Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Introducing Bill Crider

BILL CRIDER lives in scenic Alvin, Texas, near Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, where he’s suffered the effects of both Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Alicia. He was the Division Chair of English and Humanities before his retirement in 2002.

Bill is the author of more than fifty published novels and numerous short stories. He won the Anthony Award for best first mystery novel in 1987 for Too Late to Die. He and his wife, Judy, won the best short story Anthony in 2002 for their story “Chocolate Moose.” His story “Cranked” from Damn Near Dead (Busted Flush Press) was nominated for the Edgar award, the Anthony Award, and the Derringer Award. It won the latter. He’s won the Golden Duck Award for best juvenile science fiction novel and been nominated for a Shamus. His latest novel is Murder in the Air (St. Martin’s). Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com.

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Bill: I don’t remember not being a writer. When I was a kid I wrote poems and stories for fun. Mostly I never showed them to anybody. Then I wrote papers for English classes in high school and college. Lots of them in college since I was enrolled for many years. Sometimes I wrote stuff for other people as a favor. Eventually I started doing book reviews and essays for crime-fiction fanzines like The Armchair Detective, The J. D. M. Bibliophile, The Poisoned Pen, and a lot of others. One evening the husband of one of my faculty members asked me if I’d like to try collaborating on a Nick Carter novel with him. We finished it and sold it, and after that I struck out on my own.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Bill: I’m a seat of the pants writer, which is to say I don’t plan a lot. Nobody ever told me that I was supposed to plan. I thought a writer was just a storyteller and that a storytellers were people who told stories, making them up as they went along. So that’s what I do. I used to be very disciplined, writing a certain number of pages every day of the year. As I’ve aged, I’ve gotten lazy, so I don’t do than anymore.

TSG: Your influences?

Bill: There are really too many to name. At one time or another I wanted to be Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Max Shulman, John D. MacDonald, William Faulkner, and a few dozen others. As it turned out, I couldn't be any of them. Finally I had to settle for being me.

TSG: Your muses?

Bill: My ideas come from anywhere I can find them. I've written elsewhere about how I came to write a book called Murder in the Air, but the short version is that my brother said I should write a book about factory chicken farms. Sounded good to me, so I did. One day my sister called me about a story she'd seen in the paper. It mentioned feral pigs. She was reminded of me because I've put feral pigs in a lot of books. They've always played a minor role, but she thought I should do more with them. So The Wild Hog Murders, which comes out in 2011, was the result. The next thing you know, my brother and sister will start wanting a percentage.

TSG: Your first sale?

Bill: My first sale was, believe it or not, a poem. I sold it to a magazine called The Runner, which is now defunct. So this is a highly collectible piece, no doubt worth thousands. There are, as far as I know, no signed copies.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Bill: It would be hard to beat the phone call from New York about the poem. I was sitting in my office at school, probably looking out the window, when the phone rang. I couldn’t believe an editor in New York was calling me about my poem, telling me how much she liked it, and offering to pay me $25 for it. That probably figured around 50 cents a word, which is more than I’ve gotten for anything else I’ve ever written. And those were 1977 dollars.


  1. Murder in the Air also had topless women. We must not forget that.

  2. I feel honored to have traveled a similar early path, since I was first published for pay, beyond music criticism and campus press, by the great Janet Fox in her SCAVENGER'S NEWSLETTER, a poem at a rate of 66c/line (1989 cents)...I've been paid slightly more since then per word, but I haven't made a habit of it. Happily for us all, Bill has.

  3. I've been curious about you, fellow Texan. Love that you are a write by the seat of your pants story teller. Great interview!