Thursday 30 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: JASON MICHEL interviews JASON MICHEL

Here's the editor of Pulp Metal Magazine with a collection of short stories to talk about and a novel on the way.

What an all-rounder.

Groovy Satan himself, Jason Michel.

Please stand.

Dancing With Myself:

"Having met him, he looks exactly like someone who knows they are too unacceptable / good / defeated to stand to be further piddled on by literary corporationdom and is not afraid to twist the cliché of life with the fire of rebellion. All in all he is an ugly tattooed son of a bitch with a lyrical voice of great, well, beauty. If a car crash can be beautiful?"

- the video poet, Adam Sandell

1:So, what gives with that bloody Pulp Metal rag? Why, in God’s Holy Name did you start it?

Well, gather round boys & girls, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin …

Once upon a time (Last December), I was bored out of my tiny little cerebral mass with a lot of self-pitying tripe that goes for poetry on the internet & a devious idea struck me. Being a writer of sorts who enjoys all sorts of malarkey, whether it be High Brow or Low, I thought to myself, “Hey Jay, you hairy miscreant, why not start a magazine that encompasses as many of those influences as possible & you can be the dictator that you always secretly wanted to be, ruining people’s Sunday afternoons & inflicting the stories that nowhere else would take. Gentle stories about obsessive toys & bear fucking & fairies & pirates & essays on the cemeteries of New Orleans & madman’s comics & heavy music onto the world”.

“Why the fuck not?” thought I.

Then with that evil kernel in mind, I thought I would get in touch with a like-minded rational human being who goes by the name Paul D Brazill (the D is unknown, but I have my theories), & ask said upstanding gent if he’d like to do a column for said magazine. He said, “Yes”, & the rest is a right sorry history.

2:Which pieces in PMM have you been set your heart aflame with pride to publish?

There really have been so many.

The earliest was definitely Kristin Fouquet’s photo essay. The haunting beauty of those photo blew me away & her elegant research & obvious knowledge of the subject really did slap a grin on this old dogs craw.

Having Ed Mironuik in there was a buzz too. It was perfect for the where I wanted PMM to go.

The writing just gets better & better. Having PDB, U.V.Ray, Jason Duke & Ian Ayris & other writers like them sharing their madness in there has just been fantasic.

Also, a special mention goes out to that mistress of the macabre Jodi MacArthur for her work on the pirate epic, the Wicked Woman’s Booty. It is most definitely one of a kind. Gar!

3:I’ve heard tell that you’re a bit of a vagabond, why can’t you just stay where you are?

I’m the last one to ask. Really. My old man was in the military in the fifties & sixties & he spent time in Hong Kong & Malaya (as it was called then) & used to show me photos of the Gurkhas heading towards an anti-British riot & the jungle & tell me stories of snakes & monkeys & suchlike. I never in a million years thought I’d ever get to see such places. Never mind live there. I mean, the yearly family holiday was to drive a caravanette from Wales to the Isle Of Skye to sit in a midge infested puddle for a week & a half.

But I did.

4:They say that travelling makes you worldly wise & open minded. What have you learnt, eh, Mr Smarty-Arse?

Never eat in a McDonalds in Bangkok unless you want to be shitting through the eye of a needle for twelve hours at the side of the road. Street food is the only way to go.

The Japanese are a funny bunch.

Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the North Coast of Africa, has to import its sand from

Morocco to keep the locals lying to themselves that it’s a nice place.

Everyone is as intolerant as everyone else.

Especially those who are vehemently against it.
& the French.

5:Is it true that you once drunkenly demanded that the Spanish police give you a cell for the night to rest your weary head in?

Yes, ahem. But I had turned up with a split lip after being twatted & thrown out of my building by one of Francos ex-bastards for falling asleep on my own doormat. The police were surprisingly polite in their negativity.

Also, there’s a dirty rumour going around that I also had a hand in a raid on an industrial orchard with a group of burly Russian smugglers in ski masks & an unregistered tiny Japanese car from a wrecking yard that they used to send car parts back to feed their families with. & a tape deck full of Boney M. These scandalous people say that we went around known “pleasure” areas for the gents to give the delicious nashi fruit to the Russian lasses “working”. A favour in lieu, so to speak.

I mean, really …

6:Has your vagabondage influenced your writing? How much of your novel Confessions Of A Black Dog is based on the truth?

Yes, & that would be telling.

7:I believe you once shared a cinema with Jackie Chan, Val Kilmer & Oliver Stone is this true?

Yep. It was for a Bangkok Film Festival. JC was cool, VK seemed to be a fat arrogant dick (Well, he did play Jim Morrison once) & I didn’t see Ollie, only heard his entourage. After that Alexander The Great debacle, it’s probably for the best.

8:You seem to enjoy the your music. Have you ever been in a band?

Indeed, I have. I was in Garage Rock band in Bangkok called The Window Lickers about seven & a half years ago. I played bass, a Swede played guitar & the drummer was American. We played one gig in front of 150 members of the Bangkok punk community at a punk night in a club. We may have been hammered with nerves & Dutch courage but we carried it of triumphantly.

9:Who would you most like to interview?

Bruce Campbell: Besides his other classics, his portrayal of Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep was absolutely phenomenal. I damn near burst into tears at the finalé.

Pat Mills: Probably my greatest formative influence. 2000AD changed everything.

Jeff Bridges: To see if he’s as much The Dude in real life as I suspect him to be.

Jim Goad: The world’s most fearless journalist. Bar none.

John N Gray: An eloquent thinker & destroyer of society’s most cherished myths.

10:What does the future hold for Jason Michel?

Well, my novel is in the final stages of being published & is coming out shortly on the splendid BrownpaperpublishinG & I’ll continue putting out the mag & then , of course, the succession to Kim Jong-il is always an option.

Other than that, just trying to take it easy in a cruel & heartless world.


Jason Michel has been turned on, tripped up and stumbled over all around the world on a thriteen year (so far) self imposed exile.

He is a hack purveyor of penny dreadfuls and flash nightmares of daytime who now lives in France.

He is the Editor of Pulp Metal Magazine a besides his up & coming novel “Confessions Of A Black Dog”, he has recently self published his first collection of short stories “The Wrong Mind & Other Fictions” at & has had work published in various print and online magazines.

His rants & magazine can be found at :

Monday 27 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: MALACHI STONE interviews MALACHI STONE

Today I'd like you to welcome Malachi Stone.

As you can see, he's in good shape.

On Friday I went along to a wedding and had a lovely day. There were crazy pipers, real pipers, lots of friends and ceilidh dancing to enjoy.

Thing is, that for the meal it was so posh they had a palate cleanser after the starter, Rusty Nail sorbet. I didn't think about it and just dived in there. Basically it was Drambuie and Whisky poured over sugary ice.

For a while there I was smiling away and enjoying the grin my face (made without me thinking of anything funny) and the tingle in my scalp. Caught myself looking at the waiters who were taking away the sorbets of those who found it too strong. Wanted to call them over.

Five years since I've had a drink and this was the closest I'd come. It was food, right?

Anyway, Saturday was OK and Sunday on the lousy side.

Today I re-read Malachi's interview. Now I feel much better about life again. Thanks Malachi.

A warm hand for Malachi Stone.


Wow! That’s a tough one right out of the box. (Here I go, spouting clichés like Nancy Grace pounding out a bestseller.) I suppose if I had to pick one thing I couldn’t do it, so please spot me two.

The first is, of course, taking that first drink, or at least that first drink legally in a bar. From that time on and for the next fourteen years I drank enough to float a battleship, and while I don’t really believe it damaged me physically or mentally, it damaged my education and my ensuing career in terms of potential. There were the usual embarrassments, frequent blackouts, car accidents, injuries and all the other baggage that goes with a crippling addiction. I knew I was an alcoholic, went to a few meetings but never quit until at the age of thirty-four I met and soon after proposed to my lovely wife Maria. From that day forward, strange as it may seem, I have never craved another drink. An overrepresentation of great writers—James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard come to mind—are recovered alcoholics. I have no answer for why this is so.

