Monday, March 19, 2018

Ink-Quisitions With Steve W. Lauden, part 1

Hi Steve. Welcome to Ink-Quisitions. My first question is always a softball: All set to spill some Ink?

A. I'm ready as I'll ever be. Thanks for having me. 

Q. I'm guessing that like most of us Indie writers, you work for an employer. Without placing you under duress—for the moment anyway—are you willing to give us a quick glimpse into your workdays? And are there any particular facets of your job that impact your "writing life?"

A. I work in sales and marketing, so everything is pretty data-driven these days. I try to turn that off before I sit down to write for fear that I'll fall into the trap of writing for the market instead of writing the stories I want to tell. It's a balancing act, for sure, but certainly not unique to me.

I'm excited about your third Greg Salem novel Hang Time, as well as your growing evolution as a podcaster. But since you spent twenty years as a drummer on the California music scene, let's start with your 2017 appearance in the Johnny Cash tribute anthology Just to Watch Them Die.

Q. As a musician—and a writer—how did you feel when Editor Joe Clifford asked you to submit a story for this collection?

A. Joe and Tom Pitts were the editors at Out of the Gutter/Flash Fiction Offensive when I first started dipping my toe into publishing. They are two of the most talented miscreants I’ve ever met. The first story they accepted from me was "Dead Beats," about a murderous rock band on the road. The three of us went on to form a rock band of our own along with Eric Beetner and Mike Creeden. Sadly, we broke up over artistic differences before our first rehearsal. You can thank REO Speedwagon for that.

Since then, I've had the good fortune to publish in some of the same anthologies as Joe and Tom. So when I heard Joe was curating a Johnny Cash anthology, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Johnny Cash is a musical hero of mine and “At Folsom Prison,” which includes “25 Minutes to Go,” is an all time favorite record.

Q. "25 Minutes to Go" struck me as a classic case of S.W. Lauden misdirection, akin to the style you used in your Spelk Fiction story "Secondary." But let's avoid talking plot. Does this particular Cash song bear any personal significance to you? And what influenced your decision to make one of your central characters a country music guitarist?

A. Thanks. It's interesting to think that "misdirection" is a calling card in some of my short fiction—I'll have to look into that. Also, thank you for reading “Secondary.” I really like that story, but it’s a deep cut for sure.

For “25 Minutes to Go,” the concept for the story came before I found out about the anthology. I'm somebody who reads a lot of rock biographies and autobiographies. I find the lives of successful musicians endlessly fascinating. In reading those kinds of "tell all" books, I often wonder what the artist is holding back. That’s probably how I arrived at this concept. As far as picking a country artist, I think it fit better with the, ahem, culinary theme that runs throughout the story.

Q. Shortly after Gutter Books released this kick-ass anthology, I chanced upon an interview you conducted with fellow contributor Jen Conley. Jen indicated that writing her story, "God's Gonna Cut You Down" impacted her emotionally for some time. While you live in Los Angeles, Jen lives in New Jersey. So what circumstances led to this interview? And have you experienced anything similar in regards to any of your characters?

A. Up until very recently, I interviewed a different author or publishing industry professional on my blog every week for over two years. I'm still doing those interviews, but not as frequently right now (podcasting takes a lot of time). That interview with Jen was part of a special feature I did to showcase some of the contributors featured in the Johnny Cash anthology. Jen and I got to know each other through conventions like Bouchercon, and the greater crime community on Facebook and Twitter. She's a very talented writer.

When it comes to the characters I write, I think you always have to have some kind of emotional connection or the story will fall flat. It's one thing to conceive of a character, to build out their skeleton and put skin on their bones with colorful descriptions—but it's quite another to breathe life into them and give them a soul. I find it very hard to do, which is probably why I'm so focused on it when I'm writing. If you’re successful at it, the characters definitely can make decisions that surprise you. That happened a lot for me with Greg Salem as I got deeper into the trilogy, especially in the final book, Hang Time. It also happened with Shayna in my crime caper novellas, Crosswise and Crossed Bones. She really took on a life of her own. It doesn't happen for me all the time, but it's pretty incredible when it does.

Q. Setting your writing aside, besides rock music and recreational reading, you recently added a third obsession to your repertoire: podcasts. How did your podcast addiction start? And how did you and Eric Beetner eventually team up to host the podcast Writer Types?

