Eryk Pruitt is part of a new generation of Southern-spawned writers that are making a major mark on indie crime/horror fiction. But he’s also diversified his already impressive literary resume by extending his eclectic talents to cinema.
While he has won numerous awards, critical accolades, and appreciative audiences for his work in both fields, Eryk remains your basic, humble guy-you’d-like-to-have-a-beer-with type. This affability and accessibility, at least in his online interactions (and I only knows him virtually speaking) helps sell not only his prodigious output, but himself as a person. He’s just a real cool dude…
Besides being a busy, well-respected author, you’re also a busy, well-respected screenwriter/filmmaker. Can you talk a bit about this aspect of your career from an aspirational standpoint, and how it complements your fiction?
Since I spend so much time alone writing fiction, filmmaking allows me the opportunity to get out of the house and work with very talented people in other disciplines. For example, our latest film GOING DOWN SLOW stars Meredith Snow (Keepsake, Cheat-Proof) and Michael Howard (Where We're Meant to Be), two of the top North Carolina filmmakers in their own right. We had an amazing crew, headed by the brains behind the Frequency webseries, Monique Velasquez as DP and Piper Kessler as sound engineer. I basically spent two full nights and one day in a shallow grave alongside a riverbed with some of the greatest creative minds from my area, and we called it "work." It's a far cry from the normal days of solitude in front of my PC.
You frequently perform live readings of your books, and have a prominent social media presence. Do you see or feel the results of this rigorous self promotion, meaning does it really make a difference between utter obscurity and relative success?
Even if I were guaranteed some semblance of success without promoting my own work, I think I'd still do it anyway. I love my work and the privilege to enjoy making it, so I'm honored to have an audience to talk about it. Sometimes, I'm afraid I may be the only person talking about it, which I'd like to change. But the whole reason I got into this scene was so I could go read my stuff. It's my favorite part about being a writer:reading to an audience.
Why do you think dark stories - whether noir, horror or a hybrid of both - appeal to readers that otherwise pursue safe, comfortable lives in the real world?
I don't believe anyone leaves a safe, comfortable life. At any minute, an armed gunman could barge into the Kroger where we are grocery shopping and shoot up the place. Or our government leaders could escalate rhetoric into a nuclear war. Or we could be bitten by a copperhead while walking the dog. Nobody is "safe." Some folks may want to tap into that darkness as an escape, while others may want to wrap themselves in it. Either way, the darkness is all around us. They can run, but they can't hide.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Okay...(takes a deep breath): Bob Dylan, Daniel Woodrell, Quentin Tarantino, William Gay, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Will Christopher Baer, Cormac McCarthy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Larry Brown, Col. JD Wilkes, Joseph Heller, The Silence of the Lambs, Flannery O'Connor, Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson, Mark Twain, Yacht Rock, Doc Holliday, Truman Capote, Charles Manson, and The Sopranos. I get juiced more by watching bad movies than great ones, and learn more from reading shitty books than those that are well-crafted. I try to learn from the mistakes of others.
What’s next for you?
The short film GOING DOWN SLOW should be ready to screen this summer, so I'll be trying to set up ways to get that in front of as many people as possible. My short fiction collection is being published by Polis Books this October and I couldn't be more excited to get my short stuff in one place. Polis published my latest novel, WHAT WE RECKON, as well as reprinted my first two: DIRTBAGS and HASHTAG. And THE LONG DANCE is an eight-part, true crime podcast that I've produced which details the North Carolina Valentine's murders which took place back in 1971 in Durham, NC. It's done in the style of SERIAL, which features interviews with original and current investigators, family members of the victims, and even the only living suspect himself. That will be available soon on iTunes, Stitcher, and wherever you find great podcasts.
Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey. His short films FOODIE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND have won several awards at film festivals across the US. His short fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, and Great Jones Street, to name a few. In 2015, he was a finalist for the Derringer Award for his short story "Knockout.". His third novel What We Reckon can be found on bookshelves across the country. He is the host of the Noir at the Bar series in Durham. A full list of credits can be found at erykpruitt.com.
PHOTO: ERYK PRUITT