Thursday, September 20, 2012

HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS BOOK: Chris LaTray



(There might be some bumps here since blogger has a new format)

How I came to Write: "Blood and Sweetgrass: This Rez is Mine" (from Blood & Tacos #3)

I spent the bulk of my junior high and high school years devouring the kind of fiction that drove my English and study hall 
teachers nuts. Everything I could find by Robert E. Howard that had a Frazetta cover on it, for example. I gorged on swords 
& sorcery, then a friend of mine traded me the first 50 or so books in The Destroyer series by Sapir/Murphy that starred
 Remo Williams and Chiun, Master of Sinanju, for some records. I never got around to the more military-based books from 
that "Men's Adventure" genre -- Death Merchant, The Penetrator, The Executioner, etc. -- but I loved those Destroyer books.
 I loved the mythology they created, the action, the covers . . . everything. To this day I can still recite the "I am created…" line 
that Remo dropped in every book.

Thing is, when I started writing seriously a couple years ago, I never really tried writing anything like that. But there's
 no doubt that the scores of thousands of words I've read across all those stories of outrageous adventure informed the stuff
 I actually was cranking out.

Then I heard about Johnny Shaw's bold plan to start editing a quarterly publication that was based exactly on what 
those stories were all about. More than any other announcement I've encountered, Blood & Tacos was the one that 
I felt I had to, somehow, be a part of. I obsessed a little over it. Read the first two issues and realized that, 
"Yes!" he and the writers were pulling it off. So I queried Johnny; he'd heard of me and thought my writing could work, 
and I submitted a story. And now it's out in the wide world, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

"This Rez is Mine" is my take on a hybrid of the 70s movie classic "Billy Jack" and the 2009 movie classic "Black Dynamite." 
My hero is a kickass American Indian named Blood who rescues a young woman -- who calls herself Sweetgrass --
 then goes on to foil a plot hatched by a corrupt local big shot and his accomplices, an outlaw biker gang called 
The Gravemakers. It takes place on the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Reservation in Montana, where I lived for 
several years in the late 90s. Mayhem ensues.

I had an absolute blast writing it, and basically knocked it out in one sitting. I got to pack it full of slices from real
life too. 
For example, The Gravemakers are a pastiche of The Bandidos, who used to roll up and down I-90 all summer long
when I was a kid. Frenchtown Pond, where the opening scene is set, is a real place. I essentially spent my summers there.
It's where I learned to swim. Back in the 70s, before it became a state park, it was much grubbier than it is now . . .
and probably better. And yes, the Bandidos used to occupy the very hill the Gravemakers do in my story, smelling bad,
smoking weed and making the locals nervous.

There is also a scene where Blood buys a six-pack of RC Cola that is part of a series devoted to baseball stars. 
When I was a kid, that year I collected those cans. My friend Mark and I would dig through the trash dumpsters at 
Frenchtown Pond looking for them to stretch our horde beyond what we could afford to drink; I displayed my collection 
on a shelf in my room. 

See, digging up those little details, as well as getting to write outlandish scenes that wouldn't necessarily work anywhere else, 
is what made it so fun. I didn't necessarily plan in advance to use all these little nuggets, they just appeared in my head. 
Blood was originally purchasing Pepsi (kind of a nod at Sherman Alexie's Indian characters) until I remembered the baseball
player cans. Those aren't details necessarily recognizable to anyone but me, but I think they add to the overall vibe of a
character, and that is where it pays off. After all, none of this would work if the characters are lame. I enjoyed the time I
spent with mine, and how they evolved in my mind as I wrote. I look forward to another chance to see what they do next,
the heroes and the villains both. I'm hoping the story makes readers want to see what's next too.

Oh, and the red '64 Ford pickup Blood drives? I drove it in high school. It had a white top, and it wasn't even necessary to 
push in the clutch when you shifted if you didn't want to, provided you could rev the transmission just right. My friends
and I referred to it as "The Power Truck." Dorks.

Buy Blood & Tacos #3: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Tacos-3-ebook/dp/B0094PB3TE

http://www.chrislatray.com
http://www.twitter.com/chrislatray
http://www.facebook.com/chrislatray

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Thanks for hosting Chris.

Chris - I'm glad you were able to find a way to channel those terrific story-memories of yours into your own writing. And I like the idea of adding in those little details that you remember from your own life.

Ron Scheer said...

This sounds irresistible, Chris. Memoir as pulp fiction. I'm guessing Adrian Louis would like it, and I hope you get a fan letter from him.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like fun for the readers as well as the writers. I liked those Destroyer books as well. Remo and Chiun. SUch a pair. and some of those have so much humor in them it is crazy.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comments!

@Margot: I like to try and look for little details in other authors's works to try and guess which ones are nuggets from their lives as well. I'm sure there are tons of them.

@Ron: Memoir as pulp fiction and gratuitous fantasy! Because as kids we all wanted to be superheroes from time to time, right?

@Charles: The humor was classic. That was half the problem with reading them in study hall, because I'd always crack up.