Friday, April 13, 2012

The always interesting Chris Rhatigan

Let's have a conversation with Chris Rhatigan today.  If you're into writing noir, you've heard of Chris.  Both as a writer and as an editor.  Maybe more as the other editor for the anthology of noir stories found in Pulp Ink.  He and his fellow co-conspirator, Nigel Bird,  whipped up this interesting idea  a little while ago and assembled stories . . . stories based off some relevant fact or nuance found in the move, Pulp Fiction.
(You can scroll down in my list of blogs and eventually come to my interview with Nigel as well.  One hell of a coincidence, eh?)

I hear the anthology is selling well and both Chris and Nigel are putting together Pulp Ink 2.  So, yes kiddies . . . . Chris is one interesting writer/editor/entrepreneur.   And on top of that he has some solid, blunt talking opinions about writing, the writing process, and editing.   Of course I had to ask for an interview! 

I mean . . . what the hell!?

(By the way, Chris also edits an ezine called All Due Respect.  You should go over and check it out.  I plan to begin submitting stories veeeeeerrrrrrry shortly!)

1. Writing versus Editing. Since you delve in both venues, which one do you prefer? And tell us why, if you please.
They’re very different, but I guess what you’re asking is if I had to give one up, which one would it be, so I guess I’d give up editing. I don’t like actually writing that much most days (it’s always a struggle to put butt in chair and pound the keys after dealing with 82 eighth graders all day) but I love the final product, putting a story out there that I’m proud of, that only I could have written.
Editing has its own joys as well. Sending out acceptances is fun. Making a writer’s story just a little bit better (when that’s possible) is cool too.

2. As an editor for a noir/genre magazine, what is it in a story you look for the most? What separates a good story from the chaff?
I feel like I’ve answered this question many times and contradicted myself at numerous points.
Anywho, for All Due Respect, I tend to look for three things: strong writing, a plot that works, and atmosphere. The writing has to be smooth—it doesn’t have to be fucking Hemingway or something, but it has to sound good, it has to have some sense of style. The plot doesn’t have to be original, but it has to function. I used to say that I didn’t want to see stories about two people sitting and talking, but I’m not sure if I think that anymore—if you can make that work, go for it, especially if the talk builds tension effectively and leads to something interesting. Lastly, but not leastly, the story should take place in a world the writer’s created. Not Lord of the Rings or some shit like that—but I want to believe that I can walk into the story’s reality, I want the story to be a place where I can have a drink and shoot a round of pool with the characters, even if I know one of the characters is just going to snap the pool in half and stab me to death with it.
And if you don’t want to do any of that, write a bunch of really weird shit and throw in a gun or a set of brass knuckles in somewhere—I’m into that. (I’m not being sarcastic.)

3. Your an American and Nigel Bird is a Brit--yet the two of you collaborate on as editors and anthologists. How did this unique working duo come into existence? What lies in store for you two in the future?
I don’t really think much about Nigel and my different backgrounds. I believe we “met” when I wrote a review of one of his stories a couple of years ago. We have a similar sense of humor and like the same brand of stories, so he let me ride his coattails, which was cool of him. We exchanged emails, talked about doing a project, then we got this weird idea for an anthology based on the soundtrack from Pulp Fiction. It’s called Pulp Ink and it turned out surprisingly well, and if you don’t believe me, you can click here. And if you do believe me, you can click here.
Nigel’s a phenomenal dude and really easy to work with. He did a bang-up job with the cover art and promotion and the editing and all that other shit that needs to get done. Our skill sets complement each other well—I tend to see the details and he sees the big picture.
That’s why we decided to do a second anthology together, creatively titled Pulp Ink 2, this time with crime and horror stories. That should be coming out in the near future. Believe me when I tell you that it will kick ass.
Or don’t.
But it will.

