Two special guests, Staci Layne Wilson and Darren Gordon Smith are here today talking about their collection, Sex Death Rock N Roll: Short Stories.
Staci Layne Wilson – is a screenwriter (Fembot, The Lincoln, 3AM in Hollywood), film director (Fetish Factory, Good Family Times), novelist, entertainment journalist, and a lifelong fan of guitar-driven rock music.
Darren Gordon Smith – is the writer & screenwriter, composer and co-creator of Repo! The Genetic Opera, an off-Broadway production and Lions Gate film; musician, author of Blurt: Verses & Curses, and a huge fan of many types of music, including classic and modern rock.
Welcome Staci & Darren. Please tell us about your current release.
SLW: Our back cover pretty much says it all… “Go behind the music and down the rabbit hole with five bizarre, outlandish, dark, droll, and just plain sacrilegious stories” – but something I can add is that Sex Death Rock N Roll was written by fans of classic rock for fans of the same. It’s very irreverent, so some sensitive readers might be offended – I mean, in one of my stories (Depraved Indifference) I describe several real-life musicians’ suicides in detail. But I don’t believe in pulling punches; when I tell a strong story, I go for it. Even if you don’t know Jim Morrison from Jim Bakker, I think you’ll still get a kick out of the book – the characters are multidimensional; it’s not just about them being musicians.
DGS: And, even if you don’t know your Jimi Hendrix from your jimmy, you’ll still get a kick out of Sex Death Rock N Roll. Our book is different from many other such sendups in that our characters include not only musicians, but also alcoholic rock critics, co-dependent families of rock’s royalty, and the inner lives of guitars. Though my story contributions to SDR&R are products of my imagination and my particular brand of mental “health”, they are also inspired by my real life experiences as a musician and composer.
What inspired you to write this book?
SLW: I started off with Depraved Indifference, and was just going to submit that as a novel to boutique book houses. But it was more of a novelette – that’s a nearly impossible length to sell to publishers. They either want short stories, novellas, or novels. But the story dictated its own word count and the tale unfolds and wraps up in its perfect time, so thanks to the ease of the internet and e-reading devices, I decided I’d roll it over into an anthology. As it turned out, one of my best friends, Darren, was on a short story binge of his own, so I asked him if he’d like to combine forces.
DGS: Yes, I was on a short story binge. And still am, too. But what really inspired me to want to contribute to SDR&R was reading SLW’s Depraved Indifference. I like music, writing, and SLW, so, when she asked me to be part of this anthology, I would have said yes anyway. But reading her story, with all its dark twists and turns, compelled me to get on board with the project.
What exciting project are you working on next?
SLW: Darren and I will next be working on a screenplay together, for a greenlit film I’m directing in 2016. It’s… you guessed it: on a rock n roll theme! As for the written word, my next is coming out at the end of summer, and it is a nonfiction e-book called The Movie That Changed My Life. It’s a collection of true accounts written by people from all walks, discussing a film that especially impacted them (positive, negative – or simply in some indelible way).
DGS: I’m looking forward to working with SLW on the new rock n roll themed movie. I am currently keeping my proverbial nose to the proverbial grindstone to complete Seward’s Fall, a collection of short stories loosely set in the fictional town of Seward. That book, which will be released in August 2015, includes stories about senior citizen terrorist groups, the unforeseen consequences of three-way sex, a director who wants to film his own assassination, parents who are trying to kick their 30 year old son out of the house, and a young man who takes dating advice from his dead mom’s post-mortem emails.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
SLW: I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. My mother, Nancy Bacon, was a working novelist and magazine editor throughout my entire childhood, and it just felt very natural to me. I began making my own “chapbooks” with typing paper and staples when I was five or six years old, fully illustrated, and I had my first article published in a national magazine at 12. My novels have run the gamut from YA to horror, but my favorite genres to write are psychological suspense and dark humor.
DGS: I too have been a writer – and a songwriter – since childhood. My adventures (and sometimes misadventures!) into other creative media like photography and acting, have all been grist for my fiction writing mill.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
SLW: Yes, I write full time. In addition to screenplays, I also blog for several websites – mainly movie reviews and pop culture editorials. I haven’t had to punch a time clock in over 15 years, and I love the freelance life. Although I do work harder, and many more hours than my former office-drone self, I have never looked back and never been happier. Fortunately, I’m extremely disciplined and I’ve never missed a deadline. Aside from writing, I direct films, shorts and music videos – it’s a very creative, and collaborative, process quite unlike writing… but I enjoy it nearly as much.
DGS: I write creatively least three hours per day. On good days – i.e., days when I have a creative spark and I don’t have any other adult responsibilities (bills! Phone calls! Parenthood!) – I write all day. I also write every day, more or less non-creatively, as an attorney. Of course, I use the terms “creative” and “non-creative” loosely, since all of us are creative, if only to the extent that all of us – with the possible exception of Russell Crowe – form our own words and sentences. (I’m kidding about Mr. Crowe – no phone throwing, please.)
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
SLW: I usually manage to work in the famous “27 Club” into everything I write… I find it a fascinating phenomenon.
DGS: As a variation on SLW’s quirk, I think I’ll try to work in Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” into everything I write from now on. Among my long-standing quirks might be the inclusion of the fictional rock star Rhys Weedham (my pre-Russell Brandian English alter-ego) into a half-dozen stories or songs.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SLW: A writer, always. And a horse-trainer (which I was, for quite a long time).
DGS: When I was in kindergarten our assignment was to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. One kid, without any explanation, drew a picture of a lightbulb. (Hey, kid, if you’re out there, I hope you achieved lightbulb-hood when you grew up.) For my part, I colored my best drawing of Mr. Steed from The Avengers, because my professional ambition at that time was to become a secret agent. Over the years, I wanted to be a U.S. Senator, a professional trumpeter and a guitar hero (the real kind: I didn’t want to be a video game sensation of the early 2000s). I guess I’m a Walter Mitty-ish kind of guy. The great thing about writing is that I can live vicariously through all the characters I create. I can be an alcoholic music critic, an actor who blows his head off on stage, a blackmailed lawyer, or a human pet to a bunch of grouchy aliens (all stories I’ve written) and enjoy every last mortal minute of it.
Thank you for the interview, today!