Writing Tips From Amazing Crime Authors

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I’ve been very lucky to interview some talented crime writers this year. Here’s a collection of a few favorite quotes and a handful of Q&As from the first half of 2016—like THIS ONE with Gary Phillips.

This is by no means a full list of the interviews I have done this year, but a great place to start. If you like what you read, make sure to click the “Recent Interrogations” links at the bottom of each Q&A. And don’t forget to check out each author’s Amazon page. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Read the JEN CONLEY INTERVIEW

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Read the GLEN ERIK HAMILTON INTERVIEW

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Read the BRETT BATTLES INTERVIEW

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Read the SARAH M. CHEN INTERVIEW

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Read the ROB HART INTERVIEW

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Read the DHARMA KELLEHER INTERVIEW

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Read the JOE CLIFFORD INTERVIEW

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Read the RYAN GATTIS INTERVIEW

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Read the C.S. DWILDT INTERVIEW

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Read the MARIETTA MILES INTERVIEW

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Read the BRYON QUERTERMOUS INTERVIEW

BCC Cover FinalS.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in Sept. 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.

 

Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

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—Joyce Schnieder at Twitter

“I believe that reading only packaged microwavable fiction ruins the taste, destabilizes the moral blood pressure, and makes the mind obese. Fortunately, I also know that many human beings have an innate resistance to baloney and a taste for quality rooted deeper than even marketing can reach.” —Ursula K. LeGuin at Book View Cafe

“Pride is difficult to parse in the present moment. Pride is not the same as vanity. Pride is what makes a young writer believe that her words are worth reading, despite a world, a culture, that might prefer her silence.”—Nick Ripatrazone at The Millions

“Social media is a tricky thing. And it gets trickier when you start to run a business. Around April of 2013 I went from a degenerate loser with a big mouth to someone tasked with responsibility, namely for the folks gracious enough to let me publish them. I had to switch my game up. As a friend told me over beers: ‘You have responsibilities now. You need to shut the fuck up.'” —J. David Osborne at Gods Fare No Better

“One of the things I’m most thankful for, in terms of being an author and managing my career, is my day job experience as a publicist. Not just because of the contacts I have, but also because I know publicity – and building a career – isn’t about a flurry of activity. It’s a marathon. It’s about knowing when to go loud, when to step back and when to ramp up. It’s about knowing when to step back and ‘go quiet.'”—Alex Segura at Do Some Damage

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“I write to keep myself relatively sane. I write to give my existence on Earth a purpose. I write because it’s emotionally, intellectually and spiritually stimulating and compulsive. I write because I never knew my schizophrenic mother and I was raised within a right-wing guru cult in New Jersey and then thrust out into the big, scary world (Los Angeles) alone at age 16 and I kept writing to survive my own intense loneliness, isolation, confusion and fears.”—Will Viharo at Bad Citizen Corporation

“Not everything we do has to result in a book sale, but it can result in a connection, a relationship that may at some point lead to a sale. The point is to focus your message so your readers can find you, and engage with you but more importantly, you with them.”—Rachel Thompson at Bad Redhead Media

“The most rewarding books are the ones where the finished story almost lives up to the idea that sparked it.”—Stephen King at New York Times

“Man, woman, cyborg — no matter what kind of writer you are, if you want to win a major literary award, there’s just one thing you have to do: Make sure your main character is a man.”—Claire Fallon at Huffington Post

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 by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

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“The Internet has ruined our collective mind for being able to rationally deal with news and issues. You need to come up with ever more vile headlines to get a few more clicks from the other 400 news outlets and sites that are doing the exact same story based on the same tiny bit of information.”—Ken Layne at Los Angeles Times

“Throw in several big-deal, massively popular series that are really single works split into volumes—a small platoon led by Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard—and it’s tempting to proclaim this the era of the Very Long Novel (VLN).”—Boris Kachka at Slate

“For me the great lesson was that what we do during the day bleeds over into what we do during the night. The immersion online is always in some ways shadowed, if you will, by this constant reminder that we should be doing something else, too; that our email is just a click away; that there is this almost incessant feeling of ‘Well, I should go faster,’ instead of ‘I should immerse myself.'”—Maryanne Wolf at NPR

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“One thing I really like about our books is the variety – on the face of it there’s little in common between Den Bleyker’s deep, intense psychological noir and Stateham’s hardboiled pulp thriller. The only real connection is intelligent, quality writing about crime.”—Christopher Black from Number Thirteen Press

“I do think I can get a lot more kids reading. The mission is simple. Any kid who finishes a Jimmy book will say, ‘Please give me another book.’ ”—James Patterson at New York Times

“If there’s a Raymond Carver of short crime fiction, Art Taylor would be him—but, you know, without the chain-smoking and boozing.”—Keith Rawson at LitReactor

“While we’re sad to discontinue the print edition of Print Lovers Magazine, we’re very excited to see how the advantages of digitizing will benefit our publication.”—Lucas Gardner at McSweeney’s

“Now I’m a pretty grounded cat. Outside of writing and make-believe worlds. High strung, sure, but grounded. Yes, I talk to myself. Yes, sometimes I answer myself. I had a brief bout where the state declared me mentally unstable in the mid-90s, but I bounced back from all that. Growing up is hard to do.”—Joe Clifford at Candy & Cigarettes Blog

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.

