Please welcome Heath Lowrance, author of The Bastard Hand and City Of Heretics (novels), and Dig Ten Graves, short story collection. He has many noir stories published in anthologies and magazines. His latest western Hawthorne short series is also awailable on the Amazon, and he blogs at http://www.psychonoir.blogspot.com/ (a place, worth checking out).
Hi, Heath, can you please introduce yourself?
I think you covered all the basics in your intro, but hello, I’m Heath. You mentioned my newest novel, City Of Heretics, which is just out from Snubnose Press, and I also have a spanking new novella out in the terrific “Fight Card” series called Bluff City Brawler.
What does your typical writing day look like (we have been informed on Facebook, that you had just started a new day job)?
Yeah, a new day job has forced me to modify my writing day a little. Before this, I got up every morning, had a couple cups of coffee, and within an hour got started writing. I’d go, usually, for a few hours every day. Now, though, since my new schedule is a bit erratic, I find myself just writing whenever I can. About an hour or two every day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes late afternoon. That’s the problem with a day job, I guess. You just have to fit it in whenever you can.
When did you find the need and what makes you write in the first place?
I used to wonder what it was, this mad compulsion to write. I used to think it had something to do with wanting to be understood somehow. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize it’s just something you’re born with. Not the talent or drive, but the desire. It’s inexplicable. Sometimes you take great pleasure from writing, other times it’s just… frustrating. But you do it, either way. I feel like I HAVE to write, or else something inside me goes off-kilter and I become very unhappy.
As a writer, do you see yourself as a man with a special mission, or just as a guy, having fun thinking up stories?
It’s funny, I never thought of it as a special mission before, but I guess it is, in a way. Not a Special Mission, with capital letters, but a more modest special mission. Yeah, mostly I just want to tell good stories, but I also feel that the writer has an obligation to be as truthful as he or she can be. Granted, stories are lies—structured, stylized lies—but at their core they should be about the Truth, with a capital T. So my special mission, I suppose, is to tell the Truth, no matter how painful or unpleasant.
You are efortlessly crossing genres from noir/crime to western – where do you feel most comfortable?
Honestly, one doesn’t feel more or less natural than the other. My approach is the same, no matter what genre I’m working in. As a reader, I love several different genres, so I’d feel awful if I was restrained to only one. Westerns, I guess, require a little more research, only because they have to take place within a historical context, but what it always comes down to is characters in some sort of crisis point. And that’s the same across the board, no matter what sort of story it is.
What about your style? Do you have one? How much attention is put into defining how your writing is different from other authors?
It’s hard for a writer to define his own style, isn’t it? I’ve been told that my style is hard-boiled and stripped down and direct. That works for me. I go to great pains to use sparse language, as few words as possible. I don’t use metaphors or similes, generally, or words that would require your average reader to pull out a dictionary. Anything that sounds like “writing” gets tossed. That’s probably why I’m one of the only writers I know who actually ENJOYS editing—it gives me another chance to scalpel out more unneeded words and scenes. I actually went through my answers when I got done with this interview and stripped them all down to essentials. Ha.
What inspires your stories? Real life events, news and TV, or do ideas just pop up in your head?
Ideas come from everywhere. Random thoughts, like you said, that just pop in your head, combined with things on the news or things said by people you know. There’s no one place where ideas grow, unfortunately. A lot of my stories come from imagining a “worst case scenario” sort of thing—like, what’s the absolute most awful thing that could occur in any given situation, and how would this certain kind of character respond to it? Would his/her actions make it worse? Would they win in the end, or would they be doomed? And yeah, usually in my stories, they’re doomed.
How do you use social media to promote your literary work?
I’m afraid I’m not the most efficient guy in the world when it comes to using social media. Whenever I have something new out, I do a few rounds of promotion on Facebook and Twitter, and on my blog as well, linking to the work, struggling to be pithy and interesting. But after that initial round of self-promotion, I’m at a bit of a loss. I count on people who maybe like my work a little to repost or write reviews or what-have-you. I really need to come up with a better model, don’t I?
Do you self-publish or are you commited to the publisher?
I self-published my short story collection, Dig Ten Graves. Everything else has been put out by small publishers. I prefer working with small publishers because (1) they know what they’re doing, generally, and (2) they reach a somewhat larger audience. I’ve been very lucky so far that, with only one exception, the publishers I’ve worked with have all been terrific.
A printed book or an eBook? How important really is the form to you?
It’s the message, not the medium. eBooks, I’ve found, sell brisker, for a variety of reasons. I think I’ll always prefer the feel of an actual paper book in my hands, but lately I’ve read just as much on my Kindle as I have otherwise.
Who are your literary heroes?
I love Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck. In so-called “genre” fiction, I always go back to Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Richard Stark, David Goodis, etc.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Just the standard advice. Write every day. Don’t be lazy. Read a lot. If you don’t do those things, you’re not going to get anywhere. And also, don’t listen to advice from other writers.
Thank you for your time, Heath!
Thanks for having me!