An Interview with Laird Barron

Published November 1, 2015 by MommaCat


Most authors have had many jobs to pay the bills in their quest to become successful. What are some of the jobs that you have held?

I’ve worked many blue collar jobs starting in a feed store unloading cargo vans and alfalfa trucks as a teen. Since then, I’ve done time as a commercial fisherman; dog musher; educational assistant for special needs high school students; construction; personal trainer; and truck loader, among other things.

Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule?

My next collection, Swift to Chase, is finished but for minor details. Themes veer closer to thriller and psychological horror territory, although Rex the cyborg war dog and my first and possibly last take on the risen dead feature therein. I can’t say much else at the moment except that I hope to see it arrive during the autumn of 2016. Between now and then, I’ve well over a dozen new stories and novellas scheduled in magazines and anthologies. I’m also working with Centipede Press on a massive omnibus of my first three collections. Philip Gelatt, the writer of Europa Report, is filming an adaptation of my novelette “—30—“as we speak.

How important are character names and how do you come up with them?

Depends upon the story. Names are power. Characters with speaking roles, or imbued with narrative burden, should resonate. Either aesthetically, or narratively. I sold a giallo-inflected story—the protagonist is named Craven. This reflects a certain weakness of character, but also reinforces this is, after all, a yellow tale, a specific tradition.

I keep a file of story and novel ideas. I do that for names as well. If something catches my interest, I write it down immediately.

Have you ever devised a character and then written a plot around them?

Not quite, except in the case of nature/landscape as a character. Usually, the setting and plot occur more organically. Often, I don’t really know much about my characters until they’re forced to react to unfolding events. That said, these past couple of years I’ve tinkered with the concept of a cyborg war dog named Rex. I’m more familiar with his psychology than I am the posthuman world he inhabits.

Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?

Roger Zelazny; Cormac McCarthy; Angela Carter; Shirley Jackson; Peter Straub, Martin Cruz Smith, and TED Klein. Jack London, Dorothy Parker, Ambrose Bierce, and Luis Borges were all important to me during my latter twenties. Poets Anne Sexton; Charles Simic; Robert Service; Mark Strand.

If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?

Enrico Caruso. I’d like to shatter eyeglasses with my voice.

What are the next three books you’re planning to read?

The Worm in Every Heart and Kissing Carrion by Gemma Files; Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories, by Charles Beaumont. Files is among my favorite authors. I am overdue to catch up with Mr. Beaumont.

What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?

Ambrose Bierce; Dorothy Parker; Roger Zelazny; Miyamoto Musashi; Niccolo Machiavelli. To quote Mr. Ken Watanabe, “Let them fight.”

If you could claim one book as your own – think fame not fortune – what would it be?

Fiction: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Nonfiction: The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. In contemplating this question, I am reminded to apply more of Musashi’s advice to my own writing, my own discipline.

Being an aspiring published author is

–not the mission. Being an author who has published well is the mission.

How do you want the world to remember you?

It’s best not to overthink it. Get up, do the work, rest. Do that as long as you are able. Every now and again someone drops me a line to say my stories have helped them through a tough time, or inspired them to write their own. That’s a hell of a reward and a hell of a way to be remembered.

You can find me on FaceBook, Twitter, and at my author site:

Thank you for the interview.

Thank YOU, Laird! It was a pleasure. …’til we meet again.

Scroll down for a review of one of Laird’s short stories.

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