Interrogation: Christopher Black & Matt Phillips

Redbone_CoverThis week we’re interviewing a publisher and one of his newest authors at the same time. Should be interesting. Let’s see what happens…

Who: Christopher Black & Matt Phillips

What: Christopher Black is a noir writer of little note and editor-in-chief of Number Thirteen Press—a project to publish thirteen quality crime novellas, one on the thirteenth of each month for thirteen months. He is passionate about crime fiction and films with a special interest in all things noir.

Matt Phillips’ short fiction has appeared in Pulp Metal MagazineFlash Fiction Offensive and Powder Burn Flash. REDBONE, from Number Thirteen Press, is his first short novel. A new novella, MESA BOYS, will be published this year by Severest Inks.

Where: Christopher Black lives in London. Matt Phillips lives in San Diego.

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

Number 13 pressChristopher, how did you come up with the concept for Number Thirteen Press?

C.B.: The driving idea was that I love novellas and short novels and see these as the perfect format for a certain style of crime/noir writing—think of THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? or THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, or the more recent work of people like Allan Guthrie. Novellas have been out of fashion in mainstream publishing for a long time, but with e-publishing they are suddenly back with a vengeance and I wanted in on the action. But I didn’t want an open-ended project that could fizzle out: thirteen seemed a good, memorable number, it gave me definite end date and one book a month provides an impetus while being something to keep readers interested and coming back for more.

Matt, what made you want to submit REDBONE to Number Thirteen Press?

M.P.: Number Thirteen Press is publishing thirteen crime novellas/novels in thirteen months, consecutively, on the thirteenth of each month. When I heard about this, I thought—that takes some balls. I mean, think of the work involved. Why submit? Here’s a simple answer: Quality. The books they’ve published are good, damn good. A more nuanced answer is that REDBONE, to me, was pure noir, but I thought it was just different enough from what Number Thirteen had already published—it’s sort of a murder ballad-noir. Last year, I had a novella rejected by Number Thirteen (now, that sucker is in a fourth draft).

So, I did what any real writer does, I sat my ass in the chair and wrote another book.

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Christopher, your most recent release, REDBONE by Matt Phillips, is the seventh—so you are half way through. What have you learned about publishing along the way that you didn’t know before? What has been the most rewarding part of this experience so far?

C.B.: The most rewarding parts are the beginning and end of the process: going through submissions and getting excited about a writer with a lot of talent and a story with potential, and then finally seeing the end product and how excited the author is to get their book out to the public. In between is a lot of hard work, but all the authors have been really up for it and produced some stunning stuff.

As for what I’ve learned: everything else, from typesetting to social media. In particular: e-publishing is easy but producing quality manuscripts and books takes an incredible amount of time and effort.

the-mistakeMatt, do you feel any special honor or burden being the seventh release in a thirteen book cycle? Other than your own, which Number Thirteen Press release is your favorite?

You know, any time your work is published, it’s an honor. Halfway to thirteen is pretty damn cool in this case. Like we say in California, I’m stoked. This is my first book, so I feel a huge sense of pride and disbelief. I mean, I actually did it, right? But also, it’s like, I made all this stuff up… in my head. And now it’s out in the world. Kind of a trip.

Alright, at the risk of being pummeled by my fellow thirteeners, I’ll pick two favorites: OF BLONDES AND BULLETS by Michael Young and THE MISTAKE by Grant Nicol. The first is Number Thirteen’s initial release and it sets the tone—hard-hitting noir about how a good deed can really put a guy in some shit. The second is so atmospheric and well-written… Noir at its best. And, for good measure, it’s set in Iceland.

Click here to read the rest of the Christopher Black INTERVIEW 

Click here to read the rest of the Matt Phillips INTERVIEW

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.

What Inspires Your Flash Fiction?

Yard Sale

The inspiration for a piece of flash fiction can come from the strangest places.

For example, we had a yard sale (a.k.a. “garage sale,” “tag sale,” etc.) a few months back. I hung some handmade signs up on telephone poles the night before and rolled our junk out onto the driveway at dawn the next day. A few people were already waiting when I opened my garage door that morning. Half my stuff was sold before I even had my first cup of coffee.

After that, business died down. The initial flurry of activity had wiped out most of the furniture and electronics I was selling, so the rest of the day was all about unloading knick knacks at a dime a pop. That gave me plenty of time to do some people watching and work on a sunburn. It wasn’t long before a short story began forming in my head.

