|Posted on June 6, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (2)|
An interview with Les Edgerton, one of the great crime authors today. I especially enjoyed his views about learning to write. It starts with reading.
You can read my interview with Les Edgerton here.
|Posted on May 31, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
If you can't embrace Minnesota Nice, you need to get the hell out of my state.
This and other contradictions are explored in my interview with Black Heart Magazine here.
Many thanks as always to Laura Roberts and the Black Heart crew. She and the 'zine have been big supporters of the Maynard Soloman series, which is discussed in the interview. Roberts also writes humor, and I encourage you to read my review of her Rebels of the 512 novel here.
See? I'm Minnesota Nice incarnate. Now scoot your arse here to read the interview.
P.S. Black Heart is looking for a fiction editor. Here's your chance to be a part of the literary mutiny.
|Posted on May 4, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (9)|
Les Edgerton's The Bitch is one of the most arresting crime novels I've read this year (no pun intended). It chronicles ex-con Jake Bishop's attempts to avoid "The Bitch," a slang term for "habitual criminal." It's similar to the Three Strike Rule. Jake already has two strikes when a prison buddy calls him up for one last job.
The yarn itself was compelling on its own, but I suspected I was reading a story-within-a-story. Author Edgerton served time in the same prison as his Jake character. His colorful past is already well-known in the crime fiction world, but I still wanted to pick his brain. How much of the story was true?
Fortunately, the author was more than happy to do an interview. Here it is, unedited and unfiltered. Just 100% pure Edgerton. Read the whole thing. His real-world answers could put fiction to shame.
P.S. Click here to buy The Bitch on Amazon. It's available at all other fine e-retailers, too.
* * *
BEN: It's impossible not to compare the lead character in The Bitch, Jake Bishop, to yourself. You both did time in Indiana's Pendleton Correctional Facility, for example. Was The Bitch catharic to write?
LES: First, a small correction. When I was in prison, it was “Pendleton Reformatory.” Only, it wasn’t a “reformatory,” but one of the two Indiana maximum prisons, the other one being Michigan City. The only difference between them was that cons 30 and younger were sent to Pendleton and cons older than 30 went to Michigan City.
The “correctional facility” is a recent name change and nowadays they have a juvie facility in addition to the main prison. While I was there, then-President Johnson conducted a national study and concluded that Pendleton was “the single worst prison in the U.S.”
And, it was. There were eight riots during my stay, not including the one I walked in on when first sent up.
As to your question, Ben, writing it wasn’t much in the way of a catharsis at all. For a couple of reasons.
One, I’ve written about my experiences there in many of my previous novels and short stories, and so the “catharsis” value has pretty much been exhausted by now.
And, two, I’ve never lost a lot of sleep over my experience there. I was a criminal and going to prison is just part of the deal of being “in the life.” That “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the time” is pretty much the way it is. Just a part of the job description. Criminals are pretty good at compartmentalizing things and when you’re in the joint, you’re in the “zone” and not outside, on the bricks in your mind, and when you’re out on the bricks, you don’t waste a lot of time thinking about the joint.
I see a new breed of criminal today on TV where these guys are crying when they get caught. What kind of punk cries?
BEN: One of the themes throughout The Bitch was having to make a bad choice in the pursuit of something better. For example, kill Person X to save Person Y, yet create a new problem with Person Z. It's almost like the game is rigged. Does this reflect your view of the world, that we're doomed to a certain fate no matter what we choose?
LES: Ah! So you’re asking me if I have a Calvinistic view of life—that predestination thingy!
Well, on Monday’s I think that, and on Tuesdays I don’t. On Wednesdays, I don’t care.
To be honest, on most days I don’t care. I have a different vision of morality and God and all that. Most days, I fit the definition of a nihilist quite accurately. Expediency is what gets me through life.
For instance, I don’t perform criminal activities any longer and it’s not because I had some kind of “come to Jesus” moment or some kind of epiphany. I’ve just weighed the pros and cons of performing a criminal act and since I’ve been there (inside the walls), I have a clear idea of what that’s like and so far I haven’t come across a crime whose possible rewards outweigh the possible penalties.
