Thursday 9 September 2010


Before I let Christopher take it away (and he really does), I've a couple of extrs contributors to announce.

Added to the list are: Vicki Delany, Angela Choi, Tom Llewellyn, Zoe Sharp and SJ Rozan. Joe R Lansdale is too busy right now for any extra load, but he's up for it in principle and asked that I get back to him in a month or so (fingers tightly crossed).

I'd like to take the opportunity of thanking all the contributors to date - they've given me a huge amount of pleasure and information and I'm grateful to them all for taking the time to take part.

Look out for a couple of top interviews this weekend, when Eric Beetner and Chris Holm will be here.

And now, a man who has to be one of the most prolific and widely respected publishers of short stories in the business. When he took a couple of my stories I was purring for weeks afterwards. Here he is, worthy of a Friday special...

Self-interview with Christopher Grant, Editor/Publisher of A Twist Of Noir by Christopher Grant, Editor/Publisher of A Twist Of Noir

1. A Twist Of Noir. I'm not so much interested in the name as where the interest for noir came from. There was a time when you thought of yourself as primarily an SF writer. When and why did this change occur?

A. If this interview happened sixteen years ago, when I was sixteen, I don't think I'd be able appreciate noir fiction or even film noir.

Remember, you threw James Ellroy's THE BIG NOWHERE in the garbage after the first five pages, not being able to understand what the fuck it was all about. Granted it was the second book of a quartet and you were only about thirteen but you threw the thing away.

I guess the switch probably started with not having the ability for one reason or another to pull off a convincing SF story, at least in my mind, and looking elsewhere for something to write. I mean, I could probably do an SF story today if I wanted to but it would still read like noir or crime, just with androids and hover cars and DNA splitting and nanotech. In other words, very much Phillip K. Dick.

2. Wait, wait. You threw THE BIG NOWHERE in the trash?

A. No, that was you, remember? The story just wasn't working for me.

Danny Upshaw and his story bored the shit out of that thirteen year-old me.

So, with the story just hanging there, doing nothing for me, neither good or bad, I had you toss it in the trash.

If I had thought about it, I could have gotten my six bucks back by
returning it but you just tossed it.

Something like five years later, we regretted doing that and we had to track down a copy and then it had all those typos, remember? And so we had to order it from the local B&N.

3. Sure, blame me for everything.

So the change occurred after you couldn't write a convincing SF story. And that was about twenty-five, twenty-six, somewhere around there, right?

A. Yeah. But I was writing a lot of stuff back then. I was writing
commentary for a politics website and SF for the drawer and poetry (not all that great, either) and a couple of other things. I was of the impression at that point that you write as much as you possibly can, in as many different genres as you can, so you don't get pigeonholed or burn out in one area. Diversify.

I'm don't believe that any longer. I think you can write the same genre as long as you want to, as long as it interests you.

I'm still very much of the impression that the audience is the audience and will either love it or hate it and there's not a whole lot you can do about it, except not put shit up on that stage.

But I don't think you can ever burn out on something like noir or crime. We live in that world and there are two zillion stories to be told.

Just this morning (as of this writing, that is), I was put into the mind for another story by something I witnessed happening at five in the morning. Two guys, with a trash bag in each hand, came running down the street, highstepping it to a Dumpster outside of a school. A couple minutes later, they came walking back.

The writer in me immediately started asking questions. The obvious one was what was in the bags and then why couldn't they put those bags in their own trash can? Why run with the bags in the first place? Where's the fucking rush? I didn't ask them, of course. At five in the morning, that last thing I want to do is spend a couple hours in the emergency room if it turns out that I shouldn't be asking those questions aloud.

But if you can't tell a noir or crime story with that opening hook, I don't know what your problem is.

4. Let's talk about A Twist Of Noir and what it's like to be
editor/publisher. What's a typical day or week like?

A. There's no such thing. The guidelines say that I will put stories up every day. Anyone that's come to the site knows that's not true. And it's not true because sometimes it's not possible. Sometimes I get ten stories, sometimes I get two. When I get two, they probably go up right away unless I have something more pressing to get to. When I get ten, there are times I will separate out some and save the rest for the Friday Story Drop.

Whenever I do put a story up, regardless of whether it's on a regular day or on a Friday, I read the story, looking for errors along the way, correcting it along the way, put it up in the Blogger field and fix everything up (if the errors are minor) and then publish it.

If the errors are not minor, I run them by the writer of the piece and wait for them to get back to me to see what they think about the changes I think are necessary. I don't believe in screwing around with anyone's story just so I can get it up at the site.

I think the writer deserves respect and I think the site should be
respected. And you can't have either if you put up something that's not coherent or that doesn't hang together and make sense or you decide to screw around with that person's story just to get it on the site.

After a story goes up, I inform the writer and I put out the word on

And that's a typical day at ATON. Come back next week when we'll be doing arts and crafts. Until then, I'm Martha Stewart saying, Pop a cap in that ass.

