Saturday, February 27, 2016

Six Guns, Noir Fistfights, and Burnout: Eric Beetner Interview

I enjoyed the hell out of working with Eric Beetner on The Year I Died Seven Times that was one of BEAT to a PULP's critical and commercial successes of 2015. Our second collaboration, The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown, was as big of a thrill, taking us back to the 19th century to pick up the trail blazed by Wayne D. Dundee in Stay of Execution and The Retributioners. I begin by asking Eric about making that genre jump.

David Cranmer: Going from crime novels to Westerns, does your approach change in any manner?

Eric Beetner: Aside from the horses, no. I've always seen the vast majority of westerns as crime stories. There are outlaws, law men, guns, violence. I think there is usually a bit more moralizing in traditional westerns, but aside from that most westerns are action pieces.

My experience is more with film westerns over western novels. I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of that area and the ones I've read tend to come from crime writers like Harry Whittington and Elmore Leonard more than classicists like Zane Grey. But in western films, there are some that are only a pair of spurs away from being great noir films. So my approach to the Lawyer books has been the same as I would take to my crime novels. Lead with an exciting story bolstered by strong characters and keep the momentum rolling downhill.

DC: Are you conscious of the reader when you are writing?

EB: I'll say somewhat but not overly. I like to please myself as a reader first and write a book I would want to read. So in that sense, yes. I don't try to write for a specific audience. I never want any outside forces to dictate a story that might make it veer off into being something it doesn't want to be.

DC: You have attended a few Noir at the Bar's. How's that experience?

EB: A few, yes, you could say that. I'm about to enter my fifth year as host of the Los Angeles events and I've read in San Diego, Chicago and Minneapolis. I wish I had a chance to visit all of them. I think the reason they have proliferated in the wake of us stealing the idea from Jedediah Ayres and Scott Phillips in St. Louis (who had stolen it from Peter Rozovsky in Philadelphia before that) is the casual nature of the events and the clubhouse atmosphere they represent. I started the L.A. events as a way to bring the community back together after the loss of a real hub of interaction when the Mystery Book Store closed down. I missed those gatherings of writers where I could meet people, get advice, find new voices. We need that as a community.

Now that there are over a dozen chapters across the country and now even in England, there are multiple hubs for people to gather around and not feel like they are writing alone in a bubble. And with the bookstores continuing to close, this gives writers another place to stop on tour or to read often for the very first time.

Just this weekend I'm hosting writers from Canada, New York, Portland, Detroit and here at home. I love giving writers a place to stop where they know there will be a crowd almost certainly twice the size of what they'll get at a bookstore event.

If airfare was cheaper, I'd be at any event anyone wanted me.

DC: I've heard of the many successes of Noir at the Bar but has any event ever fallen flat, failed to live up to expectations, or come to blows?

EB: They still tell the tales in Minnesota of the Noir at the Bar where a fistfight broke out. Their first one, I believe. We've been drama free in L.A. The worst one I ever put on had to be at Bouchercon in Cleveland. It showed me the importance of the right venue. The bar had no real sound system and the area they put us in was right next to the actual bar where a dozen or two revelers who had no interest in sitting quietly and listening to a bunch of pasty weirdos read crime fiction talked LOUDLY the entire time. That was brutal.

Similarly, the first attempt at a San Diego event ended up in a sports bar that was decidedly NOT the right venue.

DC: Do you enjoy social media?

Enjoy? I wouldn't say I enjoy it. Not for being an author, anyway. It's necessary these days, but I cringe at self promotion and for everyone who tells you it is an essential part of building an author profile, there is another saying it doesn't work in the slightest. I love that I've connected with so many writers who are now friends and I have connected with readers too. As a sales tool, I don't think it's all that effective. But I have very few other tools in my box, so for now it will have to do.

DC: You are a very prolific writer. Ever worry about burnout or the material running thin?

EB: Burnout yes. Ideas running thin - never. Part of why I'm prolific is that I had too many ideas. I could stop conjuring new ideas now and have enough in notebooks and scraps of paper to fuel another ten novels. I have movie ideas, tv show ideas, bad ideas, great ideas.

I worry about keeping up quality, for sure. I don't want to put out substandard material and I trust an editor would tell me so if I tried to pass something half baked. But ideas are never in short supply. So, like it or not, y'all are stuck with me for a while.

DC: You had some big hits (The Year I Died Seven Times and Rumrunners) '15. Besides The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown what's on tap for this year?

EB: Get comfortable, we're gonna be here a while. 2016 is another busy year for me. There is a sequel to Rumrunners called Leadfoot that will be out in the fall. In May that same publisher, 280 Steps, will be reissuing my novel The Devil Doesn't Want Me which means it will finally be in print. It will be my first hardcover too, which is cool. Plus, they're putting out the sequel I wrote years ago but never got released. It's called When The Devil Comes To Call and that will be out in June and then I am at work on completing the trilogy which will be out in 2017.

The gents over at Blasted Heath will be doing an ebook version of my novel Run For The Money which I had previously released as a limited print edition under the title Criminal Economics. There were only 100 of those printed so it's a rarity and it will be nice to have that book out for more people to see. I really like it. It's a bit gonzo and over the top.

The sequel to The Backlist, the novel I co-wrote with Frank Zafiro, will be out later this year too. It's called The Short List and its really fun and pulpy.

I'm the proud creator and editor of an anthology called Unloaded which features crime stories written without any guns. It's meant to highlight the issue of gun violence in America and there is an amazingly impressive list of authors who wanted to be involved and make our little statement for sensible gun control. That's out in April.

And my agent is shopping new books, pitching books to Hollywood, pitching TV shows. Something may break this year, you never know. Either way, I'll be here. Still typing. Still telling stories.


Nigel Bird said...

Good luck with the Western and let's hope something big breaks for you this year. I also think the idea of Unloaded is fantastic. Thanks guys.

David Cranmer said...

Thank you, Nigel.

oscar case said...

I don't see why a lawyer wouldn't be carrying a six-gun in the Old West. Some of 'em probably needed protection for irate losing defendants, etc. Will have to read that one. Great interview, David.

David Cranmer said...

Well this lawyer use to be a member of high society and had no exact need for a six-gun. At least not to the degree he brandishes one in this series. Go ahead and grab it today, Oscar. Free ebook until midnight or so.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Best of luck for the year ahead

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Good interview, David. Like Eric Beetner, I too have thought of westerns as crime stories, and for the same reasons. Although, I have developed a liking for early westerns.

David Cranmer said...

Good to hear from you, Gary. Been a while though I've been following your tweets from time to time since the last time we talked. And the best to you as well, friend. Hope all is going well in the UK.

Prashant, I think its generally accepted these days that the Western morphed into the crime story as the 19th century rolled into the 20th.

Monson said...

Note that Mr. Beetner also has this recent release available: