I discovered author Christa Faust when US pulp publisher Hard Case Crime let her lose on an unsuspecting world with the fast paced “Money Shot” in 2008. From there I found out about her earlier work, “Control Freak” in particular, and I was hooked. I asked Christa back then if she would do an interview for my SLICE 2009 magazine TOP SECRET (published in Sweden for collectors, some text in swedish, some – like this interview, in english), and she graciously agreed to do so in late January of 2009. Since then, she has published yet another title for Hard Case Crime. So ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wonderful Christa Faust – the 2009 interview…
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Tell us a little about yourself.
– I’m the author of nine novels, including the Edgar award nominated “Money Shot” and the Scribe Award winning novelization of “Snakes on a Plane”. Grew up in New York City. Live in Los Angeles. I’m a former Times Square peep girl and a professional Dominatrix. Love pulp fiction, Film Noir and mid-century vintage shoes.
When did you discover the joy of reading and when did you develop your itch to write?
– I learned how to read very early in life, so early that I don’t remember ever not being able to read. My mother tells me that I would memorize and recite the books that she read out loud to me as soon as I was able to talk and seemed to learn to recognize familiar words long before I was given any kind of reading instruction. I was not a healthy child and whenever I was home sick from school (which was often) I would make a pile of the books I planned to read that day at the foot of my bed. Reading has always felt as natural as breathing to me. I’ve also been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I recently helped my father move out of the house where he’d lived for over twenty years and found boxes full of “books” that I had written and illustrated as a child. I guess I’ve always been in love with words and stories.
Tell us about the journey that lead to your first book, “Control Freak”, and what you learned from that experience.
– I wrote the first draft of “Control Freak” in 1990. I was working full time as a professional Dominatrix and had yet to read a novel that dealt with the BDSM community in a realistic or non-judgmental manner. That was my goal with that novel, and I think I succeeded. It was a very hard sell and took eight years to find a publisher. Partly because it was only my first novel and in retrospect still a bit raw, but also because I think many people were made uncomfortable by the subject matter and the idea of a powerful, dominant, unapologetically sexual woman as the heroine. Villains are free to be perverts, in fact the more twisted the better, but a kinky hero is difficult for many people to accept. What I learned from that experience is that, while selling a first novel is a major step in a pro writer’s career, it’s only one step out of many. A lot of unpublished authors put such importance in that first time, as if once they cross that mystical bridge, the hard work is over and all that’s left is to bask in the glory of fame and fortune. The truth is, when you sell your first novel, the work is really only beginning.
How did you get the job writing “Money Shot” for Hard Case Crime?
– I had posted on my blog about the forthcoming (at the time) Hard Case reprint of Richard Prather’s “The Peddler”. I was happy and excited and wrote about how much I loved the Hard Case imprint. A friend of mine replied that I ought to submit a novel to Hard Case and editor Charles Ardai replied, saying he would love to have a submission from me. So I sent him something and he liked it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Did you have the whole book in your head when you started writing or did you come up with twists and turns as you went along?
– I tend to start off a novel with only the first scene in my mind. Sometimes I get myself into hot water with that method because I have no idea how to get the character out of the situation I’ve put them in. Like with “Money Shot”, I started off with Angel in the trunk and then had to figure both how she got there and how to get her out.
The setting is the kinkier side of Hollywood and you namedrop places and companies and there’s certainly a humor in place that is hard to ignore. How well do you know this world and what kind of response have you had from people from that field?
– I know the American adult film industry very well, both through my own experience doing fetish oriented videos (in the US fetish and porn is totally separate and you cannot have actual sex in a fetish video) and through intensive research. For me, researching any topic, be it pro wrestling or pornography, mostly involves talking to the people who do it. Listening to their stories and being respectful, genuinely curious and open minded. I’m very proud of the fact that people in the adult film industry who have read the book tell me it’s the most realistic, even-handed and fair portrayal of their world they’ve ever seen. Although pornography is a common theme in hard boiled and noir fiction, it’s often portrayed in a very negative light. Especially for the women involved. Porn is seen as the bottom of the barrel, the lowest a woman can fall. The men on the other hand are usually portrayed as amoral, misogynistic scum out to corrupt and defile innocent girls. When I was doing my research, talking to people in every aspect of the business both behind and in front of the camera, I didn’t meet a bunch of pathetic victims and evil monsters. I met ordinary people working for a living, just like any other profession.
