Christopher Irvin has traded all hope of a good night’s sleep for the chance to spend his mornings writing dark and noir fiction. He is the author of Federales, as well as short stories featured in several publications, including Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, and Shotgun Honey. He lives with his wife and son in Boston, Massachusetts. For more, visit christopherirvin.net.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I live in Boston, Massachusetts with my wife and son, though I’m originally from the Midwest. While some grew up on the classics of literature, I read Goose Bumps, Aliens tie-ins, Warhammer novels, pen & paper RPGs and comics. Playing catch-up is a daily grind. Writing appears to be an addiction and I like to shovel snow, but I’d be happy if spring would go ahead and turn up one of these days.
Do you prefer the term Crime, Noir, or Dark Fiction?
That’s a difficult question, but I’ll go with dark fiction. I love noir. Not everything I write fits the genre, but I think it’s safe to say most everything I write is dark or heading in that direction. I’ve been asked why my writing is so emotionally dark and I’m not sure of my answer yet - why or how I get there. I am fortunate to have had a wonderful childhood and pretty successful life up to this point, but there is something about dark fiction/themes that really connects with me. I’ll figure it out one of these days.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Joe R. Lansdale, Megan Abbott, Frank Bill, Nathan Ballingrud, John Mantooth, Johnny Shaw, Roger Smith, Dorothy B. Hughes, James M. Caine
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Perfect? I don’t read much of characters you want to be around, but I’ll go with Father Dukes from “Father Dukes in Dopehouse Inferno (abridged)” in Blood & Tacos by Bart Lessard. At least Father Dukes would keep the peace. Nightmare? The grandmother from Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” I’ve never been so angry with a character.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I don’t know if noir has ever been better. I think the rise of print-on-demand and small press has paved the way for some excellent noir that large publishing houses would never touch because they lack mass appeal. Noir is inherently dark, the hero a failure and the ending, well let’s just say it’s not going to end well. A few authors have leapt the gap – Frank Bill with FSG and Megan Abbott with Little Brown come to mind. Exhibit A Books and Tyrus books are putting out some fantastic dark crime.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Joe R. Lansdale’s The Thicket and Johnny Shaw’s Big Maria are great books that I highly recommend. If I’m honest, Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston was a little disappointing, but I mostly attribute this to reading it while being enthralled with the HBO series True Detective (which he also wrote) and couldn’t help comparing the two.
How would you describe your writing style?
My work has been described by others as minimalist, and I think that is probably accurate. I appreciate the level of detail some writers go to in their work, but I’ve never been one to give the reader full or lengthy descriptions. This usually leaves me struggling to reach a long page/word count. My current WIP is poised to reach commercial novel length, which has me kind of shocked.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
There are a few positive reviews of my work from writers for whom I hold great respect. I keep those close, and try to remind myself of them every once in a while, that I am capable of doing this (writing). As far as negative goes, an agent who reviewed my first novel (one you’ll probably never see…) commented that the voice wasn’t mine – I sounded like other authors that came before me. That was tough to hear, but an important lesson. Part of me can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was worth writing the book just for that critique.
What’s your favourite food?
Pancakes. I could eat breakfast three times a day.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
I’m a child of the eighties/nineties Chicago ‘burbs (haters, roll your eyes and move on) so…Filter, Smashing Pumpkins, and anything else Q101 played until it went bust. Yes, Polaris (Pete and Pete, anyone?) and southern rock. OR, the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I try (and fail) most days to remind myself of this fact.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
The first sentence. The first page. The first draft. I love to edit, but getting the words out for the first time, especially when I’m unsure of a scene, can be agony.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My plots are better, for one. First drafts aren’t as rough and I’m a bit faster at getting words on the page. I don’t ‘think’ about writing as much while I’m doing it. Instead I just try and open up and let it all out.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Write every day, and finish your work.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Respect – though being able to support my family by writing full-time someday would be nice.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m proud of Federales, especially since it is by far the longest work I have published, but I think I’m most proud of a story entitled, “Union Man.” It’s set during the steel strikes around Pittsburgh in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s, about a father trying to save his ill son. It’s my ‘fatherhood’ story – my son was around nine months old at the time when I wrote the first draft (he’s 19 months old now) and so it’s a very personal story to me. That, and I’m thrilled it will be in the next issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir, one of my favorite publications.
And are there any pieces that you would like to forget about?
Not really. I’ve learned a lot from every story I’ve written, published or unpublished. A couple of years ago, after reading Max Barry’s novel, Machine Man, I wrote a story about an accountant in an office who gets trapped in an elevator with a woman who’s afraid of elevators. It was terribly dark and full of dry humor. I handed to my mom to read and she gave me a nice look and told me to move on to something else haha. Maybe I’ll return to it someday… I think now I could probably pull it off.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Federales, my debut novella, just came out from One Eye Press. It’s about a former Mexican federal agent who devotes himself to an outspoken former politician and her fight against the cartels. A noir in the vein of Traffic and Man on Fire. I’m currently working on a novel about a retired professional wrestler who gets himself into a big mess. It’s been a lot of fun to write and I hope to be finishing it in the next month. Then maybe the follow-up to Federales…
For more information on Christopher and his books follow the links below
For more interviews and reviews follow the links below
HORROR AUTHOR INTERVIEWS
HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS
THE GINGER NUTS OF HORROR
THE HORROR WEBSITE