That first version was about an unhappy suburban family (daddy, mommy and a teenaged son) who were cleaning out their garage in preparation for two big life events: junior going to college, the parents getting divorced. The story was told from the father’s perspective, an abusive corporate sales guy who only sees the world through the lens of negotiation—whether it’s dimes at a yard sale, sneaking a drink at lunch or cheating on his wife with a country club waitress. It came in at just about 1,500 words and, of course, ended in murder.

I submitted the story to a handful publications and watched the rejections roll in. A few weeks later I decided to rework it by changing the father from a corporate sales guy to a high-paid assassin. I liked the idea that he had this double life that his miserable family knew nothing about. In that version of the story, he leaves the yard sale after a fight with his wife and goes to the country club to negotiate his next hit.

I sent that version off too. It also got rejected. Rightfully so.

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The assassin interlude was interesting, but it felt forced. So I took that out and developed it into its own piece of flash fiction that I called “Range Life”. That one didn’t get rejected. In fact, it’s up on Shotgun Honey this week!

As for the yard sale piece? Well, I did the only logical thing and turned that into a story about a murderous clown. It’s with a magazine now and I am REALLY hoping it gets accepted because, you know, murderous yard sale clown.

What inspires your flash fiction?

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.

Interrogation: Laurie Stevens

Laurie StevensWho: Laurie Stevens

What: Author of the best-selling Gabriel McRay psychological thrillers. The two books so far in the series, THE DARK BEFORE DAWN and DEEP INTO DUSK have won 9 awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 and the 2014 IPPY for Best Mystery/Thriller.

Where: Los Angeles

I just finished reading THE DARK BEFORE DAWN, the first Gabriel McRay novel. It was a real page-turner. What drew you to write a psychological thriller/suspense series like this?

I wanted to bring out subjects that cause people to face their fears. I envisioned the protagonist, Gabriel McRay, as sort of an everyman character, needing to go on a psychological healing journey.

Dark Before DawnGabriel McRay is a deeply flawed character with a troubled past. Did you set out to write him with such an intricate back story, or did it evolve along the way?

A little of both. I presented his character with a trauma, something that is way too prevalent in modern society unfortunately. Then I did a lot of research and interviewed professionals to help shape the direction of his psychological healing process. But every writer will tell you that the characters end up speaking for themselves. Gabriel is no exception.
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Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

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“All our criticisms of genre fiction—that it relies too much on the sensationalism of a shocking plot; that it is unwieldy and messy; that it is too contemporary, resisting the classic’s tight-lipped timelessness; that it appeals too much to its audience’s emotions—sidestep the fact that the novel began as a popular form, one as potentially mind-rotting as TV, comic books, or Candy Crush.”—Alice Bolin at Electric Literature

“My theory is that authors are no less opposed to making money any other type of professional; it’s the transaction that freaks them out.”—Jim Ruland on LitHub

“Whether it’s borne out of some kind of bizarro escapism or the desire to see the dark mind confirmed and confined on the page, the urge to read and write dark fiction has been steady in my life.”—Amelia Gray at Publishers Weekly
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Great Advice From Awesome Authors

I have been very lucky to interview some awesome authors and publishers over the last year. From short story masters to award-winning novelists, and everything in between, they all have great advice and words of encouragement for new and emerging writers.

Here is a collection of recent quotes along with links to the full interviews. Take a look and see if there is something here for you. If you like what they have to say, please make sure to check out some of their published works. And don’t be afraid to share their advice—these authors deserve to be discovered by even more readers and writers.

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Read the Rob Hart interview HERE.

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Read the Sarah M. Chen interview HERE.
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Quick Quotes—The Week in Publishing

rsz_screen_shot_2015-04-25_at_93043_amLots of great information out there this week in the writing and publishing world. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes and articles:

“What most writers have in common is desire. We want and want and want and want.”—Lev Raphael at Huffington Post

“The most frustrating part of my year of reading diversely was not being able to access e-books for works published in other countries. In the United States, five of the books on my 2014 reading list are not available through Amazon’s Kindle store.”—Sunili Govinnage at The Washington Post

When were you happiest?
Right now. I keep getting happier.”—James Ellroy at The Guardian

“Subscription e-book services are currently in a ‘chicken and egg’ period of initial growth.  On the one hand, they are a totally new way of consuming books, just as subscription services were a totally new way of consuming music when they were first introduced in the early 2000s.  On the other hand, the major trade publishers are not embracing the model as enthusiastically as the major record labels did, even though subscription music services are now firmly in the mainstream.”—Bill Rosenblatt at Forbes
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The Marketing Conundrum for Authors

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I’m the new guy. I only just started exploring the publishing universe in the last couple of years. And like thousands of other new authors I am out there mining for as much information as I can uncover about the Big 5, Indie publishing, e-publishing, self-publishing, co-publishing and every other kind of publishing available these days. Not to mention agents, editors, contests and author collectives.

It’s overwhelming, to say the least, but it’s clear to me that the road to enlightenment is lined with snake oil salesmen and false prophets.

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