If I ever do, I’m pretty sure I’m off that good citizen dais and out there doing the crime. But, it’ll have to be the perfect crime with an enormous upside. At my age, to go back to the joint is a certain death sentence and I’m not quite ready for that. Incarceration really is a good deterrent once you’ve experienced it.
BEN: On that same note, Jake is sucked back into the world of crime despite trying to get as far from it as possible. Is this a fear you were exorcising through Jake's character?
LES: Not really, but I can understand Jake completely. He’s the guy I could be if I had a moral view of the universe. Except, he’s really kidding himself that he’s a moral person.
In the end, he’s as nihilistic as I am. Not trying to come across as some kind of “badass” hardened criminal type, but I really don’t feel like I have a lot of fears. I’ve done time, been homeless, been shot at, been stabbed, had just about everything you can imagine thrown at me and can never remember feeling anything at the time than the same thing—that what was happening was interesting and would make great material for my fiction.
Detached is the best way to describe my feelings at any of those times. I’ve always thought “what’s the worst that can happen” in any situation I’ve been in, and never has that “worst thing” been all that bad.
It’s the feeling I had when I was in a shootout with what I thought were cops in a grade school and it’s the feeling I had when my call girl girlfriend Cat had stabbed one of my other girlfriends and was trying to eviscerate me. “What’s the worst that can happen here?”
In those cases (and others) the worst was death, and hey… nobody gets out of life alive, so what’s the fuss all about? It’s going to happen to all of us (death) and if you worry about it, it seems to me that you’re kind of… what’s the word?... oh, yeah… stupid. It’s going to happen at some time, so when it does what’s awakened is a feeling of avid curiosity. What’s it going to be like?
BEN: "The Bitch" refers to the slang term for "habitual" criminal, which others refer to as the "Three Strike Rule." Wind up in prison three times, and you're "out" for life. Advocates of these laws say they deter crime. Yet in your novel, it seems to encourage it. Jake will do anything - no matter how extreme - to avoid a third term in Pendleton. Which side of this issue do you fall on?
LES: These “law and order” types—politicians and the media, especially—don’t have a clue what deters crime. Or, rather, I suspect they do, but their agenda isn’t to keep people out of prison. It’s to gain votes for pols (for being seen as “tough on crime") and for viewers and readers (in the case of media.). It’s sexy and it’s popular to appear to exhibit the attitude of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” The things they do don’t deter crime in the least.
Here’s what deters crime. Barber school. (I’m using this as an example.) When I was in Pendleton, I had a much higher degree of education than most—I’d graduated high school and spent four years in the Navy and was a radioman and cryptographer. The average educational level of my fellow inmates was about third grade. When most of these guys got out—and most do get out, which straights don’t seem to realize will happen—they have no skills to gain any kind of meaningful employment. Which means, they’ll be on the street again, with no way to gain money for a meal, for a place to crash, for any of that. So, they’ll end up doing what they know how to do. Stick up a 7-11, sell drugs, break into a place.
Well, Pendleton at that time operated under the philosophy of rehabilitation. They actually meant it. The barber school was the best “lick” in the place and inmates fought over getting in. The reason was, the training was the best in the country and as a result barber shop and hairstyle salons were waiting in line to hire us. On the bricks, a guy in a civilian barber school got to cut maybe 1-2 heads of hair a day. He went to school for seven months. In Pendleton, we cut 12-14 heads a day. For at least two years and often a lot longer. When we were released, we were just far, far better at cutting hair than anyone else. Our services were valued and highly. I had to field offers of employment from literally hundreds of places. Guys from civilian barber and beauty schools couldn’t buy a job. They took our leavings, basically.
The result was, about 82% of us stayed on the bricks. We made serious money and got married. Bought homes, joined the Rotary, had kids and coached Little League. Why? Because we had excellent jobs. I was making $500 a week in 1968, which was great money in those days and it went up from there. Legitimately.
