Both his books were 5 STAR reads for me and are highly recommended.
Is the book writing full time? If not, what’s the day job and can you give us a quick biography of yourself?
Writing is actually, for the first time, full-time for me at the moment. Whether or not that remains true depends on how some projects unfold over the coming months, including the sale of my novel Porno Valley, out August 24, so, everybody reading this—please buy my book and keep me far away from minimum-wage retail!
*I’m about to read your latest offering – Porno Valley. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less? (* All finished!)
In Los Angeles during years 1998-2000 three plot lines intersect to deadly consequence: A 78-year-old PI investigates the disappearance of a porn star in his final case, a young Compton woman turns to selling drugs to make ends meet, and two increasingly-desperate junkie newlyweds return to LA in search of the perfect score.
I absolutely loved your debut, Nobody Move. Are the two books linked in anyway? I've seen them bagged as Angel City #1 and #2.
Thank you so much! They are linked in that they are set in the same universe and share a single character, twenty years apart.
Do you have a favourite out of the pair? Which one would you press into the hands of a new reader?
Porno Valley is definitely more special to me. Nobody Move was the novel I cut my teeth on; with Porno Valley I was exploring my voice. In some ways, Porno Valley is intentionally almost an anti-Nobody Move in that I tried to play with every expectation a reader of Nobody Move might have coming into Porno Valley. While Nobody Move was plot-focused and tightly written, Porno Valley is more concerned with character and the plot intentionally wanders around a bit, and it's a lot longer. Nobody Move was a comedy-thriller, Porno Valley is more of a dark mystery novel that slowly morphs into something else. As a friend and great writer Tex Gresham said, "rather than a whodunnit, Porno Valley is a why- or howdunnit."
Can you remember what your first published piece was and when?
Amazingly, I cannot! Clearly, I am not sentimental. However, I remember the first piece published that made me feel like I was finally getting a hold of this "writing fiction" concept and gave me the confidence to keep learning. That piece is titled "Inpatient" and was published in Ghost Parachute in 2017 and you can read it right here.
Do you have a typical writing schedule?
I write 7 days per week, from about 9 a.m. until 5 or 6. I often have to then do other work after that but if I don't, I might write for longer. If I'm not writing on a given day, it's because I'm researching for a writing project or editing one.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
Oh god, no. Not intentionally, at least!
When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like?
I do! I always write with the ending in mind. Not exactly intentionally, but the ending always presents itself to me before I touch pen to paper. It's a good thing, though, as I believe that writing with the ending in mind creates a stronger story as everything is pushing naturally toward that ending. It certainly makes revising easier. In my experience, outlining is a massively powerful tool. Especially when writing a screenplay, for which structure is king, but for all projects, too. An outline need not be super specific to be helpful, and may even benefit from a little wiggle room as long as the main plot points are known, but writing without one is always a shot in the dark.
Are there any subjects off limits?
I wouldn't say there are, exactly, but there are certainly topics I do not feel qualified to write about. I go where my interests take me. By the time I'm writing anything I've accumulated a natural passion for the topic and some knowledge to get me started. The research process is vital to every project as well.
How long from conception to completion did Porno Valley take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
It took a long time, actually, about two years, because I was interrupted by several major life problems along the way, including moving twice and one of those times across the entire country of Canada, and also because for most of that period I was working several jobs. It was to complete also because it was a complicated story to write in that it contains three plotlines which are each one year apart, and each follow a different protagonist. These plotlines slowly come together by the end of the story and so each plotline slowly provides information about the other two, which means that the placement of scenes was absolutely crucial to the formation of the story. Finding the right order in which to place scenes while trying to avoid plot holes or otherwise becoming tripped up was actually quite a nightmarish process during early drafts. At one point I almost gave up!
Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?
Porno Valley is unique for me as it's about as close to what I envisioned as I could have realistically hoped. I find that, as writers, we never quite achieve the vision we have in mind for a story (if we did we'd never need to write another), so getting close to what I envisioned with this one is a nice feeling. I'm happy with how it turned out.
What’s the current project in progress?
I am currently writing a feature-film screenplay adaptation of Porno Valley. I can't say much about it at the moment but I hope I get to see a film of it one day.
What’s the best thing about writing?
The best thing about writing is that all you need is a pen and paper and you can make anything happen.
How damn slow it is. Like watching paint dry. While battling relentless self-doubt. For no money most of the time.
What is the last book you read?
Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood... novelization. I wasn't really into it. Sorry, Quentin!
Who do you read and enjoy?
My favorite writer is probably Denis Johnson. Elmore Leonard is an icon to me. Jim Thompson is my favorite writer of dark hardboiled stuff—his black humor and writing are sublime and perfect. Fellow up-and-comers I love to read are Niall Howell, Mike Thorn, Randy Nikkel Schroeder, Tex Gresham, Scott Semegran.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
There are many! If I had to choose one, though, it would be Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280. An astonishingly brilliant, hilarious, dark-as-hell, noir-to-the-bone satirical masterpiece.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
Listening to music. I am virtually never not listening to music. Mostly rock 'n' roll and punk rock.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
I watched Pumpkinhead last night, one of those insane '80s horrors that goes full throttle from beginning to end, with some masterful practical SXF (I miss practical effects!). I have a special love for horror movies. I find them to be the perfect escapism.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Elliott household?
I was a TV addict back when I had time for actually enjoying things! My all-time favorite show is Breaking Bad, which, like ancient Greek tragedy, I believe represents a pinnacle of artistic achievement.
What’s your favourite vegetable?
Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?
More times than I can remember. I was pretty wild before I married my wife. I'm sober now, though! Two years in October.
Do you have any tattoos?
I have many! I don't actually know the number without trying to figure it out. Two are related to literature: "NOIR" tattooed on the knuckles of my left hand, and on my right tricep is the logo for the concept for "ka" within the universe of Stephen King's books (I think that logo may even have been designed by King himself).
Do you have any irrational fears?
Dinner parties! Especially now that I'm sober. (If I was any more introverted, I'd be inside myself.)