Conversations with the Bookless: Jay Stringer

You can read the full introduction to the series here. In short The Conversations with the Bookless series is designed to raise the profile of and increase the exposure of some of the emerging writers we knew were out there.

In this installment we talk to Jay Stringer

After the jump check out the full interview.

Which member of the Do Some Damage crew is most likely to have a secret teddy bear collection?

Tricky one. Russel has a Teddy Bear collection that’s not secret, but IS very funny. He has three, in pink pyjamas, called Mel, Muffy and Mushroom. Mike Knowles is probably the one people would least suspect. He looks like a scary crime writer, but he had a room full of teddy bears.

Where are you, right now, as you’re writing these answers?

I’m on the toi…..I’m in my living room, on the sofa that more often than not is also my writing desk.

Who are your influences and what is your unlikeliest influence?

Funny thing is that most of my real writing influences are not novelists. Alan Moore and Frank Miller were very big for me, they pretty much taught me to read and that still hangs over the way I write. Miller dropped away at some point, but I still draw a lot of inspiration from Moore. Then it’s songwriters, Tom Waits, Paul Westerberg, Bruce Springsteen. These guys can tell a story with one rhyme, which is amazing. I’m also in awe of certain scriptwriters, such as Chris McQuarrie, or scripts like Raiders Of The Lost Ark which is a great lesson in ‘show don’t tell’ and structure. All of this probably gives away my age, too!

For novelists I love the works of Jim Dodge and Cormac McCarthy, but I don’t think they influence the way I write so much as all the above guys do. As for crime there’s the obvious ones; Hammett, Chandler, Block, Sallis, etc. I’m quite a recent convert to Pelecanos, and I admire writers like Scott Phillips, Allan Guthrie and Ray Banks. Guthrie has been a huge help to me, he’s the shining ninja knight in tartan armour.

Why do you write?

I guess the only way to answer this quickly is to say I write because there’s things I want to read that haven’t been written yet. There’s also an element of performing, i think; my singing sucks and I was a terrible stand up comedian, but I can sit and write and let the readers do the rest. Those are all very worthy ways of hiding the fact that i’m just better at writing than I am at doing an honest job!

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

I’ve been obsessed with voice lately, trying to figure out what exactly ‘voice’ is and where it comes from, I still don’t have an answer. And I’m always obsessed with ‘show don’t tell.’ Maybe too much, I don’t know, but I don’t like to read books where the authors overwrite, and I try to strip out as much exposition and direction as I can from my own work. I think a gold standard for all of that at the moment is John McFetridge, he has a very easy and natural voice to his books.

Looking at the bigger picture, I’ve always been a hold out against e-readers and all that, but I’m finding myself getting more and more interested in it. I want to be there.

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

Not really sure I can answer, it’s just something I’ve always done. Not always very well!

I do remember being about 5 years old at junior school, when the teacher asked the class what we all wanted to be when we grew up (why do they always ask that? We’re kids!) and I said I wanted to be a “bookmaker,” the teacher laughed but didn’t explain the joke to me. My grandad was part gypsy and one of the last great campfire story tellers, but I never managed to replicate that. I’m probably just ripping off ideas he gave me when I was a kid and putting them down on paper.

What do you most value in the fiction you love?

Simplicity. Economy. I like it when writers know not to put too many words on the page, and to get out of the way of the story. Thing is, if you do that the right way, you can tell some very complex stories. I think a good example from a different field is The Dark Knight; I showed it to someone for the first time recently and in the first hour he said “but this is all too basic and simple,” then the film builds layers on that foundation and he turned to me in the last hour and said “wow, this is powerful stuff.”

And laughter, I need a little laughter. Even if its very sick laughter.

How would you describe your style?

I cheated a little and asked the DSD crew to tell me what my style is. Steve Weddle says I write “straight forward prose with an urban feel.” I like that. I aim for something along the lines of ‘social pulp fiction.’

Where can readers check out some of your work?

I blog every Tuesday over at DoSomeDamage, where I’m lucky to be surrounded by fantastic writers. I’ve got my own website where I get more political or talk about sport and sandwiches at jaystringer.com. For my fiction I’ve had shorts appear in a few places, The Hard Sell and The Goldfish Heist . I have a story in an upcoming issue of Crime Factory.

What are you working on now?

There is a DSD anthology in the works, which will be coming to Kindles and e-readers near to you soon. I have a planned series of four books, they feature a gangland detective based in the midlands in Britain and i just turned in a draft of the second book. They scratch a few itches of mine, it has the gun-culture and gang wars that bubble away under the surface where I grew up, it has a character with gypsy roots, and over the course of the books the story moves up from street level dealings to the guys in power. That’s where most of my focus is right now.

How do you plan to rectify your booklessness?

I have a great agent, Stacia Decker at the Donald Maass agency. She’s a really good editor, too, so I know my work is in safe hands. While we work on finding the right place for the novels, all I can do is keep going, keep publishing shorts, doing DSD and hopefully getting my name out there.

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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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About 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.

One Reply to “Conversations with the Bookless: Jay Stringer”

  1. I especially liked Jay’s comments on voice. I have that struggle also, along with the inability to describe my writing style, if I have one.