Friday, November 20, 2015
Q & A with S.W. Lauden
Q: What makes your Greg Salem different from other hardboiled characters?
Thanks for having me at Sons Of Spade. I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with this concept, but the main hook for Greg Salem is that he’s a punk rock cop. This juxtaposition—going from self-destructive youth, to literally becoming “the man”—shapes his main internal conflict. He’s also a bit of a softy when nobody's looking, despite the badge, guns, fistfights, womanizing and binge drinking. This is California, after all.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I grew up near the beach in SoCal and hung out with guys like Greg in my teens and twenties. Blue collar, salt-of-the-earth types who spent their weekdays working backbreaking jobs, but blew off steam on the weekends by surfing, skateboarding, drinking and fighting.
I eventually moved away, but occasionally run into some bros from the old neighborhood or keep up on Facebook. A few of those guys are still living a slightly tamer version of that life and, I have to admit, it makes me a little jealous. The beaches there are beautiful, the locals are mostly laid back and there’s always a party going on. So part of creating the Greg Salem character—at least initially—was about me trying to imagine what my life might have been like if I’d never left. Once the murders started happening, though, the story took on a life of its own.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love the feel of a paperback in my hand, and I have lugged some of my favorite Vonnegut, Borges and Chandler books around with me for twenty years, but I have to admit that I mostly read on the Kindle app these days. As a reader, I like the ease of eBooks, the reduced cost and the fact that I have available storage space in my home again.
I also have a soft spot for the Indie authors who have found new audiences thanks to eBooks. A lot of that carries over from my love of Indie record labels, which have always produced some of the most groundbreaking work. Same for Indie publishers. Just look at some of the titles being released by 280 Steps, Down & Out Books, Double Life Press, Broken River Books and All Due Respect—among many others. The quality and diversity is pretty stunning.
Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I am half way through writing the second Greg Salem novel. I started BCC five years ago, so it's been a blast reconnecting with some of the characters that survived the first book. Hoping to have that one out by the end of next year.
My novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in March 2016. That one's about an ex-NYPD cop named Tommy Ruzzo who follows his drug-addict girlfriend to a small town in Florida. He ends up getting hired as head of security at a retirement community filled with a colorful cast of ancient New Yorkers. That's when the mayhem starts.
Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I've been a drummer for most of my life, so I try to keep my chops up when I can. Not as easy to find the time these days, but I'm actually going into the studio with a friend very soon to play on his solo record. Other than that, I'm a father, husband and full-time desk jockey.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your love for punk rock and your favorite bands? How does that love influence your writing?
The area where I grew up is the home of bands like Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross and Pennywise. Most of them were a few years older than my friends and I, so we kind of worshipped at their alter—despite the best intentions of my heavy metal-loving older brothers.
Punk rock was some of the first music I learned how to play once I convinced my parents to get me a drum set. My musical tastes evolved over the years into alternative rock, pop, glam, country and Indie music, but punk rock will always be an important part of the mix. Some of my all time favorites that are currently in heavy rotation: The Gun Club, The Misfits, Fugazi, 7 Seconds, The Minutemen, Generation X and Lagwagon. Here's a "SoCal Punk" playlist I threw together on YouTube.
So far punk rock has been a pretty big influence on my writing, especially with BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. Rather than attempting to write within a specific genre, I spent most of my time and energy trying to infuse the BCC story and the characters with the dark, manic intensity of my favorite punk songs. I really hope it comes through on the page. Punk's a lifestyle for many people and I wanted to pay homage to that.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I blog pretty regularly at badcitizencorporation.com, including weekly author Q&As like this one. That's helped me connect with some pretty amazing writers and learn from them while also helping to support their incredible books. I also do a fair amount of blogging about music there too.
Other than that, I like to do readings and have been very fortunate to get on the bill for a couple of recent events in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Raleigh, North Carolina. I also have a few bookstore events coming up in LA and San Diego. And social media, of course.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I'm kind of a garbage disposal when it comes to reading. Crime and mystery are what I read most often, but I'm also a sucker for good YA, literary fiction, and some occasional science fiction.
Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
Tough question. I imagine Don Winslow will be up near the top of that list. THE CARTEL was a real break-through for him, but he also has a fantastic back catalogue. Some of my favorites, for pretty obvious reasons, are THE DAWN PATROL and THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE. On the Indie side, I think Eric Beetner is a real dark horse. He is wildly prolific, incredibly talented and knows the crime genre inside and out. If you've read THE DEVIL DOESN'T WANT ME or RUMRUNNERS, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, you're welcome.
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I started my trunk novel—a sprawling, unpublished literary tome—around 2001. A few years after I finally abandoned that project I was drawn back to mystery and crime fiction as a reader. That's when the wheels started spinning. The two authors who are probably most responsible for inspiring me to take the leap with BCC are Jo Nesbo and Arnaldur Indridason (although I don;t know them personally). Both have their own well-defined styles, but I really dig the thoughtful character development, strong sense of place and addictive plots. What more could you ask for from a good book?