Interrogation—Alec Cizak

imgp0012Who: Alec Cizak

What: writer and filmmaker whose work has recently appeared in Beat to a PulpUnloaded, and Crack the Spine. He is also the editor of Pulp Modern. His short story collection, CROOKED ROADS, is available now from All Due Respect. His novella, DOWN ON THE STREET, will be published by ABC Group Documentation in Summer 2017.

Where: Indianapolis

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just got a sneak peek at your novella, DOWN ON THE STREET—one of the grittiest books I’ve read in recent memory. What was the inspiration?

I’ve always been amused by the idea of a “normal” person trying to become a pimp. What would force a regular, blue-collar guy into that situation? Even more fascinating, how would he convince a woman to go along with such a scheme?

The novella focuses on a couple of desperate people who use each other to get out of their own desperate situations. Did you set out to create such a bleak landscape, or did the story evolve as you wrote it?

The story originally had a “real” pimp step in and cause problems. The end was going to be bleak, but “action packed.” After some conversations with the great Mav Skye, I realized I needed to do something different. I made most of the book bleak, but decided to let Lester Banks, the main character, redeem himself in the end. So it’s bleak, but, I think, it has a happy ending.

Did you lift the title from The Stooges? Does rock and roll fuel your crime fiction? Do you create soundtracks for specific stories?

The book has had a few titles. I originally called it Daddy Problems and then realized too many books lean on this particular issue. Then I decided to call it Mass Production (one of my very favorite Iggy Pop songs), shedding light on how the book zeroes in on the inhuman nature of conformity. After consultation, it was decided that wasn’t a great title. DOWN ON THE STREET allowed an Iggy Pop reference and the lyrics to the song, in a bizarre way, echo some of the concerns in the book.

Most of the longer pieces I’ve written do have some sort of soundtrack. When I’m actually writing, though, I can only listen to music that doesn’t have singing, like classical or jazz. Lately, I’ve been doing my writing in the library at the University of Missoula, so it’s completely quiet. That actually helps me produce more in one sitting.

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DOWN ON THE STREET is the second release from the new Down & Out Books imprint, ABC Group Documentation. How did you get connected with them? When will it be released?

I met Jeremy Stabile, the man in charge of ABC, at a Noir @ the Bar in Atlanta. I told him I had this novella, he asked to read it and then said he dug it. It should be available in June or July. We’re working through this process in a very careful manner to make sure we’re putting out something worth a reader’s time.

You’re also the publisher of Pulp Modern, which was recently resurrected from a hiatus. What made you start this publication? Why is now the right moment to bring it back?

I started Pulp Modern because I didn’t see any journals like it at the time—a journal that indulged all the major genres. I’m bringing it back because I still don’t feel there are enough markets for genre fiction that actually take new and “unknown” writers seriously (I’m sickened by the way the “big” pulps treat “unknown” writers, to be honest). I also have the tremendous luck of having started a conversation with Richard Krauss, who publishes The Digest Enthusiast. If you’ve ever read TDE, you know it’s a VERY professional publication. After discussion, Richard said he’d be happy to work with me on bringing PM back. We’re going with the old format, none of that bizarre, experimental stuff I started doing with PM in its later stages. It’s going to look incredible. People will be proud to have been published in PM and readers will love reading it. It’s gonna’ be great, gonna’ be yuge!

crooked-roadsPulp Modern publishes a wide range of genres. How do you know what the right mix of stories is for each issue?

That’s a tough one. In the old days, Crime seemed to dominate. That seems to be a genre a high percentage of writers are good at. Horror and Science Fiction, not so much. It’s difficult to find good work in either of those genres (or fantasy as well). And Westerns, well, there just aren’t as many people writing Westerns. In the end, it’s based on the quality of the work received. Good, well-written stories get published at PM. That’s my main concern as an editor.

In your experience as a writer, editor and publisher of short fiction—what makes for a good short story?

The very first thing I notice (and I’ve said this many times before) is the quality of the prose. Jack Kerouac said he never revised. That’s bullshit. I can tell right away if time and care has been taken to craft the prose correctly. If I can’t make it through the first paragraph without cringing, we’ve got a problem. The second important thing is story. You MUST tell a story. Stories have conflict, a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you’re missing any of those things, you need to work on the story some more.

What other publishing plans do you have for 2017 and beyond?

Well, I’ve got a rough draft of a novel sitting in the drawer waiting to be revised. I’m working on another novel right now. I wrote a lot of short stories last year, mostly weird fiction/horror. I’m having a tough time getting those published. It seems my concept of horror is different from what a lot of younger editors are looking for. I’m interested in cerebral horror and I keep getting messages from editors asking me to “explain” things. I have a feeling a lot of these editors are people who hated the movie It Follows which is, in my opinion, the best goddamn horror picture of the 21st century. Anyway, I’ll keep trudging. Getting a story published, ultimately, is a matter of finding an editor who likes to read what you write.

Find Alec Cizak: WebsitePulp Modern

Some Recent Interviews:

crossedbonesx2700-2S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, was published in October 2016. His first Tommy & Shayna crime caper, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books. The second novella in that series, CROSSED BONES, will be published in May 2017.

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