And, as great as the barber school was, it was virtually the only program in Pendleton that had this kind of success rate. The reason was we learned a very marketable skill. The second-best lick was the machine shop. Theoretically, guys could learn to be machinists and go out and secure a good job. The problem was, the machinery they learned on was outdated by at least 50 years and so the inmate who’d gone through that program wasn’t much better off than the guy who worked in the laundry or in the chow hall. The barber school program was a huge success and showed what was possible. Very few guys who went through the barber school came back.
But then… civilian barber students started protesting that all the good jobs were going to ex-cons and support for the program went away… Lock ‘em up and throw away the key…
The thing is, nothing the “authorities” do these days deters crime. I can’t think of a single thing. Warehousing criminals is the worst thing to ever happen for a lot of reasons space doesn’t allow me to go into here. What’s needed is a realistic look at criminals and prisons and the wrong-minded approach pervasive in corrections today, but that’s a pipe dream. Too many people making a lot of money off crime and I’m not referring to the criminals.
BEN: "Prison rape" is often the punchline in a joke. The Bitch takes a different approach and details the long-term psychological damage of rapes behind bars. The survivors might be prisoners, but they're still human beings. Is that a point you were trying to make?
LES: First of all, “prison rape” doesn’t go on nearly as much as straights think it does. It’s actually fairly rare. If one were to believe movies, books, and comedians, one would think it’s all that goes on in the joint. And, it doesn’t.
In fact, in my two+ years inside, among over 2,000 inmates, I was aware of maybe 5-10 such instances. There were more going on, I’m aware, but those were all I was aware of. This is one of the biggest myths perpetuated. It’s not a sexual thing—it’s a power thing and most often between blacks and whites. Whites don’t rape blacks as a rule, but blacks will often try to rape whites. In their minds, shows they’re in control.
I got hit on twice in two years. The first was in jail, not prison, so only one time in prison. And, that came about after I got my parole and made the mistake of talking about it. (You don’t tell anyone as there are lots of guys who can’t stand it that someone’s getting out and they’re not and they try their best to fuck up a guy’s parole.) A black guy got in my barber’s chair (a no-no—blacks don’t sit in white barber’s chairs and vice versa, unless one of them’s a punk), and told me he was going to make me his kid.
I’d made up my mind what I was going to do if that ever happened and I did exactly that. Grabbed my straight edge and went after him, trying to cut his throat. Chased him all over the barber school and then Jonesy, a black hack, caught me, ran me into the office, locked the door, and took the black inmate over to his dorm. Jonesy could have written me up—and he should have—but he didn’t, which saved my life as I would have lost my parole and I knew if I had to do the whole five years of my bit, I’d have to kill the dude who fronted me and once I did that, I’d be in there the rest of my life. So, Jonesy saved my life, in my opinion.
The guys who get hit on are guys who are all alone. In Pendleton, that meant guys from small towns who weren’t career criminals before and didn’t know anyone. I was from South Bend and had been pulling jobs for years and knew everybody from South Bend and so had all kinds of buddies who had my back as I had theirs. A good example of what happens is one day a new kid came onto our tier from a small town—Tipton—and he seemed like an all-right guy, albeit naïve, and I kind of took him under my wing. Well, a black dude started romancing him (although the kid didn’t realize what he was doing)—giving him cookies, cigarettes and all that.
I warned the kid that he needed to get away from this guy, but he was convinced the black guy was just trying to be friendly. He was. A week later, he’d turned the kid out. Big-time. Not just for himself, but he put the kid on the block. First thing he did was get a ball-peen hammer and knock out all the kid’s front teeth. (Better for blow jobs.) A week after I’d tried to warn him off, the kid was roaming the aisles on movie day, giving blow jobs to other inmates for cigarettes and green, turning them over to his new “friend.” Sad, but he was too ignorant to know when help was offered him.
But, that’s where most rapes come from. It’s just not a common deal at all. It wasn’t something most of us even think about or worry about at all. Seems to happen a lot in movies and in novels written by writers who don’t have a clue.
