No begging at Noir Nation

Recently when PayPal, a financial services company that facilitates online payments for goods and services, told indie publisher Smashwords what it could and could not publish, we expected to see a fast and furious response not seen since 1957. That was the year San Francisco publisher City Lights fought both government and private censors who wanted to shred Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, now a literary classic.

But Smashwords is no City Lights. Although it seems more like the accommodating publishers during Vichy, Smashwords has no parallel.

On one side of history stand brave publishers like City Lights, Olympia Press, and Grove Press, standing firmly against the massive power of government and populist culture—while on the other, Smashwords kneels at the feet of its banker.

Our words in the inaugural issue of Noir Nation may be worth repeating:

Although the term noir, as applied to film and literary works, is of recent vintage, elements of noir can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Book of Ecclesiastes, and Dante’s Inferno, all existentially darker and more cruel than the harshest scenes in the books that fill the crime fiction shelves of 21st Century bookstores and libraries or the films that gave rise to the term. What we have seen over the last 65 years is a focusing of those loose elements into a laser beam that can carve its name in stone.

Noir Nation will go wherever there are readers hungry for works of literary fiction that explore the dark side of human experience. Fiction that pursues its own aesthetic ends, rather than the legitimate but competing interests of the marketing departments of commercial publishing houses.

We are not for everyone of course. We won’t publish controversial materials aimed at satisfying curiosity seekers or consumers looking for cheap thrills. Our cause is Literature—which can be controversial. Even Shakespeare was censored because his works were not deemed appropriate for women and children. Is there a work of crime fiction more noir than Hamlet? So we will not shy away from great writing that provides a deeper understanding of our humanity and inhumanity, or from visual art that supports that mission. Many Noir literary works depicting graphic scenes of cruelty or sexual passion (that are essential to the story and its aesthetic ends) never get published because the subject matter causes unease or because the topic is not trending in the markets. Someone has to fight for the right of these works to find an audience and for the right of an audience to read them.

You can find Noir Nation on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The parts of the room where publishers stand with their writers.

Margaret Thatcher was my favorite zombie – an interview with Katrina Von Kessel


Katrina Von Kessel

[Princess Pissant, the primal force behind the Another Day at the Office blog, has kindly given Noir Nation permission to republish a substantial part of her interview with noir zombie author Katrina Von Kessel. To follow Princess Pissant on Twitter click here. To follow Katrina Von Kessel click here.]

Today, PP has the rare honor of interviewing up-and-coming authoress Katrina Von Kessel, whose debut novel Blue Bloodbath, Princess Pissant has just wisely used a small fraction of all-the-time-in-the-world to read. And, about that, all Princess Pissant can say is: eat your heart out, Stephanie Meyer! (Or maybe your brains.) You lame gazillionaire with your hackneyed vampire-and-werewolf-meet-cute series . . .

Anyway, please join me in welcoming Katrina Von Kessel, author of Blue Bloodbath, to Another Day At The Office:

PP: Okay, full disclosure – Princess Pissant thought Katrina Von Kessel was the name of a porn star.

KVK: [silence]

PP: Are you not a porn star?

KVK: It is true that my face is known in certain port towns on the Crimea. But no. I am Dutch. Which is, of course, a distinction without a difference. Actually, I’m only half-Dutch. The bottom half. My mother is American.

PP: Can PP call you KVK?

KVK: Bien sûr que oui.

PP: Okay then, KVK is not a well-known porn star, or so she claims; then are you also not that woman who Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock with? (PP cannot think of a way to avoid ending that question with a preposition.)

KVK: I only mingle with film stars when performing in film. Jesse James? Let’s just say, Jesse James wishes.

PP: Because – and here again, I have to be totally honest – while reading Blue Bloodbath, I was thinking, “This broad is one helluva writer . . . especially for a porn star . . . who may or may not be the woman with whom Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock.” (There we go.) Okay so Blue Bloodbath is an amazing book, and this is coming from someone who’s not even that into zombie fiction . . . Can you tell us where you got the idea of evil Blueblooded Bostonians turning people into zombies?

