Word Nerd: Young Junius is about an African American teenager caught up in gang violence in a housing project. You're a white guy who went to the Iowa Writer's Workshop and teaches at Stanford. How did you end up writing this book?
SETH HARWOOD: This is the book I felt I had to write. After growing up around this culture and being fascinated with it for a long time, in addition to loving the work of Richard Price, David Simon and the rest of the crew at The Wire, I had to take a shot at writing this story, even being a white guy such as I am. After Jack Wakes Up, when many of my online fans were looking for more stories about Junius Ponds, it seemed like a natural fit to go back to the Boston area in the late 80s, where most of my short stories have taken place. In my teens, I watch some good friends descend into this world, and I’ve always been fascinated with it.
WN: Junius is violent and full of profanities. Did you worry about how some readers would react to the book's raw-ness?
SETH: Yes. I mean this book is definitely a dark read. But looking at the success of The Wire, Dexter, and some of the other books and series that I love, I had to take a shot at this. It’s definitely not the book for everybody, and doesn’t have as wide an appeal as the Jack Palms books, but I love this genre. I had a great time working in it.
WN: You got your start through a non-traditional means of getting your book to the public -- podcasting. What's the journey been like since the early days to now? (Check out the first Word Nerd interview with Seth to learn about his podcasting.)
SETH It’s been a lot of fun, to be honest. I mean, to some extent we’re all reinventing the publishing industry every day, which has its ups and downs, but with what I’ve been able to do by directly connecting with fans/listeners/readers… that’s really buoyed me. It’s been an amazing boost to my confidence and production as a writer.
WN: What books are capturing your attention these days?
SETH: These days I’m reading Daniel Woodrell, Lawrence Block, David Simon, and lots of George Pelecanos. Also non-fiction by Barbara Ehrenreich and Eric Schlosser as well as Stephen Koch’s excellent book on teaching writing.
WN: What's the best piece of advice you ever got as a writer and how did it help you?
SETH: Wow. That’s a tough one. I think it’s the basic line that’s ultimately the best: keep writing. There’s nothing to touch or compensate for hanging in there as far as writing and publishing are concerned. Nothing happens fast. It’s the ones who endure who survive.
WN: What's next for you as a writer?
SETH: Jack Palms II: This Is Life will be coming out this fall from Tyrus Books (in October) and we’ll have a special edition of that on sale at my site right around then. I also just podcasted a new Jack Palms tale, Triad Death Match, which is coming to ebook formats soon!