All that said, I’ve got rape in THE BITCH, don’t I! But, both took place in jail, not prison. One is far more likely to be raped in jail than in prison for several reasons. One, many guys in jail haven’t done time so all they know is from books and movies. So, they try to imitate what they think goes on, especially black guys. Not trying to come across as a racist, but it is what it is.
Second, and more important, guys in jail are hours or mere days away from being under the influence of drugs and that makes you do things and act in ways you wouldn’t when sober. Third, often guys in jail haven’t made the alliances they will in prison and so are more at risk. Jail and prison are vastly different animals.
Your original question was if I was trying to show that survivors or prison rape were still human beings. Well, not consciously. I simply assume they are (still human beings). I think a lot of straights think all criminals are rapists, child-molesters, serial killers and the like. The fact is, the vast majority of convicts are involved in crimes of property more than in crimes of person. Far more guys inside for burglarizing bars and gas stations, for stealing cars, for sticking up 7-11’s, for check-kiting, for assault on the wife who they walked in on as they were banging their best friends, than are in there for the crimes commonly portrayed on TV.
So, yeah; I think most of the guys inside are still human beings. Books, TV and movies are all engaged in sensationalizing prisons and are a long way off from any accurate portrayal. That series on MSNBC is typical bullshit—if a person believed that show, they’d think most inmates are pumping iron all day long or are total nut jobs. Totally unrealistic show, but if they showed the boredom that prison truly is, ratings would plunge.
BEN: You're candid about your colorful past, even writing about it in your bio on your website. Why? As you point out in The Bitch, people can react negatively to finding out one is an ex-con.
LES: For years, I did just that—kept my past secret. Then, I got tired of listening to people who usually had it all wrong. The truth is, most criminals are pretty much like your average citizen. Not that many hang out in strip clubs, have tatts, use drugs and drink like there was no tomorrow. Not that many have killed someone. Not that many have raped or been raped in the joint.
If you took the population of the average prison and set these folks down in the food court of your average mall and dressed them “normally” I doubt if anyone looking at them or listening to them would ever think they were any different than anyone else who might be in the mall. In fact, the average citizen probably talks to an excon every week and doesn’t have a clue. At one time, for instance, I could walk into just about any barbershop in Indiana and almost always someone cutting hair there would be someone I knew from Pendleton. The average lame who came in for their haircut didn’t have a clue. Well, we’re out there in your neighborhood.
Some of us are working in fast food, some are selling insurance, some are working on your car, some are taking your dry cleaning and handing you the pickup ticket, some are managing movie theaters… you name it, ex-cons are doing the same jobs and living the same lives as anyone else. Remember, I was a college prof (still am), was in college and elected student body president, worked as a reporter for The South Bend Tribune, sold Prudential life insurance, worked as a headhunter for an executive recruiting firm—in short, did a whole bunch of jobs that, if you believed bad novels, bad movies, and bad TV wouldn’t be the case. But it is. We’re (ex-cons) are in every segment of life on the bricks and doing virtually any job you can think of.
BEN: Let's wrap up with a lighter question. What would be on the Les Edgerton sandwich?
LES: A tunafish sandwich made with the recipe of this place I used to go to in Bermuda. I’ve never tasted anything like it since. And, I don’t even like tunafish much, but this sandwich was awesome. Second choice, would be fried oysters.
Thanks for having me on, Ben. This was fun!
|Posted on March 23, 2012 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
When he's not adding another writing trophy to his mantle, crime author Nigel Bird runs the Sea Minor blog. Other that his news and insights, he has a recurring feature called Dancing with Myself where other crime authors interview themselves.
A person might think Nigel is lazy for not interviewing his fodder like a normal blogger. That's not the case (see: his awards.) It's actually a lot of fun.
Mr. Bird graciously asked ME to make some ME time to interview MYSELF. I threw MY inner narcissist a bone and had a conversation with MYSELF. Click here to read MY interview with MYSELF.
|Posted on January 22, 2012 at 9:50 AM||comments (6)|
Kate Laity (aka K.A. Laity aka C. Margery Kempe aka Kit Marlowe aka Kate Wombat) has to be one of the most interesting authors I've crossed virtual paths with in a long time. For starters, just look at the different names she uses. Combine that with a lot of international traveling and a multi-language repetoire of light bulb jokes, and you might think she's a spy.
