Christa Faust, famously described by Quentin Tarantino as “a Veronica in a world of Betties”, joins us for an interview with Alan Kelly as part of Women in Horror Recognition Month. Her latest novel Choke Hold is the follow up to her Edgar Award nominated Money Shot.
Choke Hold follows the protagonist of Money Shot, Angel Dare. When did you decide to write another Angel book?
CF: It wasn’t until long after I finished Money Shot that it even occurred to me to write another Angel Dare book. You can kind of tell, since the ending of the first book doesn’t leave much room for further adventures. But, hey, I like a challenge, and people do seem to love the character. Truth is, it was the readers who encouraged me to see if I could get Angel out of that jam and into whatever might happen next.
CF: I outline extensively, make tonnes of little notes and even draw action scene diagrams. I never used to do that when I was younger, but tie-ins and novelisations require very detailed outlines before a project can be approved. I guess I just got used to that method. I don’t always stick to the letter of my outlines but it gives me a guideline; a basic framework that I can later bend and reshape as I go along.
For complicated action scenes I think some level of advanced choreography is critical in order to keep track of everything that’s going on. I need to know exactly where everyone is at any given moment, what weapons they start with, gain or lose over the course of the scene and what injuries they sustain. The scene can be chaotic and messy, but I still need to have everything laid out and organised to make it work.
Angel makes a promise to protect Thick Vic’s lovechild, Cody. Soon both are joined by Cody’s trainer, Hank, and find themselves on the run through the Arizona desert. There’s an interesting dynamic between Cody and Angel can you expand on this?
CF: Angel relates to all men sexually first and foremost. That’s the only way she knows how to connect with a fellow human. Sex makes her feel in control. At one point she says that she would feel much more comfortable giving Cody a blowjob than hugging him. This has nothing to do with Cody in particular and everything to do with Angel’s problems with intimacy. What I find strange about the reviews coming in for Choke Hold is that they all mention Angel’s sexual relationship with Cody, which to me is very superficial. Some even go so far as to call it a romance. That was never my intention. Sure, she cares about him and wants to help him, but she’s hardly in love with him. During their one and only sexual encounter, she’s thinking about another man the whole time and eventually ‘flips the switch to pro’ inside her head and just wants to get it over with.
On the other hand, her relationship with Hank is very emotionally intense. It’s probably the single most challenging and intimate relationship of her life; a doomed noir romance, fraught with complex emotion and tainted by dark, ugly secrets. Because of Hank’s issues, she is not able to fall back on sex as a way to deflect intimacy the way she does so easily with Cody. Yet no one has remarked on that at all. In fact, most reviews seem to sideline Hank as a wacky secondary character and focus only on her perceived relationship with Cody. I find this really baffling. I’m used to readers bringing their own perspective to my books and interpreting what I write through their own individual filters, but there’s no way around the fact that Hank is the most important character in this book. The scene where she finally breaks down and cries in the hotel room with Hank is infinitely more significant than the scene where she blows Cody. If you don’t see the significance of Angel’s connection with Hank then the whole last chapter is meaningless.
How much did you research mixed martial arts?
CF: I dug into MMA the same way I dug into the adult film industry, by spending time with people involved and watching them work. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Fuck Wikipedia. If you want to learn about something, go talk to people who do that thing. Be a good listener. If you are respectful and non-judgemental, people will tell you almost anything.
What are your thoughts on cross-genre fiction and tie-ins?
CF: I love cross-genre fiction. Two great tastes that taste great together! I think it’s fun to colour outside the lines, to challenge expectations and push boundaries. That’s what I did with Hoodtown , which is a kind of mash-up between urban fantasy and classic hardboiled pulp.
Outside tie-in gigs, can you ever see yourself returning to writing monster fare?
CF: If I ever do, it will probably be a cross-genre take on the subject. My hardboiled pulp sensibility will likely leak through no matter what genre I tackle.
CF: The original gang let their option lapse and it was quickly snapped up by a new crew. That’s all I’m able to say about it publicly right now, but stay tuned for more details.
Do you think that writers need to pimp their books to ensure maximum readership?
CF: It’s a fine line, book pimping. Yes, it needs to be done to get the word out, but it’s very easy to go overboard and have the opposite effect. If someone shoves their book in my face a hundred times a day, I shut down. I won’t read it, no matter how good it might be. Selling books is not unlike dating. You can’t just walk up to a total stranger and say; “I’ve got a fantastic dick. Trust me, it’s awesome. You’ll love it. George Pelecanos says it’s the best one he’s ever seen. Click here to suck it!” On the other hand, if you’re smart and funny and entertaining, someone might be interested in getting to know you better. I see tweets and other social media interaction as literary hors d’oeuvres, like bite-sized versions of an authors work. Free samples that provide a little taste of their voice, their style. I’ve always said the best way to promote your work is simply to be interesting.
Will you ever return to Angel Dare?
CF: This book was so much harder for me than Money Shot. I wrote Money Shot in six easy weeks. Choke Hold was a bloody war. I’m still not entirely sure why it was such a bitch. Second act jitters? The fact that I’d never written any kind of sequel or a continuing character? No idea. That being said, I’ll probably end up doing at least one more Angel Dare book. It was the readers who talked me into writing Choke Hold, I’m counting on them to let me know if they want more.
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