The second thing I regret is taking up writing as late as I did. Although I’ve been writing as a serious avocation for the past nearly fourteen years—with no commercial success whatsoever, I might add—I wish I had started much earlier, say in high school like Stephen King did. I credit the invention of the word processor for introducing so many latecomers to writing. Manual typewriters, typewriter erasers, typos, smudges, re-typing and re-re-typing ruined pages, wastebaskets full of crumpled papers—it all served to thwart the creative process, at least in my particular case. (A Chevron typewriter I bought from Sears when it was still calling itself Sears & Roebuck carried me all the way through college and law school, and probably still works if you could find a ribbon for it.)

I attended colleges and law schools where writing was emphasized, as it should be. Nowadays I’m afraid institutions of higher learning, particularly law schools, fail in that area, perhaps because the professors don’t want to read the crap their students write.

Having said all that, I strongly believe that the only person who can truly teach you to write is YOU. Learning to communicate clearly and powerfully through the written word, finding a voice and making that voice sing—these are talents that demand a lifetime journey of practice and self-discovery, not something you pick up in a three credit hour English 101 or legal writing class. In that respect it’s rather like being a musician. If you develop your talent playing the violin, let’s say, and practice every day, somebody someday may be willing to pay money to hear you play. Then you’re a professional. If not, then you’re an idiot.


Another heavy question. (Do people still say “heavy” when they mean “profound?”)

Hands down—and I’m not saying this to win brownie points with my wife because she refuses to read my stuff anyway—the best thing that ever happened to me was my meeting and marrying Maria. Inextricably intertwined with that blessing are the births of our four kids. If anything can be credited with making me go all mystical in middle age it would be those experiences. It’s as if your guardian angel appears at your side in a kind of Wim Wenders moment, saying, “This is the real deal, Neal.” (My guardian angel reads a lot of Nancy Grace in his spare time. He’s also devoured everything Janet Evanovich has ever written, not just the Stephanie Plum series.)


Oh, bring it on! Abstruse theological questions. My younger daughter accuses me of being obsessed with death. My response is, so was Hemingway. Like the majority of Americans, I strongly believe in the existence of Heaven. Unlike that same majority I also strongly believe in the existence of Hell. I can’t explain it any more than I can explain the superabundance of senseless human suffering and human cruelty that goes on in the world, and I’d much rather not believe in a Hell, but I can’t claim to be an Eastern Orthodox Christian without acknowledging its reality. Somehow it’s one of those things that you wake up at three o’clock in the morning and know in the depth of your soul is true. Christ was very specific and unequivocal in warning us about Hell, and I for one believe him.

C.S. Lewis, an atheist as a student, began seriously reading the New Testament in his twenties and was astonished at the number of references he found there to a “dark power.” “The other guy” is a presence who cannot be denied, but I don’t think it wise to dwell on him. I prefer to focus on Heaven and its rewards. For a long time I felt conflicted about writing the kind of fiction I do, focusing perhaps too much on the dark side of humanity. Then I encountered a quote from Philip Romolo Neri, a Catholic saint, who said: “Do as you wish, I do not care so long as you do not sin.”

That’s good enough for me.


Because I can’t help it. It’s an addiction. Maybe that’s what happens to recovered alcoholics who discover writing—it supplants the original addiction. Anybody who could write eight novels and be working on a ninth without making a red cent at it is either hopelessly hooked or he’s close to an idiot, fiddling without pay in the alley behind Carnegie Hall.


Let’s do some simple math. When World War II broke out there were around one hundred thirty million people living in this country. Now there are more than three hundred million. World population is currently pushing seven billion and is growing exponentially, doubling every 39 years. When I was in college there was a guy named Paul R. Ehrlich running around college campuses making money from speaking engagements lecturing about his book THE POPULATION BOMB. I and other biology majors like me used to sit around worrying about overpopulation the way we had once worried as children about the H-bomb, until temporary interruption of my student deferment status and the specter of an all-expenses-paid one-way trip to Vietnam gave me more immediate cause for worry.


I always remember one of my favorite passages in Robert Stone’s brilliant novel DOG SOLDIERS where Converse says: “They say the world is coming to an end. They say that’s why it’s so fucked up.”

“Wishful thinking,” Marge said. “The world will go on for a million years.”

I think there’s hope for us yet, although it seems obvious to me that we may have to undergo some herd-thinning in order to survive as a species. There’s always the Yellowstone caldera, a comet or meteor strike, or any one of the old barbershop quartet of plague, famine, war and death. Therefore I consider myself an optimist. Hurry December 21, 2012.


Okay, I already warned you that I’ve gone all mystical in meso-age. Let me confess something. Lately I’ve been visualizing Satan, after he’d been cast out of Heaven with his legions of angels, as a huge broken colossus—an Ozymandias if you will—lying somewhere, at the earth’s core, say, totally paralyzed. This is not an original or a new idea; the Book of Enoch, one of the Pseudepigrapha, at Chapter 10 verse 12 describes rebellious angels condemned to be bound fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth. But even though Satan can’t move at all, his mind remains clear. In his paralyzed state he tempts humanity through the sheer power of his mind and the focus of his malignant will. If the thought continues to dog me I might try writing a book about it.


Here’s one definition of an optimist: a guy who’s never sold a novel but is working on his second sequel. I wrote a novel called DEAD MAN’S ACT featuring a main character called Bosco Hoël. I really got into the character and when I had finished DEAD MAN’S ACT I wanted to write a second book in what I hoped might become a Bosco Hoël series. As my current novel NIGHTMARE NUMBER NINE begins, somebody is fucking with Bosco’s dreams. He falls asleep uncontrollably and keeps having the same nightmare where he murders a young woman and dumps her corpse on the front steps of a convent. Bosco is about to undergo experimental treatments for his sleep disorder when his wife, a medical malpractice defense attorney, is involved in a car accident and her leg is amputated. A lunatic disguised as a nun haunts the hospital and messes with Bosco’s mind.

That’s all I have so far. Demands of my profession have temporarily sidetracked work on my novel.


Taking time away from my writing.


If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.


Jen will date and eventually marry Justin Bieber on his twenty-first birthday. The two of them will then have a brood of nine kids through in vitro fertilization and a surrogate mother, Kim Kardashian. Plan B, Brad and Jen’s company, will produce a reality show starring all of them entitled Nine By Design. I’d watch it, wouldn’t you?

And I don't know about you guys, but Nightmare Number Nine looks like a winner to me.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: UV RAY interviews UV RAY

UV Ray isn't the kind of person who's going to pull a punch. He really feels his art.
You ever get an email from him, you'll notice his signature:
Writer, drinker, womaniser extra-ordinaire,
swindler par-excellence, liar, cheat & all
round filthy rotten miscreant.
He tells it like it is for him.

It's also the first time I've put in my own pennies worth. Important for me is that the interviews are printed as they come - no censorship here. I do feel the need to throw up an editorial note, however.

John Cooper Clarke is one of my poetry lights. He's the man who switched me back on to the spoken and written word as an art form as a young teenager (after I'd stupidly let the lights go out on fairytales, nursery rhymes, White Fang and all those wonderful BBC radio stories). It was in Preston that I saw him, January 1979, support for Richard Hell and Elvis Costello. He was amazing and for me he's still aces.
I'm less passionate about Pam Ayres (if you don't know, I wouldn't do any searching), but even Pam has her place and good luck to her.

That said, buckle up. I'm pressing the button.

UV Ray -

An editor once called you a “rubbish writing charlatan.” Is this Correct?

Yeah. I should have cut the long-haired yeti’s balls off with a cheese-wire. That was an editor of a highly respected magazine about 20 years ago. The magazine is no longer around. So who’s laughing now? I dunno. I’m still very much an underground writer.

So you fought back and now we’ve seen your work in scores of magazines around the world, what drives you on?

I wouldn’t say I fought back. Nothing drives me on. Writing is simply a terminal disease. I’ve tried to give up many times but it’s like a cancer that keeps coming back. It’s eating me away from the inside. The drink won’t kill me. The writing will. I’m just so wasted at the moment. Tired of all the waiting around. I’ve banged out two novels in the last year, entitled Spiral Out and Jump Cuts. I’ve sent them out but I don’t hold much hope, even though excerpts in two or three magazines have been received well by editors and readers alike. I feel periods of exhilaration – and then the dissolution returns. I’ve set about work on a third novel with a working title, Meat.

