Sunday 3 October 2010

Dancing With Myself: TODD ROBINSON interviews TODD ROBINSON

Is it crazy to put down a link to your own blog? Maybe it is and maybe I am, but it will save me shouting out about things that have already made me hoarse.

The point, if you didn't click, is that people like Big Daddy Thug here are the writer's lifeblood. They're where people start, cut their teeth, get things right and wrong, first put their feet on the ladder.

In other words, I'd like you to read this whilst holding that in mind.

And weren't those Thuglit's some of the best covers around? And didn't you always click on those knuckle-dusters more than once just to hear the sound over again and again.

Todd 'Daddy Thug' Robinson.

Who the hell are you?

I don’t know. I think I can best answer this question by telling you who I was. Six years ago, I was an aspiring writer of some pretty dark crime fiction. The kind that everybody told me nobody wanted to read.

Who said that?

I’d already had two useless agents who’d put my novel through two publishing houses…combined (agent number three never sent it to anyone). Both publishers said the same thing. They loved the novel, but not only didn’t they publish anything as dark as what I’d written, but there also wasn’t an audience for it either. Deciding to prove them wrong, I started up a webzine over at specifically to show that the audience was there. I also wanted to create a place where likeminded readers and writers such as myself – who like their fiction with an edge – could both read the kind of stuff we like and have a place to publish it.

Did you?

Did I what?

Did you prove them wrong?

Oh. Not for me to say, really. I know that Thuglit drew itself one hell of an appreciative audience. I do think/hope that we played a part in moving aspects of the genre in a direction that is more conducive to my own tastes. I know that there are people being published today with a darkness behind the words that makes my own writing from six years ago seem almost quaint. Guys like Dave Zeltserman, Tony Black and Stuart Neville are tearing it up with some fearless and ferociously dark writing. Those guys could make a bottle of Prozac swallow itself. Loving it.

You ended Thuglit at the five-year mark one month ago. Why close up shop now?

Well, we were finished with the anthologies, and frankly, we were a little burned out. I’ve had a lot of personal changes in my life in the last two years that were making the work harder and harder to accomplish. And if you don’t know already, even producing an internet magazine is a fuckload of work. We started missing deadlines here and there when we never had before. I didn’t want to see the quality of the mag slip into Shitsville before I made the decision to pull the plug. Beyond that, the part of my life that suffered most from the crunch, was the amount of time that I could allot for my own writing – which is what I wanted to be doing in the first place.

Thuglit has helped a lot of writers build their careers, but it was time to take care of my own house for a change. Never thought that I’d miss it as much as I already do, but the decision to end it was the right one.

Want to talk about the anthologies a bit?

No. It was three years of near total misery. Awful experience, except for those writers who were so appreciative to be able to see their work in print for the first time. That was gratifying. All I can say is that Idiot Agent Number Three sold me the deal on what was either a lie, or a complete lack of professional research into the project. It tripled my overall workload for no good reason. I never saw a penny from any of the three anthologies, once I paid out the miserably small advances to the writers. What was left didn’t even cover the cost of maintaining the website. Doing the anthologies contributed to what I account for at least 80% of the previously mentioned burnout. Needless to say, Idiot Agent Number Three has also been fired.

For someone who didn’t want to talk about the anthologies, you had a lot to say.
Yeah, guess I did. Nobody has ever accused me of having nothing to say.

So, what are you doing now?

I’m back in writing mode, for the first time in a long time. What I gained from doing five years of editing on Thuglit, was a sharp bullshit detector. For my own writing, as well. I had enough distance from my own novel where I could go back into it and call bullshit on myself. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of bullshit in there. What started out as a polish has turned into an almost fifty percent re-write. I’m glad that people responded favorably to what I had already written, but for the life of me, I can’t see it in the previous edits. I like a lot of what’s there (obviously, or I wouldn’t go back to it), but lord, there’s a lot of poorly written passages-scenes-dialogue. Really. Some of it makes me cringe. Don’t know if the new edit is any better, but it feels better, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for when editing.

I’ve also been dabbling in screenplay work, which has been a whole new shitstorm unto itself, but the change of format (and genre) for me have been refreshing and fun. Boy, I thought getting a royal screw-job in publishing was frustrating… At least that was only for the going price of a used 2002 Hyundai. My first run in with Hollywood dangled seven figures in front of my nose, made me dance a cha-cha for six months, then yanked it away. I think that’s a story for another interview, but brother…did I dance a fucking cha-cha…

Sounds like it’s been rough.

It has. It’s easy to fall into bitterness and despair, having been through what I have in the business so far, and I’ve been guilty of wallowing in both from time to time. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything. HAD my novel been published those years ago, it wouldn’t have been as good as it is now. Even in getting fucked over, you learn. That was one of the problems with Idiot Agents Numbers Two and Three (I still have my suspicions that Idiot Agent Number One may have been a scam). When you’re calling your fucking agent to task for knowing less about the industry than you do? It’s time to move on.

Robert Heinlein said, “You live and learn, or you don’t live long.” I’ve learned that I fucking NEED my writing. It’s the only place where I feel like I’m an active participant in my own life. I have commitments to my job, my wife and my son to be the best employee, husband and father that I can be. Bills need to be paid, wives need to feel appreciated and babies need to be happy. My only commitment to myself is my writing. Even if I spend the rest of my life penniless from the effort, the effort itself is what keeps me going.

What is your definition of noir?

Stop asking that stupid question. Who cares? Just enjoy the goddamn book you’re reading. For the record, noir is French for black. That’s it. Now fuck off. (go click on those dusters)


  1. todd, i'm one grateful motherfucker.

  2. Thuglit was a class act. Lok forward to Todd's novel.

  3. I am proud to wear my THUGLIT shirts. Thanks for running an excellent zine for five years. It was one of my first crime fiction publications.

  4. Thanks for the noir definition. I get confused.

  5. I'm one of the many writers who got their first break thanks to Todd and Thuglit. Sad as I am to see the zine fold, I'm so glad that Todd is going to devote time to his own fiction. I can't wait for his book.

  6. I got into this way too late for Thuglit. I'd been wandering the halls of the writing class, workshop, peer review from dipshits who could'nt write a believable lick but gave great workshop scene. Wish I'da found it sooner. I've read everything in Thuglit. One hell whacking class act you did Mr.Robinson. Thanks. And also thanks for the best answer to the "what is noir" question I've ever read.

  7. All of your hard work on Thuglit (and the anthologies) is definitely appreciated. You guys set the bar high for other dark crime fiction sites.

  8. Like Patti, I'm also proud to wear my Thug-Lit T-shirt ... and brother, you know I wear t-shirts until they fall off. All best to you and yours, Big Daddy.

  9. Wow, that's one tough interviewer. I would never have had the guts to tell him to fuck off at the end. Hope he didn't come after you...

  10. I was pretty much a tail-ender in the Thuglit story, but I'm glad I got to see it working. I love the anthologies and only wish I could have had a story in there, too. Best of luck with everything, Todd, including that novel (looks like there are plenty of folk building up an appetite for that one).

  11. As much as I loved Thuglit, I like your writing a hell of a lot more and I think you've got five years of great Karma coming your way for all the hard work you did on the magazine