KVK: That’s very high praise coming from you, PP. Thank you. As to the idea, if you’ve ever eaten at the Ritz Grill, it’s really not too much of a stretch. All these hushed Brahmin types, intently focused on their bloody cuts of prime rib. The sound of their mastication – the chewing, ripping, churning and clicking of dentures as reddish blood splatters over the white china and buttery mashed potatoes. This was my first inspiration for the book. They used to have a harpist who played the Ritz Grill. She was a stunning & lively blonde as I recall – and I got the sense that all these Brahmin Undead wanted to feast upon her. My working title of the novel was actually called: Devouring the Harpist.

PP: Thank you for defining “mastication”; I was always told that was something that made you go blind. Anyway, are you a Blueblood yourself?

KVK: Actually, my granny – my father’s mother – has claims to some minor nobility. My father is a scientist who was in Paris in ’68. That’s where he met my mother, a Californian who was, well, in Paris in ’68. You get the picture. So, no. I’m European. And an anarchist. And a feminist. As well as being a woman of science. Not a blueblood by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, I live in London, where the idea of being a toff is utterly unbearable.

PP: A toff? Okay, never mind. PP will look that up later. Are you, perchance, a zombie?

KVK: I’m hungry for brains, it is true. I like to moan. I’m cold to the touch. And I was made in a test tube. So, in essence, yes.

PP: Blue Bloodbath takes an erotic and noir-ish – that’s a word, right? – twist on the age-old topic of class warfare; where do you think you fit into the brutally-stratified socioeconomic paradigm described in the book?

KVK: Thankfully, I’m nowhere: I was writing about a very specific sort of social segregation that I saw when I was in the States. And writing as well the very specific sorts of sex that you Americans are so fond of. Although I am a zombie, aren’t I? PP, please pass the brains.

PP: You are starting to creep me out, but okay: your biography describes you as a biophysicist and geneticist. Is the nefarious Dr. Shaw – who unleashes maleficent mayhem through a chemical formula intended to ensure the Bluebloods eternal youth and vitality – based on anyone you know professionally? If so, who is THAT asshole?

KVK: Sadly, my field is littered with righteously creative but complete dickwad misogynists. They are utterly brilliant men capable of the most porcine beliefs and actions. It’s a shame, really. Men of science get a pass, mostly, because they are so “important.” Yes, I was venting a bit of frustration on poor Dr. Shaw.

PP: Where did you come up with the idea for that crazy masturbatory machine? (PP is pretty sure that she would have seen something like that on Katie Morgan’s late night HBO program, Pornucopia, if PP ever watched anything like that, which she doesn’t.)

KVK: Necessity is the mother of invention. Just ask Catherine the Great (or her horse).

PP: PP could not help but notice that KVK writes her male characters VERY well – with a lot of realism and insight; is that because, as a scientist, you operate in a male-dominated profession?

KVK: Yes. Men. Well, they are fascinating specimens. Two notches above unspayed lab rats. I think women are naturally more curious about the psychology of men than vice versa. I also think testosterone is easier to capture without use of metaphor than estrogen: in other words, perfect for genre fiction. Enough said. I don’t want to go to PC prison for making inappropriate remarks.

PP: Anybody who reads PP is likely not PC. Further, very few people actually read PP. So consider yourself in a safe environment here at Another Day At The Office. Anyhoo,Blue Bloodbath is, on the one hand, a page-turner but, on the other, highly literary. Who are your literary influences?

KVK: Isak Dinesen, for one, who was an adventurer and brilliant writer: 7 Gothic Talesis my fave. Colette, of course. Jane Austen for telling men where they might well put it. Edith Wharton, the first feminist novelist. And, most of all, my heroine and the most famous of all Zombie porn stars – Maggie Thatcher.

PP: Is this your first book?

KVK: Yes.

PP: Really? . . . Bitch. Okay, how long did it take you to write Blue Bloodbath?

KVK: I did it on a challenge from a male colleague. A zombie novel in six weeks. The rewrite took much longer when the publisher got a hold of it. Their nit-picking drove me crazy. It’s a bloody zombie novel, I wanted to yell. Eventually, I ate their brains.

PP: KVK also writes Boston very well. Have you ever lived in Boston?

