Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

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PDB: You latest book is called 101. What’s it all about?

In a nutshell, it’s set against the Northern California pot business on the cusp of legalization. A kid on the run from trouble in San Francisco goes to hide out there and brings a whole lot of trouble with him. There’s a wild array of characters who’re in on the chase and they race back down the 101, converging in Oakland to settle their scores.

PDB: How has pot legalisation changed life in America?

The worst is yet to come. So far, in California, all we’ve seen is more and more laws and regulations. They’re coming up with new ones every week. If it keeps up, the black market will be back in business. A lot of the laws seemed designed to cut out the little guy, the small-time grower who previously flourished. It takes a pile of money to get in on the legal side now, the kind of money that comes from corporations and tech and venture capitalists. Out on the street things are generally the same, except you can smell weed everywhere. No exaggeration.  Bars, malls, restaurants, billowing out of cars.

PDB:  What’s best, critical or commercial success?

Critical. No question. There’s the pragmatic in me that says take the money. But, the truth is, you create what you create. If it’s going to last, it’s got to be good. You don’t need millions of dollars to be happy. You know what’ll make you happy? Leaving behind something great. If a critical success is also a commercial success, then good for the creator. Pretty unlikely it’ll happen with one of my books though. But if you start off looking for commercial success, you’ll end up with something watered down and forgettable. This is what I learned from music. Forget about what the audience wants and just create. Then, if it’s good, it’ll resonate.

PDB: Do you judge a book by its cover?

You have to judge a book by its cover. You do it whether you want to or not. Are there exceptions? Of course there are and I don’t want to discuss them. The reality is, if you’re standing at the store, staring at shelf, it’s the cover that’s got to pull you in. That’s its job. The word-of-mouth, the oohing and awing over blurbs, sizzling sleeve description all come after.

PDB: Was Huey Lewis right, is it hip to be square?

Perhaps he was right. Out here in Silicon Valley we’re living a real-life revenge of the nerds.  I, unfortunately, was way too cool back then, so I’m now part of the ostracized, marginalized sect.  The calculus majors and computer labs kids are now running the world, so fire up your bong, stream your Netflix, and let go of the steering wheel. Someone else is in control.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

tom pittsFor me? My novel American Static just came out as an audiobook, it’s up there on Audible, Apple, and wherever else. 101 is out on November 5th, ask any bookstore to order it, or you can find it on line. I’ve got another book coming out in 2020 called Coldwater, but until then I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work. These babies don’t write themselves, you know.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He’s recently been called the underworld bard of the Bay.  He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL. His new novel, 101, will be released by Down & Out Books November 5th, 2018.