Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Q & A with Josh Stallings

Josh Stalling is making quite a name for himself in the noir community. His self-published Moses McGuire series is of the highest quality and his character could be the new hope for PI style fiction, even if he isn't an official PI. Here's my interview with him.

Q: What makes Moses McGuire different from other hardboiled characters?
I don’t know that he is.  He is a tarnished knight in the truest sense.  He holds the world and himself up to a strict moral code, one he fails to keep.  Maybe what is different is his world; each of the three books is set in the commercial sex trade.  One More Body deals with young women, girls really, who are kidnapped and forced into prostitution.  When researching the novel I read a lot of first hand accounts from trafficked girls.  And I interviewed sex workers.  I got more and more angry and as I did, so did Moses.  Maybe he is less tarnished knight and more viking berserker in this third novel.

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
The name came first Moses McGuire, then I started thinking about who would have that name.  I stole liberally from myself.  We are both big inked up men with too many scars.  I knew what his special power was; he is suicidal.  It’s hard to threaten a man who doesn’t give a rat’s ass if he lives or dies.  Beautiful, Naked & Dead, the first book, starts with him holding a gun in his mouth trying to decide if this is the day to pull the trigger.  So I knew his name and then I knew the opening chapter, after that I started writing and he developed as we traveled down the road together.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
Ebooks have democratized publishing for good and ill.  I publish the Moses books myself, this has worked out well.  I got lucky to have some early readers and critics champion the books and spread the word.  All The Wild Children, my memoir was published by Snubnose Press.  Having their imprint on it gave me some credibility in the writing community but I’m not sure readers care who publishes a book as long as it is well written, compelling and well edited.  Let me underline WELL EDITED.  After my wife Erika takes a hard look at my work I always go to an outside professional.  With One More Body I was lucky to work with Elizabeth A. White, editor extraordinaire.  She really whipped the book into shape.  I then had Jaye Manus take one more look for typos and had her design and code the ebook.  If I’m going to compete with the legacy publishers I need to go the extra steps to insure I’m putting out the best possible book.

Q: What's next for you and Moses? 
I’m giving Moses a break and working on a stand alone crime book set in the 1970’s.  Ask me about that in a year and I’ll be full of answers.

Q: Do you create your own covers? How do they come about?
I created the covers for the Moses books.  I knew what I wanted and found the photos in a stock house.  The poet Richard Bautigan had covers in the late 1960’s that stuck in my mind.  I wanted the font simple, clean.  I put the covers together with GIMP a free Photoshop like program.  It has its quirks but it is, um, free.  Eric Beetner did the wonderful cover for All The Wild Children, based on a photograph Sabrina Ogden and I took of me in an emergency hospital room in St. Louis - good times...

 Q: How do you promote your work?  
 Promotion is hard, I do interviews like this and send the book to as many reviewers as I can.  At the end of the day books are sold by one reader telling another reader about this cool thing they just read.  At least that’s what I think.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I do mostly read crime, but I also love just about any book that is well written.  I just finished Joe Lansdale’s The Thicket, it is a western of sorts and I loved it.  Tom Pluck’s Sword of Dishonor was way out of my wheelhouse, with ninjas and WWII flashbacks, and I loved it.  Good writing is good writing.  I also think crime encompasses so many styles that it may be too big a genre to be of much value as far as classification goes.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike? 
In One More Body, Moses is the psychotic one, his sidekick Gregor is much saner and is often the voice of reason.  The crazy one interests me more I guess.

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?
Ken Bruen is one of the writers I measure my work against, and James Crumley.  James Lee Burke has his stamp on the genre.  Charlie Huston.  In the end we all will continue to be driven at some level by Hammett and Chandler, it is unavoidable if you are working in detective fiction they are going to be there. 

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
 I like books where real characters are revealed to me, and I like books where shit happens.  Crime fiction allows for both.


Susan "Susie" Henry said...

Great interview, Josh. Moses is definitely high on my list of favorite characters!

Elizabeth A. White said...

Great interview. Thanks for the shout out; it was a pleasure working with you.

Jonathan said...

Nice interview, Josh. Yeah, Hammett and Chandler. It always goes back to those guys. Both drunks. And Crumley too. Loved those Richard Brautigan covers for Trout Fishing in American and In Watermelon Sugar. Pretty great books too!

Cheers and happy Thanksgiving!