A Conversation With Quertermous
What follows is a snapshot of the typical conversations Bryon Quertermous and I have just about once a week. They are an ever-shifting, topic hopping nightmare to translate, but damn are they something I’ve grown quite fond of. In the spirit of Bryon’s June 14, 2016, release of RIOT LOAD, Bryon and I thought it would be mildly amusing to give the public a look inside our strange communications.
Oddly enough, what started out as an idea of me interviewing Bryon about the upcoming book, then turned into Bryon interviewing me. Bad Bryon! That guy never could stick to a plan. Anyway, here goes:
Bryon: Kate did the official review of Riot Load, but you also read it. As someone who is friends with a lot of the folks you review, do you like being able to do casual friendly reviews or do you wish you want to be able to point out when someone you like does something you don’t like in a book?
Dan: This is actually easier to deal with than you would think it would be at first glance. Crimespree has a policy of only reviewing books we liked. Focusing on the positive. There’s too much negative in the world anyway. And like the saying goes, “Life is too short for bad books.”
Bryon: So related to that, as I mentioned Kate is doing the official review, but here, off the recordish, but sort of on the record, I know you liked Riot Load, but tell me one thing you didn’t like about it.
Dan: Off the recordish? Is this the DARK INTERNET I hear so much of? Can I buy, like, human organs here? Or books that have yet to be written? Or Mary Poppins bottomless carpet bag???? Ok, here’s the thing. Riot Load, and its predecessor Murder Boy are in my estimation “experimental literature.” The narrative moves fast. Not just fast, but FAST FAST. This means the reader often times needs a page or two or a whole chapter to figure out the chronology of events.
With RL, I had no idea why Dominick’s professor pal kept passing out.
Bryon: Interesting. Maybe I can market a side line of plot tracking cards or something
Now you get a question
Dan: For a young guy, you’ve spent quite a fair bit of your life writing about people making bad decisions. How did you get so ingrained in the mystery community? What is it about crime fiction that has made you make it such a dominant part of your life?
And yes- I want those cards. RIOT LOAD: the Choose Your Own Adventure Card Game!
Bryon: I met the mystery community the same way all of the good things in my life have come to me like my wife, my job, and my large swatch of dining coupons: through the Internet. Growing up I was mostly a science fiction and fantasy reader but never really sought out other readers or writers. As I got older, choir and theater dominated my social world, but as I grew older and started reading more and more crime fiction, I was also getting more and more lonely in real life.
Eventually I found the AOL Mystery Group and that led me to The Mystery Writer’s Forum and eventually to Sarah Weinman’s blog. From there, my world exploded open. I went to my first Bouchercon in 2003 and that’s where I met the Jordans and Judy Bobalik for the first time. For some reason these people and almost everyone I’m introduced to in the community supports and encourages me (in a WIDE variety of ways and temperaments) no matter how many bad decisions I make. That’s why I stick around.
Dan: Damn internet. Same thing happened to me. Twitter was my gateway to the mystery community. I still can’t believe that the people who write the stories I love all live inside my iPhone.
Bryon: So you finally roped me into doing this stupid…er…”special” event you host in Minneapolis that seems like a more boring and less spicy version of Noir at the Bar. What did I get myself into?
Dan: Please. You’ve been dying to come to see me for years because I’m too Minnesota passive-aggressive to tell you it’s time to stop raiding my refrigerator and go home. Noir at the Bar is a nationwide author event. It’s held everywhere from New York to Chicago to LA. Typically held in a bar-type establishment, mystery and crime writers get to read their work for the public.
This will be our seventh event here in the Twin Cities. We’ve done well by finding a taproom that likes having us around. Plus, our MC, Paul von Stoetzel runs a film company called Killing Joke Films. We always show a short film based on the work of one of our readers. This brings an added element to our readings, and also brings in a different, but related, group to our readings. We usually do a reading every 6 months or so. This guarantees that we do a reading in January, so I always get the most kick-ass birthday parties ever.
Bryon: Aw crap. Do I have to bring a present?
Dan: Nope, my bday is in January. So you’re good.
Since you are making the journey from MI to MN for our N@tB event, what has been your experience at readings and signings? Authors are known to often times be introverts. And the whole GET UP AND READ YOUR STORY AND SHILL YOUR BOOK type thing is kind of counter to the whole introverts gonna introvert type thing.
Bryon: Whew. I decided to stay in a hotel instead of at your house so I didn’t have to worry about a hosting gift. A birthday gift would have ruined all of that passive aggressive good will.
