Les Edgerton: When Your Story Haunts Your Agent

Award-winning author Les Edgerton explores how a short story he wrote at age 13 paved the way for his latest noir novel.
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Les Edgerton is the author of more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books, as well as numerous short stories and screenplays. His work has been nominated for or awarded the Pushcart Prize, O. Henry Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Derringer Award, Spinetingler Magazine Thriller of the Year, Jesse Jones Book Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, Violet Crown Book Award, the Nicholl Foundation Script-Writing Awards and the Best of Austin and Writer’s Guild screenwriting awards. An acclaimed and award-winning former hairstylist and television fashion program host, he now teaches creative writing courses at many universities and professional writing programs.

Les Edgerton photo credit Mary Edgerton

In this post, Edgerton explores how a short story he wrote at age 13 paved the way for his latest noir novel, a publisher's commitment to an author, and much more!

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Name: Les Edgerton
Literary agent: Svetlana Pironko, Author Rights Agency, Dublin/Paris
Book title: Hard Times
Publisher: Bronzeville Books
Expected release date: Dec. 8, 2020
Genre: Noir
Elevator pitch for the book: Author Mort Castle said it best in describing the book when he said: “In fewer than 200 pages, Les Edgerton’s Hard Times offers up sexual deviance, brute violence, misogyny, drunkenness, racism, and an astounding variety of cruelties, from casual to premeditated and horrifying.” It is also one of the most Christian books you could read. The theme is, When we save others, we also save ourselves. The conclusion validates William Faulkner’s statement when he won the Nobel Prize: “The (writer’s) voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the ... pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Previous titles: Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs the Reader on Page One and Never Lets Them Go; Finding Your Voice; Adrenaline Junkie: A Memoir; The Bitch; The Rapist; The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping; Bomb!; The Death Of Tarpons; Monday’s Meal; Lagniappe; Just Like That; Mirror, Mirror; Surviving Little League; Perfect Game USA, and others.

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What prompted you to write this book? 

This novel is based on the Pushcart Prize-nominated short story I wrote when I was thirteen years old—“Hard Times”—and which was included in my short story collection, titled Monday’s Meal, in which the NY Times compared me favorably to Raymond Carver.

My agent talked to me a couple of years ago and said that “Hard Times” had haunted her ever since she read it. She said if I could develop it into a novel, she thought it might be comparable to a Cormac MacCarthy novel. According to some of the reviewers, that’s the way they saw it as well.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

 About two years. The idea changed in that I married it to another short story in the same collection—“The Mockingbird Café—a marriage that took the story into a whole different direction but one that remained true to the spirit of both stories.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

The total professionalism of Bronzeville Books. They support books in a way that is a throwback to the yesteryear of the Big Five. Just a total commitment to the book and the author. I had thought those days were over. They’re not.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

Not really. This isn’t my first rodeo.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book? 

An experience that both entertains and also provides a light on people that are generally considered disadvantaged.

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If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be? 

I’d steal what author Jim Harrison said: “Read the whole of the past 400 years of Western Literature, and, if time permits, the same period in Eastern literature. For if one doesn’t know what passed for good in the past, how can they know what passes for good today?”

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