4. Ah . . . staying in the American/British writing scene what are the strengths and the weaknesses observed in each nationality's take on crime/noir? Is there a difference? A different personality?
I like the Brits more. I mean, there are a lot of amazing American crime writers (Jake Hinkson, Katherine Tomlinson, Kieran Shea, Kent Gowran, Patti Abbott, do I need to go on?) but, on the whole, what I like about the Brits is that they’re funnier. They also have a more creative vernacular and are more willing to delve into the absurd (say, Paul D. Brazill or Ian Ayris). And there’s a stable of British writers who really excel at getting straight to the point—Julie Morrigan and Fiona Johnson come to mind.

The greatest noir/hard boiled writer you've come across so far in your career is . . . ? Care to bite on this one? Or would you prefer listing a few writers that have truly impressed you.
Pablo D’Stair.
Anyone who hasn’t read his Trevor English series needs to right away. They’re all free on Smashwords because he’s a fucking mad man. It's about a small-time con man's various exploits.
D'Stair calls what he writes existential noir. I’m still not quite clear on what that means. I don’t care though. His characters wage these petty wars against each other and it’s delightful to watch. He makes banality fascinating.
I don’t know what to say about him. Just read his stuff.

6. As a writer, what do think is the single most important component in a story? Now compare that as an editor. Can a writer and an editor agree? Can this single most important concept slide, say, from one viewpoint to another? (for instance, one writer might suggest the story line is the most important item, while another might emphasis character development)
Good question. Well, as a writer I’m going for atmosphere. I have a collection of short stories, Watch You Drown, and I think I created an interesting world—the world is like a character who keeps popping up in every story. I’m also pretty careful with the writing. I want the writing to pop, to seem effortless.
So both of those things are important to me as an editor, too. However, especially when I’m editing All Due Respect, plot is somewhat more important to me. That’s in part because I’ve stayed true to founding editor Alec Cizak’s vision for the publication. The stories he published tended to have very sound plots. I don’t want to fuck with the existing readership of All Due Respect.
On the other hand, there’s no set formula for this shit. I don’t know, most stories just work or they don’t work, they resonate with me or they don’t, and then I search for reasons why I feel the way I do.

7. What are the strengths and weaknesses found with epublising over traditional publishing? Do you think these two venues will learn how to co-exist with each other eventually? Will the writer be able to co-exist with this duality?
I don’t have a lot of experience with traditional publishing. What I like about epublishing, from a reader’s perspective, is that I have easy access to my favorite independent authors (aka my favorite authors), many of who I never would have known about if traditional publishing was the only ballgame. Plus we get all of these interesting formats of books—short story collections, flash fiction, novellas—as opposed to before, when novels made up 90 percent (I’m totally just making up that number) of the fiction in a bookstore.
Where all this going, I have no idea. I’m sure traditional publishing will find a way to eat independent publishing if it cuts into their profits. But I’m just pulling shit out of the old ass. I’m not a business person.

8. What are you writing on today? Short stories? Novels? Do you have a novel in you demanding to get out? A series perhaps? Ever thought about writing for the movies?
I’m writing a novella, tentatively titled The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other. It’s about these dudes who are out bowling and all confess to awful crimes. Then they get suspicious of one another and paranoid and their heads collapse.
It’s my first real attempt at writing longer work. I’ve published a lot of short fiction and thought it was time to try something else. But I keep going back, writing short stories and flash because it’s in my blood. And then I put that blood in the stories.
Chris Rhatigan is the editor of the zine All Due Respect and the co-editor of the Spinetingler Award-nominated anthology Pulp Ink. Pulp Metal Fiction recently published a collection of his short stories, Watch You Drown. He talks short fiction at his blog, Death by Killing.


  1. Good stuff. Chris is one of the good ones, and a hell of a writer in his own right.

  2. You got Rhatigan, you got a class act. A Friend of mine, a damn good writer and a natural-born editor. The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other is gonna be a winner. Thanks guys, that was a good one.

  3. Smashing stuff. Thanks for the mention.

  4. Great stuff. The title "The Kinds of Friends Who Murder Each Other" is a winner, I'm looking forward to it.

  5. Yes, like I said, Chris is one of those writers/editors who can set himself apart! Excellent stuff.

  6. Excellent questions and conversation. Big thanks to both of you. Enjoyed that.
    - Jim