Thursday, April 1, 2010

Crimefactory Interview with Keith Rawson

The second coming of Crimefactory is now in its second issue. Once again, its lineup is enough to make Ellery Queen (or any other magazine) drooling with envy. 126 pages filled with people like Craig McDonald and Charlie Stella (who interview each other about their new books), Reed Farrel Coleman on his roots as a writer, Jimmy Callaway on William Lindsay Gresham (of Nightmare Alley fame), stories by Patti Abbot, Kieran Shea, Ray Banks, and Stephen D. Rogers (who recently stopped by Pulp Serenade on his blog tour for Shot to Death). And there’s a heck of a lot more. But, before you get your ass over to Crimefactory, check out a recent conversation I had with one of Crimefactory’s editors, Keith Rawson. An original and uncompromising writer in his own right, Rawson has made numerous appearances here on Pulp Serenade with own twisted tales. Stories like "What I Lost Along With My Keys" and “Marmalade” are as noir as they come.

Pulp Serenade: You’ve been a busy man lately—BSC Review, Spinetingler, Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips not to mention your own stories. And now Crimefactory. How do you even find time for everything?

Keith Rawson: It’s time management more than anything else. I have days set aside when I work on certain projects and I don’t deviate from those days unless it’s something out of the ordinary like a video interview I have to conduct, or a family holiday or event. Plus, when you get into the habit of writing every day, it does become addictive and if I skip a day, I feel guilty about it. But you know what, I’m having fun. I love it that I have so many forums like BSCreview and Spinetingler available to me to promote crime fiction. 


PS: What was the impetus for reigniting Crimefactory with your co-conspirators Cameron Ashley and Liam Jose?

KR: It all started on Twitter. Cam and I had known each other for awhile from appearing in various online zines like A Twist of Noir and Plots with Guns and the two of us would goof around a lot on Twitter and then one night Cam started updating his status as Crimefactory. I knew Crimefactory’s history and owned a couple of back issues from the original run. It was an impressive publication and I asked Cam what he was thinking about doing. We started Direct Messaging and then e-mailing about possibly reviving the magazine, but doing it online instead of as a print publication. We were both really worked up over it, so we started working on the revival. Of course, we both wanted the blessing and assistance of the publisher of the original magazine, David Honeybone, before we went full bore into the project. At first, David was very excited about the revival, but then he started getting discouraged due to some personal issues and backed out of participating in the magazine. Dave dropping out of the project was pretty devastating for Cam (who could blame him?) and we almost didn’t move forward. This would’ve sucked because I’d already lined up all of the fiction contributors for issue 1 and most of issue 2 (Steve Weddle and Frank Bill had even sent their stories in already). Luckily, Cam got over it pretty quickly and we were in business.

With Liam coming on board, I’m pretty sure Cam grew Liam in a test tube by combining the DNA of Salvador Dali and a 1970’s pornstar…but where ever he came from, he’s been a real boom for the magazine. Liam has a fantastic eye for design and layout, and the man has become the key component to Crimefactory.


PS: The war of e-readers is still going on, and since Crimefactory is available in several formats (PDF, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader), I was wondering what your take on the issue is. Do you own an e-reader? What format are most people getting Crimefactory in?


KR: You know, I think the whole e-reader wars are pretty exciting. It’s got people talking about and buying books and other electronic content like Crimefactory. Personally, I think it’s a great time to be apart of publishing, especially if you’re a small independent who wants to increase their reader base. I don’t think e-readers will ever replace traditional books (at least I hope it doesn’t) but it does open a lot of new doors.

I don’t own an e-reader. I have an iPhone and have all of the e-reader apps on my phone (I use Kindle the most because of the range of content available) and actually use it quite a bit.

And it shouldn’t be t a surprise to anyone that the free PDF is the way most people read the magazine. With the debut issue, the site received close to 500,000 unique visitors over two months—if you listen to Patti Abbott she’ll tell you that she’s responsible for half of the visits—and we’re trending towards the same amount of traffic since the release of issue #2.
The Kindle editions are selling well, but we’re not exactly making mega bucks off of it. The real benefit of having an e-reader edition is that the content will never disappear. As long as Amazon and Smashwords (who we distribute the nook/Sony reader edition through) are around, people will be able to go to these sites and download the back issues even if the website is no longer in existence (which isn’t going to happen for a very long time.)

PS: Considering the success of Crimefactory, this question seems unavoidable. Have you thought about expanding into print at some point, or are you planning on sticking with digital formats?

KR: Well, I was trying to keep it under wraps, but Jed Ayres let it drop that we’re working on an anthology with New Pulp Press. The project has got me pretty damn excited. I really like Jon Bassoff (Publisher/editor of NPP) and I think the press has the potential to really shake things up in the publishing world. I’m not going to go to deep into our contributors list, but we have some great writers appearing in it and much like the magazine, we’re trying to have a very international flavor to it and mix both experienced, well known authors and less established, newer writers

As far as becoming a regular print publication, I considered it for a couple of weeks as we were finishing up the final edit of issue 2, but then I decided to leave it alone. Don’t get me wrong, I have tons of respect for what Crimespree, Hardboiled, and what Steve Weddle and John Honor are going to be doing with Needle magazine (I’m also very proud to be part of the debut) but I don’t think print format is for Crimefactory. So for the time being, I think we’ll stick with being an electronic publication.