KVK: Yes, I have. Beacon Hill is beautiful in the fall and Cambridge is beautiful in the spring. It was a formative time of my life. The Seven’s Pub on Charles Street was sort of my Cheers you could say.

PP: So, there are a lot of rugby players in your novel. Do you think there’s any correlation between ruggers and zombies? (Because I do.) Have you ever dated a rugby player? (I have.) Don’t you just hate their asinine misogynistic songs? How many times did you have to listen to your rugby-playing boyfriend sing those stupid-ass songs to get them just exactly right for Blue Bloodbath? (BTW, You have those guys NAILED.)

KVK: PP, you’re a better woman than I. I was related to a rugger by blood. Rugby players drink pee from a boot and zombies eat brain tissue from a cranium…they are really not so different.

PP: There’s a great deal of high quality literotica in Blue Bloodbath . . . PP LOVES that stuff . . . but it’s uncomfortable to read at, well, the Office. There should be some kind of warning. Just for future ref.

KVK: This is why BBB is on Kindle for now. No tawdry covers. Although I love a good bodice ripper Fabio style cover myself. My publishers were prudes. Next time I want to be published by a Crimean gangster or a Frenchman.

PP: Speaking of the future, will there be a sequel to Blue Bloodbath? PP can totally see this as a series.

KVK: There is. My roomful of lab monkeys is working on it right now! The title is…

PP: What’s next for KVK?

KVK: I’m preparing a monograph in a new discipline: Erotic-Artifactual Archeology. That and having a serious re-think on my current romantic entanglements.

PP: Have the movie rights been optioned yet? Who do you see playing Bizzy Dalton? (I love that name, BTW, and she’s a great character.) What about Trevor and Buzz? Dr. Edward Shaw? I, for one, can’t wait to see the scene where (SPOILER ALERT!!!) socialite Macie Shaw kills a zombie with a fire poker.

KVK: Bizzy Dalton? Who else but Meryl Streep, who just played my favorite zombie, Maggie Thatcher. Trevor and Buzz can only be Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, two nice-looking, bi-sexual boys from Brookline. And Dr. Shaw: Christopher Plummer, of course, the Nazi from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Oh, wait: Is he dead? If so, all the better!

PP: Is there anything KVK would like her readers to know about her, or her characters?

KVK: Blue Bloodbath is like the Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM. If you read the novel back to front, they’re really all nice people.

PP: Do you have a day job? If so, you should quit it.

KVK: I’m a professional student, unless of course I’m visiting a port town in the Crimea. Then I’m working.

PP: Do you ever work out of a Starbucks?

KVK: Once I accidentally went into a Starbucks. I assure you it never happened again. I certainly never composed “literature” there.

PP: Didn’t think so; just curious. Katrina Von Kessel, you rock; thank you for indulging your fan Princess Pissant with this interview. I, for one, cannot wait for your next book.

KVK: Thank you, PP: I am thoroughly charmed.

PP: Well, that’s it, for now, everyone. Everyone? Everyone?

Anyone? Anyone?

PP is glad to be back in the saddle; and she cannot recommend Katrina Von Kessel’s brilliant novel Blue Bloodbath highly enough. She can provide you the link to check it out on Kindle . . .



Smashwords abandons its writers

Given the dark content that noir crime fiction writers from around the world created for Noir Nation’s last issue and its next one, our early decision to avoid Smashwords and publish with and Barnes & Noble has proven fortuitous.

TechCrunch has more details of how PayPal cried BOO! and Smashwords jumped so high it landed on a different planet, one that fearless defenders of free speech would  recognize immediately as alien soil.

Like Smashwords, Noir Nation faced efforts to censor it. In our case it was Google. Unlike Smashwords, we never blinked. Instead, we lawyered up, stood by our writers, and prepared for economic death — all for the right of our writers to be heard.

Noir Nation’s Editor-in-Chief is a son of Parris Island. On his crib were writ these words: Semper Fidelis.

It means you don’t abandon your writers.

The right time to write.

