Thursday, January 27, 2022

A Conversation With Eryk Pruitt

 Knowing Eryk Pruitt is a treat. Having him as a friend is the whole goddamn cake. Writer, filmmaker, bartender, business owner, podcaster, and raconteur extraordinaire, Eryk is one of those people I’d buy drinks for just to listen to him tell stories to other people. It’s been a while since he’s been here, a fact that came to mind when I attended the horror-themed Noir at the Bar he held at his bar, Yonder, the week before Halloween. Since then he has some big news, so the timing couldn’t be better, though there’s never a bad time to hear from Eryk.


One Bite at a Time: We talked about doing this interview when I was at Yonder in October. I managed to dick around long enough for us to discuss recent good news: Your novel, Long Winter’s Wake, has been picked up by Thomas and Mercer. How did this come to be?


Eryk Pruitt: Thank you for having me, Dana. It’s always great to talk to you. I had been writing this story for quite a while and my agent, Josh Getzler, told me it was finally ready for submission. We had it in the hands of several different editors just before the Christmas break and things moved crazy fast. When we finally came up for air, I was signing a contract with Thomas & Mercer and I couldn’t be more pleased. Since things shut down for the holidays, we had to sit on the news for a few weeks which was incredibly frustrating. I’m super stoked to be able to talk about it now!


OBAAT: Tell us a little about the story of Long Winter’s Wake.


EP: Long Winter’s Wake tells two stories: one of a detective in the 70s who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the same time he catches a sensational murder case, and has to keep his condition a secret from his family and everyone else. The second storyline deals with his granddaughter who tries to revive her forgotten journalism career by producing a true crime podcast about the unsolved murder investigation that was her grandfather’s last case.


OBAAT: I was never a podcast guy until I listened to the one you put out a few years ago, “The Long Dance.” Did the research and creation of “The Long Dance” have anything to do with Long Winter’s Wake?


EP:  Thank you and yes sir. Previous to working on that podcast, a lot of my stories dealt with the criminal element. However, since I was fortunate enough to be allowed to work so close with law enforcement on an actual unsolved murder investigation, I could use my experiences to tell the story of Long Winter’s Wake.


OBAAT: I enjoyed your short film “Going Down Slow.” What’s going on with your film work lately?


EP: Nothing new, unfortunately. However, I’ve been slowly writing a script based on my first novel Dirtbags which has been a lot of fun. We read a scene at one of Yonder’s Noir at the Bar events where Rob Hart, Todd Robinson, and the inimitable DJ Bost played roles and absolutely killed. The audience responded exactly the way a writer would want them to!!


OBAAT: Your bar in Hillsborough NC, Yonder, has developed a cult following among crime writers, as well as being a favored meeting place for locals. How did you get into the bar business?


EP: I earned degrees in Literature and in History which all but damned me to a life in the service industry. I started bartending in college and have almost always had a gig somewhere, even if it was just to fill in here or there. I’ve worked at great bars and not-so-great bars, and all the time had ideas on what we could do to make it better. I never in a million years dreamed that one day the opportunity would fall into my lap to run my own place (with my wife Lana and co-worker Alexis) and put all these ideas to the test. We’re very lucky to be HQ’ed in a community like Hillsborough, NC, which has been so receptive to what we’re trying to do. The whole COVID thing has been a challenge and a half, but it’s given me a shit ton of stories to tell so there’s that.


OBAAT: With so many irons in the fire, how do you decide what gets priority?


EP: The good news about having a full time gig that pays (Yonder) is that I don’t have to be influenced by money anymore. So I get to follow my heart. I’m currently writing a novel that is taking a while and I have no idea how marketable it will be, but it’s one I’ve wanted to tell for a long, long time. Hopefully I am able to do it justice and Josh is able to find it a home.


OBAAT: Who would you say are your strongest influences?


EP: That is a difficult question, to be honest. There are writers who I love to read, but would not exactly call them an influence. I pre-order everything written by Tana French, Megan Abbott, Daniel Woodrell, and Chris Offutt. I re-read books by Donald Ray Pollock, Lisa Taddeo, and Flannery O’Connor all the time. I’m fortunate to be friends with great writers such as S.A. Cosby, Jordan Harper, and Rob Hart, who for some reason, keep taking my phone calls. However, I would feel weird saying they “influence” me. I guess I would credit that more with who do I read to learn from, or steal from. In that case, I study more from Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard, and Clay Reynolds.


OBAAT: Long Winter’s Wake won’t release until winter of 2023. What do you have going on in the meantime?


EP: I write every day on the WIP then head Yonder at 3 to make some dranks and throw parties.


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