Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interview With The World Famous Rejectionist!!!!!

The Rejectionist, aka Le R, has (so very kindly) agreed to do an interview with the Killer Chicks. How cool is that? If you aren’t following her blog, OMG what are you waiting for?? Join! Join NowRead Often! Le R is hilarious and brilliant and socially conscious and has a huge heart (even though she claims to be quite cranky). Sometimes she runs these fabulous uncontests that allow you to link to your own blog in her comments, which totally makes you cool-by-association for at least that day.

Le R is a self-described “cranky, underpaid, whiskey-swilling, snack-deprived assistant to a Very Important New York Literary Agent” and reminds us not to “fuck with the assistant.”

You have managed to be both anonymous and famous, so you clearly have crazy skills of stealth and coolness. If you were going to commit “The Perfect Crime”, what would it be and how would you do it?

Obviously, I could not reveal the details, but it would involve marine espionage, forged passports, a lot of money, and The Sting-era Paul Newman. Probably I would have to have a cigarette holder and learn how to play poker.

As lady thriller writers, what can we do to elevate the genre from the “easy” woman-as-victim approach to something more, well, elevated?

Well! I think that it is useful to remember that what makes crime and thriller novels compelling is not necessarily THE MOST GROSS DISMEMBERMENT EVER WITH SEXUAL TORTURES OF ALL THE LADIES. I think Henning Mankell (among lots of other people) is a great example of someone who uses the vehicle of the police procedural, for example, to talk about larger cultural issues, certainly including misogyny. We live in such a violence-saturated culture that I think writers often forget that what matters most is not the act of violence but how the people affected respond: in other words, the story. Obviously, bad things happen to women, and there's no reason you shouldn't write about them. For me as a reader, though, what's interesting is not the horror of the crime itself but the way the writer chooses to deal with it. I would argue a little subtlety goes a long way. If you need to add more bodies to make your story more "attention-grabbing," you're doing something wrong. I think if you want to tell a story that's disturbing, ask yourself: Why is this story disturbing? Is its violence gratuitous, or is it telling the reader something important? Do I need to detail every second of someone's sexual trauma in order to convey its horror, or am I just being titillating and creepy? Also, NO MORE ANIMALS IN ORIFICES. I seriously do not want to read that ever again as long as I live.

If all else fails, write snappy heist capers instead.

(If you haven't seen Le R's review of The Lady With The Dragon Tattoo over on Tiger Beatdown, it is not to be missed. Seriously. And boy do I agree about the animals in orifices thing. So say we all.)

What characteristics do you find most compelling in a kick-ass leading lady? How about a kick-ass leading guy?

I tend to like characters who are lovable fuckups or unapologetic masterminds (or both!), regardless of gender. Short fuses, poor decision-making skills, inability to appropriately process emotions, excellent musical references, supreme toughness. Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary is probably one of my favorite lady characters of all time; a close second would be Mattie of True Grit (which is, incidentally, one of the most under-read novels of the twentieth century). For the gentlemen, you can't really top Mikhail Bulgakov's Woland. Or Sherlock Holmes. Or Easy Rawlins. I do have a huge and inexplicable fondness for Philip Marlowe but I think it's because his masculinity is so over-the-top that it completely undermines itself. I'm sure it's no coincidence I love real-life people who are larger than life, complicated, really smart, and kind of crazy.

One day you wake up to find a famous thriller writer (your choice) sitting at your bedside. After he/she has fed you coffee and snacks enough to clear the cobwebs, this person insists you help him/her write The Best Thriller Of All Time (TBTOAT). Do you:

a. Ask Lola Pants and/or Support Staff to kindly escort Famous Author to the door.
b. Tell Famous Author TBTOAT has already been written and he/she can find it under Author Name: ________, Title: _________.
c. Break out the laptop and start with the following brilliant words: __________.
d. Roll over and go back to sleep.


I can't help but picture an extremely scandalous option e.

(Man oh man, I wish I knew what Le R considered "extremely scandalous"!)

As someone who reads a whole lot of query letters, what advice would you give aspiring author friends who are trying to write genre fiction (thriller or otherwise)?

I know this sounds ridiculous, but: relax. Don't try too hard. Do your research, understand the basics, and then stop looking at the internet. Lots of deep breaths. Be yourself (unless "yourself" means "write the query in the first-person voice of a serial killer" or "make a lot of bad sex jokes"). Definitely make sure the query is addressed to an agent (it doesn't even matter if it's the RIGHT agent. Just AN agent. Not DEAR agent).

Do you have a favorite dark fiction author? And who is it – PLEASE TELL US? If so, what is it about his/her style that appeals to you?

