Monday, August 29, 2011


How I Came to Write This Story:

Chris La Tray

"Vampires are Pussies"
Noir at the Bar

It's all about being in the right place
at the right time. Last Fall I was
scheduled to be in St. Louis, and
it just happened to coincide with a
Noir at the Bar episode slated to
occur while I was in the vicinity.
So I dropped Jed Ayres a note to see if I could get on the bill. I could hear
the heavy sigh in his return email when he said, "Yeah, I guess. If we can't get
anyone better." Apparently they couldn't, and I was on the flyer.*

Fast forward a couple months and all of us N@B readers were invited to contribute
a story to a print anthology that was being compiled to benefit Subterranean Books,
the shop just down the street from where we'd rocked the house. The idea was to use
the story we had read at our reading, or something else, whatever we wanted.

The story I'd read, "Buster Lee and the Chucklehead Who Wouldn't Stay Down,"
had just come out in Crimefactory's special Kung Fu Factory edition,
so I wanted to do something a little different. So here’s the overwritten
backstory of where my story came from.

I’ve only recently returned to doing any kind of fiction writing.
Two summers ago I’d taken a couple writing workshops, all around the time
I first started reading a lot of crime fiction for the first time.
I was also reading some great crime/espionage graphic novels;
stuff like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal and Incognitoseries,
Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country, and a great little story by Beau Smith
called Cobb: Off the Leash. All of this reading and writing inspired me to
take a shot at Nanowrimo that Fall; I wrote a mess of a novel that I realized
has sort of an Urban Fantasy vibe to it. Since that genre usually makes
my skin crawl.
I shelved it because I wasn't sure I wanted to pursue it any deeper,
nor did I know what kind of market there is for what I was trying to pull off.
It is a superhero story, with the main character being enlisted as the "official"
superhero of the US government. His "hero" name is US Idol, and he hates it.
I’d read one other superhero novel and didn’t like it at all, and wondered
if one could even work.

Then I read Christopher Farnsworth's Blood Oath, a novel where the setting
is kinda/sorta like what I envisioned, about a vampire who is basically
the President's secret weapon (the follow-up, which came out this year,
is actually called The President's Vampire)(coincidentally, I’d only picked the book
up after getting a recommendation from Beau Smith to do so). The book kicked my ass
all over the place, and suddenly my superhero story seemed more viable. It made me
realize that something akin to an urban fantasy didn't have to be painted with the
lover” brush. It could be fun, and gritty, and cool. I’d wanted to take the things
I love in crime and espionage and adventure and horror-type stories and throw them
all in one big hopper, the probe set high to near overflowing, and here was a guy
pulling it off in grand fashion. I was inspired. So I started playing around with
my idea again.

I'd considered serializing the novel online, and still might . . .
but when the opportunity to write a story for N@B came up, I thought I'd take a stab
at something featuring US Idol. I wrote it and submitted it to Jed along
with another, more "typical" crime story. Jed was game to use either one, and
I chose the Idol yarn. It's quite a bit different from the other stories in the collection, but I'm happy with it and grateful to Jed, and Scott Phillips, for not only putting the anthology together but also for letting me participate in N@B. It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully people will survive the other tales in the book sane enough to appreciate my little yarn at the very back of the thing.

* This isn't exactly how this went down. I offered to pay for a slot.
Jed said, "Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks...." and I was in.

Chris has generously offered to provide an e copy of NOIR AT THE BAR to a commenter
who correctly identifies the city where that bar is.

All correct responder's names will be thrown into a hat.

Bio: Chris La Tray is a rocker, a writer, and a wannabe adventurer.
His nonfiction writing has appeared in the Missoula Independent,
Vintage Guitar
magazine, and World Explorer


Ron Scheer said...

Curious how you end up doing well with something that starts out making your skin crawl. There's a lesson in that somewhere.

Charles Gramlich said...

If it affects you it'll probably affect someone else and is good food for writing!

BobWire said...

The city is St. Louis, is it not?

David Barber said...

I second Charles's comment.

Great read, Chris.

Rob Kitchin said...

I think it started in Philly.

Chris said...

Ron, a lot of urban fantasy does make my skin crawl, yes. Granted, I haven't read a lot, but what I have was full of traits that really annoyed me. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be the things I really don't like about TV shows like Buffy (which I've only seen a couple episodes of) and True Blood, which I loathe. Just not my thing, which is why I was a little bummed at myself for having written something that could probably be marketed in that genre.

But, as with any kind of writing, knowing what you DON'T want to do is half the battle.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

My answer is St. Louis and that was an interesting path to publication, Chris. Great job!

Chris said...

Thanks, Sean.

I'd also like to point out that I'm not just offering a copy of Noir at the Bar, but I am also including both of Chris Farnsworth's novels, Blood Oath and The President's Vampire.

pattinase (abbott) said...

NOIRCON started in Phlly but not Noir at the Bar, I don't think. But I should check to be sure.

Chris said...

Noir at the Bar did originate in Philly, but that isn't where this story, or any of the ones in the book, originated.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, I think Rob needs to be included with Sean and Bobwire. Will you draw, Chris?

Chris said...

I certainly can. I'm headed out of town; I'll draw when I return on Thursday, if that's cool. I didn't get to a post about this until late this afternoon/evening.

Chris said...

Sean's the winner of the drawing!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Thanks Chris, and Patti. I am really looking forward to this.