Writing Tips From Amazing Crime Authors


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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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.


Great #writingtips From Authors & Publishers

We’ve had the good fortune to interview some fantastic authors and publishers in the last year. Here’s a collection of writing tips and quotes from the last few months. Please click through to read the whole article and get to know these amazing talents.


Read my interview with Les Edgerton


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Learning How To Read

I did a Lit Crawl LA:NoHo reading last night at the Laemmle Royal in Santa Monica. Probably my fourth or fifth such reading in public. Got another one coming up next Wednesday downtown. It doesn’t make me want to vomit the way it did a couple of months ago—so that’s progress.

I’ve got a ways to go before I’m “good” at it, but I’m starting to figure a few things out. For one, it’s clear to me that the goal should be to read from memory. Looking down at the page for most of the reading, with only the occasional awkward peek up at the audience, just isn’t cutting it. That’s going to take some serious work.

The other thing is laughter. Whether I’m the one doing the reading or I’m in the audience, hitting a comedic moment in a reading is a real ice breaker. Sometimes that can be the actual text, but a lot of the time it’s in the delivery. Those moments when the author reacts to the gruesomeness of their own work, tries to read in a challenging character voice or does a funny hand gesture at just the right moment.

The story I read last night was called “Fix Me,” and at 1,300 words it was probably the longest thing I have read out loud to date. What I discovered is that once I was into the story, I kind of lost all sense of time—like I didn’t know if I had been reading for a minute or twenty minutes. It made me a little self-conscious, worried that I was boring the crowd. And then I reached a funny point in the story, I got a couple of loud laughs, and everything was alright.


I guess the main thing I have learned, both as a reader and as an observer, is this: writing is solitary, but reading is performance. The two might be related, but need to be approached differently.

Lucky for me, I’ve gotten great advice from a couple of pros. Check out these interviews with Eric Beetner and Johnny Shaw for tips on how to deliver a memorable reading of your work.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Interrogation—Craig Faustus Buck

CraigFaustusBuck_smallWho: Craig Faustus Buck

What: His debut noir mystery novel, GO DOWN HARD, was published by Brash Books in 2015 and was First Runner Up for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. His short story “Honeymoon Sweet” is currently nominated for both the Anthony and the Macavity Awards. He is chapter President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal.

Where: Los Angeles

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

I just finished reading your debut novel, GO DOWN HARD. It focuses on two of my favorite things—L.A. and rock and roll. How did you dream this story up? Why is L.A. the right place for this story?

After years toiling in TV, I was sick of outlining (a required step in selling a script), so when I turned to crime writing I just sat down and started. I had no idea where the book was going, but I had a first paragraph (long gone), which ended with: “If there is a flaw in her beauty it’s the back of her head, which some jerk has seen fit to splatter across her million-dollar Lichtenstein.”  That seemed promising, so I figured out who “she” was and the bricks began to lay themselves. As I met new characters, they started driving the story and I just held on for the wild ride. Of course I had to go back and do a lot of shucking and jiving to make a cohesive story out of it, but I had a ball doing it. Seat-of-the-pants writing was a whole new concept for me, and I loved it, even if the book took three times as long to write as it needed to.

Of course, it had to be set in L.A. and to me, that means rock. My old school friend Robert Landau has an exhibit up at the Skirball Museum as I write this, about the last of the hand-painted rock and roll billboards of Sunset Boulevard. That was my turf. I grew up above the Sunset Strip. My grandmother went to L.A. High. I went to Fairfax, as did my mom. I formed my first band when I was 12. I ran the light show at the Whiskey a Go Go when I was in High School. The first house I ever owned was in Laurel Canyon, which is a rock hall of fame in and of itself. I haunted the Ash Grove and the Troubadour. I ushered at the world premier of Hair (and I don’t mean the movie). L.A. and rock are the soil from which I sprang, the blood in my veins. Not to mention that noir was born here. How could I NOT set GO DOWN HARD in the world of L.A. rock?

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Interrogation: Angel Luis Colon

ALCWho: Angel Luis Colon

What: His Derringer Award nominated fiction has appeared in multiple print and web publications. Book reviews have appeared in My Bookish Ways and he is an editor for Shotgun Honey, a flash-fiction website focused on noir, hard-boiled, and crime crime stories. Debut novella, THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR out in July from One Eye Press.

Where: New York

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

I just read THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR in one shot. Totally couldn’t put it down. What dark corner of your soul did the title character emerge from? Where does he go when you’re not writing about him?

Great question. Blacky isn’t necessarily my id, but he’s definitely a creature of impulse. I wanted to create someone dark, but cartoonish enough to love, if that makes sense. Most of Blacky’s decisions are by the seat of his pants and most definitely low-hanging fruit. Though, in the story, we do see Blacky has sort of a moral compass. This doesn’t excuse the things he does, but in most cases you’d have a beer with the guy.

That second part, I can probably answer that better when I’m actually not writing him! I’m currently working on a new Blacky story for the Thuglit Christmas anthology due out later this year. This crazy bastard won’t leave my brain, man.

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Happy #IndiePrideDay

I have had the chance to interview some incredible Indie mystery and crime authors on my blog over the last few months. In celebration of #IndiePrideDay, here’s a few quotes from some of my favorite Indie authors.



Laurie Stevens self-published the Gabriel McRay series.

“The technology is out there to publish, distribute, and promote like never before.”