James Fouche

Another brilliant day for writing. The clouds are full and hanging low. There is something electric in the air. The intoxicating smell of coffee drifts across my laptop screen. Patrons are coming and going, stopping and walking, carrying on. This is fantastic, because people, everyday people, being as mundane as they can be, supply an author with ample characteristics and mannerisms and body language.

This is what it’s all about. I take a deep breath and time myself, initiating what most would describe as the writing process. I’ve been waiting to finish this scene for weeks. It’s vital to be in the right mood to write, especially when you are a 55-year-old farm worker waking up in a pool of blood, looking at a panga lying next to your head without a single clue as to what had happened or who had attacked you. I envision myself lying on the ground, opening my eyes and seeing what my character is seeing, feeling what he is feeling, doing what he would be doing. I’m ready.

Then, at the peak of my concentration, my phone suddenly starts to vibrate. I take the call and sigh as I listen to the voice at the other end. One of my clients has had a heart attack and I need to file the paperwork at the office. I finish the call and sit for a few seconds looking at the empty screen in despair. The blinking marker is begging me to start typing, but I can’t. There goes another brilliant opportunity.

Since my first novel was published I’ve been doing this unbearable balancing act between careers – flipping between the one I have to do and the one I want to do. Unfortunately there is no middle ground or one correct option for now. Sales of the first novel has not yet justified the shift in careers. I have to follow up with another novel or else I’ll be stuck in quicksand for the next five years.

An average day might see me going to my office and making appointments, doing paperwork, mailing publishers or reviewers or other authors, eating lunch while completing an interview for a fellow author’s blog, seeing clients, doing more paperwork, taking the dogs for a walk, and preparing for the next day. When I sit down at the laptop it’s almost eleven o’ clock and my eyes are falling shut.

As an author you want the world to know that you are an inspired voice with something useful to say, something of value to those who care to listen or read. Keeping that in mind, there is only one effective way of promoting yourself: constantly. This is difficult when all you really want to do is write. I have four books in my mind and no time to pen them down. So many things keep getting in the way.

Here are the three most prominent hazards for a new author attempting to complete his second novel, while still trying to promote his first one.

First, location: We relocated to George, where very little occurs from a literary point of view. I’m out of touch with the writing community.

Secondly, vocation: Generally first-time authors don’t step into the position of full-time author overnight. Chances are you have to work elsewhere, or manage a number of jobs at the same time, in order to keep food on the table. Sadly, this eats into your writing time, not to mention the loads of research time that precede the actual writing.

Lastly, inspiration: Here lies the snag, the ever-present thorn in the side, the ultimate counter-weight that always tips the way you don’t want it to tip. Inspiration drives the creativity of what we do. As long as there is no drive there will be an empty Word document on the screen.

If writing is not all you do, then the world quickly gets in the way and steals away your time and your inspiration. Luckily I have a very supportive and understanding wife, because let’s face it, authors are no day at the beach. At times we can be our own worst enemy.

So how to overcome these terrible pitfalls that face an aspiring writer every day? How can a first-time author complete that next novel and get his or her book into the world.

There are only three possible solutions, and here they are: determination, determination, determination.

Noir Nation No. 2 in the final reading round

Photo by Phil Roeder

Noir Nation is now in the third and last round of reading submissions before sending out formal acceptances and passes. We thank you for your patience — the quality of the submissions has been especially high and that has at times required multiple readings of the same work. But we project that within a week’s time every writer who submitted a story or an article will have a clear response. Again thank you for your patience. And thank you for showing us how much good crime fiction there is around the world. — The Editors

What to write when no one’s reading?

So how does an author adapt to a difficult environment? A non-reading environment?I live in South Africa, a country where the latest illiteracy ratings revealed a terrible truth. Our ratings have dropped by many points. Our kids are getting dumber and dumber. Television gets preference at the moment. Because of this my demographic has changed. My target audience is thousands of miles away and seven hours behind me.

So how does an author market his book in another country? I’ve tried every avenue, but the result has been disappointing. Internet marketing, guest blogging and social media can only reach that many people before they block you.

Furthermore, do you start changing your style to reach out to your new target audience. Do you start changing kilometres to miles, kilograms to pounds, Wimpy to Starbucks, etc.?

Just wondering…

James Fouche