She didn't fess up to being one in this interview, but that doesn't mean you can't make up your own conspiracy theories. Enjoy!
You've picked up the proverbial torch for the seventh installment of Paul D. Brazill's noir-werewolf short story series, Drunk on the Moon. What drew you to the series? Have you contributed to a series before?
What drew me to the series? Well, you get Mr B drunk enough and he'll promise you anything. He didn't come through with the Lambourghini though, so the best he could offer was a slot on the werewolf gravy train, which I took and ran with. I showed him!
It was fun playing with his toys. Have I done a series before? Nah. I've written just about everything else -- probably the closest thing is the comic I do with Elena Steier called JANE QUIET. Collaborative work is always interesting because you come up with something you'd never have done on your own.
You do a ton of traveling across Europe. What's different about readers from country to country? What are some similarities?
Readers in different countries have different words for just about everything. The French call a ham sandwich a croque monsieur. The Spanish call it a bocadillo de jamón. It's like you have to translate everything. And their senses of humor are different too. The Swiss never laugh at light bulb jokes but the Dutch laugh uproariously at them and Russians find light bulb jokes tragically sad. It's a mystery.
You teach medieval literature, film, New Media and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose. How does this influence your writing, and vice versa?
I teach things that interest me: the best way to learn something is by teaching it. I try out new ideas on my students and see what works. I study brilliant works of art -- books, films, plays -- and pick them apart to see how they do what they do. Whatever I'm obsessing about at any given moment makes it into my teaching and writing.
Tell me about your pseudonyms, C. Margery Kempe and Kit Marlowe.
C. Margery Kempe writes steamy romance like the spy thriller Chastity Flame, a sort of female Bond. She writes a lot of funny, sexy fairy tale stories as well. Kit Marlowe, on the other hand, writes mostly funny historical romance that isn't so steamy, including a comic gothic novel The Mangrove Legacy and an on-going serial Airships & Alchemykalaity.blogspot.com].
Did you use to publish a magazine? What was it about?
I used to do a zine, which was a very 90s thing -- the last of the pre-digital DIY publishing. It was called Wombat's World, which was the name of a film I did as a student. It was just a collection of mad stuff that I and some of my friends wrote. It has evolved into my blog, but sometimes I miss my saddle stitch stapler and drawing Hello Kitty parodies.
What's next for you and how can people find out more about you?
I have an SF/urban fantasy/alt-history/road trip/retelling of the descent of Inanna novel coming out from Immanion Press in a few months called Owl Stretching. I've got a bunch of short stories on their way and some non-fiction writing, too. I don't even know what might come out of my head next or where I might be, so I advise people to drop by my website or find me on Facebook or Twitter if they want to keep up with the mad swirl that is my life.
Any final words?
Thanks for having me here, Ben.
|Posted on January 18, 2012 at 8:20 AM||comments (0)|
Other than the fact an offer is not on the table, I don't see myself writing for TV or movies. It was a question indie crime demigod Paul D. Brazill asked during his Short, Sharp Interview series.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
Me: Not really. Authors sometimes view movies and TV as the ultimate expression of their written works. It's like they're saying words aren't good enough to tell a story. I don't see any directors hoping their show is optioned for a book. Why should authors be any different?
Click here to read the rest of the interview. Thanks for having me, Paul.
|Posted on October 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM||comments (0)|
B.R. Stateham is a crime author and all-around good guy. Or so I thought. I read some of the works in his Call Me Smitty series. I wondered what kind of monster could come up with a killer that basically amounts to a human lawnmower blade. Smitty is a hit man. This is some dark, brutal stuff.
I figured the best thing I could do was try to get a confession out of him. I mean, just look at the guy. Doesn't that look like a ruthless killer to you? Here's how I almost made a citizen's arrest:
When you agreed to do this interview, you replied with, "Questions, ahoy! Send away, me matey!" Are you a pirate? Follow-up question, do you hate ninjas?