I love the shilling part, I’m less enamored of the reading part. I was lucky last year for all of the Murder Boy events I was able to talk and answer questions rather than reading. Some people are great at reading. I am not. I’ve done two Noir at the Bar events so far (Milwaukee and New York) and at both events I got a much better response to my set-up to the reading where I talk about its inspiration and what the piece means to me, than I did to the reading itself.
Dan: It’s interesting really. The overarching theme at these events can sometimes be VIOLENCE VIOLENCE SEX SEX SPLATTER SPLATTER. But time after time, the most successful events have readers that showcase humor and accessibility. Maybe it’s that the fans get the stress break that the humor provides? It makes the author more accessible? I don’t know. But those readers sure sell a lot of books at the events.
So, be funny. *glares*
Bryon: I like being funny at other people’s expense. So let’s talk about our relationship.
Dan: This sounds heavy.
Bryon: Kate brought it up at the last Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee (in a church of all places) that you are my arch-enemy.
That must have been quite an honor for you.
Dan: It’s true, we do seem to have quite an adversarial relationship. But it’s also true that you are known to be the self-appointed antagonist in this corner of the literary community. The fact that I don’t feel bad calling you out on it seems to place us at odds.
*locks you in a locker*
Bryon: There does seem to be a strong under-current of sibling-level fighting in this community and it works well for the most part. Why do you think that is?
Do we need more sparkles and unicorn fart type nicety?
Dan: The fact that we are talking about advertising on team jerseys on twitter at the same time as this interview is just silly.
Bryon: That’s social media for you, buddy
But let’s bring it in.
If authors could guarantee to be paid a living wage, what are your thoughts on them wearing ad patches at book readings?
Dan: I think it’s the fact that the mystery community is such a small part of the larger literature community. And to be successful, you need to play nice. This group fosters that sense of community. It also allows for that family-type jabbing. And that really is the best part.
Like, would a writer wear a CrimeSpree patch on his/tweed jacket at a Noir at the Bar event? Hmmm… You’re Writer Boy. What do you think?
Bryon: I would totally do it. But I’m notably crass when it come to this sort of stuff.
Maybe it’s because I also spend a lot of time on the publishing side, I would like to see more ways for the author to get paid.
And for everybody to get paid, frankly.
Dan: And that’s just it: If authors got endorsement deals like athletes do, it would totally make sense. “I’m Bryon Quertermous, and all my books get written at McDonald’s Playland.”
Dan: See? I’m a genius. Now, go contact McDonald’s. And pick me up an apple pie.
Bryon: And speaking of making money, let’s talk about indie and self-publishing for a minute. Plenty has been made of the pros and cons and lines have been drawn on the writing and publishing side. But as a reader I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Dan: Ooof. You know I hate to take sides on the controversial stuff. As a reviewer for CrimeSpree, we don’t review self-published work in the magazine. If by “indie” you mean small press publishers? Love ’em. Any help we can give a mid-list author, the better. Amazon authors are also welcome here.
The “shunning” of the T&M (ed. note: Thomas & Mercer) authors makes me crazy. They just took the most beneficial contract that was offered. Gotta make a living, right?
Bryon: *disavows Dan*
Bryon: Okay. Let’s start wrapping this up. One more question for each of us. You go first.
Dan: Let’s stick with the sports analogies. Because analogies are as close as us skinny, clumsy types will get to sports. Hockey types picture Gretzky before they suit up. Basketball types, Jordan. And so on. When you sit down at your Mac, who are you channeling?
Bryon: Early on I had very specific (and obvious) influences. You could tell where my Dave Barry phase ended and my Robert B. Parker phase started. you could then see my Victor Gischler/Duane Swierczynski phase in some drafts of Murder Boy and my Michael Chabon/Brett Easton Ellis phase in others. But I can truly say now, that when I sit down to write I’m channeling me. I want to take everything I read and see and experience and push it through my story machine and see what comes out.
Dan: The Bryon Quertermous Play-Doh Fun Factory of crime fiction. I like it.
Bryon: So you’ve read crime fiction novels, you met lots of your favorite crime fiction novelists, do you now or have you ever harbored the desire to write a crime fiction novel. If so, what would it be about?
Dan: Huh. This is a good question. Up until a few months ago, the thought never ever crossed my mind. But then, the title of a story popped into my mind and I couldn’t get it out. It just took root, and made me giggle all the time. I literally could not get it out of my head. Kate finally just said “write the damn thing already!” I spent an afternoon on it, and showed it to a few good friends. It was… alright. And thankfully, the itch never came back.
Bryon: Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd. Cut. Good show everyone. *fades to music*
Dan: WAIT! I just thought of better questions and answers to all of that stuff. We better just do the whole thing over again.
Dan: NOW it’s done.
Dan Malmon and Bryon Quertermous
Bryon Quertermous and Dan Malmon