So is poetry or fiction your main focus?

My first book of poetry sold well. I was surprised by good reviews. It out-sold many other books of poetry at the time but it’s never mentioned. I think my second collection, Road Trip & Other Poems, is infinitely better but I’ve given up on getting it published, even though I truly believe it deserves to be out there. 95% of the poems in the book have already appeared in numerous magazines, but as a collection I don’t have any more energy to invest in getting it out. I am a bombed out shell of a man. I feel as though I have written in my own blood. I’m planning on buying a VW Camper van and just disappearing. Fuck it. Honestly, I have got nothing left. Whether it is fiction or poetry, I feel as though it is my own spilled blood. But you know; I’ve spilled enough of my own blood. I need a short rest and then pretty soon I’m really gonna be ready to start slitting a few throats big style.

How do you orchestrate your writing schedule?

I carry a Moleskine notebook and I write on the move. In coffee shops, bars, on trains, in hotels. Life is too short for all of us, life is so fleeting. We are like clouds, and once we evaporate no one will ever see our exact form in that exact place ever again. I suppose I am overcome with the sadness of that notion. I just try and preserve moments in time. There is a veneer to the world. I don’t want to crack it, just to touch it. There’s beauty in surfaces. I’ve always said I consider my work to be like an Andy Warhol painting, rather than a Francis Bacon.

But aren’t you often equated with the Beats?

Yeah, it seems to be the case that I’m considered a contemporary beat writer. But I do not consider myself as such. I think I am more akin to a symbolist style like Giuseppe Ungaretti. But my influences come more from the likes of Robert Frank, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol – much more so than the more obvious literary icons. In fact, I don’t read much. The next person that says I am a Beat writer or that I write like Bukowski; I’ll chase them down the street with an axe. And John Cooper Clarke: I’m coming for you regardless.

Are there any current crop of writers you would align yourself with then?

Is there fuck. I do not believe in cliques. I’m happy continuing to skirt the fringes of the literary shit-tip. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: literature is dead. Ole’ u.v is the flower budding in the fist of its corpse. All he needs is a bit of water. So they better watch out, for the rains are surely soon to come.

There must be some writer you consider an inspiration, someone you like?

We’re living in a world where the likes of John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres, with their puerile, plodding couplets that resemble the literary dribblings of a 10 year old, are elevated to TV personality status. I can’t find inspiration in that world. This is an absolute travesty, an absolutely incalculable scandal, whilst writers like Joseph Mitchell go to their graves as unknowns. People are wankers. They don’t deserve anyone tearing strips off themselves to offer them something pure and beautiful. They elevate Justin fucking Bieber over Lou Reed. Joseph Mitchell’s Joe Gould’s Secret was an unsung literary masterpiece but still the great unwashed will go out and buy Dan shitty Brown.

You seem bitter. What are you drinking these days?

I’m still on the whiskey. It helps bolster my resolve in resisting the world’s attempts to reform me. The world tries to hammer us into a pigeon hole. I won’t let that happen. The day I start scratching backs is the day I’ll take a running jump. I mean actually, I drink just about anything. But whiskey is my drink of choice. Apparently the government now think it’s a problem that people sit in their houses drinking. First it was smoking. Then they raise the cost of alcohol continually in bars, now they’re setting about stopping supermarkets selling discounted alcohol. They’re cutting off all our escape routes. Bastards. It’s a modern implementation of prohibition. Keep everyone unhappy. Keep everybody enslaved. Heed the words of Gil Scott Heron – the revolution won’t be televised. I’m not bitter. I’m just dead right.

If there was one thing that should be banished from the world....?

Have I mentioned John Cooper Clarke?

What’s next on the cards for ole’ u.v?

There’s work due out all over the place. Magazines here. Magazines there. But as far as the books are concerned, I won’t hold my breath. Bastards.

What time do the pubs open?

Saturday 25 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: KELLI STANLEY interviews KELLI STANLEY

Over the last few days, a number of people have booked slots in the series. I'll maybe list some of those to look forward to soon.

Today, I'd like to introduce Kelli Stanley.

First off, I've read City Of Dragons and am going to recommend it to everyone here. It introduces a phenomenal new PI, Miranda Corbie (fast talking, quick thinking, rebellious, street-wise, alluring and with lots of hidden depths) and she's a lady I want to hear more about. Soon as I read that she'd been to Spain to fight in the civil war I was on her side. She is a refreshing variation on a wonderful theme.

If you're not sure about taking my opinion at face value, here's someone else's:

“Kelli Stanley’s CITY OF DRAGONS blew me to ribbons.

From the opening chapter, we’re rooting for Miranda, a marvelous, feisty, compassionate heroine who is my favourite P.I. to come down the mean streets in oh, so long.

Superb characterisations … and a story to make you weep. Fathers will never seem quite the same again. From the opening quote by Cornell Woolrich, we’re off and gasping, and not just from the lovely evocations of another era of Chesterfields.

Polish up the Shamus, I know where it’s headed this year.”

Ken Bruen

Second, she's asked herself some top questions and opened up in the answers.

Stick with it and you'll learn some Latin, too.

Please welcome to Sea Minor, Kelli Stanley

Dancing with Myself

1. First century Roman Britain and 1940 San Francisco? Two series? Are you insane?

Aren’t all writers? I’m a Gemini, which explains some of it. It also explains how I’m able to interview myself.

I’ve never been able to settle down to just one thing. Drama major? Check. Film major? Check.

My senior year in high school I was determined to become a Cosmo Chemist. I finally fell into a double major in Classics and Art History and earned an MA in Classics because the field was broad enough to hold my interest. I even got the chance to bring comic books into it.

2. Comic Books? Does this mean you want to write them? Where do they fit in?

Before earning my MA, my family and I owned and operated a comic book/pop culture store in San Francisco. I LOVE comic books (call them graphic novels if it sounds better). And yes, I’d love to write a noir-styled superhero comic for DC and bring back some of the old Quality and Fawcett characters from the ‘40s.

3. Speaking of noir … and I must speak of noir … both of your series stretch and redefine the boundaries of the genre. How do you handle the noir elements in each?

The Miranda Corbie series recasts the classic noir paradigm … with a femme fatale in the gumshoes. A kind of restyling of hardboiled fiction, but without the censorship of the classic era. I love the ‘30s and ‘40s, and I want to capture the period in its stunning beauty … as well as its visceral, almost unconscious brutality. City of Dragons and City of Spiders—which will be out next fall—are dark books, dealing with human suffering in an indifferent world. Miranda’s a fighter, though, which is the point. Noir isn’t necessarily about despair—despair’s easy. Noir can be about dealing with the despair, coping with it and trying to make the world a better place.

The Roman noir series is a lighter and more playful homage to the style of Raymond Chandler, with more humor, and not as psychologically dark. The Curse-Maker was inspired by two Hammett classics, actually, though the style is very Chandleresque … Red Harvest and The Thin Man.

So both series use and adapt noir elements in different ways, and both, I think, offer something new and distinctive.

4. They’re also both historicals. Why history? Don’t you want to write contemporary fiction?

Well, here’s the thing. History gives me a chance to make social commentary, because it can act as a metaphor for present events. It also allows me to give something extra to the reader … a way to think about the past, and hopefully understand that history is not a separate entity, cut off from the present, but a continuum and explanation for how we got here. I like challenging assumptions about history, since there’s a prevailing attitude that somehow people were different “back then.”

Societal mores may change, but humanity itself has changed very little in the last couple of thousand years.

But of course, given my answer to question #1, I want to write other things, too. A contemporary stand-alone noir thriller, set in Humboldt County, for one.

5. So coming back to history and people and attitudes … is Miranda Corbie, your tough-talking, hard-drinking and constantly smoking protagonist in City of Dragons really a woman of her era?

Great, ask me the hard questions, why don’t you … ;)

Miranda is a woman of her generation in many ways, but she’s also a remarkable individual. This was a period when women accomplishing the previously unimaginable—flying across the Atlantic or swimming the English Channel, or becoming the most active, passionate First Lady the country had ever (and has ever) witnessed.

Miranda is based on women I’ve met and women I’ve known and women I’ve read about. She’s got a lot in common with Martha Gellhorn, another beautiful, tough, and hard-drinking woman who happened to be one of the best journalists and writers of the era (and Hemingway’s third wife). Martha was passionate about the things Miranda is passionate about.

