Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Q&A with Christa Faust

I finally got around to ask some questions from Christa Faust, the writer of the admirable Money Shot, out now in Finnish as Koston enkeli ("Avenging Angel") from Arktinen Banaani, with the cover illustration by Jukka Murtosaari.

Money Shot/Koston enkeli is about a former porn actress Angel Dare, who's now running an agency. She finds herself mixed up in an attempt to get back a bag of money belonging to the East European Mafia - she's beaten up, choked and thrown in the trunk of a car. She decides she'll get her revenge. It's a magnificently written piece of hardboiled pulp.

Christa Faust is a versatile writer whose career has ranged from hardcore horror written with Poppy Z. Brite to movie novelizations, like Snakes on a Plane. She blogs here and occasionally posts gorgeous examples of her collection of vintage shoes. She's been posting very interesting and enthusiastic comments on the Los Angeles Film Noir Festival screenings, so be sure to check out her blog!

You are one of the few female practitioners of the new hardboiled or neo-noir writers. Why do you think this genre doesn't gather more female writers - there were more in the past, like Leigh Brackett and Margaret Millar.

Maybe there aren't a lot, but there are strong, talented women writing hardboiled and noir fiction today. Women like Megan Abbott and Cathi Unsworth. What I really like about today's female noir authors is that they don't hide their gender with masculine cliche and try to write just like the boys. They bring a new, distinctly female perspective to the genre.

You've created an amazing character in Angel Dare. Someone might think that this kind of book - violent thriller about porn industry - would be about an ultracool vixen whacking men, like in the film Bitch Slap. Was this something you deliberately set out to do?

I never had any interest in telling a story like Bitch Slap, because that's already been done a thousand times. I wanted to create something a little more complicated. More grown-up. And more realistically female. I'm also very tired of superhero chicks that weigh 12 pounds, but can still magically kick a 200 pound man's ass. In high heels, no less. That's a porn scenario, not a real story.

You don't really criticize the porn industry in your book, and I've already received some negative comments on that. What would you say to that?

I portray both the positive and negative sides of the industry in a very realistic and even handed way, just like I would for any other setting. People are free to form their own opinions. As a pulp author, it's not my job to "criticize" anything, just to tell a good story.

The other characters in Money Shot also seem very real. How much did you use people you know personally?

I always use bits and pieces of people I know personally in my fiction, though never an exact copy.

You've already written a sequel to Money Shot. What is Choke Hold about?

Choke Hold, which may or may not be the final title of the new book, involves Angel getting mixed up with unsanctioned cage fighting and drug smuggling. It will be coming out from Hard Case Crime in February of 2011.

Who or what are your influences? You've dedicated your book to Richard S. Prather - can you tell us more about that?

I always had a thing for Prather's Shell Scott novels. They're addictive, like potato chips, and I love his outrageous sense of humor. When Hard Case Crime announced they were planning to reprint Prather's more serious novel The Peddler, I was very excited and posted about it on my blog. Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai read my post and asked me to submit a novel of my own. The rest, as they say, is history. I'd been a Prather fan for years, but it wasn't until I got accepted by Hard Case Crime that I got up the nerve to write to him and tell him how much I loved his books. He wrote me back, a single warm and encouraging letter that I have framed on my office wall. Sadly, we never had a chance to develop an ongoing correspondence. He died before Money Shot hit the stands.

Koston enkeli available in bookstores and through net shops, for example here.


Frank Loose said...

I have the HCC book Money Shot, but have not read it. You know how it is when your TBR pile grows faster than you can read. Sounds like i should move MS closer to the top. Thanks for posting the interview.

Juri said...

Yeah, I sure know what you mean. I mean, my TBR pile has been growing from the year 1985 or so. I've been thinking for years that I'd read more if I weren't working for the media and the book publishing.

Anders E said...

A few late comments:

1) Do you guys really have TBR piles in the physical sense? I myself maintain a list of books I own that I haven't read yet (and I would be embarrased to tell you how many items are on it). But a pile in the physical sense? No.

2) Money Shot is great great great.

3) If Money Shot was ever published in Sweden I guess it would provoke the same kind of criticism as Juri refers to. Women in the porn business are somehow supposed to always be more or less victims, and victims only. A woman in charge - as described in Money Shot - would be dismissed as unrealistic.

