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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

INTERROGATION CENTRAL: STEPHEN BLACKMOORE!

INTERROGATION CENTRAL: STEPHEN BLACKMOORE!

STEPHAN BLACKMOORE DEBUT NOVEL, CITY OF THE LOST, THE POWER BEHIND THE L. A. NOIR BLOG, EDITOR OF NEEDLE MAGAZINE, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE WESTCOAST VERSION OF NOIR AT THE BAR, IS SWEATING UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS IN BISH’S BEAT’S INTERROGATION ROOM . . .

Okay, Blackmoore, I’ve had tougher punks than you sitting here in the author’s interrogation room – guys who beat on their battered Underwoods and display the grim remains in the dark back alleys of the blogosphere - so let’s get down to it . . .

Q: Spit out the lowdown on City Of The Lost – and keep it snappy.

A: Joe Sunday is a leg-breaker in Los Angeles who gets murdered, raised from the dead and finds himself in the middle of this Maltese Falcon-esque hunt for the object that brought him back. Lots of blood, lots of violence, lots of swearing.

Q: You’re obviously a writer writing from a dark place – noir is the new black – so, how do zombies fit into your world view?

A: It's funny because I don't really see City Of The Lost as much of a zombie book. Most of those are about survivors of an apocalypse. The zombies are a stand-in, whether for dread, anxiety, rampant consumerism, whatever. They make great metaphors.

In this case it's about the zombie himself and some of the crap he has to deal with. Instead of the zombie being the backdrop for a fucked up situation, it's the other way around.

For me, zombies are usually anxiety. They're the inexorable onslaught. No matter what you do they WILL get you. They are luck running out, the tide coming on, old age catching up with you.

They're not terror, they're dread.

Q: What does noir mean to you?

A: French for black.  Noir's bleak, depressing, doesn't have a happy ending. It's violent, and brutal.

It gets a little hard to define when you start splitting hairs on it. Hard-boiled versus noir. Noir versus noir-ish. I look at it like the porn versus art debate. I know it when I see it.

And did I write a noir novel or a hard-boiled novel? Does it lessen its noir cred because it's paranormal?

Questions like that'll just give you a headache, so I don't poke at them too much.

Q: Do you differentiate between original noir and modern noir?

A: Not really, no. Some of the tropes, certainly. Not too many trench coats and fedoras these days. And really, what do you call original noir? Macbeth?

Regardless of when it was made, the attitudes are still there. Kiss Me Judas and Memento are just as much noir as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

As long as they have the attitude, the desperation, the doom, I don't draw too many lines.

Q: What was the genesis for City Of The Lost?

A: I've always enjoyed mashing up genres. And crime and horror have always felt like they fit together better than most. I came up with the idea years ago, but I could never get it to work. I gave it up, I went back to it, I gave it up again. At one point it read like a buddy picture like Lethal Weapon. That got scrapped fast.

But I couldn't get the damn thing out of my head. So I finally said fuck it and wrote it up as a short story, thinking, "There. It's done. Haunt me no more!"

You can see how well that worked.

The story was open-ended enough that I was able to take that and spin it into the novel. I'm glad it stuck with me. I think it turned out pretty okay.

Q: Series or standalone? What’s an author to do?

A: I'm kind of doing both. City Of The Lost is the first in a series. Whether it goes beyond the second book we'll see. That's the only one under contract so far.

Instead of following a series character, I decided that I wanted to write about the world, instead. There's a lot to play around with in this Voodoo version of L.A. I've created.

I have more plans for Joe Sunday, but I don't plan on getting to them too quickly.

Q: You’ve picked up some flack for your use of profanity. Tell us why it works for you?

A: Ha! I think every writer who uses the word "fuck" at least once is going to catch flak for it from somebody. Some people are just wound too tight.

I use swearing for the same reason I use contractions. That's how people talk. And I'm not writing about the best people, either. These aren't Damon Runyon gangsters. They're criminals, addicts and murderers. They're not going to censor themselves.

There's something so versatile and visceral about a good curse word. Just watch that scene in The Wire where McNulty and Bunk are going over an old crime scene and all of the dialog is nothing but variations on "fuck". It plays perfectly.

Q: There are a lot of POD and webzine-type outlets for writers today. Good or bad?

A: Good. Now before I go into why allow me this disclaimer. I'm one of the editors (if you can call it that) for Needle Magazine, one of those very same POD magazines we're talking about here. They've put out some amazing noir fiction and they have some of the best design around. I had a story in there before I started as an editor. It's all volunteer work and I asked them if they needed help because I want it to continue.

Setting aside the traditional versus self-publishing debate, which from your next question I see we'll get into, I think that online and POD magazines like Needle, Spinetingler, Plots With Guns, and so on give writers a venue for getting their work out there that they might not have had otherwise.

More is better. The more venues you have, the more chances you can get your work out there to be read. Writers need to be read. It's a two part equation.

You might also get some editorial feedback from somebody who knows what the fuck they're talking about. Somebody who can tell you your shit stinks and give you good, objective reasons why and how to fix it is fucking gold.

Try getting that kind of shit from Zyzzyva. A pretentious form rejection that closes with "Onwards!" isn't very useful.

Now most of these don't pay, which is the downside, but I think a writer has to weigh what they're hoping to get out of it before they submit anything anywhere.

