Shawn and I were both included in the same anthology, Fast Women and Neon Nights: Eighties Inspired Neon Noir, edited by author Michael Pool, and we sometimes play together on Facebook, but I’ve never met him in person. I feel like I have, though. He’s such an amiable, accessible presence on social media that I think a lot of people outside his immediate social circles feel the same way.
But he’s also unafraid to confront the dark side of human nature, within and without, which is what makes his fiction so compelling.
It is also conveyed from a uniquely personal perspective. I appreciate that streak of independence, and we even share a couple of influences (Russ Meyer, David Lynch), which speaks to the eclectic nature of his work, too.
So spend a little quality time with Mr. Cosby, certainly one of the Most Interesting Men in the World…
You seem equally comfortable whether writing hardboiled noir or urban fantasy or steampunk sci-fi, though your strong voice maintains a hard edge throughout. Do you naturally gravitate toward or feel most comfortable in any particular genre, or do you consciously try to “stretch”?
I’ve always loved sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk and horror. However, no one ever wanted to buy any of my stories in those genres. It wasn’t until I started focusing on crime and hardboiled noir that I finally received a modicum of attention. It seems to be a more natural fit for my style and I find the subjects that I want to tackle are more fully realized through the prism of Noir. But I've still got the itch to write a Games of Thrones type story set in a proto magical African or Arabian setting.
The short story seems to be your preferred storytelling structure, having been prolifically published in a variety of anthologies and zines. What is it about the more concise format that appeals to you?
When I started writing seriously I didn’t think I had the chops to write a novel. So, I focused on being as good as I could be at short stories. I was always a fan of television shows like The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents so the idea of a stinger at the end of a story always appealed to me. But then one day I had an idea that couldn’t be contained in a short story and it became my first Noir novel. MY DARKEST PRAYER, which is being published by Intrigue Publishing in January 2019. Ironically, I now find the space a novel affords both thematically and narratively allows me to expand on some ideas and lets me test myself as a writer. But I still love writing a short brutal story filled with broken jaws and broken hearts.
Touchy question, but relevant in this seemingly fatally fractured culture: does your identity as a Southern African American (either or both) inform your work, especially in the crime field, where diversity is often a hot button issue, at least per social media?
Being an African-American who was born and raised in the South informs every aspect of my life, but especially my writing. Growing up I didn’t see a lot of authors black or white who were writing about my life experiences. Even great black authors like Chester Himes or Donald Goines, who were masters at weaving tales about the African-American identity, weren’t writing about the people I knew. Poor black people in the South who were doing whatever it took to create a life for themselves. So, I feel it’s my duty to speak to that section of our society while trying my best to write compelling stories that will bring people outside of that demographic into our world and see society through our eyes. But I’m a country boy so there are a lot of fast cars and moonshine in my stories as well. It always strikes me as odd when a conservative white southerner will cry about his heritage being attacked. You don’t own that heritage. People who look like me have a say in what that heritage is. Hopefully my writing is helping shape that conversation.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
Growing up I was a pop culture junkie. I was a voracious connoisseur of horror movies, sci-fi epics, comedies and crime stories. I’ve taken inspiration from Russ Meyer to David Lynch to Carl Franklin. Movies like Logan’s Run and Rivers Edge were on repeat in my VCR when I was a kid. As a writer I’ve always been a fan of Stephen King. I read Salem’s Lot in the fourth grade then couldn’t sleep for two days. I’ve long admired the work of Ed McBain and John D Macdonald. Of course, Elmore Leonard has influenced me and every other crime writer who came after him. But the biggest influence on me as a writer must be Walter Mosley. Not just because he’s an African American writer, but because he has an intrinsic understanding of the dichotomy between urban and rural life. That dichotomy has informed much of my life. His stories are filled with characters I recognize. Sometimes I feel like I grew up with those folks.
What’s next for you?
Well I'm pretty excited about my upcoming book MY DARKEST PRAYER . It's being released by Intrigue Publishing in January. It's a hard boiled rural noirs mystery. I've just finished a second crime novel called BLACKTOP WASTELAND which is currently in the editing phase and in August my short story GRASS BENEATH MY FEET will be published by TOUGH magazine. Lastly in September I'll be attending Bouchecon for the first time. Other than that I'm still in pursuit of the perfect Cuba Libre.
S.A Cosby is a writer born and raised in Southeastern Virginia. His work has been published in numerous anthologies and magazines including THUGLIT, Yellow Mama, Crime Syndicate, Dieselfunk, Steel and Steam, Sound and Fury Shakespeare Goes Punk, Fast Women and Neon Nights, CheapJack Pulp, among many more. His urban fantasy novel Brotherhood of the Blade was published by HCS Publishing in 2014. His story "SLANT-SIX" received an honorable mention in BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2016 edited by John Sanford. His first crime novel MY DARKEST PRAYER will be published by Intrigue Publishing in January 2019. He is a frequent contributor to Jedidiah Ayres crime fiction blog HARDBOILED WONDERLAND and Mid-Atlantic Noir at the Bar events.
S.A. has been everything from a construction worker to a bouncer to a florist. He currently works as a mortuary assistant during the day while writing at night. He resides in Gloucester VA. He is an avid knife and sword collector and has an unhealthy obsession with the work of John Woo.
You can follow him on Twitter @blacklionking73 and on Facebook at S.A. Cosby Author.