PS: One of the things I love about Crimefactory is its lineup—it’s a very democratic mix. You have people like Craig McDonald and Reed Farrel Coleman next to up-and-coming writers, our new favorites of tomorrow. What is the process like for collecting all the content for the magazine?

KR: When I started recruiting contributors for the magazine, I had an overall vision that I wanted to mix well known writers with newer ones. As a writer, there was no greater thrill for me when Anthony Neil Smith published issue #7 of Plots with Guns and I found out I would be publishing along side Scott Phillips and Stephen Graham Jones. The Walkaway by Phillips is in my top five all time favorite crime novels, and Stephen’s thriller, All the Beautiful Sinners, is a flat out masterpiece of the genre in my opinion. I nearly flipped my wig! Little pulp writing me is appearing with these two incredibly gifted, renowned novelists. And when I started searching out contributors, I really wanted to provide the same feeling to other new writers.

Now, as far as searching out contributors, well, if I read and enjoyed a writer’s books or stories, that writer got an e-mail from me inviting them to submit a story to Crimefactory. To my surprise, 90% of the writers I contacted said yes, 9% said no because of scheduling issues and novel deadlines, and an elusive 1% were just dicks and never responded. But I’ll still e-mail the dicks again, because I like what they’re writing. With features, I’d really like to see the number of these types of submissions increase. I love noir and hard-boiled scholarship and what we’ve run so far has been really innovative and well written, but we need more of it!


PS: On Facebook, we were talking about how certain website archives have recently closed and lots of stories were lost. The presumption is that once it is online is there it is there forever, but this clearly is not the case. Is this making you rethink the website (or even how to archive your own stories online)?

KR: Yes. Now, it is true that nothing online ever disappears, but data does degrade. My overall thinking lately has been to use organizations like Amazon and Smashwords to archive stories. With as wide spread as the Kindle application has become—you can download it to your PC, Mac, iPhone, and other smart phones, plus the reading devices themselves—I’d like to see more writers utilize the e-book tools available to them to make their collected stories online as an e-book. And they don’t have to charge for them—for instance, with what I’m trying to do with the Pulppusher stories and features—along with archiving them on the Crimefactory site, I’m going to compile them into a free e-anthology so that the stories, in one form or another, will be available for the reading public.

PS: You mentioned an all fiction issue coming up—anything else you can leak about that?

KR: Yeah, we’re calling it issue 3 and a half and will appear in June. We’ve got a ton of really great stories appearing in it. That’s all.

PS: Now that you are doing a lot more editing, do you see it influencing your writing styles or habits at all?

KR: Oh yeah. It used to be I would do nothing but churn out story after story (I still kind of do) and not really be too concerned with little mistakes. But, as I’ve come to find out, the little mistakes make a huge difference on how a story reads. So with the current crop of pieces I’m working on, I’m checking and re-checking all the little things before submitting them. Of course, I’m only human and mistakes are bound to happen.

PS: As for Rawson-the-writer, what’s up next for him?

KR: Oh, you know, writing novels and trying to sell novels. Writing stories and trying to place them. Writing reviews and interviews for Spintingler and BSC. Posting to the blog occasionally, working on Crimefactory. 2010 started off great and I’m anticipating that it’s only going to get better. At least I hope so?

PS: Lastly, what books should the rest of us be adding to our To Be Read piles right now? Any top picks for 2010 so far?

Damn, there are a lot of them.

With stuff that’s already come out in 2010, everyone should read Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith. I can’t say enough good things about this novel. I really enjoyed Print the Legend by Craig McDonald, very fast paced and McDonald’s most complex novel to date. A Choice of Nightmares by Lynn Kostoff, which was recently reissued by New Pulp Press, has been a big favorite of mine this year, equally funny and menacing, plus Kostoff is a hell of a writer.

Now as far as upcoming novels:

Expiration Date (which isn’t upcoming considering that it was released March 30th) by Duane Swierczynski was a fun read. I’m fairly convinced that Duane is absolutely incapable of writing a bad book. Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella, great period piece, Charlie’s really got the 70’s down pat. Jonathan Woods’ debut collection, Bad Juju and other tales of Madness and Mayhem has really impressed me. Killer by Dave Zeltserman. Wow. I’m not kidding, great fucking book. The Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya. Tafoya is the next Pelecanos and I don’t say that lightly. Great writer. A Bad Day for Pretty by Sophie Littlefield. Sophie’s the real deal, very fluid writing style.

Oh, and so many more…Honestly, some days I wish I could do nothing but read.

And as far as top picks, see all of the above.

6 comments:

  1. Great interview. Keith Rawson is a treasure- he looks like he's just been dug up. See what I did then?

    Keith and the CRIMEFACTORY team come up with something pretty special.He's got a cracking story over at A Twist of Noir at the moment too.

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  2. Great interview. Keith is an amazing writer/supporter of crime. He's right up there with A.N. Smith!

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  3. Sweet! CrimeFactory is a winner, for sure.

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  4. Think of it this way, Jed -- you just gave the rest of the world a hell of a good thing to look forward to.

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  5. Ah, Jed, it's alright, it was bound to happen with as many contributors as we have....I will mention that CF 3 will be featuring an excerpt from Mr. Ayres recently completed novel.

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