Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Questions: Nik Korpon

Interview by David Cranmer.

Tell us about Stay God.

Stay God was my love letter to Baltimore (I wrote it when I was living overseas and homesick.) The book follows Damon and Mary, who've spent their days slinging drugs behind the chipped counter of their junk-shop front and nights watching horror movies, going to bars, and generally wasting time. They're usually joined by Damon's best friend, Christian. Mary begins to tire of the routine and wants to get away from The Life, but Damon, adverse to any sort of change and commitment, isn't so keen. Copious amounts of drugs are snorted, horror movies discussed in existential terms, much blood spilled, Baltimore's neighborhoods sightseen, and many a body drops. It's my mutant flipper baby of a novel, a combination of crime, satire, social commentary, horror and Evil Dead. In it's blackened little heart, though, it's really a frightening love story. It's about a man trying to temper his selfish and self-destructive tendencies for the woman he loves.

What is the writing scene like in Baltimore?

Awesome is always the first word that comes to mind. Baltimore as a whole is a very odd city, especially these days. I grew up south of the city, but have been around for the last fifteen years or so, and the ways in which the city is changing are...marked, I guess would be the best word. Baltimore is a blue-collar town, just people who do their own thing and don't ask for help, and there's been a huge influx of development in the last five-to-seven years, which has created a really interesting, and sometimes unfortunate dynamic. The art scene has followed suit, with galleries where there were hourly motels, performance spaces in abandoned warehouses, organic pizza joints in old shoots galleries. On any given night, you're almost guaranteed to find some type of reading, whether it's poetry, fiction, performance, or show-and-tell. The writers themselves reflect this weird amalgamation, somewhere between raw talent and 'I don't give a fuck, I'll just do it myself.' I think Baltimore was mainly known for the crime fiction, because you see it every day, but a lot of the writers round here have begun to get some real attention. Michael Kimball's latest book Us just made Oprah's reading list. Jen Michalski has a book coming out on Dzanc soon. Adam Robinson's Publishing Genius Press had one of their releases optioned by Spike Jones last year. It's like the rest of the world has finally tuned in to all the talented people around here. I'm sure a lot of cities could say the same thing and this is mainly hometown pride, but fuck it. I'm proud to be a Baltimore writer.

When did your writing journey begin?

I've been writing things forever, though the seriousness with which I took them has varied. I came up playing in punk rock bands and, because I though I was the next coming of Kurt Cobain, always wanted to sing and write pseudo-impressionistic lyrics. Around 20 or so, I discovered the Beats, Bukowski and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. You can imagine what that sounded like. I started thinking seriously about writing and stories when I was 24, riding rails around Europe. I'd find copies of Nick Hornby and Palahniuk and the like at hostels, devour them on a train-ride then trade them out in the next hostel. Shortly after, I found The Velvet and their authors (Will Christopher Baer, Stephen Graham Jones and Craig Clevenger.) Coupled with unearthing Garcia Marquez and James M Cain--like they were this Rosetta Stone of the soul buried just for me to discover when I was ready--that three-month period of maniacal reading pretty much blew my conception of literature from its hinges. It became real, tactile, something I could weld together with the bits clunking around inside my skull.

It's funny, though, to think back on the early stuff. Here it is today, seven years, a couple books, a clutch of stories, degrees and some teaching later, and I'm still trying to write a different version of the same story. I think that's a good thing.

How did you become involved with Dirty Noir?

There should be some super sleazy, Delta crossroads type of account for this, fire and whiskey spewing from the stomachs of virgins or something. Maybe I'll invent one. In the meantime: Doc and I had been in the same writing group for a bit. I sent him an excerpt of my novella, By the Nails of the Warpriest, and he dug it, mentioned that he needed help reading stories, and that's pretty much it. I really should come up with a sexier story.

That aside, we're getting Dollar Dreadful together, our quarterly e-publication, and are really excited by it. There's so much unexposed talent out in the ether, and we're wicked stoked to bring some of those people further into the darkness.

What kind of stories are you looking for at DN?

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I want to read the same kind stories I want to write. I want dirty, gritty stories where people are unspeakably cruel, but act that way because of a hidden wound. Some subcutaneous tenderness, maybe. People who are easily offended and react at a gut-level rather than intellectually. I really dig writers like Neil Smith, Tom Piccirilli, Matthew Funk, Tom Franklin, the guys who write real people doing really awful things, written really well. This is an old conversation, but the idea that crime/mystery/horror/whatever writing is, or should be, somehow sub-par to Booker Prize prose is offensive and just fucking stupid. Words are all we have to represent ourselves and they should be treated accordingly.

All of this is a long way to say I want to read stories where the knife is wavering beneath the table, unsheathed, rather than covered in blood.

You review books for Spinetingler, NoirJournal and The Nervous Breakdown. Have you ever written a negative review and heard from the author?

Thankfully, no. It's kind of on purpose though: I don't review books I don't like. I figure there's no reason to rail on a piece of work someone put a year or two of their lives into (theoretically, of course) just to tell people not to buy it. All that negativity is counterproductive to the writing community as a whole. If no one talks about it, no one will buy it. Also, karma's a motherfucker and I can't think of many things worse than flipping through the interwebs and stumbling on a two-page missive on how many goat balls my books can suck at once.