Read the interview HERE.


Johnny Angel Wendell self-published his debut novel LOOKING FOR LADY DEE in 2015. Read the interview HERE.


Anonymous-9 has worked with several Indie publishers, but self-published the novella CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS in 2015. Read the interview HERE.


Josh Stallings self-published the acclaimed Moses McGuire series.

“New Years Eve 2010 my big sister encouraged me to explore self publishing. I did it as an experiment. A chance to try and build the elusive ‘platform’ everyone said a writer needed. I didn‘t anticipate the way the crime community took to my battered bouncer.

Read the interview HERE.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Interrogation: Anthony Neil Smith

Who: Anthony Neil Smith

What: Chair of the English Department at Southwest Minnesota State University, and author of ten crime novels, including YELLOW MEDICINE, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, and WORM. He likes cheap red wine and tacos. He still scoops out the cat box every week. It’s humbling.

Where: Minnesota

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

I just read WORM and really dug it. It made me smile and it made me grit my teeth, but mostly it made me feel dirty—in a good way. What was the inspiration for this story? How close is the published novel to the one you set out to write?

Worm ANSThe inspiration was my mother-in-law telling me about the oil boom in North Dakota, which I hadn’t heard too much about. At the time, I was working on a stalled idea about some blue-collar guys in Sioux Falls robbing the small, storefront “casinos” that are all over that city. But it wasn’t coming together, even though I liked the characters. So I went off to finish ONCE A WARRIOR instead, but I started researching the NoDak boom. I ended up watching hours and hours of videos on YouTube from guys who worked the fields, giving advice to people who might want to come to it—sort of a “get the real story” deal. And some filmed the job itself, especially the truck drivers. I read a bunch , too, but those videos hooked me. And I could imagine my band of casino robbers becoming oil workers instead. But at first, I considered *maybe* this was a way to continue the Billy Lafitte series…but that didn’t work either. And then, I had a heart attack at the halfway mark. After that, I felt that the book, while not especially personal, was personal to me because of what it took to get it done. I’m in great health now, got a stent and all that, but finishing that novel the summer after the attack was damned important. It turned out exactly how it should’ve, I think.

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Quick Quotes—The Week In Publishing

—Jennifer Maloney at Wall Street Journal

“We risk producing a generation of children who believe that a sentence such as ‘I bounded excitedly from my cramped wooden seat and flung my arm gracefully up like a bird soaring into the sky’ is always better than ‘I stood and put my hand up’.”— at The Guardian

“Short books have different economics in the digital era. Delivering data is so cheap that there’s no threshold that must be met to cover the costs of shipping and stocking. Paying someone to walk down a warehouse aisle or unpack a book and put it on the shelf—a big reason why the rule of thumb of an 80,000-word minimum evolved—is no longer a concern.”—Peter Wayner at The Atlantic


Josh Stallings at Bad Cittizen Corporation

“Capturing the reader’s attention is one of the toughest tasks writers face. These days, that task must be accomplished quickly.”—B.K. Stevens at The First Two Pages

“When you’re publishing books from beyond the grave, anything is possible.”— Joe Queenan at Wall Street Journal

“We’ve lost the appreciation for simple messages these days. Somewhere along the way, we started associating great ideas with complex narratives, plot twists, and best seller’s lists; but simple truths found in children’s books are amongst the most powerful ideas out there.”—Autism Site

“Think of an outline as a roadmap. You can cut around construction or take a longer route to get in some sightseeing—but you’ll arrive at your destination (the completion of the first draft) so much sooner if you’ve got some semblance of a plan.”—Rob Hart

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, Dark Corners, 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.

Interrogation: Josh Stallings

josh-stallings-aboutWho: Josh Stallings

What: The author of the multi-award winning Moses McGuire crime novels, BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD, OUT THERE BAD and ONE MORE BODY. And YOUNG AMERICANS, a ‘70’s glitter-rock disco heist novel coming September 2015. His short fiction has appeared in Beat to a Pulp, Blood and Tacos, Shotgun Honey, Protectors Anthology #1 & #2, Crime Factory and more. He lives with his wife Erika, two dogs and a cat named Riddle.

Where: Los Angeles

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

You have published three novels featuring Moses McGuire, a suicidal strip club bouncer. How did you conceive of this character? How did you create his mix of interesting character traits?

beautiful-naked-and-deadI knew I wanted to write about thugs and drunks, strippers and criminals, wholesome types like I grew up with. I was raised in the counterculture, think Leave it to Beaver directed by Federico Fellini. In my teen years Martin Scorsese took over the helm. I write for the outsiders.

Years ago a smart ass NY agent told me I would sell BN&D if I gave it a clean-cut protagonist, someone people could see my world through. I’m sure he was correct, but I wasn’t writing it for him.

What the fuck was the question? Oh yeah, where did Moses come from. Moses’ chassis was built on the tarnished knight archetype of Raymond Chandler. His drunken bull in a Stop-N-Go echoes my love of James Crumley. His bullmastiff was borrowed from Andrew Vachss. I say steal from the best. His suicidal tendencies came from asking myself who was the scariest man in the room? The one who doesn’t give a fuck if he makes it home for Christmas. That and I know a lot about self annihilation and solo boxing. Not that I thought about any of this while writing it. I just started on page one and typed until it was done. Then rewrote and rewrote and rewrote… until the prose stopped sucking.

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