Here's an interview I was privileged to participate in with Laura Roberts for Black Heart Magazine.
The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping: An interview with Les Edgerton
Who are your top 5 favorite authors or influences?
This is a tough one! I have literally dozens and dozens of favorite authors and influences. I’ll try to narrow it down.
- Harry Crews
- Albert Camus
- Elmore Leonard
- Charles Bukowski
- Cormac McCarthy
I used to drink while writing—usually Jack Daniels—and then discovered that that feeling that liquor allowed me to write “better” was a totally false feeling and that the opposite happened. Nowadays, if I have a drink, I know I’m done writing for the day. However, I drink prodigious amounts of coffee all day long. Probably 9-10 cups a day and strong coffee. When I get coffee from a coffee shop, my choice is triple lattés.
What inspired you to write your latest book?
I have to have an idea gestate for many years before I write it. At any time, I have up to ten novel ideas percolating. I know it’s time to write the book when I begin dreaming about it asleep and thinking about it constantly while awake. While I’ve had a couple of books published after The Bitch, that was the last one I wrote and it was based on my prison experiences and that old “what if” question writers continually ask ourselves. The title doesn’t refer to a woman or a female dog—it’s the term we ex-cons use for the federal law, the “three strikes and you’re out” ha-bitch-ual criminal law, where the judge can give you up to life for a third felony conviction. People sometimes don’t realize how a life can be ruined with just one wrong turn made from a place of loyalty, and that’s what happens to Jake. He delivers a favor he owes and things begin to go hinky quickly.
Pirates or ninjas, and why?
Not quite sure what ninjas are—some kind of oriental martial artists, right? Those ten guys all dressed in black who leap around fighting the good guy… one at a time? Kind of dumb, it seems to me, so, I guess… pirates.
Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.
I’ll pass on the advice I gave my son Mike when he became a teenager on how to have a successful life: Never date a girl named after a day of the week, and never play poker with a guy named after a city. Follow those two precepts and you’ll probably have a smooth life. As far as writing advice, I’ll echo Jim Harrison’s advice when he said if one hoped to become a good writer, they “should read the whole of Western literature for the past four hundred years… and if time permits, the same period of Eastern literature. For, if one doesn’t know what passed for good in the past, they won’t know what passes for good now.” Pretty sound advice, methinks…
If you were a cocktail, what would you be called, and what’s the recipe?
Not a cocktail drinker, unless Jack and water is a cocktail and the recipe is in the name.
If you were to pen the screenplay for the next summer blockbuster, what would it be about – and who would you want to see in the starring role?
Actually, I have written the script that would accomplish that—my screenplay adapted from my novel, The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping—it’s available, should some savvy producer want it… and the lead should be Woody Harrelson.
If you were to write an open letter to a famous author (living or dead), who would it be, and what would it say?
It would be to Harry Crews and I’d just ask him to have drinks with me in a bucket o’ blood somewhere and talk about anything he wants to.
Where can we find you on a typical Friday night, and what kind of trouble are you getting into there?
Well, it would be at my desk writing. It’s where I spend virtually every day and every night, seven days a week. My days of getting into trouble are behind me so… nothing to see here, folks—move along…
What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?
Just began a new novel along the lines of The Rapist, featuring the same protagonist. It’s not a sequel—more like a companion novel. It kicks ass because it’ll make readers uncomfortable. Hopefully. I’ve been amazed for a long, long time about the question of God and eternity and mostly at how for millennia, we accept the sketchy and limited idea of what heaven is, in our Western culture. For instance, in all the artist’s pictures and novels and books written, we just keep parroting this really insane physical picture of heaven. It seems to usually be fairly sparsely settled, for just one for instance. Well, if there is a heaven, we’ve had many, many billions of people live and die on earth, so it should be asshole to elbow crowded, right? For instance, if you were sitting there, surrounded by billions and billions of people, there would constantly be dead folks arriving. Over here pops up a dead baby, over there twenty souls killed in a school shooting, over there a military unit wiped out by mortar fire, in your lap two thousand victims of a plague… and so on. There would have to constantly be a population in flux, with recently expired souls popping up all around you. But, that kind of thing never seems to occur to those who describe heaven. Or hell. Same deal. I think our entire vision of what heaven and hell are are really twisted and it’s like no one’s ever challenged any of this stuff. This novel will… I have literally hundreds of questions my protagonist will pursue the answers to like this. I’m really excited about writing it and I fully expect to go stark raving nuts when I finish it.
Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions or music that inspires or helps you to write, and what’s the story behind them?
No to most of those. However, I do use music often. In one of my craft books, I talk about that and give a list of a bunch of my stories where I name the song I had playing while writing them. I think music is a very powerful stimulus and use it often to evoke the tone and mood I want for the story. I write mostly very dark fiction and C&W music—not the modern stuff, but the old-time C&W—can really create a dark mood. It’s mostly about cheating wives and husbands, getting drunk and wrecking your car and dying, and about fighting, fornicating, and fooling people (the Three F’s…) and that’s all the stuff of fiction. Jazz is another great choice. I’ve written countless short stories and at least a couple of novels with Miles Davis’ “Concierto de Ajuarez” cut on his Sketches of Spain album. It’s a fantastic mood creator, at least for me.
What’s your exercise or sport of choice when getting out from behind the desk?
Being a professional writer, I very, very rarely get out from behind the desk. Being in my seventies, the closest I get to sports is watching it on TV. I do often perform wrist curls with cans of Budweiser when I’m done writing for the day. Does that count?
For more from Les, find him on Facebook, Twitter, and check out his blog at lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com.