I guess a lot of indie writers who also blog play this game where they tag each other in this little questionare about your “Next Big Thing.” I was tagged by Autumn Christian, whose “Next Big Thing” is the novel We Are Wormwood, and whose books are here (and whose novel The Crooked God Machine is excellent, by the way). I don’t think I have anybody to tag, but I would at least like to answer the questions.
So here’s a bit of info (including a rather long story about my personal life) on my fourth novel, which I’m currently working on the second draft of, and which I would guess will be released around three months from now.
1: What is the working title of your book?
The title is Gunslinger, P.I.
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
Okay. I’m going to tell a long story, but there’s a car crash in it so hopefully it’s not too boring.
Let’s jump way back. When I was 17 years old I wanted to be a filmmaker (still do; and am) but I didn’t really know what I was doing and I wanted to teach myself. I wrote a goofy movie about a time-traveling cowboy detective with a talking car. It was about 60 pages long and pretty silly, lighthearted, and family friendly. Something I could watch with my mom and have her say, “That was so good. I’m so proud of you.” In those days, that was one of the big things I thought about with my creative work: What will my family think of the fact that I made this?
Then I was in a car that my friend crashed off a cliff over a bunch of jagged boulders and landed upside down in a frozen over river fifty miles from the nearest hospital. Paramedics had to cut my clothes off because they were freezing to me. They had me on oxygen in the ambulance and they were afraid of my low body temperature. Somehow neither I nor the two other passengers suffered serious injuries.
In the rather religious area where I grew up, everyone told me I had a greater purpose. That God spared me. That there was an angel in the car. Yeah, I don’t buy it either. God didn’t spare the little girl who got hit by a drunk driver that day, and I’m sure she would’ve had a purpose if He had.
But it got me thinking about the idea of fate as well as my own mortality, and the idea that everything in life can happen for a reason as long as you make one up. So I made my brush with mortality have meaning. And a funny thing happened. I stopped giving an effing fuck whether anybody but me liked my writing. I suddenly realized I wasn’t making the kind of movie I would rush out to go see if it came out at the multiplex down the street. I was just making the stupid thing I could watch with my family and get easy praise heaped on me by loved ones. So the second draft, more than double the length, was packed with profanity, full of anger and emotion that would have embarrassed me a few months prior, it attempted to say something, and—most importantly—it was fucking mine.
As far as I’m concerned, the second draft of the screenplay for Gunslinger, P.I. was the first real piece of writing I ever did.
I produced and directed that movie on a few grand I saved up at age 18 and you can see it for free HERE. It’s okay. It’s flawed, because I had no idea what I was doing, but it has its moments. Every year or so, I start wishing I had it to do over again knowing what I know now. I probably never will. But as a book, I can update it a little bit. It’s an important piece to me since in some way I feel it marks my birth as a writer. I’d like to take a crack at cleaning up the ‘young writer’ problems in it, and I’d like to get it out to a few more people, and a novel makes a nice way to do both of those things.
3: What genre does your book come under?
No idea. Humorous thriller/mystery/present-day-western/fantasy with a twist of romantic sci-fi/neo-noir. And also there’s a talking car.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I did make it once. I played Gunslinger. If I had it to do over on a large scale budget… pff… I don’t know. I like that Michael Shannon guy. Fucker’s got serious intensity and makes it look easy. He might be good.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
After getting warped into the twenty-first century by a meteor and falling in love with a talking car, a notorious cowboy-turned-private-eye struggles with a nihilistic worldview as he tries to solve a murder for an Irish mob boss.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published. A big part of why I turned so much focus to novels at this point in my life was the constant approval filmmakers have to seek from distributors and venues in order to make back the money they spend. With a novel, the fact that nobody has to tell me it’s okay is enormously freeing for me.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The original screenplay I sweated over for the better part of a year when I was 17. The first draft of the novel, using the screenplay as a roadmap, took one week. But the first draft needed a lot of work. It’ll be a couple months all-in, I think. It’s been a cake-walk considering I had my own work to use as source material. It was the same thing with One-Night Stan’s. I’ve decided writing a screenplay first and using it for reference to write the novel will probably be what I do from now on. It works wonders for me.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I honestly have no idea. The influences for it were in film, and I remember at the time that Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson were the two guys I wanted to emulate, though I don’t feel it’s too much like anything they’ve done. When the movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came out (an underrated masterpiece, by the way, and I recommend you watch it immediately) I felt like Shane Black did a lot of what I wanted to do except without the more fantastical elements.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See the answer to question #2.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s a pitch black comedy about a cowboy from the past with a talking car for a girlfriend rambling about philosophy as he solves a brutal murder for an Irish gangster who is pretending to be Irish. If that doesn’t sound appealing, there’s probably nothing I can say that’s going to change your mind.