The Coping With Sanity Interview: Ro Cuzon

I first met Ro Cuzon in the roundabout way we meet people in this day and age. I heard about his books first at Bouchercon this past year in Cleveland when his publisher sponsored a pretty smooth dive bar launch party. We then connected here and there online and I was able to chat with him again at the annual Milwaukee area crimefest Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. So trust me when I say this cat is cool and worth a read and a follow on Twitter.

You’ve got this pair of books out, UNDER THE DIXIE MOON and UNDER THE CARIB SUN that are really kind of sleazy and nasty. Tell me more about where they came from. And what’s this Rogue Reader plastered all over the books?

I don’t know that sleazy and nasty accurately describe my books as much as some of the characters in them, and, to a certain extent, the places where the two stories are set—New Orleans & St.-Barts.

Whether you love Nola or hate it, it is a nasty town on many levels—it’s not nicknamed the Big Sleazy for nothing. St.-Barts is seen as this tropical playground for the rich and famous, but it’s also an unforgiving place that, given the chance, will suck your soul dry—the circles I found myself in were as sleazy and nasty as I’ve ever encountered. I stayed there two years and was very happy when I got an opportunity to move to a different island. New Orleans, on the other hand, is somewhere I hope I never have to leave.

I lived in those two places at pivotal times in my life, which is why I write about them. Of course, they’re both iconic destinations as well, full of very interesting characters, which never hurts your inspiration.

The Rogue Reader is a literary agency-backed digital-publishing venture. It launched last October at Bouchercon and focuses on publishing original, outsider suspense fiction. Working with these guys has been an amazing experience. I get the benefit and flexibility and independence of self-publishing (in that I keep my rights and way more of my royalties), but also all the virtues of traditional publishing—quality editorial and design, the sense of being curated, capital-infused marketing and publicity. They’ll be publishing my third Adel Destin novel sometime this year.

George Pelecanos seems to think you’re the bee’s knees. That’s pretty swell. Have you hit him up to get into TV work yet? Is there any other field you’re itching to try? Anything you have no desire to write?

I met George through Laura Lippman and David Simon, who brought him to the place where I used to bartend one night. it was a bit surreal—three of my favorite authors sitting right on the other side of the bar from me. A month or two later, George was kind enough to look at my stuff.

Working for TV is definitely something I’d like to try my hand at at some point, much more so than the movies, especially given the quality of a lot of TV shows now. George talked about what a great learning experience writing for The Wire and The Pacific was for him, and Jordan Harper also touched upon the subject in your previous interview. I’m a high-school dropout who never took any writing classes, so I think it’d be amazing to collaborate with other writers. I still feel I have a lot to learn. But I already feel like I owe George for all the nice things he said about my writing, so I won’t be asking him to hire me for anything. Now, if he were to come to me…

As for something I have no desire to write, I don’t know. Anything I’m going to work on has to interest me, resonate with me on some personal level, otherwise I simply can’t do it. And a lot of things don’t. But as long as that spark is there, I think I’d be willing to try anything.

We of course “met” online which made hanging out in person at Mayhem in Muskego more cool. Tell me more about your social media habits. Why is it important in these days of tweets and privacy-whoring billionaires to have a presence out there?

I’ll pretty much adapt to any situation, but my default mode is definitely that of an introvert. So social media is a really comfortable way for me to connect with people—will they be readers, other writers, or just plain strangers. It also makes it easier to talk when I finally meet some of them (like in Muskego): we already have some common ground, other things I know we can discuss besides books.

As for promoting my novels and myself on social media, I sometimes see some results reflected in my sales, but most of the time it’s kinda hard to tell. Either way, it can’t hurt to have a presence out there, promotion-wise.

I’ve been on Facebook for a while and my agent recommended I get a Twitter account right before my first novel came out. I’ve kinda become addicted to it. And I have less qualms about promoting myself there, compared to Facebook where I try to limit my ‘friends’ to people I’ve met in person.

One of the books I mentioned before, UNDER THE DIXIE MOON, has a distinct New Orleans bent, were you born there or move there later for the boobs and beads? Your AskMen piece about Mardi Gras makes it seem like you know your shit.

Boobs? Man, I spent the first twenty years of my life in France—they use naked boobs to hawk detergent and toothpaste there. So no.

I moved to Nola (from NYC) for the weather, three months before Katrina. I should have known better, as I have a history of catastrophes following me whenever I move. Earthquake in San Francisco, Category 4 hurricane in the Caribbean, 9/11 in New York. Katrina in New Orleans.

Good news is, the Crescent City is my home now. So don’t worry, I’m not headed your way.

According to most published reports you have a wife and kid. How? What’s being married and being a parent meant to you as a writer?

Not sure how it happened, but I’m glad it did. My wife allowed me to take a break from work so I could finish my first novel—the one that landed me my agent and ultimately made all these other things that are happening possible. Being in a relationship also has a calming effect on me. Left to my own devices—well, let’s just say I don’t make the best choices.

My daughter grounds me even more. On a practical level, being the stay-at-home father of a now three-year-old has forced me to alter my work routine. I wake up at 4:30 am everyday to write before she wakes up. But then I always thought I wrote better first thing in the morning.

Finally, tell me one thing you’ve never told any other interviewer.

Ah, this is my first interview.

Thanks Ro. I think I’m going to go shopping for some French detergent now…