10 Questions with Duane Swierczynski
10 Questions with Duane Swierczynski
Ed here: I'm a big fan of Duane's and this is an excellent interview
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a fanboy when it comes to Duane Swierczynski. I mean, can you really blame me? Philadelphia’s reigning king of pulp is a writing machine, churning out fifteen books since 2002. (And I’m not talking just novels, either. You can’t forget Swierczynski’s two fisted drinking manuals, The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion and The Big Book o’ Beer.) He writes some of the most innovative, off the wall, paranoid thrillers currently being produced—including his latest offering, the third and final book of his Charlie Hardie trilogy, Point & Shoot . Add in all the comic books Swierczynski’s done—including long runs on Iron Fist, Cable, Birds of Prey, Bloodshot, and Judge Dredd—and whatever secret writing projects he has in the hopper, and he probably ranks as one of the busiest crime novelists working. And on top of Duane’s steady diet of words, words, and more words, he’s somehow managed to find the time to teach a class at LitReactor:Like Your Life Depends On It.
What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
A three-page gore-soaked tale about an axe murderer written for my eighth grade teacher—who happened to be a Catholic nun. See, we had this weekly assignment to use 20 spelling words in 20 sentences, so I just wrote a single story using all of the words. Sister Marianne loved it, and I went on to write a dozen more installments. Not sure how I wasn’t expelled (or excommunicated), but that was my first taste of writerly success. I still have those stories, packed away in a plastic container somewhere. God, I hope my kids don’t find them.
When you sold your first piece of writing, how did you celebrate?
When I was 17 I sold a short-short story to a horror convention magazine and made something like $50. I’m sure I squandered it on horror paperbacks (scored at Marlo Books, a much-missed indie bookshop in Northeast Philly), as well as photocopying, envelopes and postage for inflicting more stories on unsuspecting small press editors all over the country. Back then, my needs were simple.
Tell us about your process: Pen, paper, word processor, human blood when the moon is full... how do you write?
I started out in grade school with a pen and pieces of loose leaf or a marble copybook, eventually graduating to a manual typewriter, then an electric typewriter, then a Commodore 64 word processing program, then one of those all-in-one word processors (with floppy disks and a built-in printer, which I thought was pretty hot shit for 1989), and then started writing on a computer in college. Though recently I’ve been tempted to grab a fistful of pens and a stack of legal pads and crank out a novel by hand. I’m blessed with the ability to write anywhere, anytime, pretty much—I have no “special place” or rituals. I just need to focus for a short while until the world fades away. Getting that focus, however, can sometimes be a bitch.
I always start a novel with two Word files: a journal to myself (to record stray plot thoughts, character notes, etc.) and then the actual novel file. The journals would probably be incoherent to anyone else… hell, they’re even incoherent to me after a while. I recently opened up a journal where I was planning a sequel to my first novel, Secret Dead Men, and it was almost gibberish. I have no idea what the hell I was thinking, and that frightens me a bit. Once the novel is well underway, the journal usually falls away, too. It’s like the set of training wheels I need to get started.
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