Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Author Speaks: Jordan Krall
There are authors that are capable of juggling so many different styles and coming out of each smelling like roses and there are some authors that just plain suck at it. Elmore Leonard writes westerns and hard crime mysteries, both in a seemingly appropriate voice. He’s even dabbled in merging those two somewhere in between (“The Hot Kid” is a good example of this). For a long time Stephen King has ventured from hard horror into the dramatic and back. Some of the failures, however, would be James Patterson and Michael Crichton (sorry, Mikie, I know you’re flying with angels [or suspended in a cloud of nanobites] but your pirate novel sucked).
When I first read “Piecemeal June” by Jordan Krall, I thought I’d found an author with a truly unique voice. I’d no idea how unique. “Piecemeal June” is a tale that dabbles in a macabre world where a man, living above an adult novelty store, assembles a living, breathing sex doll. The concept, I felt, was a little reaching and the story is definitely in the crags and caverns of bizarro. But, the concept alone was what interested me; the story and the writing are what captured me.
Shortly after, “Squid Pulp Blues” was released by Eraserhead Press. I’m famously pro-novel, anti-novella, so I was elated to see that “Squid Pulp Blues” was a full length collection (3-novellas all set in the same seedy world). Upon examining the cover of the new Jordan Krall book – that sinister looking squid-man holding a gun and trying to pass itself off as Bogie in a Raymond Chandler story – I was salivating at enjoying another horror tale. What I got was a gritty crime tale (ala Elmore Leonard) and I was not in the least disappointed. In fact, I was blown away and thought that this book was infinitely better than “Piecemeal June”.
In “Fistful of Feet”, Jordan tackles the Spaghetti Western genre and, once again, rises to the challenge. His knowledge of the styles he chooses to write in are well learned. Jordan Krall is also an amazing author to read, as you can truly see the evolution of a literary talent. Now, he's working to get "Fistful of Feet" to be the #1 bestselling western of all time!
I’ve spoken to Jordan on a few occasions and there’s always a consistency: Jordan will talk about a wide variety of subjects that are near and dear to him. There aren’t too many authors who can shift gears from Will Smith the “actor” to flying underwear and tie it all into the mythology of the Karate Kid with ease.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Krall this week, in celebration of his “Bizarro Spaghetti Dinner” on April 16th, 2010. Find out more about that here: www.filmynoir.com
Eric Mays: Jordan, I'm going to get to the important questions first and foremost. You seem to have a thing for squid - not just in "Squid Pulp Blues", but also in "Fistful of Feet" and "Piecemeal June". Why squid? Do you enjoy fresh calamari or loathe it? Did you have a childhood experience? Is it part of your sideshow act?
Jordan Krall: I’m not sure where it started. The first appearance of my obsession with squid is in my novella KING SCRATCH which was written before any of my other books but will be published this summer. I actually dislike seafood and have a strong aversion to even the smell of it. But it’s a love/hate thing because I’m fascinated by sea life especially squid and spider crabs. And in a way, I want to like seafood.. if that makes any sense at all.
EM: "Fistful of Feet" pays homage to the Spaghetti Western and Giallo films. What compelled you to write a novel playing by the rules of these genres?
JK: With Fistful of Feet, I played by the rules but I wasn’t too conscious of it. A lot of it just came naturally. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I love movies and those are two of my favorite genres. There’s just something about the Spaghetti Western that’s special. I think part of the reason why I’m attracted to them is because it reminds me of my grandfather. Giallo movies are just so cool, many being sleazy murder mysteries. That’s what a lot of the American slasher movies are missing: a good mystery. But it’s more than just that. Just think of the cool seventies music, the black leather gloves, the razors, the red herrings.
EM: Was it hard incorporating these two together?
JK: Not really because in my mind, those seem so compatible. It also helps that my favorite films from those genres came from the same country and approximate time period. All of those genre devices are already in my head anyway. You don’t even want to know how often I think about killers in black gloves.
EM: Your main character is Calamaro, from New Jersey. Stephen King once said that he pictured his gunslinger, Roland, as Clint Eastwood. Who were you channeling when you designed Calamaro?
JK: I actually didn’t picture him as any real person. I believe that if I did that, I might have him start acting like that actor instead of my own creation. I did pattern some of his personality after various tough-guy characters but it wasn’t a major aspect of my writing Calamaro. He was his own man, so to speak.
