Welcome to the first episode of VODKA O’CLOCK for the new year! It’s my honor to welcome back a sweet friend, brilliant writer, and one of my personal life gurus, JOSH STALLINGS.
Download on iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.
WRITING THE BOOKS
Josh’s writing career began with ALL THE WILD CHILDREN (a memoir) and the MOSES MAGUIRE trilogy. All four books buried the readers in deep dark crime stories, both real life and fictional. The lives all touched by sex, drugs, guns, and lots of dysfunctional families/relationships.
Trivia: the character Sam’s appearance and her feelings on body image came from a conversation Josh and I had a long time ago.
His latest book YOUNG AMERICANS, while still including sex, drugs, and glittery rock ‘n roll like David Bowie, is a masterpiece of medium-boiled crime fiction that’s suitable for a late teen and older audience. Sam, never call her Samantha, comes from a family of thieves. She formed her crew at a young age. When she’s burned by a lover and needs to pay off his debt, Sam reunites the crew and takes on a few new members. Josh was told he couldn’t write (re: sell) a coming of age story with a heist plot. He challenged that and succeeded.
“To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming of age crime story.” ~Josh Stallings
The three female characters at the heart of Sam’s crew: Sam, Candy, and Valentina are some of the most vibrant and refreshing female characters I’ve read and fell in love with them the same way I did with the women of Sarai Walker’s DIETLAND. The character of Sam feels so much lighter and more in charge (even when in danger) than the sex workers in his Moses Maguire series. PS – Valentina is a phenomenal transwoman of color.
We had a great part of our discussion addressing book cover and poster design. https://www.pinterest.com/theamberlove/cozy-mystery-covers/
Will we ever see Josh’s zombie cozy mysteries or Viking cozies? Maybe someday we’ll get that lucky!
“I really believe that fiction is at heart, the lie we tell so we can get to the truth. And I think that’s what we’re all trying to do no matter what genre it is.” ~Josh Stallings
Josh read his memoir to his father before he died a year ago.
“It’s very hard as a parent to divorce yourself from the fact that you feel responsible, as that is one of your works of art is that child. And so, you take personally what they do, not just personally because you love, but personally because it reflects on you at some level.” ~Josh Stallings
To extent, we even got into the commercialism and making art for a living – covering doing it for love, making only tips, charging people reasonable prices, libraries vs torrents.
When it came to writing YOUNG AMERICANS, it was truly something created because Josh felt the love for the story. It began as a short story in the FEEDING KATE anthology. He thought about the world and asked himself if he could live with it for a whole year to flesh it out to a full novel.
“If tomorrow I was out in a bar and met this story would I say, ‘yeah that’s a one-night story,’ or would I say, ‘now that’s a story I want to get hitched to’?” ~Josh Stallings
He further explained, and is very quotable you’ll hear for this entire episode, about writing what you love not what you think will sell. He continued to see writing like dating:
“I say be yourself because, otherwise you might meet the right person and they won’t recognize you. And I think that’s true about writing. Write what you love because then other readers and writers who like what you like will recognize you.” ~Josh Stallings
Josh discussed the difference in aging out of his Hollywood job as a movie trailer editor where youngins try to yinzplain to him about his job. Whereas, in literature, at his age, he’s shown great respect.
“I don’t know whether I am or am not an asshole, but I know I’m trying to get better every year and I hope that shows up in the writing.” ~Josh Stallings
“They think it’s so punk to steal a book and yet, they’ll give six hundred dollars to Apple for a phone. They aren’t sticking it to the man, they are sticking it to the artist.” ~Josh Stallings credits a commenter on his site for this.