Friday, December 7, 2007

Duane Swierczynski

Earlier this year, Kathleen Bolton interviewed Duane Swierczynski, author of The Blonde and other terrific fiction, for Writer Unboxed.

The opening exchanges of the interview:

Q: Tell us about your road to publication

DS: It was the usual road: in dire need of resurfacing, full of confusing signage, and populated by violent highwaymen who’d just as soon carve out your liver as siphon your gasoline.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But it was a long road. This December will mark 20 years since I started writing fiction for real. I remember the exact date: December 27, 1987. That was the night before my best friend’s birthday. I was 15 years old, and broke, so I wrote him a horror novella as a gift. It had a shock ending, and when he read it, he let out this great yell. That’s when it clicked for me. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to do that again, for as many readers as possible.

Hundreds of stories and novel fragments and half-baked ideas later, I wrote The Wheelman as a lark, to see if I could write a stripped-down, fast-moving heist novel. I honestly thought it had no chance of selling – I mostly wrote it to entertain myself. It sold in two weeks. Nobody was more stunned than me.

Q: Did you think that it was never going to happen? How do you keep the drive to write alive, especially after a 20-year wait?

DS: I don’t really think I had a choice. The drive refused to go away, no matter what. The funny thing is, I remember saying to my wife at one point, “Look, I may never get published I may end up with 20 novels in my trunk that my grandkids discover someday, and have a good laugh. But that’s okay.” And a month later, swear to God, The Wheelman sold to St. Martin’s. It’s almost as if I had to admit it out loud: I was in it for the long haul.

Q: Your novels are violent, wacky, and fiendishly plotted. What drew you to writing noir/crime fiction, and why?

DS: As a teenager, I read a lot of horror, and during the late 1980s/ early 1990s some of my favorite writers were writing crime and noir, too. The two novels that really turned me on to crime fiction were Joe Lansdale’s Cold in July, an excellent Gold-Medal style thriller (though I had no idea what Gold Medal was at the time) and Robert Ferrigno’s The Horse Latitudes. That led me to Jim Thompson and James M. Cain and David Goodis … and before I knew it, I was living in Noirville, and loving it.

I think the fascination with horror and crime and noir comes from the same place: I’m fascinated by characters experiencing the worst days of their lives. With crime and noir, however, the characters often bring it on themselves.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue