Interview With The Beat Me Up Les Edgerton

“A Knife And A Quill” brings you an interview with Les Edgerton, author of The Bitch and Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go.

L. Vera: It’s an honor to have you on A Knife And A Quill.

Les Edgerton: Thanks for having me, Luis. This is fun.

L. Vera: I downloaded your book Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go and I love it. There are so many examples of good beginnings and how to create your own. I would tell anyone to read this along with Stephen King’s On Writing. I have yet to read Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing. Should I? What should expect to learn?

Les Edgerton: What you should expect to learn is the biggest single reason books don’t get published and how to go about remedying that. Improper story beginnings are actually the second-biggest reason novels don’t get taken, but a writer employing a great voice will overcome all kinds of weaknesses in a work, including poor beginnings. This is why folks will read a work and point out all kinds of flaws and wonder how it ever got published. Almost always, it was because a great voice was on the page. It’s like two people telling a joke. Dull Sam tells one to his classmates and nary a grin; an hour later, Anna Banana tells the same joke in the lunchroom to the same students and the school nurse has to be called as at least three kids are choking with laughter over their peas. Comedians know it’s all in the delivery; more writers ought to learn this.

L. Vera: So, I’m sure you’ve read lots of bad openings in a book. What is the worst one you have ever read?

Les Edgerton: Can’t really answer that. Truly poor beginnings get the book put down, so I really don’t remember them well. One that I read recently—sorry, I can’t remember who the author was—began with backstory—bad enough—but this author compounded the felony by positing as a true thing that this married couple who were first cousins—had deformed kids. You know, kids with flippers for hands and large heads. Problem is, there’s no basis in reality for children of first cousins to be anything but normal. There’s just no genetic, scientific problem with first cousins and their offspring. This is a societal prohibition, not a scientific one. And, only prohibited in certain cultures, notably the U.S. In Europe, for centuries, first cousins have married and mated with absolutely no ill effects. There’s just no genetic basis for their children being any different than any other matings. Brother and sister—sure. Father and daughter, mother and son—absolutely. But nothing genetically adverse about first cousins. This showed to me an author who was basically lazy—simply accepted the common old wives’ tale without doing further research to find out the truth—and I was done with him. Genetic “facts” like this seem to be all over the place—probably a result of internet research and not honest research. Even when there is a genetic cause for abnormal births—such as a brother and sister liaison, most writers get it wrong. All close family couplings like this do is double genes. Doesn’t mean all the kids will be bleeders or idiots, necessarily. The other end of the spectrum often happens. The intelligence sometimes gets doubled. In fact, the single most intelligent group of of people in Europe were found to be the Basques of Spain and that’s because for centuries the Basques were largely isolated because of the terrain (mountains) and culture, and they’ve inbred a lot. In their case, it resulted in a superior intelligence overall, compared to other Europeans. Same thing occurred in Canada. The single most intelligent group of people happens to be a small group in Quebec who are largely inbred because of their language and culture (French) causing them to be isolated from a broader gene pool.

Lately, there seems to be an awful lot of sloppy research and acceptance of bad novel and bad movie “facts” and lore as “truth.” It seems like I’ve been reading more and more books with lazy or nonexistent research like this. Just read a popular author who had three major and flat-out untruths as the basis of his novel. In it, he had a detective who could deduce from handwriting that the writer was a left-handed male and elderly. There are three things that handwriting analysis can’t deduce—age, sex and handedness (if the writer is left-or right-handed). Further, this detective had found his girlfriend in a deserted building and she’d been dead for a year and in all seriousness, this writer had the detective noting that her hair and fingernails had grown significantly after her death. And, this guy has a Ph.D! How do you ever again trust a writer like this? I can’t.

I write mostly crime and noir fiction these days, and the stuff some of the writers in this genre put out as the “reality” of their novels shows me instantly they don’t have a clue how criminals think or talk or act. When see writers using terms seriously like shiv, bulls, ratfinks, or create prison scenes with scores of inmates getting raped, I know I’ve just discovered a writer whose knowledge of the joint amounts to reading a bunch of books by writers like himself—writers who don’t have the first clue what goes on in the joint.

L. Vera: I agree, with Google there’s no excuse for sloppy research. (I gotta do a blog post on that.)

Your latest book The Bitch sounds like a straight up beat the crap out of me thriller. What could you tell us about it? And how many deaths should I expect to read?

Les Edgerton: Luis, you’re the first who’ve described it thusly. Myself, I’d describe it as a psychological thriller. The violence only happens when he’s trying his best to avoid it and keep himself from going back to prison for life. This is just a guy who wants to forget his past as a criminal and become a regular citizen. He only wants to be as boring as those guys whose biggest thrill and purpose in life is to have the best lawn on the block. But, his past and circumstances won’t allow that. It’s a study in how a guy starts off with a moral code he thinks is based on loyalty only to discover that he’s instead a nihilist and whose main concern in life is his survival.

