I’m beyond thrilled to have my friend and very first editor Bryon Quertermous on the blog today. Bryon gave me my first break – accepting a short story I wrote for Demolition Magazine’s “Women of Crime Fiction” issue. That story was X – a title of his own choosing which was much better than my original – and I’ve always been indebted to him for taking a chance on a complete newbie. Now’s my chance to return the favor. Bryon’s debut novel, MURDER BOY, came out last week, and it’s burning up the charts, which isn’t a surprise to any of us who know him. Here’s what I thought about the book:
“Rough and raw and fast and furious and genuinely funny, with a dizzying array of villains and a hefty dose of madcap adventure, Bryon Quertermous’s love letter to the crime fiction genre, MURDER BOY, is an awesome debut from a talented, assured voice. MURDER BOY is a winner.”
As for what I think about Q? He’s a great guy, with a cool family, and a VERY twisted mind. So without further ado, may I present Bryon!
Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?
“Smoking Gun” by Robert Cray. I love this song so much and it NEVER comes up in shuffle. Must be my lucky day today.
Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?
I’ve got some freelance editing projects I’m trying to wrap up so I can put more effort into finishing the second book on my contract (man, that is fun to write) called RIOT LOAD. On the surface the book is about a sperm bank robbery and a writer trying on a new career as a private detective, but at its core it’s about adjusting to fatherhood and dealing with real life after that one big dream in your life comes true. I’m very excited about the book but just last night realized I was attacking it in completely the wrong way and had to go back and rewrite a big chunk of the beginning. Oops.
What’s your latest book about?
It’s called MURDER BOY and it’s about a writer named Dominick Prince, a student in a Detroit creative writing program who has wasted a lot of great opportunities in his life but is determined not to waste his latest opportunity for a chance to live and write in New York City. The only thing standing in his way is his elitist thesis advisor who refuses to sign off on his final project because he thinks crime fiction is beneath a good writer. So, like any normal person would do, Dominick hires a bounty hunter to kidnap the professor and things go very, very wrong. But, as with the other book I mentioned, what it’s really about is my own struggle with writing and wasted opportunities and failure to reach my stated life goals in an appropriate time frame.
Where do you write, and what tools do you use?
I have three little kids and a day job so I write anywhere I can. I like coffee shops and the McDonalds in town, as well as dive diners and book store cafés. My main tool is a laptop and that’s all I really need. I have an awesome little MacBook Air that works like a dream and also has software on it called Freedom that shuts me off from the internet so I can actual get stuff done. Though I do have to put an asterisk on this because I sat on the final draft of MURDER BOY for almost a year absolutely unable to figure out how to end it. But one cold fall day in an Arby’s in suburban Milwaukee, I grabbed a stick pen and a composition notebook and started writing by hand and was finally able to work out the ending. I enjoyed the experience and may try it again if (when) I get stuck again.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I read so fast and so varied that I never really had a favorite book. The first book I really remember speaking to me though was when I read THE OUTSIDERS in junior high. It was such a great book and hit me at just the right time that it really stuck with me.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Lou Berney’s new one THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE. It’s really amazing. I love it because Lou started like me by writing two fun caper style crime novels and I can only hope to eventually write a big book that’s even half as great as this one is. Everyone should go buy it RIGHT NOW.
What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?
Write 1,000 words a day. This seems to be pretty divisive writing advice and I know it won’t work for everyone, but for me, it makes all the difference. I need to be working on the book every day for everything to work right with it. When I start skipping days and only putting in minimal effort is when things start going poorly. Writing 1,000 words is enough to keep the pages piling up at a steady clip but isn’t so taxing mentally as to undercut the effort.
What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?
If I haven’t been writing regularly, I’ll force myself to do my 1k every single day whether the words are good or not, and it usually only takes a day or two to clear the cobwebs. If I have been writing regularly and find the words suddenly go quiet, I read through the book to figure out where I went wrong. Writer’s block, for me at least, is almost always the result of a stupid decision I made somewhere in the book that took it in a direction it had no business going in.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I know I’m supposed to say my family and all of that, and it’s really true I hope I leave a legacy of great kids who change the world and are great people and good citizens. But I can’t shake the desire to be legendary. I want to be remembered as a writer who pushed the genre in a new direction or did something new with an old form.
Bryon Quertermous is the author of the novel MURDER BOY and the forthcoming RIOT LOAD. His short stories have appeared in PLOTS WITH GUNS, THUGLIT, and CRIME FACTORY, among others, and in the anthologies HARDCORE HARDBOILED, THE YEAR’S FINEST CRIME AND MYSTERY STORIES, and UNCAGE ME. He was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger Award from the UK Crime Writers Association. He currently lives outside of Detroit with his wife and kids.
And here's a little more about MURDER BOY, now available wherever books are sold!
Dominick Prince is out of options. He’s lived in Detroit long enough to use his experiences of crime and poverty to fuel his writing, but he’s ready to move on to bigger and better things. Dominick’s thesis advisor, the elitist Parker Farmington, refuses to let Dominick pass his class, thinking the genre of potboilers beneath him. Which means rather than becoming the next literary sensation, Dominick will spend his life asking customers if they’d like fries with that. And if that’s the only plan, kidnapping doesn’t seem like such a bad plan B.
So if Farmington won’t pass him willfully, Dominick will make him do it forcefully. And once he has Farmington’s signature, fame and fortune are within Dominick’s grasp. But while Dominick may have a devious and brilliant mind on the page, in reality he’s more Betty White than Walter White. And before he can write ’the plot thickens,’ Dominick’s plan begins to go horribly wrong. Teaming with Farmington’s jilted mistress and her loose-cannon bounty hunter brother, Dominick finds that if even the best laid plans go awry, then his doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. And being a great writer won't matter much if he's six feet under.