So yeah, Miranda’s a woman of her era … and any era.

6. What’s next for her?

Well, City of Spiders comes out late summer or early fall of 2011. That’s the working title. It begins on May 25th, 1940, opening day of World’s Fair on Treasure Island. It deals with a brutal murder at the Fair, anti-Semitism, and fascist groups in the Bay Area. A number of characters in City of Dragons are making appearances, but I’m not telling who …

7. How much can you tell us about Miranda’s future?

Hmm. Well, if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll be able to keep writing her into the war and beyond. I’d like to see her become involved with the Cold War, particularly the Alger Hiss case. And she won’t always stay in San Francisco for some of this, obviously, but it will always be her home. 

8. What about The Curse-Maker? Any further adventures for Arcturus?

I was really lucky to have my first series picked up by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur. My debut novel, Nox Dormienda, was published with a small press, and it’s rare these days for a major to pick up a series started elsewhere. So I’d love to continue the series if The Curse-Maker does well enough. It’s a bit on the creepy side of noir … deals with Roman beliefs in the supernatural, features a necromancer and some nasty murders.

9. Favorite Latin phrase?

I’m partial to a bit of fake Latin popularized in WWII: Illegitimi non carborundum. For real Latin, I like ad augusta per angusta [to honors through alleys], or literally to high places through narrow ones. Sounds right for a noir writer.

10. You wear a lot of hats … what’s your favorite?

That’s a little like asking which is my favorite series or what’s my favorite book. I have so many … vintage fedoras, gifts given to me by friends. Probably the one that’s my personal, secret favorite, though, is my writing fedora, which (of course) I never wear in public. I wear it when I write to let my family know not to talk to me. It’s a beat-up, brown vintage Champ fedora, with moth holes and a crooked brim. It’s seen me through four books, and I consider it a good luck charm. :)

Thursday 23 September 2010


I first came across Christian's work over at Dark Valentine and really enjoyed his story. Here he is to talk about himself with himself.

Q1) First of all, thanks for agreeing to this interview, and can I say you look particularly dashing today. The first question is – which literary character would you most like to have created?

A1) Thanks. I had my hair cut especially. Not sure if the sideburns are level though. Anyway, it’s not the most imaginative answer, I’m afraid, but Iago. He’s like Heath Ledger as the Joker – a dog chasing a car. It’s all a game to him, he can’t even make up his mind WHY he wants to screw Othello over.

Q2) So, your writing… what’s it all about?

A2) You mean you haven’t read any? This has to be the most…

At this point, Dabnor unplugged his microphone and made for the door. Fortunately he realised he’d left over half a pit on the table, and came back, somewhat apologetically.

A2 – cont) OK. For those that haven’t read anything of mine. It varies, really, but, my two main areas are swashbuckling adventure, such as the Herbert Smythe stories – a series about a Victorian inventor/detective, which appeared in Astonishing Adventures magazine, and drama. I often like to take a characteristic of my own and exaggerate it, so, for example, in Pareidola, feelings of jealousy and the fear of losing someone translate into acts of violence.

Q3) What are you working on at the moment?

A3) A couple of things. Mainly though, a story tentatively entitled ‘Thin Red Line on the Blood Red Sand’, which is about a tunnel to a distant planet being found during the Crimean War. The British high command believe there to be weapons of great power and so send a young cavalry lieutenant to investigate

Q4) Sounds a bit Steampunk.

A4)Is that a question? Sounds more like a statement. I suppose it is Steampunk, but I’m not sure I like where Steampunk is these days. I prefer the Stephen Baxter ‘Anti-Ice’, or William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s ‘Difference Engine’ type setting, where the technology is a little more subtle, to the Wicky Wacky Wild Wild West style of Steampunk. I think it’s the same with Cyberpunk. It became too over the top. Look at William Gibson’s stories. It’s like now – flash technology is still the preserve of the rich, with people at the bottom making do.

Q5) OK… so, what else in the world of literature annoys you?

A5) Better call the office, you’ll be here a while… Seriously, though, I’ll give you one, a major bugbear. Biographies of people who just don’t matter (I’m not going to call them autobiographies, as they’re seldom written by the subject). They get signed up for more cash than I can ever dream of (and, yeah, I’m like Han Solo in that way), and take up so much space in bookstores. Football players (soccer to those of you across the sea) are a prime example. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed some, like Paul McGrath’s – he went to the wall. However, a 7 (seven) figure amount in advances for someone whose life, whilst enviable, is hardly the stuff of legend is ridiculous. So what if you’ve won some trophies. Until you’ve snorted cocaine off Miss World’s backside, or wrapped a Ferrari around Nelson’s Column, I’m not interested.

Q6) So, you’ve written, and had published, short stories. Should we expect a novel?

A6) Yes. Hopefully. Maybe? I’ve started several, but another idea always seems to take my fancy. I’ve got them planned out, but the one I’m mainly working on, well, the protagonist is at a standstill. I can’t find that “something” to push him on. I know where he needs to be next, I know how he’s going to get there, but I don’t know why. I don’t want to force it, you know?

Q7) If you could travel back in time and offer some advice to yourself about writing, what would it be?

A7) Start submitting sooner. Don’t worry about rejection, certainly don’t take it personally. The first one you’ll feel, but, deal with it. You’ll get plenty more, but it’s like anything. You become desensitised to it. And some rejection letters have great advice – take it on-board. Editors do a lot of reading. As great as you think you are, accept that some of them know better. Unless they write the rejection in limerick form (yeah, it’s happened, and it was, I’m afraid, a bit patronising).

Q8) What are your thoughts on self-promotion? Do you find it at all crass?

A8) Well, if you pay a visit to my website,, that’s double yew, double yew… Seriously, don’t be ashamed of it. If you’re writing and submitting things to an editor, you’ve got some confidence in your writing and you want it to be ‘out there’. So, you obviously want people to read it, so yeah, go scream it from a mountain top. Use social networking sites, whatever. You can be subtle about it if you want, I suppose. Initially, I felt a bit self-conscious about it, but, then, well….
At this point, Chris Dabnor leans back and stretches, exposing his t-shirt.

Q9) Finally, enough about you…

A9) You’re trying to stop me talking about my favourite subject?

Q9 cont.) …enough about you… What was the last book you read, and would you recommend it?

A9 cont) Z.A. Recht’s Plague of the Dead. Was a bugger to get hold of a copy at a reasonable price, so I borrowed my brother’s when he got one. Enjoyable zombie story, with likeable characters. The one thing that disappointed me slightly was the fact that it didn’t end ‘properly’, being part of a series. The second part is equally difficult to get at a decent price, so, if anyone’s feeling generous, what with Christmas around the corner, an’ all…

Q10) It’s your round, isn’t it?

A10) No.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: PAUL BRAZILL interviews PAUL BRAZILL

Look up the word ubiquitous in the dictionary and you're likely to find Paul D Brazill lurking somewhere in the definitions. He's probably wearing dark clothes. Possibly even a cape. The weapons he carries, a precise tongue and a huge imagination.

When I first came to exploring Twitter and the world of blogs, I was fortunate to start following Paul fairly early on.

It was like having a map, compass and personal guide all in the one package.

He's been published all over the place (a link at the end should help you locate some of his work).
He works hard to help out his fellow writers by posting about and linking to competitions and submission calls.

He helps by pointing out books and stories and things of note.

That's why I've come to think of him as a really helpful, supportive and considerate bloke. And bloke does seem to be the right word in this case, fitting to his northern roots in Hartlepool.

As well as all of that he's a talented writer who can show many of us a thing or two.

Here he is (and not to be confused with a country), Paul D. Brazill.

Q1: Is it true that you were in Oceans 11?

Yep, in the early 80's I played bass in a couple of post punk bands and one of them was called Oceans 11 after the Rat Pack film.

Q2: Have you ever been to Brazil?

No. My name is apparently Irish and rhymes with 'dazzle'. My grand-dad on my dad's side was an Irish traveller who ended up in Gloucester, England at some point after WW1. No one knows how he got there.

My dad joined the navy when he was 17, at the start of WW 2 and travelled the world ending up in Hartlepool.

