What: Author of NO HAPPY ENDINGS, THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR, and the in-progress anthology; MEAT CITY ON FIRE AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES. He’s an editor for Shotgun Honey, has been nominated for the Derringer, and is published in multiple web and print pubs.
Where: New York
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
NO HAPPY ENDINGS is an unconventional heist novel, to say the least. Where were you when the idea struck?
NO HAPPY ENDINGS came mostly from a weirdo, one-off article I read in passing a year or two ago. It was one of those interest pieces you know was written with little to no research with the sole purpose of making another country look ridiculous, but that planted a seed.
Initially, I was going to make a gross and unsettling short from the idea and send it over to Thuglit to see Todd Robinson’s reaction. Then the story went long, then I switched protags (this was originally going to be a sequel to THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR), then the story got longer. I flip flopped a bit until I found a rhythm and decided this would be full-length feature.
I researched a bit in regards of how semen samples and donations are stored. A lot of ideas born from that research didn’t necessarily pan out the way I thought they would.
There was definitely a rabbit hole that took me to some very…weird fetish sites—which obviously informed so much more of the set pieces in the the story than science did because of course it did. There were some things that disturbed me worse than the snake bite research I was doing for an entirely different project; and let me tell you, there were some ROUGH pictures to go through when researching snake bites and snake venom.
You have created a great character with Fantine Park. How did you come up with her backstory and unique skill set?
Initially, I was going to do the whole father/son thief dynamic but realized that was as tired as the traditional heist novel, so I decided to spin it with a female lead, a dead criminal mother, and an enabling father in the vein of Ray Liotta’s doting dad from “Blow.”
From there, I wanted to play on the sexist tropes we tend to see where the female thief is this smooth, hyper-competent (yet, sexy! Wow!) player. Fuck that. How about a foul-mouthed, pot head who can crack safes and pick locks but is about as smooth as chunky peanut butter? How would that play out?
Fantine seems very cinematic to me, in a graphic novel sort of way. Any particular inspirations for Fantine, either real life or fictional? Who could you imagine playing her in a movie?
Fantine’s heavily based on a few people I’ve known through life that shall remain very nameless. I also pulled a little bit of Frank (James Caan) in “Thief,” a little bit of “le Stéphanois” from “Rififi” and then fouled it all up by adding a GENEROUS dose of Mickey Rourke’s character, Paulie, from “Pope of Greenwich Village.” I wanted Fantine to be a loser with potential.
I also wanted to write a story with a native New Yorker that didn’t look the way people envision native New Yorkers look. We truly do come in all shapes and sizes. It’s the attitude that tends to be the same.
As for who would play Fantine in a movie, Jamie Chung—no question. That was the actress in my head as I wrote the story.
I particularly like her relationship with her father and the memory of her mother. Why was family an important piece of the puzzle for this story?
In crime fiction, family’s always important and it’s pretty important for both the writer and the reader to grasp the why and how of choosing to go against morality. What leads a person to break social norms to become thieves, murderers, racketeers, etc.? The common link is how we’re raised and what we’re raised around.
For Fantine especially I wanted to really put a weird burden on her through her mother’s legacy. This was a woman who was respected, professional, and particularly vicious. How could this person be Fantine’s idol enough for the girl to learn all her mother’s tricks? Worse yet; what happens when she’s nowhere near as good as her mother? Toss in a father who is a serial enabler (all from love too) and what kind of person emerged from that sloppiness?
I see that as being so much more interesting than the gimmick of the story. The gimmick, the heist, that’s my way of luring you in so we can tackle these other, much more interesting items.
I try my damndest to write voices, not genders, so I don’t face particular issues when hopping from a male lead to a female lead (and hey, the co-lead of THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR was a Chinese-American woman!). Occasionally, I’ve had beta readers tell me a woman or a man wouldn’t say something a specific way and I can refine the voice a bit.
If anything, the biggest challenge is gauging whether the new protag is cursing more than Blacky. Nobody should curse more than Blacky Jaguar…EVER.
Can we expect to hear more from Blacky Jaguar any time soon?
Yes! I’ve got a finished manuscript over with Ron Earl at Shotgun Honey that I should harass him about in the next week or so. Folks should expect to catch up with Blacky’s exploits soon. The story’s called BLACKY JAGUAR AGAINST THE COOL CLUX CULT!!!—it’s a bit of Walking Tall, In Bruges, and everything you got from THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR turned up to 11.
In all, there’s two more big Blacky stories after that and I may be “done” with him. Depends on how things hash out with a book I’ve been trying to sell.
What other publishing plans do you have for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Well, I’ve got a short story collection coming from Down & Out next year. That’s MEAT CITY ON FIRE (AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES). There’s a new short of mine in that awesome, awesome, AWESOME anthology, WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: STORIES OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS, titled and inspired by the track, “Kiss Me On The Bus.”
As mentioned before, we should see Blacky again next year. Hopefully, one of these novels I’m working on sells too.
On top of all that, we’re not quite done with Fantine yet either. I’ve got an idea for her with the working title, PULL & PRAY. Hopefully, the folks at Down & Out are open to taking it if NO HAPPY ENDINGS sticks the landing.
Basically, buy my damn book.
Some Recent Interviews:
- Bob Truluck
- Andrew Nette
- Lori Rader-Day (Murder and Mayhem in Chicago)
- Michael Pool
- Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
- S.G. Redling
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.