Sometime in 2007 I’d written a story called the Old Mechanic based on stories my mother told me and the first time I met my real grandfather. It got a two page rejection letter. The editors at Talking River Review had been going back and forth. They really liked the story but had a few things they didn’t like. I got pissed and wrote The Penance of Scoot McCutchen.
Sent it back to the same journal. It got accepted. I re-wrote and edited a story called A Coon Hunter’s Noir. Sent it to Hardboiled magazine. It got accepted in 2008. From here, I wrote Trespassing Between Heaven and Hell, Old Testament Wisdom and took a few pieces from a novel I wrote in 2007 that never got published. A Rabbit in the Lettuce Patch and Officer Down. More followed and in toward the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 I wrote Rough Company, Beautiful Even in Death, Hill Clan, Tweakers (another version of Officer Down), The Need, All the Awful, These Old Bones and Flesh Rule.
I was getting a lot of attention. Neil Smith of Plots With Guns told me I needed a novel. I said I have enough stories for a book. He said, short stories don’t sell. But maybe you could connect them. I thought they were connected enough by region. I hadn’t named the book yet and thought, they all take place in southern Indiana. Called the book Crimes in Southern Indiana. I sent the manuscript to DZANC BOOKS. They had a contest for short story manuscripts and if accepted they’d pay you $1000 bucks. They turned CISI down rather quickly.
My good friend Kyle Minor mentioned an agent. I queried her. She said send the manuscript of stories. The agent got back to me in 24 hours. Dug the stories but wanted a novel as well. My novel wasn’t finished. I sent Crimes in Southern Indiana to an agent Neil Smith and Scott Phillips mentioned, it took a while but the agent got back to me. Dug the stories and after reading the first 25,000 words of my manuscript, she signed me.
Not quite a year later I had a two book deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux and I was writing a story called Cold, Hard, Love that made it into Needle: A Magazine of Noir. I also wrote a piece called Luz Verde for the Crime Factory anthology: Nightshift. During the first round of edits with my publisher, I fused Luz Verde and Flesh Rule together, I wanted something that made this connection to the region I was born and raised in like Poachers by Tom Franklin did when I first read it. Only I wanted it to mirror the changing climate, combining the old world that my grandfather knew as a hunter with the newer climate I see exploding in the small towns. Those two stories became one, Crimes in Southern Indiana.