My name is Joe and I write stories for men. Of course, some of my biggest fans seem to be women who seem to find my writing insightful, even a bit shocking, as to how men really think. I assure you no matter how awful a thing I’ve written about worse things have been done by you friendly, next-door neighbor.
Two of my biggest influences are John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. I simply love the way those guys never softened the blow for readers, but more so how they simply and significantly captured the times they were writing about. I believe if you really wanted to know how life was for the disenfranchised in those bleak days or wanted to discover the utter futility that is war, these men are the keepers of this particular flame. There is, however, one other writer for me that is the modern gold standard in fiction: Stephen King aka Richard Bachman. The books he wrote under his 70’s rock inspired pseudonym opened a window in my mind for a kind of storytelling that excited me and I wanted to find more. The problem is writers telling stories which don’t end pleasantly or have the bad guys not getting their comeuppance in the end simply aren’t very popular. Great writers like Donald Goines, George V. Higgins, or Cormac McCarthy are hardly recognizable names until someone makes a great movie out of one of their infamous books.
As a native to the Gateway City, I’m compelled to write stories that happen here and the unique attitude of the residents that also happen to call it home. Take a stroll through St. Louis randomly in any direction for eight blocks and you will suddenly be immersed in radically different social and economic conditions. The rich and the poor, the violent and the benevolent, the gang bangers and the Bible thumpers are separated merely by choice, loyalists to neighborhoods that have been abandoned, revitalized, and abandoned again. Dialects as well as attitudes change by the zip code. These are the people of St. Louis that intrigue me, who have set my imagination on fire more than once wondering how it is we can all co-exist and yet, we rarely cross our imaginary borders.
My favorite piece of advice I often give to aspiring writers is to write what you know. I have spent the majority of my life in St. Louis. It has habitually been the place where my stories come from as wherever I go it is impossible for me not to see the world through its Midwestern filters. I’m particularly keen to the way those whom I’ve lived with, worked, and occasionally fought, speak. I think language is the most important aspect any writer should explore in storytelling. A writer can describe an apple so well you can practically hear the ripe skin crunch as the main character bites through its rind but if when he talks you can’t believe a word he says, nothing is worse.
As a writer I have an expectation of writing to be read. I believe that it is as important, if not more so, that you as a reader should have the expectation of being entertained as you read. Anything less is such a disappointment.
Life is short. Stories are forever.
Joe Schwartz – 2014