I do write pirate stories. In fact, I have a novel that has a pirate-detective as its main character. It's called, The Adventures of Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes Begin. And yes; I happen to like ninjas.
You've found an audience for your Smitty series. I can only imagine how depraved these people must be to want to read something so brutal. Do you get fan mail from prison?
No fan mail from prison. But a lonely house wife did write a note on my Facebook page. Said the Smitty stories made her day-dream a lot whimsically. Wonder what she meant by that?
Is there an overarching plot to each installment of the Smitty series or is it more episodic? Does Smitty know who shot J.R.?
Smitty is more episodic--although when I go and write a novella it may refer to something from out of his past found in a short story. As for as J.R. Ewing--he doesn't know who shot him. But for a price, and as long as your not squeamish, he could find out for you.
A recent Smitty collection is called "Three Deadly Sins." How many of them have you committed today? Got any plans for tomorrow? Murder, perhaps?
Usually every day I commit the sin of gluttony. And of course, being slothful. As for as writing about how to do someone in, that never stops.
What would Smitty think of the liberal political views you espouse on your facebook page? Would Smitty run as a liberal Democrat, something you've described about yourself? If not, would he consider a run for the GOP presidential nom? Shit, may as well, right?
Neutral when it comes to politics for Smitty. Money is the color green on both sides of the aisle. Now as for me . . . got a year or two to discuss politics? Maybe a decade?
Who is this "Eunice" person you keep threatening on your blog? Here's a quote from an Oct. 14 post: "Eunice, I said homicidal! Not matricidal! But keep it up, woman. Keep it up!"
Ah . . . Eunice! My smart-ass alter ego; female version. A mouthy broad who doesn't think any man measures up and constantly wants to prove it. Writing/reading blogs can become a chore sometimes for all of us. Putting a little humor in 'em smooths the banality out a bit, don't you think?
You and the ubiquitous-as-a-fart Paul D. Brazill are putting together a collection of international crime fiction. What's so appealing about murders in other countries? You certainly keep it local with all that talk about killing Eunice.
Ever read a Tony Hillerman novel? He wrote about two Navajo cops on the Navajo reservation. The Navajo look at murder--both culturally and spiritually--completely different than the Anglo-White culture does. This fascinates me. So I wondered if there are cultures out there who have their own unique ways of understanding murder. I'm betting there is.
You've expressed frustration in the past about not gaining traction with works when you thought you would. Have you ever considered offing Eunice in the hopes of increasing sales? I read that earlier this year John Wayne Gacy's art raised a lot of money for charity. That kind of thing.
Eunice is not the 'giving' type. Unless you consider giving someone hell is charitable.
Your blog, "In the Dark Mind of B.R. Stateham," describes you as having a "twisted and warped mind." Do you blame this all on Eunice?
No. I claim twisted and warped as my own. I need little help from others to trip over the deep end.
Level with me. You're going to kill Eunice, right? You can tell me. I'm a licensed attorney. (Disclaimer: License was never endorsed.)
Eunice can't be any safer than being in my hands (mind). She's the edge that gets the juices flowing creatively. I've always been fond of verbal sparring (as, no doubt, you've already seen on my Facebook page). Eunice in the blogs will pop up here and there on a regular basis. She's a good ole'girl; forgetting, of course, how she has a fondness for meat cleavers and dough rollers.
B.R., it's always a pleasure to talk with you. Let me know how my limited legal expertise can be tapped for your upcoming murder trail. Besides 20-25 years in a steel cube, what's next for you?
Just more of the same, buddy. More of the same. Lots of stories, characters, ideas floating around up there in my noggin'. They'll come out sooner or later.
There you have it, guilty as charged. Keep up with this vicious criminal on his blog.
|Posted on October 18, 2011 at 8:40 AM||comments (0)|
Opened my e-mail this morning to an excited message from Stephanie Schmitz, who interviewed me the other day for the Charlotte Examiner about Cleansing Eden. It seems the interview made the front page of examiner.com.