4) I saw John Cassavetes' GLORIA for the first time the other day (and a fine movie it was, too), and somehow I think there are some thematical similarities between that and MONEY SHOT; a woman of a somewhat disreputable reputation is all of a sudden forced to battle organized crime on her own, and does so fully believably - i.e. in neither case does it detoriate into the KILL BILL kind of bullshit.

Juri said...


> 1) Do you guys really have TBR piles in the physical sense?

No, of course not - it would fall and I'd be buried under it and no one would ever find me. It's a spatial metaphor I've always wondered about - my TBR is actually my book shelf. (Or "shelves" and "boxes" to be exact. And, yeah, "piles" - on the floor, for the most part.)

> 2) Money Shot is great great great.

Hear hear!

> 3) If Money Shot was ever published in Sweden I guess it would provoke the same kind of criticism as Juri refers to.

I'm quite sure of that myself. This is what Christa herself said somewhere: she found the women in the porn business usually very strong persons, and certainly not victims. Which is not to say there *are* victims of the international porn business. (Terrill Lankford talks about the same issue in the admirable SHOOTERS, a book which I would've also like to have seen in Finnish.)

> 4) I saw John Cassavetes' GLORIA for the first time the other day (and a fine movie it was, too), and somehow I think there are some thematical similarities between that and MONEY SHOT;

That's an apt comparison - one could've used that in the back cover copy.

Anders E said...

Referring to a forgotten Cassavetes movie as some kind of sales pitch?... Well, you would have appeared as way cool for about one dozen individuals (including me), and the remainder of mankind would have gone "HUH?". But really, GLORIA is way underrated. Gena Rowlands is sensational in it.

Btw, if MONEY SHOT is ever to be filmed I'd like to suggest Gina Gershon for the lead.

Oh, Terrill Lankford. Loved SHOOTERS. I have EARTHQUAKE WEATHER and BLONDE LIGHTNING in my, uh, TBR pile.

Juri said...

Um... yeah... I'm not much of a sales person, am I? Actually GLORIA enjoys a bit of a cult status here in Finland, and it's played quite a few times in the national television. At least something we Finns do better than you Swedes: we like and know our Cassavetes!

Wouldn't Gina Gershon be a bit too young to be Angel Dare? I'm thinking Linda Fiorentino. Even though Gershon is better looking.

Haven't read the other books by Lankford you mention, will have to move them higher up on my TBR pile.

Anders E said...

Gershon was actually born in 1962 - she's one year older than me!

Fiorentino would be good choice, too, but she hasn't had much of a career for the last coupla decades, has she?

Cassavetes as a Finnish cult item? Really? The reason I caught GLORIA was because it was shown on national TV here, but there wasn't really any hoopla around it. Too bad - kids these days don't recognize quality, etc, etc. I must however admit I found THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE to be quite a snooze, and I never made it through A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE.

Juri said...

Gershon is 50?!

Fiorentino has sunk, but don't you think MONEY SHOT THE MOVIE wouldn't rise her out of her depths? Man, just like John Travolta!

Cassavetes himself enjoys a bit of a cult status in Finland. I know a lot of younger guys who admire his movies. I've never really gotten very deep into them, that must be said, even though I liked THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE to a certain extent. SHADOWS left me a bit cold.

Todd Mason said...

Fiorentino has a reputation for being tough to work with...Having just read this thread for the first time, I'm impressed by the notion of Gershon, who isn't Quite 50 yet, Juri, no need to hurry us of the '60s gen along any (TM, b. 1964), though for some reason from my memory of MONEY SHOT, which I read more than a year ago, I'd think her a bit slight, but I like it. What's more, Gershon might like it. The even slighter, physically, Maria Bello might like it as well.

I have had my book stacks fall on me. It's not a happy way to awaken. Ikea shelves, fah.

Juri said...

Todd: I'm thinking myself as being already 40, even though I was born just ten years after Gershon.

I'm thinking that Christa Faust announced that she has sold the movie rights to MONEY SHOT, so we might have a chance of getting Gershon/Bello/Fiorentino in the lead.

Anders E said...

Hey, may I belatedly suggest Lara Flynn Boyle as another contender? I'm watching RED ROCK WEST again at the moment, and man is Lara great as the femme fatale there... Smart casting otherwise as well, with Nic Cage as the sucker and Dennis Hopper as a contract killer (Lyle, from Dallas). This is truly a vintage Gold Medal by, say, Day Keene or Gil Brewer but set in the early '90s. Outrageous coincidences and (possible) plot holes are part of the package, I guess. Lara is 40 this year.