Joseph Schwartz is a St. Louis native who writes exclusively about the Gateway City.He prefers the style of fiction deemed transgressive fiction, where his stories' protagonists generally find a solution to their problems through either illicit or illegal means. He personally prefers stories told through a criminal's point-of-view. It is never the crime that fascinates him so much as the motivation to do it and the terrible, almost predictable outcomes to such actions. Just as he has an expectation of writing to be read he believes that it is as important, if not more so, that you as a reader should have the expectation of being entertained as you read. Anything less is such a disappointment.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I'm a forty-six year old writer who has lived most of his life in St. Louis. As a writer my deepest motivation is to write what I would like to read myself.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Mostly I go to work or just fuck around the house mowing the yard. I really don't have hobbies and just never have been able to get into sports. I'm generally happy to have a good book to read or something decent to watch on TV.
Other than horror, what other things have been a major influence on your writing?
I grew up in poverty and violence. I've been used like a cum rag since childhood by friends and family alike usually for nothing better than money. Of course, occasionally, a sadistic asshole with a messiah complex comes along and makes things interesting.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Dark Fiction. My monsters are more akin to wear a suits and ties while working for the local bank than hide under your bed.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I'm a big fan of Steinbeck and Bukowski. I loved Chad Kultgen's first three novels and if I was marooned on an island and only had one book it would be the collected novels of Stephen King's simply known as the Bachman Books.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Although it is more dark than horror, I loved The Girl Next Door by Ketchum. I'm a bit flaccid when it comes to my horror movies so I'd rather watch Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy than Nightmare on Elm Street.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
That the dead give a shit about the living.
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I guess if you had to live next to someone from a book I'd take Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird. I'll take a dark hero over a self-righteous prick any day of the week. If I had to live next to Huck Finn, I'd punch him in nuts every chance I got. Seriously, fuck that kid.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think horror is currently waiting for a new darling, someone with a fresh angle which is fairly hard at this point. There are some real clever writers like John Taff and Josh Malerman who, in the meantime, are damn entertaining while we all wait for the next S. King to come scare the hell out of all of us.
How would you describe your writing style?
I write fiction for men, the kind of stories we tell each other drunk around a fire or getting high and trying to fix a car. Men communicate with their bodies and actions. I think the trick to it is not writing about the mechanics of sex or a good punch to the nose but the emotional damage inflicted to both the punisher and the punished. Fact: men don't want to talk about fucking anything but we sure as hell seem to think about bad shit for a long, long time afterward.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Being compared to geniuses like Hemingway and Jim Thompson are hard to accept.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Not being caught in clichés. Metaphors are a terrific way to communicate universal truths but damn difficult to come by when you have to start from scratch.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
No, I don't think so. Comedians are fond of saying nothing is sacred so I don't see how my bullshit should be able to claim a higher moral ground than my all-time favorite George Carlin.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I would kill that goddamn dog Cujo. Get the combine and mulch his rabid ass.
What do you think makes a good story?
Like Kurt Vonnegut said, the characters in a book should have to want something even if it is just a glass of water. And I don't think old Kurt was being facetious about the water. Every time I hear that advice a whole story line begins to develop by rote in my mind and that is the basis for a good story to me, that you as a reader can relate. As the writer it's my job is to mislead you, pretend to be your confederate when in all reality I'm no better than Oz making promises I have no intention of ever being able to keep.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
For me I feel that names should fit the theme of a book. If you are writing a period piece similar to a Jane Austin novel having a character named Spider is probably a dumb idea and likewise an axe wielding maniac called Yonkel isn't very appealing.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
You just get better or you don't. I couldn't have gotten much worse, so in that sense, I guess I got lucky.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
You should have read many books and been offended often by their formulaic plots. Further, I would suggest learning how to write screenplays. When you can sit down and bang out ninety pages of a story moving incredibly fast both emotionally and logically to an unexpected end using not much more than dialogue to do so, then you can definitely write a book.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Just keep writing, they'll find your work. Both Elmore Leonard and Tony D'Souza in separate meetings told me that. Elmore was extremely down-to-earth, friendly as a stray dog and if you haven't read Tony's book Mule, do it – you'll love it.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I'm a social media whore shamelessly holding up my dress on the digital street corner begging passersby to look. Of course, turning your books on for free once in a while doesn't hurt nothing either.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
From STABCO it absolutely has to be The Supreme Master. I remember when David Koresh was basically BBQ'd on live television. The idea that a single man can convince hordes of otherwise rational human beings into doing shit that can get them killed because they think his claim to being God or at least having His cell phone number on speed dial is fascinating to me. I love having created a character who is supposedly turning water into wine out of sheer benevolence but who truthfully is only in it for the money and the pussy.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
When it comes to STABCO, I loathe the character of Daddy, Claire's father who is a capitalist scum bag. In an effort to humanize him I wrote a scene that intimates his love for B&D porn. It still doesn't make him into someone I'd ever want to know, much less be indebted to, in real life.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Fuck, marry, or kill? You have to choose but no matter which option you finally settle on, it's always a disappointment. So fuck it, give me the money, honey.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
My screenplays. Not a single one I've written has yet to see the light of day but goddamn if I don't feel like I grow as a writer with each one.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Not really. I do, however, wish every time I read one of my published works after a few years of basically ignoring it that I'd written better. My theory is that once something is published, tough shit. Remarkably, even though I've let some real sub-par work into this world, people have liked it.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Currently, STABCO. I've spent 10 years putting this book together from a screenplay to at least 19 drafts later into a novel. If you like this one, the rest of my books will be like getting a massage from Madame Wo's, that is, you should know what to expect… and like it!
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Why do you write? I hope to be read, to be favorably remembered, and to have been considered entertaining as a writer seeing in person I was more shitty and awful than most people could tolerate.