For some writers, depending on where they are in their careers, exposure might be exactly what they need. Others might really get some useful feedback. Have an idea of what you hope to gain from getting a piece published.

A lot of these POD and webzines are today's pulp magazines. Hell, it's in some of their titles, Beat To A Pulp, Pulp Pusher. These are the places where writers can cut their teeth, get some exposure and hone their craft.

So, yeah, I think it's a good thing.

Q: You’ve got your first novel published (and congratulations) through a respected traditional publisher. How do you feel about the wave of independent self-publishing happening through Kindle Direct and other sources?

A: There is no one path to success. There is also no one definition of success.

I'm all for self-publishing.

I know quite a few writers who have gone the self-publishing route and I have immense respect for them.

Where I have a problem is the "Us vs. Them" pissing matches that I keep seeing. I'm tired of the zealotry and the either / or stance. I like seeing people be successful. I don't really care whether they're doing it by going through a large publisher, a small indie publisher, or publishing it themselves.

I'm happy to be going through a traditional publisher for City Of The Lost. I'm really happy it's DAW. They've been fantastic.

I got editing through them and through my agent that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I'm getting distribution that I wouldn't have gotten. I got a cover and artwork by comic artist Sean Phillips whose work I admire. Had I tried to self-publish that would never have happened.

In all I lucked out.

That said I think it's foolish for writers to not pay attention to self-publishing. I don't see any reason why they can't and shouldn't consider both.

But whatever someone chooses, I think they should weigh it carefully and understand the benefits and perils. Be realistic about it. Ask yourself what you want to get out of it and what you're willing to put into it. It's not a lottery ticket.

With self-publishing the rewards might be all yours, but so is all the work.

If you don't like doing sales, if you don't want to be an entrepreneur, if you don't want to spend a lot of time doing all of the things that a traditional publisher does, it might not be for you.

Not that any writer doesn't have to pay attention to those things, but self-publishing jacks that up to 11.

On the flip side, if you want greater control, greater visibility to your sales, more direct involvement with your publicity, rights, etc. then it might very well be for you.

Q: What has been your journey as a writer and where do you see it taking you?

I wouldn't call it a journey so much as a drunken stumble. I didn't get serious about writing until about ten years ago.

I've never really had a plan other than to use what I'm working on at any particular moment to, hopefully, act as a stepping stone to the next thing, whatever that happens to be.

Right now I'm starting work on a third book in the series, which I don't have a contract for. The second book, Dead Things, was turned in to my editor a few months ago and I'm waiting on feedback from that.

I've also got a short story I just submitted for an anthology and some gaming work that I can't talk about, yet. More short stories in various stages of completion.

Where do I see it taking me? Not to the bank, that's for goddamn sure. I don't expect to make much of a living off this stuff. Not until somebody gives me an advance that includes health insurance. I'll keep the day job, thanks.

But project wise I really want to work on comics. Especially after seeing the artwork Sean Phillips did for City Of The Lost. Really, that guy's amazing.

And I'd like to write a Western, a 30's-style pulp adventure, a horror novel, a space opera… You get the idea.

Will I? Don't know. Maybe. Never thought I'd have a novel coming out, either.

Q: Give it up about Noir At The Bar events . . . What should we expect in the future?

A: More of them.

For the people who don't know, Noir At The Bar is a lit event that Jed Ayres and Scott Phillips started back in St. Louis. Eric Beetner, Aldo "Mysterydawg" and I wanted to be a part of those, but who the fuck wants to go to St. Louis? So we started them here in Los Angeles.

Every two or three months we get four or five crime fiction writers and one headliner to give a reading of some of their work in front of a bunch of drunks in a bar.

That's pretty much it.

We've had two so far, with Duane Swierczynski (Fun And Games) and Christa Faust (Choke Hold) headlining the event and had talented writers like Matt Funk, Holly West, Josh Stallings and more showcasing their work.

We're really trying to key it around new releases so we can help showcase not only new writers that people may have never heard of, but established authors who have a book coming out.

It's pretty much a win/win for everybody.

We've got another one scheduled in late January that I'll be headlining to coincide with City Of The Lost and in March we have Hillary Davidson coming out for her novel The Next One To Fall.

After that, who knows? Got a noir book coming out sometime this year and you'll be in L.A.? Ping me. Maybe we can work something out.

THE SELF-DESCRIBED STEPHEN BLACKMOORE:

Stephen Blackmoore is a pulp writer of little to no renown who once thought lighting things on fire was one of the best things a kid could do with his time. Until he discovered that eyebrows don't grow back very quickly.

As a writer he strives to be a hack. Hacks get paid.

He's not sure if hacks talk about themselves in the third person, though. That might just be a side effect of his meds.

His first novel, a dark urban fantasy titled City Of The Lost will be coming out January 3rd, 2012 through DAW Books and will be available at all the fashionable bookstores. Hopefully some of the seedier ones, too.

His short stories and poetry have appeared in Plots With Guns, Needle, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, Shots, Demolition, Clean Sheets , Flashing In The Gutters and a couple of anthologies with authors far better than he is.

Occasionally he gets off his fat ass and helps edit (i.e. reads slush) Needle: A Magazine Of Noir. You should buy a copy. Really. It's good.

CITY OF THE LOST!

STEPHEN BLACKMORE

Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.

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