Monday, June 18, 2012

The Powerful Press of Lance Stahlberg

I first met Lance Stahlberg when I was a partner in Shooting Star Comics back in the early days of this century (that makes it sound so long ago, I know, but it's true). He's not only a former publisher, but also a current writer trying to make his mark in the prose world.

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

I hesitate to call it "latest" work because that would imply there are people in the general public who already know my work.  Prior to the new short stories I'm writing now, I self published a tiny handful of comics a few years back and wrote a bunch of fanfics.  This is essentially a fresh start.  My first published prose work.

Thanks, by the way, because my first story will appear in a few months in The New Deal by New Babel Books.  It's a 1930's superhero pulp featuring three crime fighting dames.  I had enough fun with it that I found myself pitching more ideas around.  Now I have a heaping plateful of short stories to finish.

There's a super-spy action story I just finished.  There's a supernatural western about a demon hunting drifter in the 1800's.  Then there'll be my Hermes tale in Modern Gods Volume 2.  Those are all for Pulp Empire/Metahuman Press.  Then Airship 27 has me going back to the 30's with an occult investigator named Ravenwood.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Well my favorites stories have shades of noir to one degree or another.  I love crime dramas.  I love mobsters.  I like to explore characters who are trying to be good people but find themselves stuck doing things they don't want in a world they'd just as soon leave, whether driven by some need or forced by circumstance, or just because no one else is doing the right thing and they can.  I like my heroes grounded, even the ones with mutant powers and magic.  Action is a must.

What would be your dream project?

The Shadow. Dresden Files or The Hollows. Mack Bolan. Star Wars.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I learned a lot from my mistakes on Nocturnal Essence (like what makes for a crappy title).  The setting and plot were both too dense, and we threw too much of it at the reader in the first issue.  My sense of pacing was way too rushed.  Metadawn suffered in the same way. I was so eager that I ended up just dumping every idea out on the paper at once without really understanding story structure.

What inspires you to write?

The way that's worded, it's really kind of like asking me what inspires me to eat and breathe.  It's just something I need to do.  I'm not so much a writer in the Literati sense as I am a storyteller.  I don't really have a motivation or a message.  I happen to like the stories in my head and I want to share them because I think other people will like them, too.  For me it's just about entertaining.

A favorite quote of mine is from Edgar Rice Burroughs: "I have no illusion of the literary value of my books, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I gave my readers the best that my ability permitted."

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

In terms of style, the earliest writers who made an impression on me are outside the genres I'm doing now.  Anyone who has read much Timothy Zahn will recognize his influence pretty quick.  I also loved the way that R.A. Salvatore wrote fight scenes, very fluid and fast paced.  I think my martial arts fight scenes especially have that Salvatore flavor, even though it's been many years since I've read a Drizzt book.

I admire Jim Butcher's writing so much that I can't imagine I hide it very well.  James Luceno is someone else I can't help but emulate a little.

In terms of technique, pretty much everything I know about plot structure, characterization, and pacing I learned from Chuck Dixon.  I take a lot of notes from Ed Brubaker, too.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Once upon a time, I would have said all art.  Then I found myself studying up craft, but so much so that it took away from the enjoyment and resulted in me not actually putting anything down on paper for a long time.  I have since landed firmly in the middle of the spectrum.  It's both.

It needs to be both.  If it's too much science, it comes out stiff and formulaic. If it's too much art, it comes out incomprehensible.  Neither are much fun to read.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Well if I ever clear my plate I've had a novel sitting on the shelf for a little while now.  It is a bit less pulp and a little more drama, but that's because it's more personal.  Still an action thriller, definitely.

It's about a hitman who tried to get out of the life but is dragged back in (if you can't read that line without doing an Al Pacino impression, then this book is for you)... and how he deals with being pulled in so many directions, by his old boss, a new boss, his family, old rivals, new rivals, his ex, the feds, and the-- oh wait, that'd be a spoiler.  It'll be worth the wait.

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For more info about Lance and his work, visit his blog