What is next on your schedule?

Things are slowing down a bit. My latest novella, By the Nails of the Warpriest, just came out a couple weeks ago, so I'm working on promoting that. Not doing a very good job of it, but working. I'll have stories coming out in Needle, the BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled Anthology--two places I've long wanted to publish with--and an anthology from Thunderdome Press called In Search of a City: LA in 1000 Words. It's a ton of 1000-word stories alongside their photo prompt. I've only seen preview pages, but those few are stunning. Other than that, I'm taking a welder and belt-sander to two novels, getting them ready to heave them into the ether or submission queues. The both feature Elroy, the Elvis-impersonating cutthroat from That Pale Light in the West (Black Heart Noir Issue,) and I'm pretty proud of them. Not proud enough, yet, but getting there. At some point, I'll be releasing an e-version of Old Ghosts, my other novella. I'm shit at technological stuff, though, so it might take a bit. Oh, and a section in a top-secret novel-in-novellas project I can't talk about but conspicuously mention from time-to-time to create the illusion of interest. But I can't talk about that yet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

7 Questions: Frank Bill

Interview by David Cranmer

What was the transition like going from working with an online editor, Neil Smith or Elaine Ash, to working with a big publishing house editor?

More room to breathe. Meaning I didn’t have to worry about word count. That always bothered me when writing something for an online journal. Granted I can write a tight flat to the point piece, but sometimes you leave out a few of the why’s or what’s. Things were just as tight with my editors at FSG. Only I had more room to hit all of the senses. And that’s what they wanted. They had the groundwork for everything, they just wanted more details. The other thing is I dig input, there is no better feeling than being on the same page with like-minded people. In a sense, your editors are your personal fans, they get what you’re doing and they want to help you make it as powerful as it can be.

How does an online writer go from an agent to a publisher and get into Playboy Magazine? How the hell did that happen?

My editors have said this more than once, it just shows how strong the writing is. On top of that, it’s a little luck, timing and a bit of talent. I wish I knew. Things happened so fast. Last year at this time, it was after the July 4th holiday, I agreed to the two book deal. It was an entire week of waiting and second guessing myself. I was fortunate to sign with my agent, Stacia Decker. What came after has been mind blowing. After the book deal, my editors asked me where I thought we could place an excerpt from the book once the edits were done. I mentioned a few places. Then my editors said, How about Playboy? I wasn’t thinking anything that big. Months and months later I get an email, in the heading it says Naked Ladies. It was the news. The editor at Playboy really liked what she had read. She is just as kick ass my editors at FSG or even Neil Smith or Lady D.

Let’s switch gears. You and I shared space in NEEDLE: A magazine of Noir. Your story, "Cold, Hard, Love," it dealt with an out-of-work husband and waitressing wife struggling to make ends meet and bare knuckles boxing. Where did this idea come from?

That story is actually a prequel to my novel, Donnybrook. Six to eight years ago, my father and I were drinking and talking, telling stories. And somehow we got on the subject of when he and my mother were married. And how she had this temper, which she does. I was a kid. We were living next to my grandparents on their farm. My mother and father had a disagreement about something and she attacked him. Raked her nails down his face or something. My father is very laid back. He got out the house, walked over to my grandparent’s farmhouse. My grandmother saw his face and said, "Good lord son, what happened to you?" He told her about the disagreement and she told him, "That girl always did have a temper on her." That was how I wrote the beginning. My father worked in a tobacco plant when I was growing up. Then it relocated and after ten years of employment he was out of a job. He had to start over. That was the back story. The boxing comes from me and my training in martial arts and eastern and western boxing since the age of 11.

Your stories deal with working class men and women, coon hunters, fishermen, dope runners, fist fighters and even law enforcement. They’re down trodden, vicious and depraved. But they’re also survivalists, getting by the only way they know how. Do you believe the generation behind you could survive in your world?

Most would not. An easy example, my mother and father were taught about the world around them. How to live and survive in it. They grew up hunting and fishing. Skinned and processed what they killed. My father was a marine who served in the Vietnam war. He fought in operation Allenbrook. Watched a lot of good men fall. My mother was raised on a farm. Dealt with an abusive father who beat her mother everyday for six long years. They’re survivalists. They know what it’s like to live with necessity. To do without. In today’s world, you don’t have that. If the world suddenly lost power, was cut off from water, food and transportation, there’d be a lot of dead people. Society now days is too focused on trends. Movie stars, gossip, video games and the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I get online. I network. But I do it in-between working, writing, taking care of my home and spending time with my wife.

When I was growing up, cartoons were on Saturday morning. The rest of the week I was outdoors, in the woods either hunting with my rabbit dog, climbing trees, building fires or fishing. Going to a movie was a rarity. So was eating out. I was entertained by family and friends, comic books and baseball cards. Those are the people I write about in a sense, only they’ve lost their moral compass. And yes, they’re survivalists. Getting by on the leftovers of society.

Your favorite short story? Favorite book? Favorite novella?

