Interview With Greg Barth
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
Sure. I’m Greg Barth, and I write in the crime noir genre. If I am known at all, it’s for the Selena series (Selena, Diesel Therapy, Suicide Lounge, Road Carnage, and the soon-to-be-released series finale, Everglade).
I have a thing for characters in desperate situations without good options. I don’t write the traditional thriller novel about someone who is the smartest person in the room, the person who is always right, and who never fails. My characters get in over their heads. My characters make mistakes. My characters get hurt. Sometimes seriously hurt.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
Road Carnage picks up Selena’s story in the bloody aftermath of Suicide Lounge. She is lying low, healing up, and trying to put her life back together. A new enemy comes into her life and threatens her freedom—an elusive young man who holds her fate in hand. This guy has connections to the nastiest criminals in the south. In a desperate attempt to protect herself and those she’s grown to love, Selena blazes a blistering, high-octane path through the southeast leaving blood-drenched carnage in her wake. This is the most visceral and violent entry in the series. Few get out alive. No one gets out unscathed.
Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?
Selena is my favorite character. When we first meet her, she’s an alcoholic, drug addicted, prostitute living careless and sloppy from one high to the next. She’s a stripper who cannot even start her car without proving she is sober to the ignition interlock device installed by the county.
When an act of petty theft places her in the crosshairs of a local crime syndicate, Selena is violently knocked over the brink. The only mistake her enemies made was leaving her alive—alive and hungry for revenge.
Why did you decide to write in the noir genre?
I like the high stakes. I like the very real threat that the protagonist just may not make it out alive. It gives the sense that no one is safe. I also like protagonists who aren’t perfect, have no good options, and make mistakes. Costly, often deadly mistakes.
Why did you write this book? What was your inspiration?
There were several pieces of inspiration. TV shows like the Sopranos and Breaking Bad taught me the unpredictability of the anti-hero. Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo evolved this into the anti-heroine. That one also showed me how a female protagonist can suffer violence and display an emotional range that male characters can’t get away with and still earn sympathy from readers. I was also reading a good bit of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series at the time. Jack, as you may know, is a heavy user of drugs and alcohol. I began to toy with the idea of whether you could pull off a character like that as a female. There’s also a touch of the old rape/revenge movie genre in Selena—think of movies like Death Wish and I Spit on your Grave. Those and a hundred other things inspired the character Selena.
Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?
The thing that surprised me the most was learning that building a story and writing a story are two different actions. You must have a story to tell, and stories are made up of several defined components. How you write it (novel, comic, movie script, etc.) is just the medium for the story. I don’t consider myself a particularly gifted writer. I keep it simple. My technique is just going with the basics. I figure it takes an incredibly talented storyteller to tell a mediocre story in a compelling way; so, I make certain I have a strong story. If you have strong story, almost anyone can tell it.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
I write every day, but I don’t “write” every day. In other words, I’m always turning ideas over in my head, coming up with scenes, connecting them to other scenes; but I don’t sit down and peck away at the keyboard every day. I have a lengthy commute. I spend 70 miles in the car five days per week. During that time, I am listening to music and daydreaming scenes in my head. At night, I’ll jot them down on a digital corkboard. Once I have three or four strong scenes, scenes that can carry a book, I come up with the sequences that lead up to each scene. Once I have those, it’s time to write. The actual writing takes about two weeks to get the first draft. That’s because I already have the book in my head, I just have to get it down.
When I am actually writing (pecking away at the keyboard), I get quite manic. I can’t sleep much, and when I do I dream as my characters. I’m constantly waking, typing—it’s almost non-stop mania until I get the first draft done. Then comes the polish.
What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
The hardest part of the writing process is what comes after the book is published. Writing is a lonely, personal craft. I enjoy building the story, writing the story, and applying the first coat of polish. If writing is a solo effort, publishing is a team sport. There are a few rounds of edits during which you are working with a professional team. By the time the book is actually published, I’ve read the manuscript so many times I am too close to it to even know if it’s any good. Once it’s out, you are left waiting for reactions from your readers. Will they like it? Will they think it sucks? You never know. Someone once said, If you don’t want the thing you created to suffer criticism, then it’s better to not create anything to begin with. It’s always a little scary to have this thing you created out there for everyone’s reaction.
Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?
Richard Stark is my favorite author. Stark is one of the pen names used by Donald E. Westlake, but I always think of him as Stark. His character, Parker, was my first introduction to a protagonist who is completely amoral. Parker was a shock to the system at the time and has been a steady supply of literary crack that I go back to time and again. That twenty-four-volume series is just perfect.
How do you research your books?
YouTube. You can learn anything on YouTube. How to fire any weapon? Check. How to smoke hash resin? Check. How to make baked spaghetti? It’s all on YouTube.
What advice would you give beginning writers?
If you aren’t rich, get a good day job. The best you can find—something professionally and financially fulfilling. You’re going to need it. Either that or a spouse who can support your family financially. There’s no comfortable living to be made in writing. I think of writing as a craft. A simple art. My grandparents used to make quilts. They were good at it. Every now and then they’d sell one or two. I think of my books like that—craft quilts—only I can sell these over and over. It’s fun. It’s fulfilling. It brings a lot of satisfaction. If you crack the code and find a way to make a comfortable living as a writer, then I’ll be asking you for advice.
About the Author:
Greg Barth is the author of Selena, Diesel Therapy, Suicide Lounge, Road Carnage, Bona Fide Jobs,Where Moth and Rust Corrupt, and Everglade.
Greg cut his literary teeth by reading the Parker novels by Richard Stark. The Stark influence is evident in Barth's lean, compact prose. As a fiction writer, he has a thing for amoral characters in bad situations; without good options, they proceed to make things worse for themselves.
A devoted fan of noir fiction in all its forms, Greg is also the host of Noir on the Radio, an affiliate of the Authors on the Air Global Network. He lives and writes in Bowling Green, KY.
For more about the author and his works, visit his publisher’s website: All Due Respect
Or see what he has planned on his Amazon Author Page
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