My oldest brother was a musician who also travelled the world and died in Gambia.

I now live in Poland.

None of us made it to Brazil, though.

Q3: When you lived in London you bumped into lots of celebs. Who was the drunkest that you encountered?

Tracey Emin, Derek Raymond and Shane McGowan were pretty sozzled when I saw them but the winner must be Pink Panther actor Bert Kwouk who was super hammered when I saw him in Gerry's Club in Soho. I was kicked out shortly after trying to gatecrash the club and I sometimes wonder if it was Cathi Unsworth who kicked me out.

Q4: Didn't you once get a film review published?

Sort of. When I lived in London, my then girlfriend used to work for Family Circle Magazine and sometimes she got press passes to film screenings. I saw about eight films including Robert Benton's 'Twilight'. I wrote a review for the magazine and they published this ':An atmospheric thriller'. Eat your heart out Anne Billson!

Q5: Didn't you go to a lesbian all girls school?

Sort of. I attended Dyke House Comprehensive School, after a fashion. I left at 16 with one O level. I did go to 6th form for about two weeks but realised very quickly that I wasn't going to stay, since I didn't exactly attend too much when I HAD to go to school!

Q6: What is it with the monkey?

Well, legend has it that during one of Britain's many wars with the French a shipwreck was washed ashore at Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey. The people of Hartlepool had never seen a Frenchman or a monkey so they assumed it was a French spy. They put it on trial and hung it. Seems reasonable to me.

Q7: Why have you never seen Star wars?

Dunno. Never got round to it. I saw 'Empire' at the cinema when it came out and liked it a lot but the rest of the stuff just passed me by.

Q8: Who did you vote for in the last general election?

Er, Tony Blair, actually. I helped get him in. sorry. I haven't voted since, mind you.

Q9: Best gig?

Morricone, Magazine, Rickie Lee Jones, The Fall, Gang Of 4. One of them. Maybe.All years, ago.

Q10: Best books that you've read recently?

Bloodlines-Mark Billingham; Bad Penny Blues - Cathi Unsworth.

Monday 20 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: EMMA DONOGHUE interviews EMMA DONOGHUE

Sorry I'm late with this one. I've been away for the weekend and had a wonderful time in swimming pools, woodland and on coastal walks delighting in the sense that my three children are like strong friends, the best part being that they take each other (or are taken) everywhere we go. How lucky is that?

Anyway, to business. In this case, the business is very much a pleasure.

Emma Donoghue has had her novel, Room, shortlisted for the Booker Prize. There aren't many writers who can say that about their work.

I decided the best way to introduce her would be to say something really clever and revealing about her, but I guess that's why she's here. Instead I decided to rely upon a quote about 'ROOM'.

"Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up; the world looks the same, but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days."

Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller's Wife)

That's what I want people to say about my stories.

Today at Sea Minor Emma Donoghue asks herself ten questions.

Q How important is it to be part of a national literary tradition?

A It would be convenient, certainly if only I (as an Irishwoman who has lived first in the UK and then in Canada, and writes books set in various parts and centuries of the English-speaking world) could figure out which. Literature is generally classified by nation, and book prizes and many other facets of the publishing-related world too; publicity works most smoothly if a person who lives in X Place has written a book set in X Place. A man at a party, soon after I moved to Canada, warned me darkly that like Brian Moore, I would fall between various stools: never fully appreciated as central to the literary traditions of any of his native lands. That’s probably true – I’m seen as Irish sometimes, Canadian sometimes, even vaguely British sometimes, and I’m probably assumed to be American by the Americans who make up the majority of my readership. But that’s just how it is. I grew up reading books from just about anywhere and I still do; I believe a writer’s imagination carries no passport.

Q What’s the hardest book you’ve ever written?

A SLAMMERKIN (2000), by a long shot. I knew that the basic kernel of fact (a girl murders an older woman for the sake of ‘fine clothes’) could make a really strong novel, but I sweated blood over it the writing of it. At one point it seemed as if I’d been writing about menial housework (scrubbing carpets with used tea leaves, for instance) for months on end. I knew it would be hard to sell to publishers: historical literary fiction wasn’t yet fashionable, and 1760s in the Welsh borders was not a sexy period. And indeed both my publishers dropped me the minute I showed them the novel. SLAMMERKIN went on to find new publishers who made the book a bestseller, which just shows that you never know.

Q Are you part of a community of writers?

A Only in the sense of reading their books and responding to them, not in the sense of knocking back martinis at the Algonquin with them. Despite being a city-lover, I’ve spent my adult life in two smallish places (Cambridge, and London Ontario) and I don’t drink, so I’m doubly barred from that classic salon/café style of interaction with my writer peers. Which is fine by me. I find it more interesting to have friends from the ‘real world’ anyway!

Q Do you have a mentor?

A All honour and glory to the incomparable Caroline Davidson who took me on at her Caroline Davidson Literary Agency when I was a raw grad student. She put me through seven drafts of my first novel (STIRFRY), got me a two-book deal with Penguin, and continues to welcome every notion of mine (whether it seems likely to sell a million copies or a dozen) with equal zest. She advises me wisely on everything and edits all my writing before we ever show it to a publisher – so she’s a mentor and so much more.

Q What mark has being raised Catholic left on your work?

A An enormous one, I suspect. As I child I loved novels that hinged on some terrible promise to God, such as Graham Greene’s THE END OF THE AFFAIR and Evelyn Waugh’s BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. My second novel, HOOD (1995), is the most obvious example of the Catholic strain in my work, being narrated by a discontented, closeted Irish lesbian in the first week of bereavement, and structured around Catholic ceremonies of visitation and funeral. The period of Catholicism I was raised in was what we called post-Vatican-II, meaning that it had moved closer to Protestantism in many ways (Mass was said in English, there was a new emphasis on understanding rather than just obeying), although it retained its narrow obsession with sexual morality. So the emphasis on self-questioning, the struggle to understand oneself and act ethically, which permeates novels of mine such as LIFE MASK (2004) and THE SEALED LETTER (2008), might seem classically Protestant but comes right out of my 1970s Catholic childhood. Most recently, ROOM (2010) is soaked in Catholicism: Ma and Jack play both Eve/Adam and Mary/Jesus in relation to their devilish captor Old Nick.

Q What did writing a PhD on eighteenth-century English literature do for you?

Over the eight years I spent at Cambridge, my parents always begged me to complete my PhD so it would be ‘something to fall back on’, career-wise. I’ve never needed to actually fall back on it, and I’ve never published a word of it, but I’ve never regretted the time I spent on it either. It introduced me to both the eighteenth century (that century when modern society was born, the vibrant setting for two of my novels, SLAMMERKIN in 2000 and LIFE MASK in 2004) and to research, research in the best, open-ended, won’t-know-what-I’ll-find-till-I-find-it sense. Ever since, I dive into a library as if it’s a glittering sea on a hot day. Also, I suspect those long, often epistolary novels by eighteenth-century authors such as Samuel Richardson have left a mark on me in the form of my preference for chronological, moment-by-moment narration by one narrator at a time. I love swooping, satiric, omniscient narrators as in Zadie Smith’s WHITE TEETH but find it impossible to write them!

Q Is having children good or bad for a writer?

A Both. When I was pregnant for the first time I deluded myself that I would be able to write with my baby cooing in a basket by my side. Ha! I’ve never composed a line of fiction while either of my kids is in the house: my books depend on the hard work of daycare staff. But on the other hand, the kids – not only in their fascinating selves but in how they’ve changed my own sense of self – have been a great source of inspiration, especially in the case of ROOM.

Q What are your gifts as a writer?

A Lack of neurosis. Prolific output. Many passionate interests and the confidence to trust where they will lead me. Humour.

Q What are your faults as a writer?

Ignorance (of so many things, from machinery to drugs to politics to the entire world outside the West). Panic at the prospect of a really complicated structure or plot. Dull sentences. Googling myself too much.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: STEVE WEDDLE interviews STEVE WEDDLE

I reckon that Steve Weddle's a gift to all of us. He's out there producing the mighty fine Needle Magazine, is sharing and airing opinions that matter and he's one hell of a writer.

Just look what he does here to the interview framework. If ever there was someone who could turn things upside down and keep you on your toes, he's the man.

