Tom Pitts, author of the recently released Cold Water, from Down & Out Books.
When did you first start telling people you were a writer or author?
I still don’t. Unless it’s to someone who already knows what I do, I keep it under my hat. I was talking to my wife the other day and I was explaining this new—and probably ridiculous—approach I was going to apply to my writing, and I caught myself saying, “I think that’s what actual writers do.” And she reminded me I am an ‘actual writer.’ Oh, yeah. Sure. Okay.
Go back to yourself at a very early stage in your writing career—what piece of advice would you give yourself?
The same advice I give myself now—which I consequently ignore, by the way—and that’s to work harder, drink less, and slow down … actually, that’s it. Those three things. Maybe read more. The same advice I give to anybody, not just writers.
Have you ever visited a famous author’s grave? Who? Why?
Yes. Bukowski’s, during the Long Beach Bouchercon. I made the pilgrimage like so many. I went with Russell Lester, and going anywhere with him is an adventure. Anyway, we couldn’t find the damn thing. When we looked for help at the guard’s station, I somehow ended up directing traffic to a funeral for ten minutes. Very Canadian of me. Cars kept pulling up. “This nice young man looks like he knows what’s going on.” Anyway, it was like so many other things you make the trek to see, it’s anticlimactic. There’s no part of their creation there. No ingredients for their secret recipe. Much better to visit a neighborhood or bar where an author hung. Am I glad I went? Hell yes. I didn’t really know Russell that well and it was a great bonding experience. Proof once again the journey is better than the destination.
Are there any authors who intimidate you? Any books?
Oh, fuck. All of ‘em in a way. I mean, I always feel like other authors are more grown-up, their methods more sound, their ideas more cohesive. But success doesn’t intimidate me, I’ve been around a few famous people in my long and crazy life. Shit, now that I think about it, I’ve rolled with all kinds of people. Murderers, rock stars, gangsters, and bums. But put me in a huddle with Lou Berney and I’ll get the shakes.
Are there any animals who tend to show up in your writing?
Dogs. Always dogs. Which can be a mistake, because when the action starts, you can’t forget about ‘em. And a lot of writers do. Dogs bark. Dogs bite. When shit happens, they’re at the vortex. I guess I should start adding cats. You can mention them once and leave ‘em in the room like furniture.
What do you wish more readers would ask you about?
Honestly? Anything. Writers are so approachable. It always freaks me out a bit when a reader will ask a specific question about a book, like, how did you find your way inside my dream? Especially when they ask about a character I don’t remember writing. I feel a little exposed, a bit on the spot, then I remember I put it all out there. That’s the point. My life is essentially open book, so ask me anything. I’m getting disturbingly more frank the older I get and the less I care.