Over the last couple of years I have had the pleasure of having an ongoing correspondence with Seth Harwood master Crime Noir author and one of the hardest working people in modern day literature. Like his contemporaries from the Podiobooks world — great writers like Scott Sigler, J.C. Hutchins and Nathan Lowell — Seth’s ability to connect with his readers through his down to Earth approach coupled with superior literary talent produces the whole package. So now it is my distinct honor to present this interview Seth so graciously took the time to do for us.
Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk with us.
Seth: No sweat. Sorry I’m so slow to respond. Just getting back from a vacation. Awesome and long and who wants to work after that?
1 – You are fast becoming the face of Crime Noir. Did you choose the genre or did the genre choose you?
Seth: Wow. Really? I see a lot of faces out here for Crime Noir and if I’m one of them, I’m happy to be included among the rest. There are some great working writers out here doing amazing things.
As far as my path to the genre, I’d say it chose me. I was writing literary stories for a long time and kept getting the feedback that I should be working on a novel. Then, after a few false starts on other projects, I started Jack Palms. Once I gave myself over to the idea that there would be guns and drugs and a faster pace, I started having a great time as I was writing. The rest, as they say…
2 – What was the first piece of writing you did that made you realize that you wanted to be a writer? What was your ‘eureka’ moment?
Seth: Wow. Good question. Fact is, I think I wanted to be a writer before I wrote anything (as an adult) that I can remember. Mostly I came to it by being a reader, finding some amazing novels in my early twenties. Now that I look back though, as a child I got this blue journal from someplace and started filling it with a story about this alien coming down to visit a boy who lived on a farm. I look at that and a few other stories I did before I was ten and realize it was kind of fated to happen all along.
3 – You also teach writing. Is your writing an extension of your teaching or is your teaching an extension of your writing?
Seth: I’d say my teaching is my teaching and my writing is my writing. I try to keep them separate work areas as much as I can, more so I can compartmentalize the writing than for any other reason. The writing feels like something I need to protect. When I’m teaching I can bring a lot of my writing experiences in and that definitely helps, but in many ways they’re separate processes.
4 – Most of your writing has been in the universe of Jack Palms – your main character – are you planning to branch in a new direction with a new set of characters or will you continue to expand that world?
Seth: I’d like to keep writing in the Jack Palms world, whether with Jack or Junius or both. I’m currently thinking about a new Junius adventure. But I’ve also branched out in the last year to write a thriller set in Alaska with an FBI agent named Jess Harding. She’s on the hunt for a serial killer who’s going after sexy twenty-something ladies. That book is called In Broad Daylight and comes out this spring or summer (2013) from Thomas & Mercer books. I’m also working on a project with hard-boiled San Francisco cops at the moment.
5 – Do you plan to write in other genres or stick with Crime Noir?
Seth: I’d love to write more literary stories or perhaps a literary novel some day, but I’m not sure how I’ll get to that point. I think what’ll happen is that I’ll continue to expand the boundaries of what I feel I’m comfortable with as “crime noir.” I look at a writers like George Pelecanos and Richard Price—all he’s been able to do in books like Clockers or Lush Life amazes me!—and I’d love to move forward in that literary/crime tradition.
6 – Jack Palms is a different kind of detective. What inspired the angle of using a washed up actor as a private detective?
Seth: I was watching a bad action movie (The Transporter, actually) and I started to wonder who could be an action hero. What would happen if a guy was an action hero for just one movie? Not a guy like Jeff Speakman (The Perfect Weapon) who never really hit it, but more like that guy from 21 Jump Street’s later seasons (Richard Grieco – If Looks Could Kill (I mean really!)) who made just the one movie that was actually a little good (upon further review, please scratch that assessment). Anyway, I got to thinking about what this guy’s life would be like after that and Jack Palms started to knock around in my head.
7 – What writers inspired you as a child? Which ones inspire you now?
Seth: As a child I was all about watching TV and didn’t read so much. I liked the sitcoms that were syndicated on my UHF channels but also anything with a tough guy detective: from Magnum P.I. to Hunter, Miami Vice and The Fall Guy. The A-Team. I watched it all and read comic books like crazy. I was a Marvel guy. All X-Men and G.I. Joe. Wolverine, Daredevil, you name it. Sometimes I want to bring in the fantastic elements of the fights from those comics, and I know that my podcast listening audience would go for it, but I’m not so sure about wider readers. I think all of these plus video games, movies and later TV shows make up a lot of what has led me to write the kind of books that I have. This was my path to crime noir.
8 – Is all your writing desire invested in books or do you hear Hollywood calling your name?
Seth: I’m currently working on the script of a television pilot. It’s my first time working in that form. Sure, I’d love to write for TV or the movies. That’s where a lot of the money and respect are in this business, but if I had the choice I’d take a house in the country somewhere and the ability to spend all my time just pecking out novel after novel on my computer at a nice big wooden desk.
I should also say that Daniel Wolfe (google his videos for The Shoes and Ms. Dynamite to be blown away!) has just optioned Young Junius as a movie. I’m super excited about this and can’t wait to see what he’s going to do with it.
9 – Was there a specific inspiration for Junius Ponds, the drug lord from one of your Jack Palms books and the subject of “Young Junius?”
Seth: I think Junius is a big blend of kids I knew growing up. Believe it or not, I used to touch on the periphery of that world as a teen. I consider myself lucky that I never got further inside. Basically, I had the idea to combine the crime noir I was writing with the stories from Cambridge in the 1980s that I’d been writing before Jack Wakes Up. I wanted to set more of my fiction in that world because it’s so close to me. I decided to put Junius there to see what happened and Young Junius was the result. I’m starting to think about him being in lower Manhattan in the mid-nineties, another world that’s close to me, as a future project.
10 – What advice do you have for young writers wanting to start out?
Seth: Plug away and do everything you can. When doors close in your face, keep writing and working to open other doors. There’s never any shortage of rejection, but if you can sustain a solid work ethic, keep improving by writing and reading, and try everything you can find to break into print, you can get a toehold eventually.
11 – What about older or middle aged writers who feel it is too late?
Seth: It’s never too late. Another important thing to realize is that the process of writing itself is often going to be the biggest reward you’ll get. If you can enjoy that, you can and should write. If not, find something else to do that’s more fun.
12 – Anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Seth: Thanks for having me here and for the great questions! Interested readers can find more of my fiction and a lot of free audio (all of my novels serialized as free podcasts) at sethharwood.com
All my best!