And personal thanks from me, Steve, for having me in Needle's summer issue. Being between the same covers as those other writers was a real shot in my writing arm (still is).

Here he is. I reckon he deserves to be titled. Lord Weddle? Add your own to the comments and let's see which suits him best.

Q: You want me to ask you about ebooks and the future of publishing?

A: Not really.

Q: OK. How about we talk about books, then? I heard you say the other day that you’d just finished THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs and you said it was some of the best stuff you’ve ever read. Dark and engaging and full of pathos and a plot that just keeps moving and characters you get to know and that you get all sad when they die or get beaten and that if it ever gets on the shelves it’s going to be at the front of every bookstore in the world. You really think it’s that good?

A: Yeah. It is.

Q: Um, alright. So you have an MFA in poetry? Kinda namby-pamby, ain’t it? I mean, you’re gonna write all your tough guy stuff in rhyme? “He came with a gun/ to kill the man’s son”? That what you’re planning to do?

A: Not really.

Q: So how do you go from writing poems to writing crime fiction? You see similarities there? Like how both need a tightness of language, a vividness of detail, of dialog? You think good poems and good fiction have more in common than most people consider? You think a good crime fiction piece has to have a knock-out ending, something that ties it all together like a good poem?

A: Yeah. Something like that.

Q: Well, how come you didn’t start up a poetry magazine? Is it because THE LINE-UP is so good that you didn’t think the community needed another one? Is it because you wanted to see crime fiction on paper? Is that what NEEDLE ( ) is all about? Putting great fiction into readers’ hands?

A: Guess so, yeah.

Q: So with NEEDLE, you folks have published Ray Banks, Nolan Knight, John Stickney, Frank Bill, Julie Summerell, Nigel Bird, Sarah Weinman, Allan Leverone, Chris F. Holm, David Cranmer, Stephen Blackmoore, Mike Sheeter, Kieran Shea, Kent Gowran, Eric Beetner, Hilary Davidson, Cormac Brown, Nathan Singer, Chad Rohrbacher, Keith Rawson, Patti Abbott, Dave Zeltserman, Paul D. Brazill, Sandra Seamans, Christopher Grant, Eric Nusbaum, and Jedidiah Ayres. Every one of those writers does amazing work. Bill just got his books bought by FSG and his DONNYBROOK novel will be on shelves next year, I guess. Ray Banks has so many great novels out already, with that Cal Innes guy one of the best characters ever. I mean, DONKEY PUNCH alone puts him in the hall of fame. And Chris Holm with his stories all over and his novel soon, I hope. Cranmer of the Beat to a Pulp website. Sarah Weinman and all she does. And Blackmoore just sold his book, too. And Shea and Sheeter. And Nusbaum getting his writing picked up for BEST SPORTS WRITING. And Davidson’s book coming out in the next month or so. Holy crap. Grant and his site. And all Ayres does. And Knight and Stickney and Bird and Leverone. Those guys have stories at all the best places. And the piece by Summerell. Never read her before, but it’s a great story. Beetner’s book. Wow. Loved it. And Gowran. Didn’t he used to write poems, too? And Cormac Brown’s short works. And Nathan Singer. Man, his novels with Bleak House Books were amazing. And Rohrbacher. Isn’t he another poet? Rawson, too? Man, I love CrimeFactory. And Patti Abbott, some of the best short stories around. And Zeltserman? That dude can write. And Brazill and Seamans? Man, those two are great, too. I mean, wait, what was the question I was asking?

A: No idea.

Q: So who is the NEEDLE crew? Word is you don’t really do too much. John Hornor Jacobs listens to all your dumb ideas and tells you which ones aren’t completely stupid. And he’s the one who makes the magazine look as awesome as it does. Not like you do anything with that. And Naomi Johnson reads a hundred stories a week just to keep up with the submissions. And she’s always spot-on in her assessments, offering ideas for improvements and keeping a list of emails you guys have to block. And Dan O’Shea and Scott Parker also reading a bunch and helping proof. And I hear Stephen Blackmoore has even joined up and is working on setting a record for submissions read. What does that leave for you to do? Doesn’t sound like a damn thing.

A: Yeah, pretty much.

Q: That kinda like the blog? Where you talk Jay Stringer, John McFetridge, Dave White, Russel D. McLean, Scott D. Parker, Joelle Charbonneau, and Bryon Quertermous into doing all the work? All the blogging and heavy lifting?

A: Yeah, guess so.

Q: I hear those DSD folks have some great work, too. McFetridge with his Canadian crime series. Dave White with the Jackson Donne novels. Russel D. McLean with those two P. McNee novels. And Joelle Charbonneau with her debut coming out next month or so. And Stringer and Quertermous and Parker all with books in the works and stories all over? That’s a helluva lot of talent you’ve got making the blog look decent.

A: Yeah. They’re great.

Q: I was just looking over your answers, Weddle, and once again you’ve gotten someone else to do all the work. These are the worst answers I’ve ever seen to an interview. You should at least thanks Nigel Bird for the space.

A: OK.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

We Interrupt This Broadcast

Criticism is invaluable to writers. Hell, it's invaluable to us all.

I've tried it in a number of ways, from peer assessment, friends' opinions, family and words from those who actually know what they're talking about.

The ability to accept constructive comment is a definite learning curve in itself. You might go through the 'taking it very personally' phase. You might want to give up. It might occur to you that if you're no good at doing what you love you might as well not make the effort of getting out of bed in the morning.

The phases need to be grown through.
Eventually, we can get to the point of realising that truly well intentioned criticism is our friend. We need to walk with it. Accept it into our homes. Learn to take over the job for ourselves when the time is right (cut out the awful sentence, the back-story, the over-ellaborate, the flowery, even our favourite lines).

If you're new in the writing town, take this advice (and like any criticism, take or leave it once you've given it fair consideration).

Asking friends and family sucks. What are they going to say? They love you already, that should be enough. Sure, if you have a friend of a particular type who's up in the genre you're crafting, maybe, otherwise just no.

Accepting comments from editors or agents is better, but then they might be working through thousands of submissions, may have pet loves and hates or just have seen your work on a bad day.

Peer assessment, so long as it's from a neutral standpoint, is better. Allows you to think things over in a non-threatening way. You can feel safe and helped at the same time. By joining in the process of offering crits yourself, you'll soon become better at analysing your own work and cutting or adding as appropriate.

Chris Rhatigan was up with his 'Dancing With Myself' post yesterday.
He's doing something with a writing group aimed mainly at crime creators. Check out the info at:

I've decided to go along. First off, it's a great idea. Second, it has Chris' name on it - that'll be enough for me.

Chris, thanks.

Dancing WIth Myself: GERALD SO interviews GERALD SO

Gerald So is a writer and editor who has a lot to offer. Here's what he has to say. Don't forget to check out the links at the bottom of the page if they're places you haven't been to before - poems on crime have a wee mention of one David Thompson.

I know a lot of you knew David, so if you have it in you (and who knows if this works online) a minute's silence or a minute's applause might not go amiss before you move on.


Ladies and gents, GERALD SO.

1) Why does crime writing appeal to you?

I like its sense of purpose. The action is driven by the crimes committed, and watching those crimes unfold, regardless whether they are solved, reveals what drives the characters.

2) Most people know you as fiction editor for The Thrilling Detective Web Site or co-editor of The Lineup: Poems on Crime. What do you enjoy about editing?

I enjoy motivating writers beyond what they think they can write to what I know they can write. I enjoy finding the most powerful ways to deliver the emotional impact the writer wants.

3) You've known you wanted to write fiction since you were thirteen, but came to poetry much later. Which do you prefer?

I have no preference. I respect both fiction and poetry for what they can do. Each affects readers in ways the other can't. Poetry is more condensed, but it lets me zero in on intense moments and emotions that might be diluted over the course of a story or novel. By the same token, a story or novel lets me stay with the characters longer and play out the effects of that most intense moment.

4) When do you find time to write?

Obscenely early in the morning, most often four to seven A.M.

5) You've moderated online discussion lists for eleven years, from your own DetecToday to two years as president of The Short Mystery Fiction Society. What do you take away from the experience?

