Interview with Nate Crowder- One of the Authors in Battling in All Her Finery
Thank you for being here.
Start off by telling us a little bit about your latest story, “Swing that Axe”.
“Swing That Axe” is story about family and found family centered around a prog rock band in Arizona whose iconoclastic lead guitarist dropped off the map a while ago. Finding out where she went is a big part of the fun.
What inspired you to write “Swing that Axe”.
I love music. It inspires me on a regular basis, and in this case that inspiration was direct. I was listening to one of my writing playlists and had this idea of a band that rocked so hard they split the heavens. The rest flowed from that thought.
Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your story?
I grew up in the SW, near the Four Corners, but I’ve been living in the Seattle vicinity for over two decades now. As a result, I’ve been missing the area a lot lately. So that influenced me to set it in Tucson which is home to one of my all-time favorite bands, Calexico. I decided early on to make the narrator a sort of catch-all of several creative types I’ve known—talented but struggling with their career, burdened by addictions and regrets. As for the focal characters, I loved the idea of the lead vocalist and missing guitarist being twin sisters. It gave me a through-line to keep everything connected.
Going back to the beginning, what is it that got you into writing?
I know it’s probably the answer everyone gives, but I loved reading. And once I absorbed a certain critical mass of stories, it sparked the idea that, “Hey, I can do this, too!” So I started (badly) telling my own stories until I eventually got pretty good at it.
Do you always have a full story mapped out from beginning to end before you start writing?
With short fiction, I almost always have the beginning, the first turn, the BIG turn, and then the end in mind. The rest kind of falls in place through process, and it’s not always as well defined. And sometimes I’ll come across something while I’m filling in the gaps that is better than the original concept, so I’ll re-set my guide posts and steer it in that direction instead.
Do you ever base your characters in your books on real people? If so, when/how have you done this?
I frequently draw inspiration from people I know. Sometimes it’s a bit of physical description, sometimes it’s a quirk they have, or a tiny slice of my experience with them that helps color how I end up visualizing the characters. On a few occasions, I’ve done more full-cloth character insertions. My Gato Loco books Greetings from Buena Rosa and Ride like the Devil used this quite a bit: the first had an old nemesis from high school show up as a 2nd tier bad guy, and the second saw me using a few friends to fill out the line-up of a motorcycle race. But for the most part, it’s just drawing light influence from people.
What type of books do you like to read yourself?
I have a fondness for what I think of as “one step away” books—horror, near-future sci-fi, or contemporary / historical fantasy. I have a certain fascination with watching people spin fantastical elements out of the real world. Tim Powers and Stephen King are favorite examples. I also love non-fiction books on urban planning and social histories. I love cities, and have a real fondness for books about how cities grow, live, and die.
If you had to pick three books that were the only ones you could ever read again, what would you pick?
Tim Powers Expiration Date, Jeff Vandermeer Annihilation, and Mike Davis City of Quartz.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The entire world is waiting to reject you. Don’t pre-reject for them and don’t quit. Develop a thick skin that allows you to weather criticism while still learning from it. Keep reading, keep learning, and keep pushing to get better because there is no finish line and no plateau where you’ve “made it.”
What is your favorite character that you’ve written?
It’s such a hard list to cull from. I love my characters. It’s what keeps me writing. But if I had to pick one, I might go with Louis Malenfant from the Cobalt City books. He’s designed to be such an unlikable individual. But I gave him this amazing arc in my next novel, Cobalt City: RESISTANCE, that explores him pushing back against ideas of who he is and what his limitations are. He has a long way towards redemption, but the idea that he’s finally coming off the sidelines to take an active part in his destiny fascinates the hell out of me.
What are some of the story concepts that interest you?
I have a strong interest in found family, sacrifice, and redemption. There’s something compelling about a character who does the right thing, especially when it’s not the easy choice.
What books would you recommend?
I’d recommend almost anything by Tim Powers, in particular Last Call, Expiration Date, or Declare. The Area X books by Jeff Vandermeer, in particular Annihilation, is a masterclass in visual description and setting the scene. The Inheritance Trilogy from N.K. Jemisin is one of the rare other-world fantasy series that absolutely blew me away, should be required reading. And Mucho Mojo or any collection of short fiction from Joe Landsdale is a guaranteed good time.
What future projects do you have planned?
My next Cobalt City novel, RESITANCE, comes out October 9th, and deals with superheroes deciding where they stand and what they stand for when their country elects a fascist xenophobe as President. I’m also currently working on another music-centered story, this one is a novel about an aging punk rocker contemplating what could be the end of his career after a tour implodes, stranding him in a town full of dangerous secrets. I’ve waited years to be able to do this story justice. I’m about a quarter of the way into it currently and hope to wrap it up this year.