Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

hustle_tom_pitts (1)PDB: Can you pitch your latest book in 25 words or less?

HUSTLE: Two drug-addicted gay hustlers scheme to extort an elderly client, but the old man turns out to be a criminal defense attorney who is already being blackmailed by someone much more sinister. How’s that?

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Still riding high off my Benjamin Whitmer bender. I read Cry Father and Pike back to back and it left me wishing there was at least one more. I hear he’s working hard at granting my wish (at least that’s the way I like to look at it. Get crackin’, Benjamin!)

Television is tough for me, between work and writing, it’s tough to fit much in. Sad to see Boardwalk go, though. I loved that show.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

You have to be. If you can’t let go and live in the magic of being swept up by a story, how are you going to create that magic yourself? When I was asked this question before, I said it’d be like saying a musician can’t be a fan of music. To love what you do, writing, you have to be a fan of reading, and that takes a certain level of objectivity to reach the willing suspension of disbelief we all crave.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Of course, who wouldn’t? That’s where the big money is at. And the fame. Just about any author who’s considered a household name has had a movie adapted from their work. It’s the sad truth of the writing game. Even famous names like Bukowski, when someone says, who’s that? I say, you know that movie Barfly? And they say, Oh, that guy. When Trouble in the Heartland came out I bragged to folks it included a story by Dennis Lehane. Who? You know, Mystic River? Oh, that guy. The reality, though, is screenwriting is also the same trough everyone else is trying to feed. And I mean everybody. Walk down the street in Hollywood and ask a random person if you can read his screenplay. Dollars to doughnuts he’ll run to his car and fetch you a copy. It’s like a million hobos all chasing the same nickel. And the reality of switching, form-wise, is tough. It’s a much more rigid set of rules than one experiences in fiction. The fonts, the spacing, the attributed dialogue and sparse directions. Cramming all that stuff into 120 pages—making sure the car chase happens here (What? No car chase? Sorry, you’ll have to work one in. Stick it right after the love scene you had no intention of adding.)

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

It depends. The honest answer is probably not enough. If I’m writing from the perspective of the street thug, not much at all. I’ve already spent a decade doing gonzo research on that! But regarding police procedure and legal proceedings, quite a bit more. Luckily, I have a lawyer and an ex-cop in the family to make that a little easier. Mostly it’s the little things, the make of the car, the type of gun, the overpriced binoculars someone is using. That kind of stuff can be sourced from Google, but it’s important to get the details right, because, if they’re on, maybe no one notices, but if there off, it’s a sour note for all to hear. It’s like the backbeat being out of syncopation in a song.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

As a small press guy, it’s invaluable. For a small press author—and most of the big presses too—the onus of promotion is on the writer. That means you must have a social media presence. And any agent will tell you it’s something that presses will look at when they consider signing new talent. That said, I think the golden age of Facebook is passing. I can tell by the number of hits to the Flash Fiction Offensive (we advertise primarily on FB) and I’ve spoken to other online magazine editors who feel the same way. It’s not over, but I think perhaps it’s jumped the shark. The trick with the juggernaut of social media is to adapt and evolve with it. It’s changing and will continue to change. Although I may not be on the edge of change, there’s a lot to be said for a willingness to move with the times.

Tom Pitts Noir@theBar (2)PDB: What’s on the cards for 2015?

I’ve got a novella called Knuckleball that’s been picked up by One Eye Press, it’ll be out on March 24th 2015, I believe. I’m looking forward to seeing it come out. It was the first novella I’d written and it’s definitely different from the other work I have out there. It’s about a Hispanic boy in San Francisco’s Mission District that uses baseball as an escape from the abuse he suffers. When he witnesses the murder of a beloved police officer, his life changes forever.

Gutter Books will also be pushing ahead with some more releases, stay tuned to find out more about that. And of course, The Flash Fiction Offensive is still putting out the best in flash, twice a week.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. His novel, HUSTLE, and his novella, Piggyback, are available from Snubnose Press. He is also acquisitions editor at Gutter Books and co-editor at the Out of the Gutter’s Flash Fiction Offensive. Find links to more of his work at: TomPittsAuthor.com

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