Interrogation—Scotch Rutherford (Switchblade)

Who: Scotch Rutherford

What: An independent screenwriter and short fiction author of THE NEON GLARE, a novelette available now from Pro Se Press. His short fiction has appeared in Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal Magazine, and All Due Respect. He is the creator and managing editor for Switchblade Magazine.

Where: Los Angeles

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

Congrats on the launch of Switchblade. What was the inspiration?

Thanks, man. Being a short fiction author writing in the noir genre, I would make the rounds on the different online platforms and indie print mags. I realized a lot of indie ‘zines had gone away. About that time, I started attending Noir at the Bar LA events and networking.

I like to read, and have some experience as a project manager as well as some graphic arts skills, to handle the art direction. So I took a shot. I know there isn’t any money in it, but it’s something I can build on. I wanted to create a forum for hard luck tales with no limits. An outlet for noir fiction that defies political correctness. I want Switchblade to reflect that.

As you mentioned, a lot of hardboiled/noir zines have gone extinct in the last few years. Why is this the right time to launch?

Well, I think it’s really an opportune time to launch a new magazine, because the market has thinned out.  There’s a core group of people who consistently appear in the same journals and webzines. I call them the “usual suspects.” You see the same names over and over again, making the rounds. But you won’t see them in this month’s A Twist of Noir, or the latest issue of Needle, because they’re both no longer taking submissions.

All Due Respect moved over to book publishing. Thuglit ceased unexpectedly, after a long run. And when I saw that Pulp Modern was retiring after its five year run, I realized it was the perfect time to launch Switchblade. Of course it turns out Pulp Modern was only on hiatus. You can’t kill Alec Cizak, he’s like Godzilla—you think he’s dead, but he just drops below the waterline for a while, then comes back bigger and stronger.  I’m actually pretty excited about checking out the latest issue of Pulp Modern.

You have an impressive lineup for the first issue. What have you learned? Are rejections difficult for you?

We do have an impressive line up, and of course I have Eric Beetner to thank for that—he put the word out, and the submissions flooded in.

Picking the stories, figuring out the order of the stories, the cover design, and all of the creative stuff was fun and easy—however, formatting for Createspace was a nightmare. Between Createspace rejections (each is a 24 hour period) I had to reformat margins and pages—whole stories shifted, page numbers changed. On top of that, I was behind the release deadline I’d set. So, the first issue was a bit rushed. As a result, there are some punctuation and sentence structure issues.

Rejecting stories is a process: first you screen out all the poorly crafted stories, and all the stories plagued with atrocious grammar (submit a sloppy story, and rejection is guaranteed). Whatever’s left is sorted through, and ultimately there are those stories that just almost made the cut. You planned on only selecting say 8, and it’s that 9th story that just didn’t make the cut. Also, it’s a question of personal taste. There were two or three this past round that were good, well-crafted stories, but I just didn’t like them as much as the others I’d chosen.

The Switchblade website lists such influences as Richard Stark, Ross MacDonald, Jim Thompson, Ken Bruen, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, Max Allan Collins and Christa Faust. Are those your personal influences?

Absolutely. There are more of course, including authors who write in different genres than the ones we publish. I tried to put a lot of variety (within the noir genre) in the authors listed. When I met Christa Faust and Gary Phillips at a signing for their graphic novel Peepland, I told Christa she was the only female author listed in the Switchblade guidelines. Christa being Christa, said she was happy to be the “token vagina.”

If you could have one writer (living or dead) contribute a story to the next issue of Switchblade, who would it be?

Oh, that’s easy—Elmore Leonard. Too many people try to clone his style, so I don’t list him in the Switchblade guidelines. For me, writing narrative prose is the hard part of fiction. Dialogue is easier, and so I can write scripts far quicker and more easily. Elmore Leonard was a master at writing dialogue, and I learned a lot about writing dialogue from his work. Beyond that, his story telling style is very cinematic, and it’s no wonder so much of his work ended up translating so well to film.

What can we expect from the second issue? Are submissions open?

Better editing. Yes, there will be far better editing in this next issue. But as I explained to one critic, we don’t edit for content. All stories included in the issue remain the unfettered vision of each author. There may be more in the way of graphic arts, in upcoming issues, too. I’m also going to include some poetry this time around. The reading period for Switchblade Issue Two will be from May 10 to May 20th. Issue #2 will arrive on the virtual news stand at the end of June.

Where do you see Switchblade Magazine in one year?

Well, right now, the intention is to finish out the year—so, three more issues. One step at a time. There is a Switchblade T-shirt line in development, and I’m also considering releasing a themed special issue annually. But beyond that, like I said, it’s one step at a time.

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

Well outside of Switchblade, I’m also working on a composite novella of short stories. Basically a collection of stand-alone short stories, that when read sequentially, add up to a novella.

Find Scotch Rutherford: Switchblade, Twitter, Neon Glare

Some Recent Interviews:

S.W. Lauden is up for two Silver Falchion Reader’s Choice Awards! Voting is open to everybody and no registration is required. Please cast a vote for GRIZZLY SEASON (Best Action/Adventure) and CROSSWISE (Best Mystery). Thank you!

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