Short, Sharp Interview: Joshua Swainston

THE TACOMA PILL JUNKIES_CPDB: Can you pitch The Tacoma Pill Junkies in 25 words or less?

Drugs, and the working class real people who take them. There’s also a serial killer, ya know, for fun.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

In the book the characters talk extensively on what media they are interested in. There is a line from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, “It’s not what you like but what you are like that’s important.” I think you can tell a lot from characters (people in generally really) by what they like so I try to incorporate what I’m into, into what I’m writing.

At this moment: I think anyone with a pulse should listen to Mark Ronson’s Versions album. If you aren’t dancing by the end, you’re probably dead.  There is a great anti-self-help book by Jack Cameron called Ruin Your Life that anyone who has flirted with self-destruction should read.  As for movies, Ben Stiller did a really great job in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. On the other end of the spectrum, my all-time standby flick is Battle Royal. It’s just so beautiful and violent.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I hope so. I don’t want to spend the rest of my reading life being critical of everyone else’s work. I want to get lost in the story.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

I think writing for a production would be challenging. When you write a story, you craft everything. It’s just you and your world. With any talent and a little luck the reader come out feeling what you intended them to feel. In productions there are too many people involved. The write is not the soul deity in his own world but merely the jumping off point for directors, producers, actors, editors, etc. I’m not ready for that yet.

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

4 years of heavy un-prescribed pharmaceutical use. 10 years of merchant sailing. 6 months working at the Tacoma Mall. Some of this time overlaps.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

It is a cheap and efficient way for writers to connect to their readers. Social media reflects the changes of what people are interested in so quickly that sometimes it’s hard to get a barometer reading on what’s happening. This can be good or bad. In the current world of shortened attention spans it helps to have a presence of Facebook or  Tweeter simply to remind people you exist.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?Joshua Swainston

I edit for a literary website,, and we are getting a huge amount of momentum behind that. I’m also struggling through my next novel, untitled as of now, it’s about a five month sailing job I did on the last American flag steam ship.

Bio: Joshua Swainston has worked as a mechanic, merchant sailor, courier, loan shark, club promoter, Ryder truck rental agent, MC Donald’s grill cook, taxi driver, valet, coffee roaster, wine distributor, psychologist assistant, UPS man, Disney Store stock boy, and played Santa Clause. His short stories and flash fiction are printed in A Twist of Noir, The Frist Line, Fuck Fiction as well as others. While writing editorials for the Weekly Volcano, he won a Washington Press award for his piece about Ivan the Gorilla, “The Silverback of South Tacoma.” His self-published novel, The Tacoma Pill Junkies, was releasedin February of 2013 and can be found at