What: Author of REMO WENT ROGUE and GETTING UGLY. His shorter work has appeared in ThugLit, All Due Respect, Dark Corners, Shotgun Honey and Out of the Gutter. He’s been a waiter, a securities trader, dishwasher, bartender, investment analyst and an unpaid Hollywood intern. He has quit corporate America, come back, been fired, been promoted, been fired again. Currently, he writes stories about questionable people who make questionable decisions. His latest novel, GENUINELY DANGEROUS, comes out Sept. 26.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Your latest novel, GENUINELY DANGEROUS, is a truly original, off-beat story. What was the inspiration?
I’ve kicked it around for a while. It kinda started with seeing Gene Wilder’s tiny role in Bonnie in Clyde. Someone completely out of his element, a civilian, thrown into the mix with a crew of criminals. Completely in over his head, but doesn’t get that he’s completely in over his head. Always thought Gene’s story could be another movie. I carried that idea around for years, but couldn’t find a good place for it. So I tucked it away. Then years later, I saw that whole mess with Brian Williams and the stories he told about being embedded with the military. That sparked the idea that maybe I could work something out of that. Also around that time I’d had a couple of huge nut-kicks in screenwriting. So all that starting fitting together into a crazy little story idea. Thinking, now maybe I’ve got something.
As far as being off-beat, thank you by the way, the great Peter Farris (Last Call for the Living) blurbed a book of mine and compared my stuff with Chuck Palahniuk and Elmore Leonard going on a blind date. I loved that. Wanted it to be true and I’ve tried very hard to live up to that almost impossible standard. So there you go. GENUINELY DANGEROUS. You take Gene Wilder, Brian Williams, Palahniuk, Elmore Leonard, Hollywood nut-kicks, mix well and serve over toast.
I know that you also work as a screenwriter. Is GENUINELY DANGEROUS a twisted love letter (or kiss off) to Hollywood?
More twisted love letter. I’m not saying goodbye to any of that, necessarily, I’m just focusing on books mainly now because I’m having such a great time doing it. I’ve had some cool, amazing experiences because of Hollywood and everything surrounding that world. Wouldn’t trade any of it. I mean the time spent in screenwriting has made me the writer I am today.
With that said, I’ve also had a lot of crying in the bathtub because of Hollywood too.
Do you see the story in your mind while you write?
I do see the story as I’m writing it. Scenes from a movie only I can see. That’s one of the great joys and frustrations with writing, I think. Those times when you get it down exactly the way you see it in your head? That, that there, is the goods. Pure joy. It is rare however.
Flip side of that. When you can’t get what’s ripping through you brain onto the page. When what you’re writing is just simply not as cool as what you see in your head. Those times will test you, man.
GENUINELY DANGEROUS has all the traits of a crime novel, but it reads like an absurdist comedy. What kind of book would you says this is? How close is it to what you set out to write?
If you have to jam it into a category it’s a crime novel, right? It’s a novel and there’s crime in it. But you’re right, it doesn’t track as down-the-line crime fiction and I didn’t want it to. Going back to the Palahniuk and Leonard blurb, in addition to crime fiction this book is very much a dark comedy with some social satire buried in there. SURVIVOR by Palahniuk is a huge influence on this book. You could say the same about GET SHORTY.
I’m very proud of this book, but when I sit down and stare at a blank Word doc I really only have two goals:
- Entertain the person reading the thing.
- Never, ever be boring.
If those two things are true, then it’s the book I set out to write.
What’s the trick to combining comedy and crime? Do you have to work at it or does it come naturally?
No idea what the trick is. I think it either works or it doesn’t. I guess the trick is knowing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses. I love Cormac McCarthy, but can’t write like him so I don’t try. I could say the same thing about a ton of other writers I really love and respect.
With me it’s probably more my personality and sensibilities mixed with endless hours spent absorbing those kinds of stories. Soaking in all the movies, books and TV that are able to mix crime and comedy really well can become a form of studying. I think when something grabs ahold of your attention, when it really speaks to you, at some point I think you start saying to yourself that maybe you can try that. You could also say the same thing about music, acting, painting or anything really.
Remo is such a fun dude to write. Love to write some more Remo. I’ve toyed with doing a series of novellas with Remo. Chronicles of Remo and so on. Who knows, perhaps I will.
What have you been reading lately? What book is on your nightstand right now?
I’m finishing GIRL ON A TRAIN. Shocker, it’s pretty damn good. My TBR is as follows: YOU WILL KNOW ME by Megan Abbot, SNUFF by Chuck Palahniuk, AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman and DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch. This changes almost daily, but that’s where it stands as of now.
Got any other publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Well, Genuinely Dangerous hits the world on September 26th.
I’m also about 40k words deep with a new novel right now and I’ve got a short story coming in a very cool anthology, WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN, based on songs by the Replacements. Matter of fact, think there’s a dude called S.W. Lauden in there as well.
- Gabino Iglesias
- Erik Storey
- Nick Kolakowski
- Greg Barth
- Benjamin Whitmer
- Joe Clifford
- Ryan Gattis
- Dharma Kelleher
S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in Sept. 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.