Over the past five years, I’ve done about 300 interviews, most of them are not online anymore, some never were, and the rest will be disappearing this month. This is all fine and well, but often enough I recall blips, half-remembrances of conversations. With most people—not all, some interviewees stay so on-point none of their personality finds air—there’s a tidbit or anecdote that seems fun, or insightful, or at least worth revisiting.
About four years ago, I contacted Laird Barron and asked for an interview. It was the first interaction we had. I’d admittedly read only a few shorts and a novella of his by then—this interview happened either just before or just after Blood Standard came out—but I’d noticed some common elements that were apparent in his varying works, though the biggest point seemed his attention to detail and the meticulous nature of how he put together his prose. I asked him about challenging himself with his work.
Laird Barron: “I always extrapolate my writing life, or at least, I create analogs with other professions that I’ve had. You know, for many years I raced sled dogs, and I did it professionally. I lifted weights quite seriously for a few years, and I trained in martial arts seriously. An example of seriousness, I was essentially—when I was lifting weights and pursuing martial arts back in the mid- to late-nineties, I was almost an Ascetic Monk. That’s what I did, I would get up, I would lift weights, I would eat, I would train my martial arts, I would read; and a lot of the stuff I read would be philosophical, you know—I was reading The Prince [assumedly Machiavelli], I was reading Herman Hesse, and Borges [perhaps Jorge Luis], guys like that. I was trying to feed my mind. The Books of Five Rings by Musashi, you know, that kind of stuff. So, I pursued it diligently. I tried to—I wasn’t interested in being competitive as I had been as a musher in Alaska with the dogs, but I was competitive in the sense that I pushed myself constantly. And what I’ve discovered about writing—and of course writing, I do it to feed myself—so, while it may not be competitive, I certainly need to be able to sell my work, and be able to reach as many readers as possible while still creating the kind of art I want to create. You know, what I’ve learned with all this stuff, it never gets easier.
“Take weightlifting, no matter how big you get—if you start off and you’re sickly and you weigh a hundred and fifty pounds and your body is capable of being a lot bigger and stronger, you can lift, you know, you can lift this small weight. Even years later when you’re a two-hundred-and-twenty-pound guy, you’re bench pressing three hundred and fifty pounds, it’ll be just as hard, or harder, than it was when you first started because the only way to continue to progress is to constantly push past whatever your current maximums are. And I really feel like that’s true. If you’re a runner, you want to run that mile a little faster. You always try to improve and become more efficient, and that means it’s never easy.”
The nice thing about interviewing Laird is that his answers to questions, just like his writing, carry a good deal of insight and much to unpack. Hopefully someday in the future I can think up a good enough excuse to chat with him again, until then, I have recordings I can mine for nuggets, and share bits and pieces with anyone else who cares to read them.
Check out Laird’s Isiah Coleridge novels, the latest being Worse Angels, or visit his website.
Ex-mob enforcer-turned-private investigator Isaiah Coleridge pits himself against a rich and powerful foe when he digs into a possible murder and a sketchy real-estate deal worth billions.
Ex-majordomo and bodyguard to an industrial tycoon-cum-U.S. senator, Badja Adeyemi is in hiding and shortly on his way to either a jail cell or a grave, depending on who finds him first. In his final days as a free man, he hires Isaiah Coleridge to tie up a loose end: the suspicious death of his nephew four years earlier. At the time police declared it an accident, and Adeyemi isn't sure it wasn't, but one final look may bring his sister peace.
So it is that Coleridge and his investigative partner, Lionel Robard, find themselves in the upper reaches of New York State, in a tiny town that is home to outsized secrets and an unnerving cabal of locals who are protecting them. At the epicenter of it all is the site of a stalled supercollider project, an immense subterranean construction that may have an even deeper, more insidious purpose…
Laird Barron, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories; Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.