Interview with J Walt Layne
Author of A Week In Hell
Questions by Roy Murry
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I live in Springfield, Ohio. The city is rather unique, one of yesteryear’s industrial giants that has been languishing since the late 1950s. I’m a veteran of the US Army, a married father of three, and a voracious reader. I guess I’m a prolific writer. I’ve turned in about a dozen projects so far this year. My first novel was Frank Testimony, a legal thriller set in Bedford, Mississippi in the 1950s. I’m also the author and creator of The Champion City Series of pulp detective stories to be published exclusively by Pro Se Press (August 2013) I’ve written a laundry list of articles for Backwoodsman Magazine and I am the former Op-Ed columnist for The Albany Journal (Albany, Georgia). You can catch up with me on Facebook as Author J Walt Layne.
Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Yes. The first REAL story was a teleplay. I scripted an episode of the 1980s television series The A Team for a writing project at school. I was in 6th grade. It was everything a growing boy needed- violence, language, action, and girls… I got a very stern talking-to and was advised nothing good would come of it…
Were you inspired by someone or something?
Yes certainly so. I had a grandparent who loved garage sales. On many of these trips around her bargain hunting grounds I found a lot of great classic era pulp novels and magazines and pre-code comics. Howard, Spillane, Hammett, to name a few. The first book made me think of being a writer and really grabbed me on storytelling and the necessary imagery of location as a character was the novel Body Count by Lt. William Turner Huggett, based on his time in the USMC in the Vietnam War. Of course one war novel leads to another and I discovered Robin Cook, Dale Dye, and Leonard B. Scott.
I went twenty years or so without reading much pulp, during that time when you’re supposed to have outgrown stuff you liked as a kid. Somewhere in there I found Black Lizard’s Big Book of Pulps and read a short story titled One, Two, Three by Paul Cain and it was on… I wrote my first and worst pulp tale ever and I was in love with it.
What do you like about writing a story?
Loaded question… It gives me, an average guy from the Old Northwest region of the US a chance to go to interesting and exotic places, meet intriguing people, and kill them. No, really this is a serious question? Writing stories is…Aside from my family…Everything. Frank Testimony brought Bedford Mississippi to life from the magnolia tree in the lane near the cotton field, to the music in the jukes, and the smell of catfish and cornbread or pulled pork and gator backs.
My (unpublished) spy trilogy gave me a chance to bring my own super spy to life and get a look at what everyone suspects about the layers of intelligence and espionage. Then this pulp racket happened… Welcome to Champion City… Home of mobsters, murderers, transients, thugs, rapists, murderers, a butt high pile of victims, and Thurman Dicke, old fashioned two fist crime fighter. When a writer writes and shares, they give you a piece of their soul, in my case it isn’t the warm fuzzy part.
Can you tell us about your book?
Writing A WEEK IN HELL, was a chance for me as a writer to try and give something back to the pulp novels and magazines of yesteryear that I enjoyed reading as a kid when no one was looking. There’s something about the honest, yet ornery sound of the language - the not so innocent victims, and uncompromising men. The story bigger than the hero can handle, yet coming out on top against all odds - forty Miles of bad road for the big payoff or the big sleep."
It all starts with a girl and a bag of cash. Candi was the kind of gal who could give a guy indigestion. She was poison, with looks to kill, a reluctant moll looking for a way out. Thurman was a young flatfoot, not necessarily the knight in shining armor. He went to shake out a brawl and nearly fed her his gun, was it any wonder he got a date? They spend an evening on the run, but where does it lead? Just when it looks like it’s over, BOOM! Is it a dead girl, a bag of somebody else’s dough, or both?
What genre best fits for the book?
This is pulp fiction… It’s a thriller, it’s a noir crime story, it’s a mystery but not cozy at all… There’s action that doesn’t quit…
Are you working on something new at the moment?
There are a lot of projects in the works right now… As I mentioned, I’ve turned in about a dozen projects so far this year- novels, short stories, articles and a couple of columns… Fiction wise I’ve been writing out short stories and a historical novel based on Major General Anthony Wayne and the Northwest Indian Wars.
I’m also getting ready to start the next Champion City book. I have an opportunity to write a pulp character from the golden age and I have a number of things in the skunkworks that I want to keep under wraps for a while…
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Good advice I gleaned from a book said, “IF you aspire to write professionally, you have to read and write a lot. Which means a book a week at least, I try to keep both a fiction and nonfiction going… If you have a problem with criticism, this may not be your game.
Publishing is a number of things- do your best, let it cool. Reread, rewrite and polish. Be the best version of you that you can be, remember that 90% of business is relationships, some with people who you wouldn’t invite to a greasy spoon. Write every day. When people who don’t get it discourage you, write more. There is always time to write, if you’re meant to be a writer, you’re thinking about it now…
Where can people go to read your work?
I have a website at www.jwaltlayne.wix.com/author. A WEEK IN HELL is available in print for $9.00 from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/n6meb2q and via Pro Se's createspace store at https://www.createspace.com/4407054. This crime thriller is also available as an Ebook for $2.99 for the Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/lsgbvo5 and on the nook from Barnes & Noble at http://tinyurl.com/n5lgkjx and in most digital formats at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/348511.
Do you have anything to add?
Be yourself. Write what you know. It is in my opinion, very important that your story feel like it is being honest with itself. This doesn’t mean it is a true story, but that it is true to itself in the rules of the road you as writer have established from page one. You’ll find inspiration everywhere, be careful what you do with it.
Beware the water cooler, be friendly, social media is a necessary evil, anyone who has a story idea you just have to hear should be avoided. Remember its high school, people will expect you to take their side and share their opinion, tell you things that are none of your business and repeat things you say out of context. They fit nicely into future stories as victims.