5. Recently you announced that A Twist Of Noir would be changing its
maximum word count. Why the change?

A. There are over five hundred stories at ATON right now, we're rapidly closing in on six hundred. When I started the site, the count was actually only 2,000 words or less (if I remember correctly). At some point, I decided that I wanted to open it up a bit and raised it to 5,000 words or less and it's been there for quite a while (over a year anyway).

Part of the reason for the change in word count is what I've seen people like Paul Brazill and Michael Solender and Des Nnochiri and now R.S. Bohn and Kelly Whitley and Phil Beloin Jr. and Tom Larsen be able to do with a modicum of words.

I've been saying for a couple weeks now to various people: you don't need a novel's worth of words unless, of course, you're writing a novel.

Look at Jim Harrington's latest on ATON for a prime example of that new maxim. One paragraph and that's the story.

I have no problem with people that like to let the story go as long as it takes to tell the story. I used to be an advocate for that back before I was writing crime. But, at the same time, there's a lot to be said for self-editing and tightening up the narrative. And I really think that crime benefits from doing this. The sharper the hit, the more hardboiled the story, the better the experience for the reader.

6. Along with the new max word count, you also announced that you were shutting down the site for a while, at least such as it's run right now, for what you're calling The 600 to 700 Challenge. What is it and why now?

A. The 600 to 700 Challenge was actually supposed to be the 500 to 600 Challenge. A couple months back, I had a moment where I was feeling burned out by the job of editing and trying to brainstorm how to keep the site going without shutting it down for a time and then coming back rejuvenated.

But I didn't want to shut down the site to alleviate the burn out so I came up with the 500 to 600 Challenge.

I based the concept off of Jimmy Callaway's concept to write the century mark stories, which the man has been churning out since the site hit 200 (and he even went back and wrote the 100 century mark story). In each, he uses only the number of words for that century mark. So 100 has only one hundred words, 200 only two hundred and so on.

And I thought, "Why not do this for every story between 500 and 600?"

So I ran it up the flagpole to various people. Michael Solender and Jimmy Callaway and Richard Godwin and others. Keith Rawson asked some important questions, like how I was going to be able to insure that the thing could be pulled off in the first place and he suggested that, instead of going 500 to 600, that I should go from 600 to 700.

Which, of course, was the right decision. At the time, ATON was at least halfway through the 500s and rapidly approaching 600 and I needed time to figure out how this would work and to gauge reaction. Keith has been a great sounding board for me and I can't thank him enough.

I think this is as good a time as any to have a visible separation between the old era A Twist Of Noir and the new era to come.

7. The new era to come?

A. Yeah. The new max word count starts immediately after the Challenge ends. And there will be more features, such as reviews and interviews (which I did back when the site was just finding its feet), and I will be enlisting the help of others to carry these changes off. This will mark the first time that something other than the stories will be written by someone other than me. Damn, that sentence doesn't sound like it's worded right. Shut up time, Mr. Editor. Just let it stand on its own.

8. And what about your own writing? Will we be seeing more of that?

A. Of course. Hopefully in bigger amounts. Constantly, writers that write for ATON are asking when they're going to see more of what I write and that I should take off the editor's hat more often. The compliments are much appreciated. And with the changes that I'm planning for ATON, I think I will be able to take off that editor's hat a bit more.

9. What about the future of noir and crime writing? How do you see that?

A. Bright. Extremely so.

If you look at what I said earlier about this being a world in which noir or crime is just next door or even in your family, then the stories are right
there, too.

I think testament to this fact is the number of writers that have written not just for ATON but for Powder Burn Flash, Yellow Mama,Thuglit. Thrillers, Killers 'N Chillers, Crime Factory and Flash Fiction Offensive (just to name a few).

Interest just keeps growing and so does the pool of writers.

10. What about the future of A Twist Of Noir?

A. Also extremely bright. I wouldn't give this up for anything in the world. I want to see how far, with the help of the writers, I can take this thing.

Posted with much respect.


  1. Love it. Christopher you area one man NOIR machine!

  2. The Gentleman of Noir: Mr. Christopher Grant.

  3. Can't wait to see that Dumpster story!

  4. ATON is a daily stop for me. The quality of story remains top notch, and Christpher is one hell of a fine editor.

  5. Now that's how to interview yourself. Nicely done.

  6. Christopher Grant. In any conversation about the modern noir scene his name better come up or I quit listening. The man's a tireless editor, publisher, writer and -- I'm proud to say -- friend. (Even if he did throw away The Big nowhere.)

  7. Christopher is crime fic's best friend.

  8. Beaut of an interview. Christopher Grant is the bee's Knees, the cat's whiskers, the dog's ...oh, you know.

  9. Excellent interview. The cop in me is wondering about that Dumpster incident. Anyway, it is a fabulous inspiration for your story.
    Congratulations on your success, and best wishes as ATON continues, and as you pursue your writing even further.
    We appreciate all of your efforts!

  10. Thanks for sharing...and I'm with you on that word-count thing.