I have a lot of these. But as far my influence and flat out badass. Favorite short is a tie, "Samaritan" by Larry Brown and "Wittgenstein’s Lolita" by William Gay. Favorite book, Joe by Larry Brown. Novella, Poachers by Tom Franklin. Those guys raised the bar way high for me.

Music, what do you listen to?

Anything that tells a good story. Frames real people’s lives, where they come from and what they’re dealing with. Hank III, Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, Drive-By Truckers, Hayes Carll, Scott H. Biram, William Elliott Whitmore, Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham. Chris Knight or Son Volt. Really too many to name. I’m big on Delta Blues like Mississippi Fred McDowell. Americana, old jazz like Miles Davis, and roots music. If I’m working out I slide in some Slayer, Slipknot, Pantera, Rob Zombie or Grinderman.

What’s one of the most valued lessons you’ve learned in life?

Treat your enemies like your friends. That way you’ll always know what they’re up to.


Crimes in Southern Indiana Stories is available at Amazon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

7 Questions: David Barber

Interview by David Cranmer

How is your new editor job at Flash Fiction Offensive going?

The editor job at FFO is going great. Better than I could have imagined, really. It all came about after a brief email to a great writer, Glenn Gray. I was being nosey and asking if he'd written any new stories, etc, as he doesn't have a blog. A couple of emails later and he tells me he's passed my name to Matt Louis (owner of FFO and Out of the Gutter Magazine) and, if I fancied giving it a try, would I be interested in running the mag. Discussions with my wife ensued and her final response was, "Go for it. What's the worst that could happen?"

So, big thanks go out to Glenn for the initial contact, Matt for giving me the opportunity, and my wife, Lisa, for backing me and having confidence in me.

I've only been doing it for about 3 months now but it seems to be going from strength to strength, so much so I've had to close submissions for a month.

I'm really enjoying it and I've learnt quite a lot in the time I've been running it. I try to be an understanding editor and offer advice where I can and I'm more than willing to discuss stories with contributors. I think communication is an important part of being an editor too, and I regularly give updates to writers as to when their stories are being published, etc.

I'd like to think that I'm in this for the long run, so you can expect me to be around for some time.

What are the chances of a story being featured in the FFO finding its way to the Out of the Gutter print mag?

Ultimately, it's totally up to Matt which of the stories I publish make it into the print magazine. In the submission guidelines it explains that if a story is good enough there is a chance it could make the mag.

At the end of the day, if you send me something that I think is a great story that's well written and has had some love and care shown to it, then I'm going to publish it. If Matt then likes it, then there's a great chance he could use it. I would see that as a double bonus: what a great achievement for the writer and (not taking anything whatsoever away from the writer) by myself in that I'd accepted another great story.

What are the guidelines for submitting?

Guidelines for submitting to us are pretty simple. You write a good story, polish it up well and get the editing sorted. Then there are a couple of ways to send your story in: as a .doc attachment or within the body of an email. The latter is preferable as formatting can get a bit out of control when copying from an attachment. But here’s the thing that could make or break it for you. I find it hard to open a story that doesn’t have a covering letter. Would a writer send the first few chapters of their novel to an agent without a query letter? I don’t think so. Those first few chapters would end up in the shredder. Therefore, writers should show the same respect to online magazines. We are, in essence, the stepping stones to the bigger picture. This issue will be one of the new guidelines, so writers should bear this in mind when submitting stories. I’m not asking for a query letter, but a simple “Hello, would you consider the following…” would be appreciated. Manners, after all, are a free commodity in a world where prices for things are going out of control.

What is David Barber’s day job?

I'm a self-employed tiler during the day, a job that pays pretty well but takes its toll on your knees and back. I've always been in physical employment from the day I left school, and never been out of work since that day.

Before I worked for myself, I was a firefighter for ten years but was finished due to an injury and management politics. Long story for another time.

With all the world-wide catastrophes and wars going on, it does look like this is the end, doesn't it?

No, far from it. In my opinion, wars and natural disasters have been happening for years and years and they always will. I think the media [and becoming an adult] has a lot to answer for when it comes to the way people think. When I was a kid I never knew there were wars going on or thousands of people were killed by freak floods. News programs were only on once a day and they were late on at night, plus our parents never spoke about atrocities and such. We were protected from the news. In those days, paedophiles were never even heard of. The news and media now are glorifying everything to sell their products and the news is on every TV channel as well as being on 24 hours a day on their own stations.

What do you think of American football?

American Football? I do actually watch it now and again but I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. I’m a football [soccer] man myself although I played rugby for a couple of years when I fell out with football. The strong urge to go back to diving at opponent’s feet and flinging myself across frozen goal mouths was too strong though. Yes, I was a goalkeeper, and that may have something to do with my tired and broken joints.

Do you own a kilt?

Do I own a kilt? No, but on my Dad's side there is Scottish blood in the family so I suppose I could if I wanted to. I hired the full works last year which I wore to my friend's wedding, although I wasn't traditional and didn't go "commando". I don't think many do anymore - or I was just a coward! I've wore a dress before but that's a whole other story for another time! Ha!