Conversations with the Bookless: Frank Bill

April 20, 2009
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Frank Bill is doing some interesting things with his writing. It’s confrontational but also stylistically challenging. Reading one his stories is like being in a boxing match; there is a flurry of lightening quick jabs and before you know it the bell has rung, the round is over and you have some busted up ribs.

Anthony Neil Smith recently said:

Frank Bill is a brutal writer. The stories slap you hard in the face with his unique voice. I like that the writing feels broken, a bit ugly, because it’s the best vehicle for what’s going on in them. His style is still developing, but you can’t deny the power of the story. When he’s writing at full goddamned strength, wow, it will be a sight to behold.

And editor Elaine Ash:

His style is defined by direct, sharp, staccato sentences, and I think of him as the Ornette Coleman of the crime short. When Ornette first played horn in the 1950s, he was considered highly controversial with his cascade of bleeps, blats and squawks. Some critics dismissed him as a music illiterate. But jazz musicians and free thinkers recognized something very special in Ornette, and they were eventually proven correct by his exemplary career. Like Ornette, Frank Bill has a rhythm all his own, with a sentence structure that takes deliberate grammatical “license” to create a cadence in his prose.

Who are your influences and what is your most unlikeliest influence?

Influences: Larry Brown, William Gay, Jason Starr, Chuck Palahniuk, Andrew Vachss, Ron Rash, Eddie Little, Craig Clevenger, Tom Franklin, Daniel Woodrell, James Sallis and a lot more.

My most unlikeliest influence would be music and family. I never thought I could take elements of my history, upbringing and region, make it interesting. But I have and music is sometimes a soundtrack to those influences.

What do you most value in the fiction you love?

The craft of word play. I like the flow and rhythm of a tight descriptive sentence that appears effortless on the page but you know it took a lot of wasted paper to get that damn good.

What issues or ideas about fiction have been foremost in your mind of late?

That books are being read less and less. That they’ll be replaced by the Kindle. People will always read books. The Kindle could be a good thing, for me I enjoy collecting, holding and reading books.

What is the value and purpose of short fiction in mystery/crime fiction for you personally and overall for the form and genre?

The value and purpose is to discover new writers. It’s where the storyteller begins so he or she can learn their craft while building a readership. For me personally, short fiction is an outlet to create a new form of storytelling for the genre.

Who is the best short story writer that people haven’t gotten hip to yet?

Donald Ray Pollock, Kyle Minor or Neil Smith. Granted they’ve all published books but they are a new breed of writer. Really up in your face styles that demand to be heard. Some other up and comers, Greg Bardsley, Anonymous 9 and Keith Rawson, keep an eye on them.

What do you like most about short fiction?

Sentences that double the reader over and make them want more.

When did you start writing short fiction and what prompted you to do so?

Sometime around 1998 I began writing. My first short was written in 2004. I spent an entire 24 hour period on the story, my whole day off. I started writing shorts cause I kept failing at the novel. Couldn’t finish one.

Of your stories, which is your favorite; the one that showcases best your abilities?

Probably one of my newer stories that have not hit yet, either Flesh Rule or All the Awful.

Do you have any short story publications forthcoming?

In April the first Double Bill over at Beat to a Pulp will publish two of my shorts(The Need and Tweakers) back to back. In August Flesh Rule should be in Plots With Guns, Pulp Pusher will publish the second story of the Hill Clan Trilogy (These Old Bones) sometime this year. Hardboiled and Talking River Review, each are print journals, should be putting stories of mine out sometime this year as well and All the Awful (the third short in the Hill Clan Trilogy) is doing the rounds as of this writing.

How do you plan to rectify your booklessness?

I’ll keep writing for the e-zines. Plots With Guns is my home. But also I’m trying my luck once again with the paper market and making small contacts here and there. Later this year, after I finish my novel I’ll be sending out my query letter. Other than that I’ve made some great friends who’ve become some of my biggest supporters and I appreciate them, they’re like a second family.

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Frank Bill blogs at Frank Bill’s House of Grit

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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