What: His debut collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is also the author of FEDERALES and BURN CARDS.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
You’re about to release, RAGGED, your first novel-length work of fiction. What was it about this story that made you go the distance?
Since the publication of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, I’ve been focused on writing novels. The typical “mainstream” length of 90k words has always seemed impossible for me to reach. I have friends who will write 100k-150k and cut down, but I’ve been much more of an “under” writer during past novel attempts—coming in around 40-50k and trying to push the count up when I go back and edit, filling in details, etc. BURN CARDS was supposed to be a novel, but the novella length felt right and I cut it down. Two other novels landed in a similar no-man’s land, though they had other issues as well.
90k is so arbitrary, right? I’m sure the big publishers have run the numbers and somewhere around 90k is the sweet spot giving them the most bang for their buck. But, part of what I enjoyed so much in working with Cutlass Press is the trust they put in me. I’m not a 90k writer, at least for now. I’ve talked a lot in interviews on RAGGED how everything lined up over the past year timing-wise. When I pitched the outline I set a goal of 60k words—a gut feeling of where the book might clock out. It ended up around 65k after edits, and I’m very happy with the length. I want to challenge myself to write a longer book (the rough outline in my head seems to be headed that way), but we’ll see. I’m happy to take a crack at it and see where I end up.
What: Author of FEDERALES and BURN CARDS. His short stories have been featured in several publications, including Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, and Shotgun Honey. His short story collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, is out this November from 280 Steps.
Interviewed conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Since you’re about to publish SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, a tremendous collection of 13 short stories, I’m going to ask you one question about each story. First up is “Union Man”. What inspired you to write a period piece about a man caught between a rock and a hard place during a steel mill strike?
Thank you for the kind words and interview! I wish I had more notes on “Union Man.” I write by hand a lot and have tried hard to keep to a journal since 2012 (I’m finishing up my third). I have a small paragraph from early in 2013 about researching the steel strikes (I recall looking at a lot of photos and articles online), and I sent off a draft to friends for critique that May. It’s unfortunate as it’s a favorite of the collection, but I do know at its heart that it’s my ‘fatherhood story.’ My first son, George, was born in August of 2012 and a clearly recall this being the first piece where I incorporated my sense of being a father, the responsibilities, etc. It was a story that I had to write, and even though I knew pretty much from the outset where it needed to go—for narrative reasons and to make an impact—it was still difficult to write.