Friday, July 17, 2020

S. W. Lauden, Author of Good Girls Don't

You want to know what kind of guy S.W. Lauden is? He wears a ball cap almost all the time due, I believe, to some follicle desertion issues. One day at Bouchercon a few years ago I noticed him without the hat and spent close to a minute perusing and touching his, making the comment, “I don’t know why you wear a hat all the time. You have a very attractive head,” and he did not punch me in the face. That’s the kind of guy Steve Lauden is.

He’s also wormed his way into becoming one of my favorite writers. He co-edited the essay collection, Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop. His crime fiction novelette, That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist, was released in 2019. The follow up, Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist, dropped last month. His Greg Salem punk rock PI series includes Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. (Holy shit! I didn’t know that. I thought we were friends and now it’s like I don’t even know him. No matter. I’m going to consider Steve Coulter his gig name. I’m old and I don’t like change.)

One Bite at a Time: Hearing you’d written a sequel to That’ll Be the Day was the best news I got that day. What’s up with the Sharp brothers in Good Girls Don’t?
Steve W. Lauden: You’re too kind, Dana. I feel lucky to say that stopping by
your blog has become a bit like playing the same nightclub in a certain city every tour. Something you look forward to in the whirlwind of activity. Thanks for having me back.
In the second book, Jack and Jamie are headed to LA (with their drummer, Chaz) to record a reunion album. The whole elaborate affair’s being funded by Russell Patterson who is both their biggest fan and their worst nightmare. Like any good wannabe music mogul, he’s paying the bills—but exacts his pound of flesh. In this case, he wants the Sharp brothers to steal a famous guitar that’s on display at a Hollywood music store. Things get out of hand pretty fast from there. Bullets fly. Blood spills. Hi-jinx ensue.

OBAAT: No one writes musicians on the borderline of careers better than you. How has your experience as a musician helped you to bring these characters to life in believable and sympathetic ways, even when they may not on the surface seem like sympathetic characters? (No offense with that “borderline career” crack.)
SWL: Ha! “Borderline career” describes every career I’ve ever had, and there have been quite a few. When it comes to writing about musicians, it’s a matter of “write what you know.” I’ve been playing drums in bands on and off since my early teens, and been a huge music fan since before that. Translating my love of music into crime fiction is easy because the music industry has always been filled with egomaniacs, conmen and thieves. There’s a reason “sex, drugs and rock & roll” is in that order—music comes last.

And thanks for saying I create “sympathetic” and “believable” characters. I think that’s something we all have to worry about in a genre where action and violence sometimes overshadow personality (especially on the hardboiled end). As a reader I need to connect with the characters (even if I can’t sympathize), so I think I use that as my own personal guideline.

OBAAT: You still gigging?
SWL: Yes! Not a ton, but I played a few shows with The Brothers Steve in 2019. I’m guessing 2020 is pretty much a wash, but we’ll probably do more shows when bars and nightclubs open back up. I’ve also gotten to record a little lately, which is fun. We should have some new music coming out in the next few months.

OBAAT: I think we can agree you have some fucked up situations and characters in your books, such as Russell Patterson’s “collection” and my personal favorite, the cocaine-dealing pirate impersonators in Crossed Bones. The synopsis for Good Girls Don’t refers to a violent gang of rock & roll memorabilia collectors. Outrageous as these set-ups seem, you not only always pull them off, but they make sense. Do you have some sort of internal governor that keeps things form getting out of hand, or do you let them play out and hope for the best?
SWL: I’m always pleasantly surprised when somebody connects with the over-the-top characters in Crossed Bones. I don’t think that book ever really found its audience—or maybe you’re it! And I agree that those cocaine-dealing pirate impersonators are distant cousins to Russell Patterson in my Power Pop Heist books. I think it boils down to my love of absurdity. That’s a big part of my personal humor and something I’m always on the lookout for in everyday situations. Maybe it’s a social coping mechanism, but I have always found the strangest things funny, especially in mundane or serious situations. It’s honestly something I’m still learning to control in my writing. If anything, I probably start off going over-the-top with some of the cartoonishness and calibrate from there.

OBAAT: No one else comes to mind when I read your stuff. Who do you consider your primary influences as a writer?
Not even legendary producer Bruce Dickinson
ever asked Steve Lauden for more cowbell.
SWL: I think that whatever style or voice I have managed to develop might seem unique (or strange?) in the context of the genre because I never specifically set out to be a crime author. I love crime fiction, but I’m no die-hard genre historian. My love of reading and writing was very much born in literary fiction, the kind of stuff you’d encounter in high school or college literature courses. I often mention Kurt Vonnegut as an all-time favorite, but books that blew my mind were mostly by authors like Umberto Eco, Charles Bukowski, Katherine Dunn, Mikhail Bulgakov, E. Annie Proulx, Neal Stephenson, Jorge Luis Borges, Robin Sloan—stuff like that.

I definitely read my share of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett growing up, but it wasn’t until I got into Norwegian crime fiction that my attention really turned to the crime genre. I also love Don Winslow and Kem Nunn. More recently, I’ve gotten into Attica Locke, Ryan Gattis, Alison Gaylin, Scott Adlerberg, and Marcus Sakey. I’d say that Blake Crouch is my favorite current author, but his last few books are hard to classify. I also read a crazy amount of non-fiction about music, musicians and bands.

OBAAT: What are you working on now?
SWL: I have two standalone novels written. Trying to decide if I’ll shop those to agents and publishers like my other books, or self-publish them like my Power Pop Heists. And I’m working on a couple non-fiction projects, along the lines of the essay collection I co-edited last year, Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation Of Power Pop. Staying busy.

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