I've come to see my favorite writers more objectively. It has helped me approach them as people, not idols, to analyze their work, which informs my own.

6) Is there any experience or emotion that colors your writing in general?

Disappointment. I'm very familiar with planning and hoping for something, being let down, and figuring out what to do next. It happens to any number of characters in fiction. Of course, in noir fiction, they never quite get back up.

7) You also review movies and television? Who are some of your favorite movie or TV characters?

Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly), Michael Westen (Burn Notice), The Middleman.

8) What's your dream writing project?

A novel about my 1930s pilot-for-hire C.J. Stone, who so far has shown up for seven short stories. Then again, I wouldn't mind a collection of two dozen stories, either.

9) And whom would you love to see submit to The Lineup?

Off the top of my head: Lee Child, Christa Faust, Al Guthrie, Joe R. Lansdale, Dennis Lehane, S.J. Rozan, Marcus Sakey...

10) Any last words?

I have not yet begun to fight. Thanks for the interview, Nigel.

Thrilling Detective -

Monday 13 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: CHRIS RHATIGAN interviews CHRIS RHATIGAN

A quick note about who's added their weight to the 'Dancing With Myself' series. Jason Michel of Pulp Metal, Brian Wiprud and Gar Anthony Haywood are in. It's getting hotter in here by the minute.

I'm also going to be juggling a little over the week ahead. On Thursday come and say hi to Gerald So, Friday/Saturday to Steve 'Needle' Weddle and on Monday Man Booker shortlisted Emma Donoghue.

And so to today.Chris Rhatigan is doing a great service for the writers of short fiction.

He's reviewing the short form, from flash to novella, planting signposts to where we should be headed and who to check out. Thank goodness he's out there - we'll hear a lot more from him in the near future, I'm sure.

You have a blog about short crime fiction. Why?

Well, I saw Nasty, Brutish, Short, which was the only place dedicated to short crime fiction reviews. They do an excellent job, but I thought there was room for one more, so I fired up Death by Killing.

And I was reading a lot of really kickass fiction (mostly online, though some in print) and wanted a place to talk about it, recommend stuff I like. Sometimes I’ll go all professor on your ass and talk craft—an area where I clearly have no idea what I’m talking about.

How did you get into crime fiction?

When I was in middle school, I was reading Robert B. Parker and the thrillers of Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy. Later I started reading a lot of literary fiction, but that business got boring. I mean, John Updike can only write about disaffected, suburban men who cheat on their wives so many times before I start hitting the snooze button.

Sorry, John Updike, you suck.

Which is why I picked up a Parker novel again a couple of years ago, followed it up with Raymond Chandler and Harlan Coben, and it was a downhill slide from there.

Whose work are you enjoying most right now?

I really am amazed (and, when I submit work, saddened) by how much quality shit is out there.

If I had to pick one author right now, it would be Christopher Grant. The Greta stories are badass, Bus Stop is a tight, perfectly constructed piece of flash, and Ashley is the best lesbian crime story I’ve read.

There are so many goddamned writers out there with their fancy Mac laptops and their pretend poverty and their armchair philosophy and their community gardens. Why the fuck do you think you could possibly have anything to say that hasn’t already been said in exactly the same way . . . you arrogant, fascist prick?

I have no idea.

I guess I write for myself. I love the problem-solving aspect of working on a story. A finished product makes me feel good.

And because I keep reading quality, original stuff, so I figure there’s always more out there to be discovered.

What are you working on right now? Anything hitting the virtual stands soon?

I’m working on some short horror and revising other work.

In the fall, I’ll have a short story, “Double Bounce,” coming out in Mysterical-E. I also have a short-short about a retail worker at the end of his rope coming out in the Yellow Mama December issue.

And I’m up for 623 words at entry #623 at ATON. I have an idea for it but, as of yet, no execution.

I see you live in Iowa City. Are you involved with that Writer’s Workshop thing at all?

No. I graduated from SUNY Purchase, then worked as a newspaper reporter for four years. Now I’m back in school, studying to be a high school social studies teacher.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: CHRIS F HOLM interviews CHRIS F HOLM

Here's a guy that's oozing talent. I'm proud to say that I'm in the same issue of Needle as he is. If you haven't been Needled yet, go and give it a try ( ). Sure, it's addictive, but it's cleaner and cheaper than smoking (unless you intend feeding it into a hookah and setting alight).

What follows is a fine example of skill - two sides of one brain that have completely different characters (now how the hell did he pull that off?).

Live and learn.

Dancing With Myself: CHRIS F. HOLM

For those who may not be familiar with you and your work, could you describe yourself in three adjectives, a preposition, and a noun?

Tall. Skinny. Fond of pie.

That’s not terribly descriptive.

Well, what do you expect – you didn’t even allow me any verbs! I’m not at all convinced you know what you’re doing.

Nor I you. To be frank, I’ve read a fair bit of your work in preparation for this interview, and I must say, I didn’t care for it. It’s quite violent. For someone whose writing often takes place in small towns, you’ve nary a sleuthing feline or nosy philatelist to be found. Instead you seem to favor nasty, small-minded people doing terrible things to one another. Why is that? Why do you suppose you have a predilection for such unsavory subject matter?

I wouldn’t say I have a predilection for it – quite the opposite, in fact. I think my writing reflects my own worst fears, about myself and the world both. Oftentimes what I write is darker than what I’m comfortable reading.

That said, I think you may have – unintentionally, I’m sure – hit on one of the themes I’m interested in exploring in my work. Now, I’m not one to beat up on cozies or those who write them; light mysteries are no less vital to the genre than is the bleakest noir. But having grown up in the decaying backwaters of upstate New York, I learned a long time ago that not all small-town crimes are cozy. Small towns are rife with violence, drugs, abuse, and murder – more so, per capita, than are cities. And because small towns are often insular communities, those crimes have a habit of taking on a generational aspect. One youthful transgression can mark a family for decades, and cycles of abuse unchecked mean aggressors were often once victims themselves. Yet crime fiction, like America itself, too often clings to the pervasive myth of “small-town values” – a lovely falsehood, as far as it goes, but no less false for it.

But not all your stories mine this vein, correct?

No, not at all! In fact, my short story “Action”, which appeared in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, was a comedic caper intended as an homage to the late, great Donald Westlake. And I recently collaborated with David Cranmer, editor of Beat to a Pulp, on a time-travel adventure serial called “A Rip Through Time.” Neither of those are all that dark, and truth be told, I think they’re two of the best stories I’ve ever written.

Actually, I was referring to your Elizabethan frottage confessionals, written pseudonymously as Lady Nigella Winterbottom.

You bastard – you said you wouldn’t bring those up!

I lied.

[At this point the interviewee kicks over the table, spewing profanities, and is only mollified by the promise of a Zagnut bar.]

Ahem. Where were we? Ah, yes. Given your somewhat inexplicable success in the realm of short fiction, have you considered one day trying your hand at writing a novel?

I thought you said you researched for this interview!

I did! I mean, I tried. But there was a Twin Peaks marathon on cable…

Ah. I see. Well, actually, I’ve already written two novels, both of which are currently out on submission. One, THE ANGELS’ SHARE, is about a young girl who’s murdered in a small town on the coast of Maine on the eve of a contentious local election. The other is a fantasy/noir crossover called DEAD HARVEST, which recasts the battle between heaven and hell as a Golden Era crime pulp.

So, like, demons running gin joints, and angels driving Crown Vics and the like?


Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad.


Don’t let it go to your head. Anyways, I believe that concludes our interview –

Wait – I thought I got ten questions!

Was it ten? That seems like kind of a lot for a guy nobody’s heard of.

Yeah, I thought so, too, but that’s what Nigel said.

Oh, fine – I’ll give you one more. [A riffling of papers.] What did the others ask? Something this dolt will be able to answer…and preferably nothing actually about him. Oh! Perfect! Whose short fiction do you most admire?

All time? I think Tim Powers writes short fiction richer and more textured than most novels. And Chandler’s Black Mask output has never, in my opinion, been topped.
As far as folks making the scene today, I think Hilary Davidson is a master of short fiction; really – it’s obnoxious. Patrick Shawn Bagley’s another favorite of mine; he’s been quiet of late, but maybe this will serve as a kick in the ass for him to get something new out there. Nobody, but nobody, writes rural noir like Patrick. Stephen Blackmoore’s been on a tear these past few years. And just the other day, I read a fantastic little punk-rock tale called “Beat on the Brat” by one Mr. Nigel Bird.