If by 'dark fiction' you mean creepy, I am a huge Angela Carter fan. Incest, totally whacked-out versions of fairy tales, dismemberment, scary puppets, circuses, Siberia, winged ladies--you can't go wrong with anything she has ever written. Elizabeth Hand as mentioned above writes some amazingly dark stuff. Anne Rice, obviously. I like gothic excesses in my dark fiction. A lot of crushed velvet never hurts. I am reading The Orange Eats Creeps right now, which is about nineties punk teenage vampires, and is about as dark and mindblowing as it gets. Kind of like if Francesca Lia Block started doing methamphetamine.

Old Alfred Hitchcock himself pays you a visit (even though he’s all dead and stuff). He tells you there are at least three elements that should go into every thriller. They are:

Well, if it was Alfred Hitchcock, they would probably be 1. A lot of boring parts of Deep Symbolism 2. some scary birds 3. sexy ladies that are bad! bad! bad! I would rather ask Jean-Pierre Melville (1. Good outfits 2. tragic outcomes 3. Alain Delon).

(Isn't she fabulous, folks? I'm a Le R FanGirl through and through. Her point of view, stunning prose, and sharp wit keep me checking her blog daily and participating in those brilliant uncontests.)

20 comments:

Jennifer Hillier said...

She is so, so fabulous. I'm also dying to know what her idea of "extremely scandalous" is! She just totally fits in here.

GREAT interview, both of you!

maine character said...

Le R's recent uncontests introduced me to Joann’s site, which brought me here, which is about Le R. It's like the gift that keeps on giving.

So yeah, great questions! I read author interviews practically every day, and these were not only incredibly original and fun, but revealing as well. And your description of her is spot-on.

Samantha Vérant said...

Why am I just finding your blog? Great interview, you two and thanks, Le R. I'm so glad I didn't write my query for my romantic memoir in the voice of serial killer. I totally need a long cigarette holder. I think it would go over well in France. Anyway, your blog rocks.

The Rejectionist said...

You know, SCANDALOUS. Like, NAUGHTY. Thanks for the interview!
xo

JB Lynn said...

Great interview, Joann! And much thanks to The Rejectionist.

Maine -- We're all about the giving here at Killer Chicks. Make sure to stop by on Monday when we announce our contests where we're giving away THREE prizes!

Samantha, I'm thinking a serial killer's romantic memoir would be a best seller....

Jen Daiker said...

This fantastic!!! What fabulous interview!!! Look forward to more awesome here at Killer Chicks!

Joann Swanson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Le R, and thank you again for the awesome interview! You rock. Seriously.

A warm welcome to all our new and existing Killer Friends!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I've seen that impulse that more bodies/sexual sadist killer=more tension impulse in a friend's thriller. Her first book was romantic suspense, and for the second she brought out a psycopath. All the things I loved about the first book just fell by the wayside as the psycho took center stage. That's really not what I like to read.

And BTW, a newer book that reminds me of some of Angela Carter's great stories is Lips Touch 3 Times by Laini Taylor

P.S. Word verification is menoni--is that the new Chef Boyardee line of Soylent Green?

Rick Daley said...

Great interview, thanks for posting it. Le R has a corner office in the coolness market.

My favorite leading lady is Ayla from CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR / Earth's Children series. She's smart, strong, beautiful, and she makes mistakes and learns from them. I also really liked Ali in THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, mostly for the same reasons. Maybe I'm shallow. Or maybe I'm just the type of person that always orders cashew chicken at a Chinese restaurant because I know that I like it. I don't know, I really haven't figured myself out yet.

Jackee said...

Scandalous as in naughty. LOL! Good to know.

Thanks for a great interview, ladies! :o)

Tahereh said...

LE R HAS MY HEART

Racquel Henry said...

Nice Interview! :)

maine character said...

I had to go check out True Grit – didn’t know it was a novel – and thought you Killer Chicks would like this introduction.

Also, it seems the Coen brothers share Le R's uncanny taste – their remake is coming out on Christmas.

Joann Swanson said...

Maine - you ROCK. I had no idea the Coen brothers were remaking True Grit. It looks fantastic (had to stop watching the trailer because they were showing so much, but what did see...yeah, that's going to be awesome). The other link comes up with a blank screen. Would love to see it if you get a chance to repost the URL. Thank you!

GhostFolk.com said...

Okay, Le R, I need to know. Bad sex jokes. Are these badly done jokes about sex, or nicely done jokes about bad sex? I'm good at both, bad sex and bad jokes.

maine character said...

Hi Joann - the link works for me, but here it is:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5445836

There's also an excerpt there, so you can get a bit of Mattie's voice.

RaShelle said...

Great interview! Thanks for the tips. I'll remember to breathe and I'm going to check out a couple of these books. =D

Brian Wright said...

Great interview!

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