think it helped with story structure and dialog more than anything else, but it helped in a variety of ways.
Any advice for newer writers who want to follow in your footsteps?
Read a ton—both in and outside of your particular genre. Study good writing and storytelling. Take it apart and put it back together. Take writing classes. Get in a critique group. Write and write and write and write and write and write – throw most of it away. Get good feedback. Listen to it. Rinse and repeat.
What are your publishing plans of the rest of 2016 and beyond?
I’m excited about this year. There will be releases in each of my series – the John Jordan mystery series, the “Blood” books and the Jimmy Riley noir series, the “Big” books. I’m also launching an entirely new series in a new genre – and I can’t wait!
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, is available now from Down & Out Books.