S.W. Lauden — Steve to his many fortunate friends — is one of those good guys that writes badass fiction. It’s kind of like when a serial killer is finally caught, and his neighbors comment on what a nice person he was, or seemed.
Steve really is a nice guy. Most crime and horror writers are. It’s a tightly knit (if cliquish) community, primarily linked via online networking, but often coming together in person at live readings and conventions. Steve is a familiar presence on the scene, whether in his native Los Angeles or on the national circuit.
His work, while hard-edged per genre expectations, is commercially accessible craftsmanship, not crass exploitation. It’s a fine line that not all writers can credibly tread with his degree of confidence.
This delicate balance requires skill, patience, luck, and timing…
This seems to be a boom time for indie crime fiction. Why do you think that is?
There's this Brian Eno quote I really like: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” I see a lot of similarities between the rock world and the crime fiction world. Most rock musicians start out as avid rock fans, and most crime fiction writers start out as avid crime fiction readers. Like four-on-the floor rock and roll, crime fiction seems much more approachable than other literary genres—or at least it does to me. In my mind, that creates an interesting DIY aesthetic that supports and celebrates newcomers the way the punk scene has with new bands. Never mind that it's infinitely harder to write a solid crime novel than it looks, in the same way that it's almost impossible to replicate the perfect simplicity of a band like The Velvet Underground.
In addition to that, there are many more publishing options these days. You've got the major houses, traditional and ebook indie publishers of various sizes, and great resources for self-published authors. It's a perfect storm and it's creating some interesting new voices in crime fiction.
What is the appeal of crime fiction to ordinary, law-abiding readers?
Every one of us has some darkness inside that we spend a lot of time trying to ignore or hide. Reading crime fiction can be a perfectly acceptable release for all those forbidden thoughts and impulses. Violence and depravity is always safer on the page than out on the streets. Or is it? Stay in school, kids!
How significant is social networking in the literary community for today’s indie publisher/author?
Social media can feel like a necessary evil or constant distraction, but it's also one of the easiest ways to connect with readers and writers—especially if you have limited marketing and travel budgets. But there's definitely an art to striking the balance between genuine connections and constant self-promotion. The trick seems to be mastering all of that while still finding time to write and edit. You don't want to chase your publishing dreams only to find out you've become a social media wiz instead. Lord knows I haven't figured it out yet.
What are your influences, literary and otherwise?
Like I hinted up above, music was the first and most important influence on me as a person. Reading blew my mind in similar ways, only it happened a few years later. Music and literature have gone hand in hand for me ever since. Kurt Vonnegut was really the first and will always be at the top of my list. Over the years I've fallen hard for writers like Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler, Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Katherine Dunn and Neal Stephenson. On the crime side, I count Ken Nunn, Don Winslow, Arnaldur Indridason and Jo Nesbo among my main modern influences. And I still love a good rock bio, like The Dirt, My Damage or Trouble Boys.
What’s next for you?
I have short stories in two upcoming anthologies—a Johnny Cash-themed collection called Just To Watch Them Die from Gutter Books, and a charity collection called Killing Malmon from Down & Out Books. And my third Greg Salem punk rock P.I. novel, Hang Time, comes out from Rare Bird Books next January. In between I'll be recording more episodes of "Writer Types," the crime and mystery podcast I co-host with Eric Beetner.
Rock on, Steve!
S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Capers include the Anthony Award-nominated novella, CROSSWISE, and its sequel, CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.
PHOTO: S.W. LAUDEN
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