Dancing With Myself: ERIC BEETNER interviews ERIC BEETNER

Can't beat Beetner.

One Too Many Blows To The Head ranks amongst the top titles around. And that cover? Shines out like a gold bar. Here's Eric Beetner.

Be inspired. Be very inspired:

1. Were you born in the right era?

Not by about 50 years. I’m not one of those people who thinks they should have been around during Jane Austen times but I know it’s not any less silly to wish like hell I’d been around for the golden age of Hollywood and the birth of crime fiction as we know it today. If I’d have been around in the 1940s I could live in the same house I’m in now which at the time was about a half mile away from Hal Roach studios and the David Selznick lot and about 3/4 of a mile from MGM.
I could be writing for movies right as they were getting all Noir and telling the kind of stories I like to tell and then I could write for the pulps and knock out short fiction on the old Underwood. Only trouble is I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I don’t care for hats. I guess I’d have to adapt.

2. How do you do all the things you do and why aren’t you rich yet?

I have a full time job as a TV editor and producer. I have written TV scripts (only a few and all bad) and feature screenplays (quite a few and some very good but none that made it into production). I have written and directed my own film which even won awards, I have been a musician and released two real albums and three other self-released albums. I have sold paintings of mine and now I have a novel out, another on the way, three more in the can and enough short stories out there to choke a pig.
I am the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none. But damn it feels good to make a life and a living, such as it is, out of being creative. College counsellors and ex-hippie parents always give the advice of, “Do what you love and then figure out a way to get paid for it.” I actually have. Not a bad gig.

3. How is writing with a co-author different from solo writing?

My novel One Too Many Blows To The Head and the upcoming sequel Borrowed Trouble were co-written with author JB Kohl. The fascinating thing is that she and I live on opposite coasts and have never met in person. Never even spoken on the phone.
We have devised a way of working that really isn’t much different than writing solo. We write on our own, send chapters across the wires and then give minor notes. We outline back and forth until we like the result and then just set in and write it. Things change, we adapt. It’s been an absolute pleasure and a great learning experience. And I’ve said this before but the best part is that you get to both write a novel and read it at the same time because her half comes in and I know the basics but I’m always surprised and compelled by what she has come up with. I love it and I hope we can keep doing it for a long time.
I’m also very focused on my solo writing, which she is as well. If I can start to get those novels published and have the best of both worlds it would be a dream come true.

4. How do you not get discouraged?

I get discouraged every damn day. I get very down on my own skills or lack thereof. After all I’ve attempted in my life I am completely used to failure or worse, indifference.
If you have no patience for rejection, alienation, frustration, ego crushing bouts of self-doubt and depression then you should not try to be a writer. If you keep writing despite this and the fact that you will more than likely never make a dime at it, you not only should be a writer – you already are.

5. Why does everyone think writing a novel is so hard?

I have no idea. Working in Hollywood I am surrounded by a million waiters and valet guys with a screenplay in their pocket or, worse yet, an idea that they are “working on.” Most novels never make it from concept to completion and it is those novels that get talked about the most by their “authors”. You want to write a book? Write it. Don’t tell me you’re going to write it. Don’t tell me you have an outline. Don’t tell me you have an idea. Write the damn book. Then write another one. If no one cares, write another one. If that one sucks, write another.
When I was writing my first novel (which isn’t all that good and sits on my hard drive alone and gathering digital cobwebs) I didn’t tell anyone. What if I never finished? I didn’t want to be that guy. The guys who is writing a novel like it’s all important. The guy who talks about it but never finishes anything. When I finished I confirmed I was not that guy. I still didn’t tell many people though. Only now that I have a book out there in the world do I even mention it to anyone. I still hesitate to call myself a writer. A writer has a bodd of work. Talk to me in five years.
So, in short, writing a novel takes time and discipline but it’s not hard. Brain surgery is hard. Rocket science is hard. Doing 25 to life in prison is hard. If writing is hard, you’re not doing it right.

6. Tell some stories about the back biting and jealousy in the writing community.
Wish I could but the truth is everyone I’ve met is so welcoming, so kind, so encouraging that it kind of freaks me out. Authors, and crime authors in particular, should be misanthropic, anti-social misfits, and they are, but they’re also the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. Again, coming from a Hollywood screenwriting background I was used to my colleagues outwardly wishing for my failure because every script of mine that advanced meant one of theirs languished. It was miserable. I expected the same of publishing because there is only so much space on the shelf for books. I assumed it would be one big scrum of flying elbows and spit in the eye as people jockeyed for readers attention. Was I ever wrong.
I’m small potatoes on a small publisher and I have had long conversations with writers I really admire, writers I read, and they instantly treated me as an equal. It still shocks me every time I am exposed to it and I hope it always does.

7. Why don’t you write a series and get rich that way?

I should. Readers seem to love a series. Publishers sure do. I have just never been a series guy. It’s such a commitment. And I’m always late to the party. Who has time to catch up? And do they ever stay consistently great? Not that there aren’t some great books. I’ve been reading more lately just because they are books by people I know and admire. I’m thinking of Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel series. But I caught that from the start. Same with Kelli Stanley’s Miranda Corbie books and Stephen Jay Schwartz Hayden Glass books. I will almost always reach for a standalone though. Marcus Sakey, Victor Gischler, Duane Sweirczynski. I love Joe R. Lansdale but haven’t read all the Hap and Leonard books. I love Steve Brewer but haven’t read the Bubba Mabry books (yet, I just got all 7 from Steve himself so now I’m committed).
I read my first Ross MacDonald not too long ago. It was silly that I’d never read him. I loved it. Will I go back and read all of them? Doubt it.
So, at the risk of being a hypocrite since I just finished a sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head, I find stand-alones more fun to read and write. Anything can happen. Anyone can get killed off. I’m always trying to think of a series character but my brain just doesn’t work that way. Stupid brain.

8. Do you follow the old adage ‘write what you know’?

Dumbest writing advice ever. Sure use what’s at your disposal, but if all I wrote was what I know I’d have fewer readers than I do now and, even more tragic, I’d bore myself silly as I wrote. I read to be transported. I write for the same reason.
I say write what you want to know about. Even if that is as simple as, “I want to know what happens at the end of this story.” If it’s enough to compel you to write your way to the end, it will be compelling enough for a reader to get there in 1/10th the time.

9. What about the new stuff?

As I mentioned JB Kohl and I have completed the sequel to One Too Many Blows To The Head. It is called Borrowed Trouble. It takes place in 1941 Hollywood at the dawn of the porn industry. That’s simplifying it too much but there are some blue movies, a missing girl, some really bad men and two former enemies joining forces to solve the case.
I have some of my solo work out to agents now and I have my fingers crossed for that. I really like the solo books so I hope they get a chance to see the light of day eventually. Until the stigma of self-publishing goes away I’ll sit on them until I can find someone who wants to put them out, big or small it doesn’t matter. I still rely on a publisher to weed out the crap from the worthy. I read enough stuff on big imprints that I think is crap so I shudder to think what is still in the slush pile. I trust most publishers to tell me if my stuff is unworthy of publishing too. Better for you if it stays locked up.

What’s your goal in publishing?

Just to be a part of the conversation. I don’t thrive on praise, just inclusion. I don’t have to sell a ton of books, I have a day job I love, but just to be on the shelves with authors I love is so amazing. To be able to throw my hat in the ring and not get laughed out of town is pretty damn cool. Having just one reader who is not a family member or friend is enough to keep me writing on to the next thing.

Eric Beetner is the co-author of One Too Many Blows To The Head, a noir novel set amid the crooked boxing word of 1939 Kansas City. He has written dozens of short stories that hide out in various webzines across the internet. His story Ditch (published in Thuglit) was chosen third place in the Storysouth Million Writers awards for best short of 2009 and he recently took the top spot in Jason Duke's Red Hot Writing challenge. Be prepared because he's going to be around for a while.

for 'My Asshole Brother' (winner of Jason Duke's competition) look out for Issue 6 of Crime Factory:


or on UK kindle: