The Coping with Sanity Interview: Stephen Blackmoore
For the longest time I only new Stephen Blackmoore as a monkey. That picture above was the only public image available of his anywhere on the Internet. When I first asked him to participate in this interview I tried to think back to how long I’ve known him and every time I thought I had the date down, I found a comment on my blog or something else that was dated even early. So let’s just be vague and say I’ve known him for quite a while. We’ve have fiction together in many of the same places and mocked many of the same people though I don’t know that we’ve ever met in person. Damn West Coast kids. So anyway, he’s trying to sell a book, I’m trying to sell a blog. Let’s get to the questions.
You’ve got this new book out, CITY OF THE LOST, which reads like it was written by Raymond Chandler after an alien probe from a zombie loving race of beings. Where the hell did this come from? All of the stories I read of yours were straight up crime and you got yourself a hardman crime agent in Mr. Allan Guthrie. What’s with the zombies?
Little known fact, Chandler was a lover of the alien zombie butt probe. I’m sure I read that somewhere. I think.
Might have been Hammett.
I grew up reading a lot of horror and fantasy fiction and CITY OF THE LOST was actually floating around in my head long before I started putting out crime stories. It had a bunch of false starts. The gist of the story, an urban fantasy where the protagonist is just as nasty as the bad guys, never changed, but I couldn’t get the story to work.
So I put it aside and decided I’d do something without all that additional world-building overhead. That’s when I tried my hand at crime fiction.
But I couldn’t get this story about a thug who comes back from the dead out of my brain. I finally wrote a short story that got published in Spinetingler titled AND THE DEVIL WILL DRAG YOU UNDER, and that didn’t make it go away, either.
So I turned that into CITY OF THE LOST, bounced it around a couple agents and Tartan Ninja Al Guthrie took it on.
And let me say something about Guthrie here. If it wasn’t for his suggestions that book wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it is. The man is phenomenal. Fucker’s got an eagle eye for what makes something work.
So we can agree you’re kind of a genre spaz with work all over the spectrum. I love it. Is there a field you’re still itching to try? Anything you have no desire to write? Did I hear something about a monkey space opera???
I hope to be a genre spaz. I’m not a big believer in genre labels. I understand the need, but as a writer and a reader I like blurred lines.
I’m a big fan of the Joe Lansdale model. Write Fucking Everything. The man does horror, crime, steampunk. I’m not sure there’s a genre he hasn’t written. Maybe romance? Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s tackled that, too.
Some time soon I want to do a straight crime novel, but I think I’ll be poking around the weird stuff for a while. It’s just something that creeps into my writing whether I intend it or not.
I don’t think there’s a genre I flat out don’t want to touch, but romance is pretty close only because I think I’d fuck it up. I’m not as good at character development as I’d like to be, and romance really requires an understanding of that. Anybody who thinks writing romance is easy is an idiot.
Yes, you heard right about a monkey space opera. KHAN OF MARS.
I got asked to contribute to a series of tie-in novels for the Golden Age pulp game SPIRIT OF THE CENTURY by Evil Hat Productions. There’s a character who’s a hyper-intelligent ape named Professor Khan and, well, he ends up on Mars.
This is all part of Evil Hat’s Kickstarter campaign. If the campaign got to $30K, I’d write the novel, the seventh in the series. And, not so shockingly considering the other people involved in this project (Chuck Wendig, C.E. Murphy, Brian Clevinger and Harry Connolly), it hit $30K.
And it’s still going. As of the time of this writing it’s already past $35K and still has a few days left to go.
It’s gotten pretty ridiculous. At this point anyone who has contributed at least $10.00 to the Kickstarter is going to walk away with seven novels by some fantastic writers. And the rewards go up from there.
I was writing for a Los Angeles opinion blog called L.A. Voice, sadly now defunct and kept running into stupid / funny / tragic (sometimes all three) crime stories and nobody seemed to be talking about them.
So I started L.A. Noir (http://la-noir.blogspot.com) about six years ago to talk about it. Some of it’s funny, some of it very much isn’t. I’m always amazed when someone contacts me about something I wrote because no one else has mentioned anything. It’s disturbing and sad how many people fall through the cracks.
I recently spun out my own personal blog on stephenblackmoore.com. I wanted to get LA Noir back to what it was supposed to be about and now have a dedicated place to talk about my writing and other random thoughts.
It’s easy to fall into the “I MUST BLOG TO MARKET MY BOOK!!!1!” trap. And I don’t want to do that. I’ve made some fantastic friends online through blogging and other social media like Twitter. Yes, it’s opened some opportunities and sold a few copies of books, but the bigger rewards have been the people I’ve met.
With Twitter there’s only so much you can do with 140 characters. It’s like being at this enormous cocktail party where you get to bounce from conversation to conversation and get a chance to actually interact with people, but it sucks for having nuanced discussion. You simply run out of room.
A blog gives you that space, if not the immediacy and back and forth interaction you get with Twitter. I think there’s space for both of those.
On the subject of LA, were you born there or move there later? Have you ever dabbled in pornography or screenwriting?
There’s a joke that nobody’s actually from L.A. Seems like that a lot of time. A lot of people here are transplants from someplace else.
I was born here, though my parents moved here in the late Fifties. I like L.A. I don’t think there’s any place else like it. Not saying there’s no place better, just no place like it.
One of the things I love about it is that there’s the myth of the place and its reality. They don’t always sync up. People who’ve never been here think they know it and that it’s nothing but cars and boob jobs. They have an image of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, but they don’t know Koreatown or Fairfax or Echo Park. They’ve never heard of Sleepy Lagoon or The Garden of Allah. There are some fascinating things here that even a lot of the residents don’t know about.
I haven’t tried screenwriting. I’ll probably stick my nose into it at some point, but I’m not sure that’s a level of stress I’m up for. The writing is one thing. The accompanying industry bullshit is something I could do without. Doesn’t mean I won’t, just that it’s going to take a lot for me to be willing to give it a shot.
And porn? Well, in my younger days I was known as Big Jim Slade, but that was another life.
According to most published reports you have a wife. How? What’s being married meant to you as a writer?
I do. I’m not quite sure how it happened, actually. I mean, I know how it happened. Tranquilizer darts and Sodium Pentathol were involved, but the fact that she hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet is kind of surprising.
I’m lucky in that she’s a writer, too. So she gets the brainstorming, the staring off into space, the late nights of tapping away at the keyboard, the endless bottles of scotch, the 3am ranting at the moon while firing a .44 into some hapless cactus.
She’s a peach.
Finally, tell me one thing you’ve never told any other interviewer.
I’m actually a six and a half foot tall robotic, Samoan, transvestite from the future named Big Wahine.
Thanks Stephen. Go buy his book. He lives in LA, his doctor bill for asthma alone has got to be outrageous not even taking into account all of the penicillin I’m sure someone like him requires.