EM: I know that you're a bit of a film buff. When most people think of Spaghetti Westerns they gravitate towards early Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone's work. What are some of your favorites within the genre? I'm assuming "Django" is there.
JK: Oh yeah, the Sergio Leone films and “Django” are obvious favorites. Other than that: The Big Gundown, Sabata, the Sartana films, Cut Throats Nine, Death Rides a Horse, and Companeros.
EM: Does the western genre still garner the interest it used to?
JK: No. If you just look at the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Westerns were more popular than vampire novels are now. There were dozens of western shows, hundreds of movies (not even counting the ones coming out of Europe), and novels. Now, there are western movies here and there but not the deluge that appeared decades ago. Personally, I love old westerns. But the last good western was “Open Range” with Kevin Costner. Not as good as Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”, but it was definitely a breath of fresh air.
EM: What are some of your other influential favorite films?
JK: How long do you want this interview to be? (haha!) Let’s see. Other than Spaghetti Westerns and Giallo….Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Lost Highway, scores of Charles Bronson movies but especially Mr. Majestyk, Pulp Fiction, Suspiria, Road to Perdition, Hardcore (with George C. Scott), Rolling Thunder, Blast of Silence, The Asphalt Jungle, Killer’s Kiss, Flaming Creatures, Messiah of Evil, Eraserhead, Hitchcock films, Last Man on Earth, Gleaming the Cube, The Holy Mountain, Videodrome, lots of film noir flicks, films by Andy Milligan, and every single film starring Ginger Rogers.
EM: I’ve heard that you're a fan of "Karate Kid". Which is the best of the movies?
JK: “Karate Kid Part 3”. Don’t scoff. It’s an over-the-top film that is bound to be a cult classic in twenty or thirty years. It pretty much has the same formula as the first but it trumps it by the brilliant performance by Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver, president of Dynatox Industries. Griffith is simply awesome in that role. The dialogue is quotable beyond belief (much of it coming from Griffith’s character). And let’s be clear: there are only THREE Karate Kid movies and they all star Ralph Macchio.
EM: Are you looking forward to the reboot?
JK: In the words of “actor” Will Smith: “Aww, hell no”. Will Smith is pissing on the grave of Pat Morita. What a self-indulgent piece of masturbatory “cinema” it is. Casting your own son as the underdog who triumphs over bullies? Transparent beyond belief, trying to make his son an icon like Daniel Laruso. Give me a break. Don’t destroy a fucking classic in the process of trying to make your son successful. I’ll probably see the movie, though, tomatoes in hand. Of course, I’m not above swallowing my words. If it’s good, I’ll say so. However, it will never compare to the original KK trilogy. (again: note I said TRILOGY).
EM: Getting back to your writing…do you think "Fistful of Feet" will serve one day as a cautionary tale against unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases?
JK: I thought of it more as a “How-To” guide.
EM: You've mentioned before that you're a pretty big fan of Elmore Leonard. I can definitely see some influences of that in both "Squid Pulp Blues" and "Fistful of Feet". So, Elmore the western writer or Elmore the crime hound?
JK: Leonard’s crime fiction is my favorite. His westerns are good but you can tell he’s more comfortable writing about modern scumbags.
EM: “Piecemeal June” felt a little more horror than the last two books you've written. Are you a fan of the horror genre?
JK: Yeah, there was a good chance that I would’ve been a horror novelist if I didn’t decide to indulge my interest in weird/bizarro fiction. Horror has always been the genre I gravitate to ever since I was a kid.
EM: Any plans on returning to the genre of "things bumping (and grinding) in the night"?
JK: Yeah, I’m actually in the process of writing two hardcore horror novellas but they will definitely have a bizarro slant to them.
EM: Boxers or briefs, Jordan? And yes, you're welcome for the non-sequitar.
JK: Briefs. Though for a long time I wore boxers. But before that, briefs. And when I was in fourth grade I had a dream about flying underwear.
EM: In the back of "Fistful of Feet" you reference your wife, your stepdaughter, and your son. It's got to be crazy juggling writing, your day job, and the family life! How do you do it?
JK: It’s difficult and I’m sure I don’t write as much as my peers. Even though I wish to be successful in my writing, I have no intention of neglecting my family in order to do it especially my son who’s only 21 months old. I want to spend as much time with him as I can. That’s my number one priority. Everything else, including writing, comes after.
