PDB: Can you pitch Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned in 25 words or less?
Some of the most twisted stuff I’ve ever written. My stories will take you places you’ve never been before. Yup: sex, violence and dark humor.
PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
Music-wise I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff: The Smiths, Cream, Neil Young. Then I got hung up on this Latino band from Miami called Locos Por Juana after I saw them play at the Green Parrot here in Key West. And I really like a country song from the Derailers called “Bar Exam” because I used to be a lawyer in a former life. And because there’s a really sexy woman in the music video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyMP6lkz7Co
Movies. I love movies. And in Key West we have a fabulous four screen art house called The Tropic Cinema. What I liked recently: The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy. About as dark and sexy as you can get. Great McCarthy dialogue. The Italian film A Great Beauty is this trippy tale of wasted lives in Roma. Fantastic Felliniesque faces. Beautiful cinematography. How the past haunts us. I also loved The Wolf of Wall Street. A rush of a movie, totally over the top! Finally, I have to mention the feel wonderful documentary about backup singers called Twenty Feet from Stardom. After seeing it, you’ll boogie your way across the lobby and right down the street.
I don’t watch much TV.
Books: I’ve been re-reading a lot of old titles. To Have and Have Not has one of the great opening scenes, a shoot out outside a bodega in 1940s Havana. The book goes down hill from there. The last 100 pages of the novel should never have been written. But read the first 64. I really enjoyed Thomas McGuane’s Ninety-Two in the Shade the second time around. Laugh out loud funny. He kind of choked on the ending. And I’ve been slowly re-reading Raymond Chandler. A fucking genius!!! Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth is wild and crazy, with lots of wild and crazy sex. Couldn’t put it down. Oh, and the short stories of Thom Jones and Barry Hannah and Brad Watson. I read these guys over and over. And Jon Bassoff’s Corrosion. Haunting. And I just started re-reading the Duffy novels by Dan Kavanagh. Very twisted, very funny.
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
I’m not sure what an objective reader is or why you would want to be one. Some books grab you by the cojones and you can’t put them down. Some books poop out somewhere in the middle, like a beer that’s gone flat. And some you thrown across the room after reading the first page, venting with a primal scream. Life is too short. There’s no point in reading books that don’t give you an instant hard-on.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
I’m glad you asked that question. I’ve had the most amazing luck in connecting with a super talented Key West filmmaker named Quincy Perkins. This Spring we decided to collaborate in bringing to the silver screen a short noir film based on my crime short story “Swingers Anonymous.” Quincy directed from a script by yours truly. We raised twelve grand on Kickstarter to cover the initial production and shot all the footage over five days in mid-March. Now it’s being edited and special effects and the sound track added. We need to raise another eight grand or so to cover postproduction. We’ll be sending Swingers Anonymous, the movie, out to the film festivals. It was an amazing collaborative effort. We got a super cool writeup in the Miami Herald (front page of the Sunday Tropical Life arts and culture section for April 6) about making the movie. Here’s the link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/05/4042159/the-making-of-the-film-noir-swingers.html
Fyi, the story “Swingers Anonymous” first appeared in the short crime fiction anthology Dallas Noir from Akashic Books. It is included in my new collection Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned.
PDB: How much research goes into each book?
A little bit here. A little bit there. I do my research as I go along when I come to a point in a story that needs authenticity. The internet is very helpful. I write mostly contemporary crime fiction, so it’s mostly in my head, these alternate lives I live vicariously.
PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?
I promote my work on Facebook and stay connected with people that way. And I have a website that collects reviews and shit about my books. I think it’s pretty important to put yourself out there. No one else is going to do it. It’s all one big clusterfuck. So I try to enjoy it.
PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?
Well, of course, finishing up the film Swingers Anonymous and submitting it to festivals. And doing a little touring with the new book, Phone Call from Hell. I’ve got some launch events here in Key West in April and May. And I’m working on gigs in NYC and Texas, where I used to live. And in late October there’s Noircon 2014 up in Philadelphia. Always a great time!
I recently completed a road trip crime novel called Kiss the Devil Good Night. I need to get that in the queue for publication, probably by New Pulp Press. And I’m working on a new story about feral hog hunting down in Texas.
That about sums it up.
Bio: Jonathan Woods holds degrees from McGill University, New England School of Law and New York University School of Law. For many years he practiced law with a multi-national high-tech company before turning to writing full time.
Jonathan studied writing at Southern Methodist University and at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Zoetrope: All-Story and Sirenland Writers’Conferences. His early stories appeared in 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Plots with Guns and other web-based literary magazines.
His first book, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, won a 2011 Spinetingler Award for Best Crime Short Story Collection and was featured at the 2010 Texas Book Festival. His novel A Death in Mexico was named one of the 5 top debut crime novels of 2012 by BookPeople Bookstore in Austin, TX.
In 2012 The Studios of Key West awarded Jonathan an artist’s studio space where many of the stories in Phone Call from Hell & Other Tales of the Damned were written. A new road trip crime novel, Kiss the Devil Good Night, is forthcoming.
Formerly of Dallas, Texas, Jonathan resides in Key West, Florida with his spouse, the artist Dahlia Woods (www.dahliawoodsgallery.com), and a shih tzu named Miss Pinky. When not writing, he hangs out in various nefarious Key West bars or travels the globe, most recently to Portugal, Mexico and Asia. His website is at: www.southernnoir.com