A. I got into writing because I love reading. I got into podcastng because I love listening to them. I've been a big public radio fan since my twenties, especially "Somewhere Out There with Joe Frank," "This American Life" and "Radiolab." When those shows pushed more into podcasting, I followed them and discovered a whole new world to explore. I got into "WTF with Marc Maron," "Snap Judgement," “Hardcore History” and "Serial" and, most recently, "Desert Oracle Radio," "Kurt Vonneguys" and "The Hilarious World of Depression." I also really like "The Tim Ferris Show," "Recode Media with Peter Kafka" and "Re:sound."

Eric and I got to know each other through the LA crime scene and booked an event together at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. On the ride down, we got to taking about our favorite podcasts. By the time we arrived at the event, we had already sketched out the kind of crime and mystery podcast we would want to hear. We put pen to paper on the ride home and launched the first episode two months later.

There are a lot of amazing things that have come out doing "Writer Types," but the most consistent has been the ability to connect with other writers at various stages of their publishing career. We've interviewed established authors like Sara Paretsky, William Kent Krueger, Attica Locke, Joe R. Lansdale and Blake Crouch (among many others), and gotten to know some very talented newer authors like Aimee Hix, C.J. Tudor, Chuck Caruso, Sheena Kamal and Michael Pool (among many others). We've talked to Big 5 authors, Indie authors and self-published authors, and the conversations are always fascinating and fun. As a reader, I never get tired of it. As an author, I have already learned more than I ever could have imagined.

To collectively feed your obsessions you craftily launched and completed a solo five-part podcast you dubbed "Books on the Bus." In these sessions you chewed the fat with five different musicians from five West Coast bands—

1. Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult
2. Jim Lindberg of Pennywise
3. Jeff Whalen of Tsar
4. Joey Cape of Lagwagon
5. Todd Pasternack of Ominous Seapods

Q. So what prompted you to hook-up with these particular musicians? And what kind of smack did you guys talk about?

A. “Books on the Bus” really is a passion project. The idea came out of considering my character Greg Salem, a punk musician in his early forties who gets his old band Bad Citizen Corporation back together and hits the road in Hang Time. It got me thinking about how many books I read when I was still touring in bands. I wondered if other musicians had the same experience. I was thrilled when so many of the guests I approached were excited to be part of the conversation about books and music. I guess it didn't hurt that I had some kind of connection with each of my five guests.

Q. So anyone who wants can visit your Bad Citizen Corporation website at the Link below can listen to any and all these Books on the Bus episodes for free, correct?

A. One hundred percent free. I hope you guys dig it. All I ask is that if you like what you hear, please help me spread the word.

Q. Meanwhile, congrats to you and Eric on producing 17 Episodes of Writer Types to date. How can folks listen to these podcasts?

A. Thanks! It's been a blast and we've already got some amazing guests lined up for 2018. 

The episodes live in three places: 

Q. Before we talk again later, do you have any school-of-hard-knocks advice for folks who've considered taking a shot at producing their own podcasts? 

A. I'm still a podcast novice, so I'll point you instead to a couple of masters. Tim Ferris recently did a whole show about "How To Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs." And Marc Maron has always had great advice to offer in articles like this one from Spin.

The main thing that I've learned is to let the conversation unfold naturally. When we first started Writer Types, Eric and I always had a long list of questions, but we pretty quickly realized that the best moments happened in-between those questions. It's important to let the guests lead the conversation and share what they want to share with listeners, with just a little guidance from us. And it never hurts to share a few laughs with somebody when you’re getting to know them. 

Q. Meanwhile, what are the 3 best places to scarf down burritos in Los Angeles—and what kinds would Steve W. Lauden order?

A. This might be the toughest question you’ve asked me. Burrito talk can get very, um, heated. We have so many fabulous places to choose from in LA, but here are three that jumped into my head:

El Tarasco in Manhattan Beach—The Jr. Super Deluxe wet burrito with ground beef has been a favorite since high school.
Tacos Villa Corona in Atwater Village—The potato and egg breakfast burrito with spinach is fantastic.
El Gran Burrito in East Hollywood—Get an old school carne asada burrito and load up on spicy red salsa.

When Steve and I return on Thursday, we’ll devle into is his most recent novel Hang Time—which completes the trilogy in his Greg Salem series.

Folks who’ve got a hankering to check out Steve’s “Books on the Bus” podcasts can find them here:

Anyone with an interest can also read Steve’s 2017 story, “Secondary” on Spelk Fiction for free.

The Johnny Cash tribute anthology Just To Watch Them Die—which includes Steve's story "25 Minutes to Go"—is available at Amazon.

You can find Steve on his websites: and

Or y’all can visit him below on Facebook:



  1. Feed the authors, show em some love.

  2. Thanks much for the free audio-books! Will get good listening time in.