Interrogation—R. Daniel Lester

Who: R. Daniel Lester

What: As a keen apprentice in the story trade, he has consumed a lot of coffee (a mandatory requirement according to the manual), written himself into and out of countless corners, added many words to blank pages, self-published three books (including the novel, DIE, FAMOUS!), and made tens of dollars along the way.

His work has also appeared in print and online in such places as Adbusters, Geist, Shotgun Honey, Bareknuckles Pulp, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Broken Pencil, Pulp Literature and The Lascaux Prize Anthology.

Where: Toronto

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

DEAD CLOWN BLUES is one of my favorite book titles in recent memory. What came first, the story or the title? Is there a story behind the title?

Wow, that’s great to hear. Thanks. This project started out with another title and was more towards novel length. Circa 2013/2014, I got a few rejections on it and then decided to let it simmer for a while. A few months later I noticed that Shotgun Honey was open again to novella submissions and it dawned on me—simplify. Trim the fat. I had one too many subplots and stripping it away really made it sing.

But the first title was related to the extraneous subplot so I had to go back to square one. Which was strange. Usually, I have the title of the piece prior to writing it (or at least along the way) and that often helps guide the direction. But with the story mostly done, except for patching the holes in the wall that you get from any subplot demolition/renovation, I had to look at the core of the new story—what was driving it? And I always liked the dual meaning of “dead clown” within the story—(1) the former-clown-turned-janitor who dies, and (2) the name of the gang of criminal clowns that Fitch crosses path with. Then, once I figured out “Blues,” that was it, game over. I knew I had a winner. It just sounded right to me. Right for the story, right for the genre. Nice and hardboiled.

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