Could we see the return of Angel Dare? Could she become your Shell Scott?
– Stranger things have happened. You’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.
One of your favorite authors seems to be the great Richard S Prather? Is the Shell Scott character your favorite among his work?
– Definitely. Prather’s “Dig That Crazy Grave” was one of the first hardboiled books I ever read. I love the sense of humor and the absurd, over-the-top situations in the Shell Scott novels.
Can you name a few authors whose work you would bring for sure to your desert island?
– This question is always so hard for me, because I’m always on the look out for something new. I hate the idea of only being able to reread the same books over and over, no matter how much I love them.
Is Hard Case Crime the only company in the US that is publishing these kind of books still, or has their body of work in the last few years influenced more to surface?
– Hard Case is probably the most traditional, old school pulp imprint, but many other novels in that same vein are being released by other mainstream publishers, such as the novels of Megan Abbott or Eddie Muller. There are also more modern takes on the noir or hardboiled genre being put out by publishers big and small. I don’t think the resurgence of American hardboiled fiction was single handedly caused by Hard Case, I think the success of Hard Case is due in part to the resurgence that was already taking place. Hard Case just made it more visible.
The cover artist for “Money Shot”, Glen Orbik, did an excellent job for the cover. Did he know the story when he created it? And when did you first see it?
– The POV woman with the gun was my idea and the paperclipped hundred dollar bill came from Ardai. I don’t know if Orbik read the novel or just a synopsis, but I love what he came up with. I saw a rough of the cover several months before the book was released. I couldn’t have been happier.
Was is political correctness or dwindling sales – or both? – that killed off the scene back in the 80´s? At least, that was when these books vanished from sight here in Scandinavia.
– Both, I guess, plus the fact that the genre had fallen into repetition and cliché. I guess everything comes and goes in cycles.
The covers have always been important to me. They got me interested in the first place and I still buy books with great covers with a feeling of great joy when I find them. Are you a collector in that sense as well and how big is your collection of vintage books?
– I love pulp cover art as well. I guess you could say I’m a collector, but I live in a very small house so space is limited. I have to be very choosy and can’t just bring home every book with a cover that catches my eye or obsessively collect every single edition of every single Prather novel. Some day, I hope to have a larger place with a spacious library so that I can indulge my pulp fetish more freely.
Tell me about your work with Dita Von Teese. How did you get to work together and can you tell us a little bit about the bondage adventures you created?
– I have a soft spot for the adventure serials of the 30s and 40s. They’re filled with campy bondage and damsel-in-distress scenarios and I always wanted to do an homage. Dita had the perfect look for a retro-style serial. I knew Dita through the fetish scene and had already worked with her, doing intricate rope bondage for several of her photo shoots. She also liked the idea of a retro-style serial, and so it was a match made in bondage heaven. The serial, called “Dita in Distress”, is a four part adventure with each episode ending in a cliff hanger. Dita plays a daredevil pilot whose plane crashes in the Amazon. She is captured by cannibals, a wild gorilla, a mad scientist, and even travels back in time to be menaced by dinosaurs and giant spiders and nearly sacrificed by lesbian cave girls. It was a lot of work, but we sure had a blast.
Can these films be purchased?
– Dita is in the process of producing a DVD containing all 4 episodes. Watch her website for further info.
Bettie Page died in December. What did she mean to you? I know she was important to Dita since I read that in one of her books.
– She was beautiful and iconic, a kind of patron saint of the American fetish scene, even though she herself was not particularly kinky and saw those types of photos as just another job. I like that she was so open about her sexuality in a time where few women were, but I think she meant a lot more to other people than to me personally. I don’t really idolize models, I’m much more interested in authors.
Quentin Tarantino is said to have called you “A Veronica in a world of Betties”. In what context did he say this?
