Defining oneself as a “pulp fiction writer” may sound cool, even trendy, but it’s certainly no guarantee of success, even on a moderate scale. It can encompass any number of genres, from horror to noir to sci-fi to Westerns, or a hybrid of all those and more, making it that much difficult to market in a finicky, overstuffed marketplace.
But competition and commercial viability is not really the motivating factor for many writers, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many, with relatively few readers on the other side of the page.
Alec Cizak, who among other things hosts his own radio show (on which I was once an honored guest), is another author I’ve never met in person, but with whom I share certain sensibilities that bond us as creative beings, brothers-in-arms in the battle for sustained literacy in an increasingly word-challenged culture…
As the editor of Pulp Modern, how would define, or redefine, “pulp fiction” in a contemporary context?
Pulp fiction, to me, is any fiction that works to entertain first. If there's thought-provoking material, great. It's basically genre fiction, fiction that people at AWP would be embarrassed to admit they enjoy.
Do you have a particular routine for writing, or you just work when so inspired?
My ideal is to make sure I've written at least 2000 words a day. I wish I could write more, but life gets in the way. When I'm working on a novel, I generally find a peaceful place, such as a local campus library, to hide away each day for three hours or so. If I am not actively writing a rough draft, I spend my writing time revising something I'm currently working on. As for inspiration, there's no telling when it's going to hit, so I carry around a small notebook and pen to write down any ideas I get at unusual times or places.
Do you feel crime authors have a moral responsibility vis a vis their depiction of violence in today’s controversial, contentious climate revolving around that topic?
If crime authors want to offer any sort of realism, they have no choice; things need to get nasty. Crime isn't about being "politically correct." If people want to read a sanitized version of reality, there are plenty of mainstream authors who can give them Mickey Mouse with a cap gun.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
You know, I've answered this question several times and the list pretty much remains the same. One person who always gets left out, and I think it's criminal, is Rod Serling. Watching The Twilight Zone when I was in the 6th grade taught me stories could be entertaining and deliver thoughtful ideas. Sure, Serling could get cheesy, and you should never set out to write a "message" story (good God, I wish mainstream fiction would stop being so transparent about this), but closely observing Serling's approach to storytelling at such a young age made an irreparable impression I think endears my fiction to some and absolutely annoys others. That's all on Mr. Serling. It's time a lot of us writers, both underground like myself, and mainstream (I'm looking at you, Mr. King) acknowledge just how influential Rod Serling was.
What’s next for you?
Well, my first full-fledged novel, Breaking Glass, will be released this summer. Late this year or early next year, ABC Group Documentation will publish a collection of my Weird Fiction short stories called Lake County Incidents. And in summer, 2019, ABC will put out the third book in the unofficial series that started with Down on the Street.
Look forward to finally meeting you when you read at Noir at the Bar Seattle this July 12. Cheers!
Alec Cizak is a writer and filmmaker from Indianapolis. His fiction has appeared in several journals and anthologies. He is also the editor of the fiction journal Pulp Modern.
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PHOTO: ALEC CIZAK