"Congratulations to Ben Sobieck for making the FRONT PAGE ( as in first page of the national website entry portal) for his article with me. FYI - content is chosen by editors, so I have nothing to do with it."
Wow! I didn't want the page to go anywhere, so I saved it right away. Click here to see it.
And if you didn't catch the interview, click here to read it.
|Posted on September 21, 2011 at 1:20 AM||comments (0)|
So a while back, I signed up for a blog tour to help Vincent Zandri promote his new book, "Concrete Pearl." I've been counted as one of his legions of crime fiction fans for a long time, so in a fanboy kind of way I felt obligated. But I also had questions I really wanted to ask him. The blog tour seemed like a good fit.
Here's my interview. Enjoy!
(P.S. Click here to read my review of "Concrete Pearl.")
Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling author of the thrillers THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE REMAINS and CONCRETE PEARL. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, he has was a Stringer for The Albany Times Union Newspaper, and a contributor to New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine, and more. His short fiction has appeared in many of the leading journals and magazines, Orange County Magazine, Buffalo Spree, Negative Capability, The Maryland Review, Rosebud, The Best of Rosebud, Lost Creek Lettersamong them. His novels, stories, and journalism have been translated into many foreign languages including the Dutch, Japanese, French, Russian and Turkish. A freelance photo-journalist, foreign correspondent, and Blogger for RT, Globalspec and International Business Times, he divides his time between New York and Florence, Italy.
For more on the author, go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM.
* You and I have a lot in common. We both pursued journalism before trying to "make it" at creative writing. What in the hell were we thinking?
Well, the first time around, Dell gave me almost a quarter million bucks in advance money, so I quit journalism. Then when everything went south and when I didn't earn enough to earn out my advance, I ran out of money and work. So I went back to journalism. What's my point? No matter how well you're doing, always keep your hand in it even if it means keeping up with your annual National Writers Union dues. You never know when you're going to have to sell a story again in order to eat.
* People point to you as an indie author who "made it." Do you feel like a made man?
I don't know. I get up and go to work each day. I mean, ok, I get to do that sometimes in Italy or where ever, but it's still a lot of work to "make it." I think you have to make it everyday like anyone else who makes their living on their own. You can't slack off, if only to take small breaks here and there. This is a cyclical business and like journalism, you can go through long sprints where everything you touch turns to gold and long, dreadful droughts where no matter what you write or pitch, it gets ignored.
* You ever get tired of people asking you that question?
I don't know if I get tired of it, but it makes me a little uncomfortable. I mean there are so many authors who have made it more than me. I look at Amanda Hocking or John Locke or Harlan Coben for that matter, and I'm just floored at what they are able to consistently move. They're the ones who have made it.
Both are well stocked (I'm writing this in Italy right now). Only difference is I can share a bottle of wine with a friend in a park or on a narrow cobbled street and the cops aren't going to bust me for open container. Cop might actually join us. I like writing about Albany in Italy since it's so far removed, not just geographically speaking, but culturally. In Florence I tell people I'm a writer and they look at me like, "Well, of course you are. Otherwise you would be a painter." In New York I tell them I'm a writer and they ask me who's published me, how much money I make and am I interested in hearing their sure bestselling idea they just haven't had the time to sit down and write yet.
* Enough shop talk, let's get to the good stuff. I think "Concrete Pearl" is your best novel. Do you agree?
Maybe. I was born and raised in the construction business so the material came easy. And the protagonist Spike is someone whom I'd love to ask out. She's hot and smart and a go getter. She's also loyal and dedicated to a fault. I think in terms of plotting and working out the angles, it's definitely one of my best efforts. Took me a while to work it all out.
* You've stated before that certain elements of your novels are based on real people and events. You've even used actual names in drafts before substituting fictional ones. What can you tell me about the real Concrete Pearl? Follow-up, how much is the bounty for your scalp?
