Interrogation—Ingrid Willis

ingrid cu blackWho: Ingrid Willis

What: Chair of Left Coast Crime 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. She has been a devoted mystery conference attendee since she discovered the Bouchercon convention in 2002. She has attended almost every Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, and Malice Domestic since then, and was Chair of Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, CA. Ingrid has worked for more than twenty-five years in the entertainment industry. She left her position as Executive Director of Marketing for Columbia Pictures in 1997 to start her own company specializing in digital post-production. She is also a mystery writer and insatiable mystery reader.

Where: Los Angeles

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

You’ve been “a devoted mystery conference attendee” since you discovered Bouchercon in 2002. What was so magical about that first convention?

I had just left my studio job to start my own post production company.  I was thinking about writing a novel, and having worked in the music and entertainment field I wanted to check out the publishing “industry” before I did so.  I mean, what if I hated the business? What if it was as cut-throat as the entertainment & music? I went to Bouchercon in Austin, Texas without having been registered. (There wasn’t online registration in those days.) While in line to register I met Elaine Viets who was so gracious and encouraged me to write. Everyone was so welcoming.  It was great.  I realized I’d found my long-lost family I hadn’t even known I’d misplaced. I made acquaintances that have since become some of my best friends. Bouchercon literally changed my life and took me in a direction I could never have imagined.

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Interrogation—Corey Lynn Fayman

clf_final_400Who: Corey Lynn Fayman

What: He has done hard time as a musician, songwriter, and sound designer, but still refuses to apologize for it. BLACK’S BEACH SHUFFLE, the first novel featuring the guitar-slinging detective Rolly Waters, was a San Diego Book Awards finalist. The second, BORDER FIELD BLUES, won the genre award at the 2013 Hollywood Book Festival. His third Rolly Waters mystery, DESERT CITY DIVA, has just been published by Severn House.

Where: San Diego

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

I just finished your latest Rolly Waters mystery, DESERT CITY DIVA. How did you come up with this story about alien-obsessed cults in San Diego?

This story had a long germination, beginning with a weekend driving trip to the Southern California desert my wife and I made about ten years ago. That’s when I first encountered Salvation Mountain and Slab City, and their essential ‘outsiderness’ appealed to me immediately. Salvation Mountain is a brightly painted fever dream of Christian faith that was constructed over many years by one man, Leonard Knight, who lived at the site. It’s a remarkable piece of folk architecture, like the Watts Towers.

DCD_cover_600Next to Salvation Mountain is Slab City, an unincorporated, off-the-grid trailer community of free spirits, retirees, and survivalists built on the remains of a WWII Marine Corps training facility. The Marines abandoned the camp after the war, leaving only the concrete slab foundations. Over the years it developed into a wintertime stopover for folks living in their RVs and trailers, to the point where it became a semi-permanent community. A cafe, library, and church have been set up, along with a sculpture garden of junk art called “East Jesus”. What really got my attention was “The Range”, an outdoor stage where they have jam sessions every weekend. I knew I had to get Rolly Waters, my guitar-playing protagonist out there and DESERT CITY DIVA is the result.

I originally based the UFO cult on the Unarius Academy of Science, which is headquartered in San Diego. Its founder had a local cable-access show in San Diego for years, which made for some fascinating early morning viewing when I got home after gigs. It was also one of the few things on at that hour. The Unarians owned a piece of land in the mountains east of San Diego, which they intended as a landing pad for the alien beings who are central to their cosmology. After some research, I found the Unarians outlook to be rather gentle and benign. I had to look further for something more villainous. I found that in the infamous Heaven’s Gate suicides that took place in another San Diego neighborhood.

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Cozy vs. Noir: Thoughts On Genre

Cozy vs. NoirIf you write or read books under the greater “mystery fiction” umbrella, then you will be familiar with these two popular sub-genres—”cozy” and “noir”. Here is how Wikipedia defines the two:

  • Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.
  • Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist.

I know, I know: Freakin’ Wikipedia?! But they make it so easy. It also seems pretty accurate.

Genre has been on my mind a lot recently because I got invited to participate in an  awesome event on the first night of the California Crime Writers Conference. It’s called “Cozy vs. Noir” and it is sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and hosted by the one, the only, Eric Beetner. I am absolutely thrilled to take part, but the whole concept has got me thinking.

Luckily, I have interviewed some great authors who have strong opinions on the subject. We’ll start with Rob Hart, author of NEW YORKED (out June 1 from Polis Books):

unnamed-1Is NEW YORKED a crime novel in your eyes? How important is genre to you as a writer?

Genre discussions make me go cross-eyed. If I was pressed I’d say it’s a little noir, a little literary. But I’m firmly in the class of: A good book is a good book, and I don’t care if it’s YA or poetry or literary or crime or a cookbook.

(Read the whole Rob Hart INTERVIEW)

And Scott Adlerberg, author of JUNGLE HORSES:

JungleHorsesIs it important to you as a writer to jump between genres?

Is it important to me? It’s not so much important as a question of what works for a particular story. With JUNGLE HORSES, as I was doing it, it seemed to work. The second part, the fantastic part, just grew out of the noirish part, without strain, I felt. I wouldn’t try to force genres together just to be odd or “different.” But what’s fun about genres is how fluid and flexible they are and how you can play around so much with them. There’s a lot of ways to be inventive.

(Read the whole INTERVIEW)

So, if you’re in L.A. on June 5, please stop by. The event is free and open to the public. If not, I will let you know how it went afterward, right here.

S.W. Lauden is a writer and drummer living in Los Angeles. His short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Akashic Books, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published in 2016.