EM: What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who are caught in the tendrils of everyday life?
JK: Don’t let life overwhelm you… just use some of that craziness for inspiration. Don’t be lazy. Don’t try to romanticize writing and wait for so-called inspiration. Please allow me to give you a real world example of what I mean. I was talking to this aspiring writer a few years ago. He was able to write full time because his girlfriend made a lot of money. Sounds like a great set-up, right? No, because he refused to make himself write everyday. He said he couldn’t push himself and that he needed to wait to be inspired. So what did he do instead? He played video games. That’s a fucking waste. I’d love to not be able to work a day job so I could write. But there it is, a guy like that waiting around for some fucking act of god to make him a good writer. And what is he doing now? Nothing. He’s no further into his writing “career” than he was two years ago. Anyway, getting past that rant, more advice: write whenever you can even if it’s just a fragment of a story. Read a lot and not only in the genre you want to write in. Look at the authors you like to read and find out WHY you like to read them. Then try to mimic some of it. And lastly, don’t just write to entertain yourself. You have to think of the reader, too. I don’t care how much fun you had writing it, if it bores the reader, they’re going to chuck it in the trash and then never buy a book from you again.
EM: What's up next for you? More squid?
JK: Ha, yeah. Squid-spaghetti tacos all around. But as for books...I got KING SCRATCH coming out from Black Rainbows Press. Also, a nonfiction book about movies coming from Bucket O’ Guts Press. And then TENTACLE DEATH TRIP will be published by Eraserhead Press this fall. This book will be fucking awesome. It’s Death Race 2000 meets the Cthulhu mythos … grindhouse style.
EM: I heard that you’re throwing a spaghetti dinner online? What? I’ve heard that this “Bizarro Spaghetti Dinner” is a festival all about you! Isn’t this just the foundation for a cult?
JK: Being a cult leader has always been my dream and what better way to lure people in than with spaghetti? Actually, it was inspired by author Kevin Shamel's similar promotion for his book Rotten Little Animals. Basically it's a day to get the word out on my novel “Fistful of Feet” and celebrate it's Spaghetti Western-ess.
EM: And this “event” is taking place on April 16th, right? What do you want from people on April 16th? Why?
JK: I'd like people to spread the word on “Fistful of Feet”. Tell your friends on Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc. If you haven't bought the book, buy it April 16th so my Amazon ranking can go up. If it does, Amazon will see what a hot book it is and it'll take over. If it takes over, the rest of the bizarro authors will get exposure as well. If you already have Fistful of Feet, consider buying a copy for a friend or for your local library. I appreciate any and all help. I never forget a good deed. The reason why I'm doing this is to not only sell books (which will help pay bills...I'm not a rich man, you know) but also to spread bizarro. The success of one bizarro author can mean success for many others. Thanks to everyone in advance! And thank you for the interview, Eric!
EM: Thanks, Jordan!
Jordan Krall’s books are certainly worth a peek. You may look at one of them and see it priced at around $10, but I’ll tell you to pick them all up. Why? Well, as mentioned, Jordan writes in many different styles AND if you pick up all three you’ll get free shipping on all the books. And, really, what’s better than free?
Next week’s spotlight will shift, slightly, to the horror genre and Mr. David Agranoff. David’s the author of the upcoming horror novel “Hunting the Moon Tribe”. We’ll discuss the true nature of fear, examine Maoist ideals, and try to figure out why everyone is Kung fu fighting. Be back here for the interview on 4/22/2010.
Until then, pick up the books discussed here by using the links below:
“Fistful of Feet”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1933929898/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1RX5JPPD6X629KH44CZJ&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846
“Squid Pulp Blues”: http://www.amazon.com/Squid-Pulp-Blues-Jordan-Krall/dp/1933929685/ref=pd_sim_b_1
”Piecemeal June”: http://www.amazon.com/Piecemeal-June-Jordan-Krall/dp/1933929634/ref=pd_sim_b_1
The KK Trilogy: http://www.amazon.com/Karate-Kid-Collection-Four-Film/dp/B0006OBPTA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1271073631&sr=8-2
If you’re an author that would like to be a part of the Thursday Author Speaks Series, please email email@example.com. To read “Naked Metamorphosis” by Eric Mays, purchase at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Metamorphosis-Eric-Mays/dp/1933929901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271093268&sr=8-1