...Interview Steve Weddle

This is Steve Weddle.

And this is Steve Weddle's book! Buy it here.

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I came across Steve Weddle's name after a number of review sites heaped praise upon his debut novel, COUNTRY HARDBALL. I bought the book, read it, and quickly realized the praise was well-earned. Set in Arkansas and revolving around a number of disreputable and damaged characters, COUNTRY HARDBALL is a collection of connected stories that range from moments of quiet reflection to startling violence. There's a powerful undercurrent in the book, a sense of longing and wishful recovery that haunt it and it's characters. Personally, I kept thinking of Sherwood Anderson's classic, WINESBURG, OHIO, as I read Steve's work...although Steve's Arkansas makes Ohio seem like a minor paradise.

Anyway, I'm basically saying it's a great fucking book, widely considered one of the strongest releases in 2013, and Steve was nice enough to let me interview him:

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What’s your favorite joke?

Light beer.

(Ed. Note: Okay, I like that response.)

Given that short story collections are traditionally harder to publish than novels, did you receive push back from anyone regarding the idea of a novel composed of connected stories?

No. This isn't a collection of previously published stories, though some had been published before. Those folks I worked with rightly looked at this book as a singular story, broken into fragments of perspective. Of course, I don't usually pay much attention to people who tell me I can't do something, so they might have been there on the edges somewhere. 

Along that note, were there any significant changes in your approach as you wrote COUNTRY HARDBALL?

I wrote the stories individually, when I had available time. Later I started piecing them together into a whole, which wasn't as difficult as it could have been, I suppose, since I had the overall plan in mind. The final story in the book was written to tie many of the loose ends together, so that also helped. I'd written three novels in a straightforward manner before this, so writing in this fragmented way helped me focus on particulars better, on making each part work.

You mentioned in a prior interview that you were working on a sequel to COUNTRY HARDBALL. Do you have a definite ending in mind for those characters and that world, or is their story still developing?

If I had an end in mind, I probably wouldn't bother writing the book. I'm only interested in characters that continue to develop.

What, if anything, has surprised you most about the publishing world?

I've been surprised at how open people have been about helping a first-time author and at how people have gone to so much trouble -- email, letters, reviews, and so forth -- to say they've liked the book. I mean, for so long it was just me up before the sun writing things into a notebook, working to understand a character's choices. And now, you know, so many people want to chat about it. It's wild.

Has the success of COUNTRY HARDBALL had an effect on your writing?

To me, the "success" was getting the book done and feeling good about where it ended up. We've gotten great reviews and good sales and people, as I've said, seemed to connect with it. I suppose "success" has too many meanings based on your own perspective. So, at least for me with this book, success means I want to keep working on stories like these, this gritty literary fiction. 

I know you dislike genre categorization, but people have occasionally placed COUNTRY HARDBALL in the field of “southern noir,” and that genre seems to be blowing up right now. What do you think has led to its increased popularity?

People seem to like the gritty realism of "southern noir." I have the feeling that someone has written about how downturns in the economy send people to more violent, rough fiction. And maybe someone else has written about how a bad economy makes people want to read escapist fiction, with heroes slaying dragons. I don't know. I think now you have a number of exceptionally talented "rural noir" writers -- Bonnie Jo Campbell, Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, Honey Brown and more -- and whether the location is southern or midwest or wherever, the tone of debt-beaten people trying to salvage their best lives is pervasive. These talented folks, and others like them, are helping to push us all forward -- readers and writers.

(Ed. Note: Along with Steve's list, I'd add Frank Bill and his terrific novel, DONNYBROOK. Gritty, entertaining, bruised prose.)

What pisses you off about publishing or marketing? It's not giving interviews, is it?

What pisses me off is that most people don't appreciate how difficult marketing is. I've been blessed with great folks at Tyrus Books and F+W Media helping get Country Hardball into the right hands. I never cease being amazed at how much work that can be.

What’s been your best moment in publishing (so far)?
 
Being able to thank dozens of amazing  people -- and especially my lovely bride -- when I wrote the acknowledgements page.  Honestly, how many people get to do that?

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If you're interested in learning more about Steve and his work, you can find his web site here. He's also a contributing blogger to Do Some Damage, a collaborative blog about crime fiction that you should definitely add to your blogroll. You can find Steve on Twitter here.

And, as always, I'm on Facebook here and Twitter here. Social Media!

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INTERVIEW ROLL CALL:

Michelle Davidson Argyle (writer)

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Jenny Drummey (writer)

Kristen Elise (writer)

Sunny Frazier (writer, publisher)

Chris F. Holm (writer)

Maxim Jakubowski (writer, editor)

Sara Jones (musician)

Nik Korpon (writer)

Barry Lancet (writer)

Sommer Marsden (writer)

K.D. McCrite (writer)

Abby Mott (musician)

Alan Orloff (writer)

Alice Peck (editor)

Lucie Smoker (writer)

Ellie Ann Soderstrom (writer, editor)

Art Taylor (writer, critic)

Steve Weddle (writer)

Sarah Weinman (writer, critic)

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