Oh boy, the novel definitely is based on some real stuff that went down in Albany and other parts of New York State. Some contractors decided they could make a killing by cheating on asbestos removals. And they did. Problem is, they were cheating at places like public elementary schools and other public buildings where they're potentially exposing little kids to cancer. And they did it all in the name of money and ego. I went to high school with a couple of the players. One of them is in prison for like 25 years and the other...the rat...was released after only a year. You wanna hear something really amazing? New York State is allowing the latter individual to work as an engineer again. Holy crap, you can't make this stuff up. Anyway, I don't like cheaters and if the players recognize themselves and go after my scalp, well, I'm ready for them. They have no credibility.
* "Concrete Pearl" is the first time you've explicitly written yourself and your band, The Blisterz, into a novel. Why did you do that? Does it count as a "gig?"
It definitely counts as a gig as we didn't get paid to play, which was usually the case for The Blisterz. But I genuinely like the guys ins the band and I wanted to kind of immortalize us by putting us in there. Plus it was fun. I've since left the band due to professional constraints but I still keep in touch with them.
* Despite the "Spike" nickname, the protagonist in "Concrete Pearl" is a female. You wrote her in first-person. What did you do to get inside females?
What do I do to get inside a female??? Sure you want me to answer that one?? Ha! Ok (pulling head out of gutter)...I grew up with two sisters and domineering mother. I've had a girlfriend ever since kindergarten, and two wives to boot. So, I feel that by now, I can pretty much pull off a woman's POV. Besides, Spike is tough. But then, the trick was not to write her as a man with boobs. I think I succeeded.
* OK, there was a bit of wordplay with that last question. You haven't left the room, have you?
See previous answer...
* Then let's switch gears and get serious. Unlike some of your other novels, "Concrete Pearl" didn't have the advantage of being in print with a major publishing house before becoming an indie e-book. Do you think this hurt it?
Maybe. But then neither did The Remains and it's been a perpetual bestseller for 15 months, having hit the Top 100 overall Kindles on two separate occasions. CP needs a little time and marketing before I can get a real sense of its sales potential.
* You've written in your blog about the impact of novel writing on your family. One of the casualties was your marriage. Is there any relation between that and the female characters in your novel? For example, Keeper Marconi in "The Innocent" and "Godchild" is tortured by the loss of his wife.
For sure. I'm one of those gotta play the Hemingway-tortured-writer-the-work-comes-first kind of idiots, and that kind of thing takes its toll on your sig other. More recently however, I've developed a pretty solid relationship with a visual artist who completely understands my need to work and travel and not live the garden variety family life. My kids understand because they grew up with it, but even though both of my ex's and I get along great now, there's still some bitterness there on their part. I've even asked my second wife to reconsider our relationship at certain points over the course of the past 6 years, and she's seriously thought about it. But in the end she always pulls back knowing that I'm probably twice as busy as I was when we were married. But to answer your question, yes, I work out my relationship woes in all my books. It beats having to pay a shrink.
* More success means more work. Ever worry you'll get burned out on all this?
* What's next for you?
I'm going to take a shot here since this won't be out until September, but presently my agent Chip MacGregor, is in negotiations with Thomas and Mercer (Amazon) for the the buyout of all my books and the new Moonlight novels, "Murder by Moonlight," plus a couple of new ones. The beauty of the deal is that I can still work with StoneGate Ink as well. So I get the best of both the traditional big leagues and a hot indie pub. Like I'm saying, we're in "negotiations" at the present time, but it's my sincere hope that by the time you publish this, those negotiations will have turned into a solid commitment.
* Where can people find out more about you?
* Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for having me, and good luck with your own work, Ben. I'm honored to have spent some time with you. Next time, let's do it over a beer or two.
|Posted on June 20, 2011 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
One of the cool things about being an author is that people sometimes request to interview you. They also ask you to take your shoes off before installing the cable.
One of the cool interview/book review people out there is April over at Cafe of Dreams. She reads a ton, posts interesting reviews and is known to spotlight wannabes like me. I especially like her slogan: "Life without a book is like a body without a soul."
Luck was on my side the day she asked to interview me. I had a ton of fun. That six-pack of Trestle Press stories she mentions will be out soon, too.