– It’s funny, but that comment was just a joke about my hair and it’s not even true anymore. He made that comment at a party when someone was photographing all the women together and I was (at the time) the only brunette in the group. He called me a Veronica in a world of Betties and we laughed about it. (Veronica, a brunette, and Betty, a blonde, are characters from an American comic series called Archie.) Later, we were talking about how dumb the whole blurbing thing really is and I asked him if I could use that Veronica comment as a blurb. Now my hair is blonde instead of dark, so I guess I’m just another Betty. That quote really has nothing to do with my writing, but people put so much importance in blurbs that they don’t care, as long as a famous person’s name is attached.
I think “Money Shot” could certainly be filmed by somebody with the Tarantino touch, did you write with a possible movie script in mind?
– I never write with movies in mind, but now that it’s done, I think it would make a good film.
Who would be the perfect cast for Angel Dare? Me, I can see Lucy Lawless kicking some serious ass as Angel Dare!
– Marisa Tomei. Ever since I saw her in “The Wrestler”, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. She has the perfect combination of vulnerability and inner strength. Angel Dare is not really a bad-ass but rather a physically ordinary woman, who, through extraordinary circumstances, is forced to find a profound inner strength she never knew she had.
You namedrop a few hard rock bands in “Money Shot”, like AC/DC towards the climax of the book. Am I right in assuming that you are a bit of a fan perhaps?
– I like AC/DC, but I’m hardly a fan. I just felt that “If You Want Blood, You Got It” was the perfect song for Angel’s dance because of the lyrics and classic rock was the only choice avaible for her in that particular club.
Do you go to concerts?
– Rarely. I have such a hectic work schedule that I barely have time to listen to a CD, let alone go out to concerts. However, my father, a musician, recently moved out to Los Angeles and he’s a big fan of live music. He’ll drag me out to concerts occasionally and I always have a good time. In this era of silly lip-synching dance numbers, I think supporting real live music is more important than ever.
Any chance that you can mention Deep Purple in your next adventure, ha ha. I can come up with good songs for almost any kind of situation that you throw this way…
– I’ll keep that in mind. Weirdly enough, my dad took me to a Deep Purple concert when I was a kid. Can’t remember the exact year.
Outside of your books, where can we find your work these days and are there articles and short stories out there that the collectors could keep an eye for that you would care to mention?
– Recent short fiction includes “Cutman” in Megan Abbott’s “Hell of a Woman anthology” and “The Footjob” in the forthcoming sequel to Jen Jordan’s “Expletive Deleted”. For the obsessive collector there is a complete bibliography on my website.
What do you have in the pipeline as we speak?
– I prefer not to discuss works-in-progress in detail, but I will say I am working on a new book that should be finished by June.
What kind of response do you get from your homepage and from your MySpace page? How important are they in marketing your product and have you had many interview requests?
– I see my website and my profiles on MySpace and Facebook as electronic billboards that increase the chance that someone will run into me while surfing online. I get a ton of fan mail from those sites and I do my best to try and answer them all. I feel that it’s important for a writer to maintain online visibility and accessibility. I do get most of my interview requests that way. I also have a blog and a Twitter account to help keep my readers up to date on the latest news, in addition to giving them an entertaining glimpse into the day to day life of a pro pulp writer.
Have you ever been to Sweden?
– No, I never have. However, I do love to travel and it is one of many countries left on my list of places to visit before I die.
Would you like to add something to this interview?
– I don’t think so. Just buy my books!
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We asked Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai for a personal comment of Christa, and this is what he had to say…
– Christa is a terrific writer, both passionate and gifted, and it has been a great pleasure to work with her. I loved “Money Shot” from the day she sent me the manuscript, so it hasn’t surprised me at all that readers have responded so favorably to the book – why wouldn’t they, it’s a great book! But I am gratified, and thrilled for Christa, since she now had many thousands of readers waiting eagerly to see what she comes up with next. No writer could ask for more, and she’s earned it.
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Michael Eriksson (2009)
(No part of this interview may be quoted without permission)
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