Numbers of deaths? A lot…

L. Vera: Sounds great. Anything you learned while writing “The Bitch”.

Les Edgerton: Lots of things. That it misses what legacy publishers are willing to publish. I just read a writer who had a character in his novel who was a writer describe perfectly the state of publishing. That publishers wanted novels influenced mostly by Hollywood and less by the real world and so he was quitting (writing). More than one of us has felt the same way. In my original version of THE BITCH, I’d ended it with what I felt was the only ending publishers would accept—a version of that “Hollywood” ending, where a kind of moral good is achieved and “balance” (whatever that is) is arrived at. You know, the bad guy loses and citizens can once again rest easy in their beds. Well, as it happened, I got lucky with my editor, Cort McMeel, and he told me to follow my instincts and that he wasn’t much interested in what Hollywood or commercial interests wanted—he was only interested in truth and good writing. The upshot was that I did just that—gave my protagonist and pretty much everybody else (and especially the “nice” people that the reader liked) a bad ending. A true ending. And, Cort loved it. And, then, a guy I respect the hell out of, Brian Lindenmuth, editor and publisher of Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press, who gave me a blurb in which he said, in part, “The Bitch is a dark crime fiction story that never once pulls a punch or ducks behind some bullshit like ‘happy endings’ or ‘closure’. The Bitch isn’t afraid to stay dark until the very end.” And that’s when I knew for sure I’d made the right choice. What I learned mostly is what I continue to learn nearly every day: Trust your instincts and be true to yourself.

L. Vera: And what are you getting ready for us next?

Les Edgerton: Several things. I have a YA thriller coming out soon from StoneGate Ink titled MIRROR, MIRROR, about a young teen who discovers she has a mirror twin who talks her into changing places with her and traps her inside the mirror. I wrote it for fun, for my daughter Britney, and never once thought of it for publication. A few years ago, Britney told me it was over four years after reading it that she would allow herself to gaze into a mirror for more than a few seconds before looking away, and that’s when I realized it was publishable. I’m rewriting my memoir, ADRENALINE JUNKIE, and my agent’s looking for a home for it. I’m writing a new writer’s craft book, titled A FICTION WRITER’S WORKSHOP AT THE BIJOU. Writing a new psychological thriller titled THE FIXER about a hitman with a twist—he makes all his hits look like accidents. For example, for one of his clients, while his mark is drugged, he infects her with rabies. When she awakes, she doesn’t have a clue she’s got the disease. It isn’t until days later that she discovers she’s infected and the nature of rabies is that when you find out you’ve got it—the “use by” date of a cure has passed by. He’s a pretty clever hitman and never gets caught, which won’t appeal to Hollywood but might to those aforementioned readers I respect. And, I have what I consider the best work I’ve ever done so far, coming out next year from New Pulp Press, a dark, dark novel titled THE RAPIST. I can’t wait until that one comes out! Some other novels and such…

L. Vera: It was awesome to have you here. I never expected to interview the author of such a great book. If you have any tips for people trying to get published, what should they keep in mind?

Les Edgerton: Don’t believe people who tell you writing is easy and don’t be a pussy who gives up after ten or twenty or even a hundred rejections. Nobody is “entitled” to being published. Everybody is ”entitled” to being printed. Try to belong to the first group. It’s the only one that counts, unless you’re creating “products” for “customers.” More interested in being a typist than a writer…

L. Vera: Thank you so much. Find Les Edgerton’s books here on Amazon and not reading Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go could be the biggest mistake you ever made.

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9 Comments

  1. Love this interview!

    “Hooked” and “Finding Your Voice” are two of the most useful and straight-shooting books on writing I have ever read. What I have most to thank Les for, though, is reassuring me that trusting the reader’s intelligence truly is crucial to writing clean prose.

    And yes! Research is the holiest of holies when writing fiction that’s supposed to use facts to suspend the reader’s disbelief, such as historical and crime fiction. I research the crap out of things even though I write sci-fi, because I couldn’t sleep if I used something in my story that I have no clue about and haven’t yet seen mentioned in publications I trust. The fact that some writers are too lazy to google makes me itch.

    Thank you for a great interview, and for not choosing that happy ending before the one your story demanded. 😉

    • I agree about research. It’s like with google there’s no excuse. I find myself researching a lot on a long story, it feels good to know what your talking about. I’m probably going to write a small post on that later this week. Almost like a scolding to those lazy writers. 🙂

      • I think we creative types can never have enough scolding to keep us focused. It’s too easy to forget that we never know enough. 😉

      • Good news on the research post: I just corrected another “truth” posted about the Middles Ages on FB. People will believe any idiocy or ignorance is “medieval” — funny how many are actually modern. But that’s also the problem with just googling for research: lots of idiots out there who copy and paste the same wrong information.

      • Good point. 🙂

  2. Hi L. Vera, thanks for sharing this interview with Les.

    (“Hooked” is one of my favorite books on writing, and I’m reading “Finding Your Voice” now. Can’t wait to get my hands on “A Fiction Writer’s Workshop” when it’s out.)

    The biggest lesson I keep coming away with is not to worry what everyone else is doing. The amount of conflicting advice out there is overwhelming. Author Susie says to never do this, and author Sam says to always do that… Even critique groups begin to parrot the same advice you find online – because they read it too. After awhile, you need to chuck most of it. I was so worried about writing my story in the “right way,” I lost my voice. (I got it back!)

    I believe writers should be storytellers first. They need to honor the art behind the technique.

    Whenever I read a post on writing from Les, or a chapter from his book, I don’t walk away with a dead spot of anxiety in my gut. I might be challenged, or even feel a little called on the carpet, but I’ve also added a layer of muscle. I can go on to read something I’ve written with a fresh pair of eyes and make it better. THAT is why I can’t recommend “Hooked” and now “Finding Your Voice” enough.

    • Thanks. Yeah when I first met Les online it was a response to an interview I had. And I was shocked to see him reply. It was the first time a writer had posted on my blog that I was actually in the middle of their book. So I had to respond and ask him for an interview. Fun stuff.

  3. Great fireside chat. Ta!


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