Short, Sharp Interview: Marie S. Crosswell

Texas-Hold-Your-Queens-Front-Cover-largePDB: What’s going on now?

My novella, Texas, Hold Your Queens just came out a couple weeks ago. This is my first formally published book, so that’s pretty cool. I have another novella, Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart, coming out at the end of July from a different press.

PDB: How did you research your latest book?

The way I do research for all of my writing: a lot of online reading, with some video watching thrown in.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme of 2016?

Film – My favorite movie I watched for the first time this year is the documentary Unbranded, available on Netflix. It’s a phenomenal little film about these four guys who ride and lead a bunch of mustangs from the Mexican to the Canadian border over a period of several months. Made me fall in love more deeply with the West.

Book – Sexual Politics by Kate Millett. Originally published in 1970 but I’m reading it for the first time and it’s blowing my mind.

Song – Bryson Tiller’s “Exchange” (technically released in 2015)

TV Show – Grace and Frankie, also on Netflix. It’s funny, light-hearted, and centers a female friendship that has a narrative and purpose of its own. It’s so nice to see older women be the main characters of a story, not to mention single older women! A story that’s well-told, entertaining, and makes those women interesting, multi-dimensional people who demonstrate that there is, in fact, life after 70 worth living. I didn’t even know I wanted that until I watched this show, and I did not expect to like it as much as I did, before I started watching.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

Yes but it’s somewhat unconscious. I haven’t put too much thought into it, but I have a pattern with locations in my fiction. Thus far, I stay in the West or the Southeast (in the United States) and typically in rural areas. I feel particularly drawn to the American West, which happens to be my home region, and specifically to the states that can be thought of as classically Western in its history and culture: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada. Texas counts too, being an iconic cowboy state, although geographically it’s more middle America than West. I usually write stories set in the rural West or South because of the atmosphere it creates and the kind of people who live there. If I’m not writing about big city cops, PIs, and bounty hunters, I like writing about blue collar workers, cowboys, and sheriff’s deputies. Cormac McCarthy and the Coen BrothersNo Country for Old Men pretty much sums up what I like in terms of setting, characters, and mood in the lion’s share of my crime fiction.

The exception is my first novel, which I plan on publishing and following up with a series. It’s set in Los Angeles, because that’s the classic big American city of noir and hard-boiled detective fiction. I don’t think you can write hard-boiled detective/private eye fiction set anywhere besides LA and NYC, if it’s set in the USA. You can certainly set noir in rural America—there’s a whole subgenre of “grit lit” set in the Deep South—and you can put a detective or private eye anywhere. But once you take them to the suburbs or the country, you enter a variation on the classic hardboiled or noir category. It feels different than the original LA noir/hard-boiled fiction we usually credit to Chandler and Hammett. I want my detective/PI fiction to feel like Chinatown or Ellroy’s LA Quartet set in the 21st century. So I keep it in Los Angeles.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m working on a book that was originally supposed to be a novella, but it’s looking like it’ll end up being a short novel. To challenge myself, I decided to write a story that is not crime fiction, so this book doesn’t have any murder or otherwise violent crime, no cops or PIs. The closest I get to crime in my current project is the stalking/harassment of one of the female main characters.

The story is about a combination of things: coming to terms with who you are and what you want in life, being non-heterosexual in rural America, the experience of rejecting a traditional lifestyle for something weird when you belong to a very conventional community. It’s about family and the kind of love between blood family that can eclipse everything else, every other possible relationship, which is the way I like my sibling and cousin relationships. It’s about owning who you are publicly, after hiding yourself and living with the consequences of that secrecy. And yeah, in terms of concrete plot lines, it’s also about a woman being stalked by a man who feels entitled to her attention just because he wants her.

I’m about halfway through it now, so we’ll see how the final product turns out.  mariescrosswell-300x300

Bio: Marie S. Crosswell is a novelist, short story writer, and poet. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated on creative writing and friendship studies. Her short crime fiction has previously appeared in Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Flash Fiction Offensive, Beat to a Pulp, Betty Fedora, Dark Corners, and Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3. Her novella LONE STAR ON A COWBOY HEART is forthcoming from Less Than Three Press (July 2016). She lives in Arizona with her black cat.