What: A suspected pop-noirist who has been nominated for some good stuff and has actually garnered a couple of nice looking awards. His novels include STREET LEVEL, SAW RED and his upcoming release, THE BIG NOTHING. Bob has no favorite color or lucky number and will eat most anything but rutabaga.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Thanks for sending me an advanced copy of THE BIG NOTHING. Can you tell me a little about how the book came about?
And thanks for looking at the book. Mostly, THE BIG NOTHING came about from a desire to write a not-PI thing. The Sloan series is fun, but it’s still PI stuff—and it’s a controlled trot whether it seems that way or not; I could do a Sloan in a hundred and fifty pages easy, but I don’t. I wanted to let my pencil run.
Your writing in THE BIG NOTHING has a distinct rhythm. Does that come naturally?
I dig music. I dig the words in songs and the songs in words. It just happens. I wouldn’t know how to do it intentionally.
The dialogue is fantastic. What’s your approach to writing dialogue?
Once you own the character, he/she arrives with voice. I accept the character and attempt to represent him/her honestly. I like “real” in fiction—it feels good.
You’ve had some interesting careers—outside of writing. What were some of your favorite jobs? How do they influence your writing?
I was always suspicious that the reason the employer paid the employee was so the employee would come to work. I enjoyed building for a while and absorbed a lot of dialogue and street styles and rhythms from the guys actually toiling out there. The day laborers were truck-loads of dialogue and attitude. Mostly homeless, they were oblivious to their situations. I’m fascinated with the homeless—I see them and ask myself why, how did he get here.
My greatest memories of work are in the tobacco fields on my grandparents’ farm. I started at 6 driving a full-sized Ford tractor pulling a tobacco sled from the field to the tobacco barn for stringing and hanging. Made a dollar a day. Richest second grader in Albany, GA. But seriously, the only thing that has ever slowed me down and held my attention span hostage is writing. I hate editing and some days hate publishing, but never pencil-to-paper writing.
Who are some of your influences? Is there one writer you’re surprised reviewers compare you to?
I always list influences as Chandler, Willeford, Nathan Heard, Leonard, and James Crumley. This book, probably Heard. I went back, thanks to my buddy Dennis McMillan, and took Heard on. I had done lots of School stuff, really dig Robert Deane Pharr, Clarence Cooper, Chester Himes and on. When I found Heard, I found a thing. It took a bit to name it. But when I did, I realized all these people I mentioned had it. I call it a “male melancholy.” Being terminally white, I’ll never be able to totally understand it, but I’m trying like a motherfucker to write it. Just because.
Comparisons? Willeford baffles me. That comes up often and I just don’t see it. Maybe the casual narration? I really don’t get it.
It smells bad. Actually, there are several things I won’t/don’t eat for one reason or the other. I won’t eat veal or foie gras for ethical reasons. I think etouffee sorta tastes like mud. And lastly, pork brains. That one should need no explanation.
What other publishing plans do you have for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
2016 will be releasing THE BIG NOTHING and re-releasing FLAT WHITE. For different reasons, it never got a proper send off. Murmur House is trying new ways to get the word out and sell books. Gonna travel this one a bit, take a unique approach to the “event” thing. I’m dropping a love story, Junior Glo and Baby Doe, in 2017. We’re going to start taking submissions early in 2017, see what’s out there. Got our eye on someone for 2018. We’re gonna grow one writer a year and learn how to sell books.
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S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, was published on October 11, 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.