Visiting author says it’s important to push boundaries in writing

ANNA YOUNG, Evergreen reporter

Science fiction writer Stephen Blackmoore will come to speak to students and staff at 5 p.m. today at the WSU Museum of Art. This event counts as a Common Reading event and is free and open to the public.

What kick-started your career?
“I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but it never really clicked until after high school and college. I did national writing month in 2002 to see if I could crank out 50,000 words. I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s so huge, how the hell am I going to write a novel?’ It helped me realize that I could do it. After that, I took classes at UCLA, and my instructor, Rob Roberge, did gritty, edgy fiction that really got me into noir fiction. I had grown up with sci-fi and fantasy, and it occurred to me that maybe I should do something with both.”

How would you describe your writing style?
“The series I’ve got right now is about a modern-day necromancer in Los Angeles. It’s a hidden world of magic that isn’t really known outside this group of people. One thing I wanted to do with that character was make him … at least empathetic and compelling. Noir protagonists have to be compelling enough that you want to pay attention to them. You’ve got either amoral or downright mean characters, but something about them makes you not want to look away. I try to get my particular style into these books as much as I can.”

Do you have any other jobs outside of writing?
“I’ve got a very boring full-time job in middle management. I’m one of those guys you see in ‘Office Space.’ When writing pays off, it’s from a lot of work over a very long time. It’s a fantastic thing to be able to do, but there’s not a lot of money in it. You don’t get days off, or sick leave, or health benefits or anything like that. You’re running a business and you’re an entrepreneur, and that often butts up against the idea that ‘I’m an artist.’ ”

Who do you write for? Yourself, publishers, anything like that?
“I don’t chase the market because I have no idea what it’s going to do. Because I’m going with traditional publishing … anything that’s hot today was started 2 years ago. Nobody really knows what’s going to be the next big thing. I try to write something I enjoy because if I don’t enjoy it, it will be crap, and people will see that it’s crap. I never assume that anybody is going to read it. If you have no darlings, you don’t have any problems killing them. Being able to let go and also not being so hung up on perfection, that’s helped me a lot.”

What do you most want students to get out of your writing and/or presentation?
“That it’s okay to swear in books, because I do a lot of that. And to not hold punches. There’s a lot of safe fiction out there. There are limits, obviously, but a lot of writers could be more brave. And sometimes, it backfires. I’ve got a scene of a murder that is much more graphic than I realized. If I could take it back and do it again, I would. But that’s how you learn. Pushing those boundaries is important, because you learn what works and what doesn’t.”

Any last words of wisdom you want to share?
“I have to admit to a certain cognitive dissonance on this, because I’ve done the college news interview on the phone before, but as the reporter. To be on the other side of it is odd. Nothing like having your mortality shown to you than through an interview. But I hope people show up. Hopefully, it’ll be something they enjoy and want to explore further. And if they don’t like my writing, I can certainly point them in the direction of something they will.”
Reporting by Anna Young