Thursday, February 7, 2013

Interviewing John Lehman

There's an ezine out there called Lit Noir. A hard hitting mag that takes on the old ramshackle house for a genre called Noir and tries to give it a fresh coat a paint, a different kind of look; revitalizing the old place by looking for fresh talent.  Talent as in writers who have a clear vision what a good noir tale should be.
Which I am happy to admit I will be one of writers showcased in volume #9 coming out shortly.  'Smitty' makes his debue in Lit Noir with a nasty little ditty called I'm Sure.  I'm sure those who know my dark eyed hit man will be pleased with it.  More importantly I have high hopes that a number of new fans will come knocking on Smitty's door once they discover him.
The mag is an audacious attempt from an audacious writer with tons of experience to redefine what noir is.  I've always thought genre literature . . . and it certainly is literature to me . . . fundamentally is more compelling because, unlike traditional literature, genre goes to the deepest recesses of the soul to find its stories.  Passion, hatred, lust, loyalty;  all painted with a more interesting brush.  Yet because these stories come out in 'pulp' magazines, and there are far more writers working in this field than there are in the traditionalist venues, somehow genre writing is tagged as an inferior product.
Hmmmm . . . don't think so, Ernest.
Anyway . . . the man behind Lit Noir is a guy by the name of John Lehman.  A poet, a writer, an editor, John has been around for a long, long time.   He has a wide selection on the market of his works, of which quite a bit revoles (and here I am only guessing) his first love; poetry.  But what makes him unique in my eyes is that he has a very similar respect and definition for genre as I have.
Always good, muchachos, to find a writer who shares your same viewpoint.
I was invited to share one of my stories to Lit Noir.  Now I've asked John to share some ideas with me about creating the mag, about writing in general, etc.  I think you'll find the interview interesting.
So enjoy.
1. Everyone, if they are a writer, knows how hard it is to write. But they can only imagine how difficult it would be to become a writer/editor/publisher of an magazine. So tell us, what in Hades got into your head to start Lit Noir? Where did the seed of starting this creation first pop unto existence?
It started with publishing Rosebud Magazine (a literary magazine going on twenty years). I had been doing writing workshops and had lists of people who I thought might make good readers. Also I had a friend who was willing to help (Rod has since taken over as publisher). Print publishing can be expensive (I had moved into books after a few years) and that’s what led me to look at the digital angle for both publishing and launching Lit Noir. I think this has become an exciting time for writers thanks to the old system breaking down and digital being so accessible. But the time to act is now. Five years from today big corporations will have figured out how to monopolize it.
No matter, I have learned that you have to do what you love because the monetary reward may not follow. I have always liked film noir and writers like Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith who indulge our shadowy side. My friend came up with the term “Lit Noir” and I was in business.  
2.  How successful has Lit Noir become so far?  Is it growing?  Is the reading population world wide?  Have you been overwhelmed with writers knocking on your door asking to come in?
Kindle Publishing lets you offer your book or magazine free for five days. So I sell it for a buck a copy on Amazon, but also give it away in order to build audiences. The total amount may be around 400 or 500 per issue out. Whatever money there results, goes to the cover artist and funding t-shirts. But my main objective is to get readers for writers. I also host a web site that showcases samples from the magazine and announces the give-away dates. There’s a lot of good stuff on the Internet, but I want to provide a vehicle with particular focus, so that connections will be made and start to build. I was surprised (and very pleaded) to find that there are strong communities of noir writers and readers throughout the world.  
3.  The dark, the macabre, the noir-infested story of mayhem and revenge.  Which one is your particular fancy?  Are you more into horror and the macabre than, say, hard boiled/noir?
I went into this a bit in Lit Noir #7. The stereotypes of film noir get tiresome, but boundaries between genres are always fuzzy. Conceptually, noir has much in common with certain kinds of fantasy.
Recently I watched a documentary on the movie producer Val Lewton. Remember Cat People? Being trapped in an indoor pool at night? Shadows flickering on the walls? Suddenly there’s the growl of a leopard. And then nothing. Except in that moment our deepest fears fly out. But there is something more going on. One of the characteristics of noir is that it allows our unconscious to surface. And with that there is the promise of catharsis.   
4.  As editor, what do you look for in a story.  What 'clicks' for you?  Is it character development?  The plot?  Word choice/writing style?  Two different writers create basically the same story.  One works.  One doesn't.  Why?
I’m looking for something that hooks my attention, develops its underlying theme, brings it to a climax (with metaphoric implications) and leaves me with something to think about, apply to my own life.
Editors are glorified readers, as anxious to find something that takes them further in and further out as anyone picking up the piece. That’s why we go to so many plays despite being disappointed in the past, read so many novels even though we have been left unsatisfied by most of them.  
5.  Give us your prognosis on the health of genre fiction today.  Is it healthy and growing?  Is it slowly dying off?  Or is it somehow changing into something else?
I think this is a very exciting time for writers and readers. E-books, blogs, special apps, digital magazines...are giving us access to each other in a way science-fiction writers fifty years ago could only imagine. I have 25 books on Kindle, mostly under “Jack Lehman.” All are five bucks or less and you don’t even need a Kindle, they will provide a free app at the site for computers, iPads, etc. I say this, not to brag, but to encourage what anyone can do instead of waiting 25 years to interest a traditional publisher (reducing his or her work to their tired formulas).  
6.  Who do you see coming up through the ranks that might soon burst open and become the next mega star. Care to make any predictions?
As I’ve implied in my answer to the question above, we don’t need megastars anymore. There are fresh new voices, with fresh new ways of saying things, to readers who want “now.” 
7.  In relation to the above question, in your opinion, what does it take for a writer to succeed?  Talent or determination?  Or just plain Luck?
Talent, luck, determination are all important, but you need to aggressively reach out to readers in a way that speaks to them. And if you don’t know how, the answer is: learn. Marketing. It means more than selling books, it involves understanding and appreciating your readers in a way that is beneficial to them.  
8.  What's next for Lit Noir?  Is it branching out into a more extensive publishing format? Get serious, perhaps, in e-publishing novels?  What does the future hold?
We are doing single issues and bundling each four into Kindle anthologies. Reaching out to people we think might benefit from being under our umbrella. I am in rural Wisconsin and getting pieces and ideas from Poland, Russia, Switzerland and elsewhere in the U.S. This is exciting. And so unexpected, I can’t even imagine where it will lead. But where ever it does, I am ready to follow.
I strongly urge you to go out and find John's works.  There's a wide variety to choose from.  And I urge you to check out Lit Noir (uh . . . especially # 9).  Writers from all over the world are creating a mag of astonishing qualities. 
You won't be disappointed.


  1. Thanks so much. John And writers send your best to

  2. Smashing interview and a splendid magazine.

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  4. Lit Noir #9 is now availabe on Amazon. For one buck you get some amazing art and some amazing stories. Check it out. A buck ain't gonna kill'ya.