Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Killer Nashville Interview & Giveaway

I am thrilled to welcome Clay Stafford to Cozy Up With Kathy today. As well as being a contributor, Clay is the editor of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded which was released October 27th.

Kathy: For my readers who are unaware, you are the founder of Killer Nashville, one of the most popular and respected writer conferences. How did the idea for Killer Nashville come about and why did you create it?

CS: You’re very kind to say that. Killer Nashville has been a wonderful experience for me. From meeting new friends, the building of Killer Nashville Magazine, the growing of our charity efforts, even to this annual anthology, it has all been more than I imagined. It started almost by accident, really, but there were several things that sort of collided to make it happen.

Firstly, I love to read, be around readers, and there is nothing in the world better than having a conversation with a bunch of writers.

Secondly, I was the regional president of the Southeastern Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and on the national board of MWA.

Thirdly, I’ve always been an academic at heart and have taught at several universities so the desire to impart knowledge – not from me necessarily, but from people who can speak of their subject deeply, is always an attraction. I love the environment of learning, the give and take, especially from teachers who have walked the walk. I love life on a campus.

Fourthly, working writers really are fortunate people. It’s a privilege to get to do what we do. And people have also been very kind to me. I come from a working class family and am very proud of it. My early life was completely middle-class, blue-color workers. If you look at my background, it is audacious to think that someone who comes from Appalachian roots where his own relatives growing up had no running water or electricity could one day sell nearly 2 million books and be in 14 languages. That’s unthinkable. And it only happened because I was fortunate to have incredibly supportive people around me.

Fifthly, in the southeast, we have some incredible generalist writer and reader conferences. What we didn’t have until Killer Nashville was an event that focused on mysteries, thrillers, suspense – crime fiction and nonfiction specifically.

And, number six, not everyone lives in New York or Los Angeles. The business – like any other – is made out of relationships. So if our attendees from Middle America cannot make it to New York, it is best to bring New York to them.

So in 2006, with no mystery or thriller conference in the southeast, I came home and told my wife I needed to create a conference where we give current information, support, and promotion to authors – not only locally – but internationally. I also called government agencies and asked if they would like to be involved in helping authors with research and getting information right. Killer Nashville then grew into that vision. From that moment to today, hundreds of writers have found publication, agents, and even movie deals from Killer Nashville. Every year is an incredible experience for me: writers come on Thursday with dreams; they leave Sunday with agents and publishers wanting to see their work. It has given me more joy than you can imagine.

Kathy: In addition to being an author you are also screenwriter and filmmaker. How does writing for the page differ from writing for the screen?

CS: In literature, authors are the be-all and end-all. In screenwriting, the writer is more of an architect. In literature, the vision falls to the author. From the screenplay, a whole troupe of individuals creates the vision of the director, all following the blueprint created by the screenwriter. In literature, everything and every thought is fair game. In screenwriting, only things that are visual or auditory can be included. It is essentially limited to a true third person objective format. And screenplays are so short compared to a novel. A novel might be the equivalent of 100,000 words. For a screenplay, you’re lucky if you can squeeze in 7,500!

Kathy: Not only did you contribute the story "Savage Gulf" you are also the editor of “Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded”. Do you find it easier to write your own story or edit an anthology? Does editing an anthology somehow change your own writing?

CS: Writing has always been rather easy for me, not because I’m good at it (depends upon which critic you talk to), but because I’m fairly verbose. Words come easy. Editing, on the other hand, is hard work, especially when the work is not your own. I try to live up the best I can to the stereotype of editors of 75 years ago. I sit down with the manuscript printed out. I take my red pen. I then begin to audaciously slash away at the manuscripts of writers twice my age and a dozen times my experience. I read each sentence and I contemplate each word, and I try to hear the voice of that particular writer in my ear (because maybe I have read several of their standalone works) and I look for character and plot arcs and clarity of sentences, all the while trying not to interfere with the voice. And then, with eyes closed shut, I give the bleeding copy to my assistant to scan into a pdf and send to the author. I then I wait for the hurricane…which so far has never come. Editors who take the time to edit line by line (and I’m not talking copyediting, but story editing) are few and far between anymore. And just like I love the feedback given to me, the authors for whom I’ve edited (and I’ve edited other authors’ work since 1989) have all appreciated the time and attention. Not always do we agree and always, always, I defer to the author’s vision. It’s hard work because while you are judging them, you also know they are going to be judging you. And, yes, I do learn a great deal. Tearing a story apart…a good story or a bad story…is an incredible way to learn. The people I’ve edited – the authors in the “Cold-Blooded” anthology – are masters. Seeing how they construct characters and plots is always a learning experience. Again, that’s what I love so much about Killer Nashville itself. It’s always a learning experience.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

CS: Curiosity. Though I do think that if you can throw in some thrills and suspense in each chapter along with the mystery, it tends to spice things up a bit. I’m an eclectic reader: everything from literature, nonfiction, classics, all genres (though straight romances are a bit difficult for me), historicals. If it is a gripping story that makes me want to know more, I’m in. But it seems all stories that attract me have that element of unknown that requires some figuring out. Mysteries fit the bill completely for me in that.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

CS: Absolutely. I have my full filmography, stageograpy, and bibliography online on my personal website. I sold my first story when I was 10 for $10. Makes it easy to remember after all these years. It was a bit starring Richard Nixon as the main character. That tells you how far back it was. So over the years, I’ve written commercials, documentaries, movies of the week, feature films, a nighttime TV series, nonfiction books to accompany PBS series, children’s adaptations, plays, poetry, newspaper articles, you name it. After you’ve been hacking away at this thing for decades, you start losing track, really.

Kathy: Tell us about your books.

CS: Most of my work until recent years has been mostly screenplays, stage plays, and – on a literary front – contributions to literary journals. I was kid/adult actor before retiring full time to sit behind a typewriter so performance stories are the element I know best. Several years ago, an editor approached me about adapting a set of children’s books in my own words, which I thought was a rather ludicrous idea. My wife convinced me that since most of my film/screen stories involved blood and guts, or some rather nasty cause or experience, that I might want to do this because one day I might have children who would like to read something I wrote before they became of legal age. I begrudgingly did this, taking on the likes of Twain, London, Grahame – I can’t even remember who all now – and with the same audacity that I edited the stories in “Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded” I retold, in my own words, literary classics taking out all the parts from the original plot lines and character developments I didn’t like, and – I’ll be dog – if we didn’t sell 1.5 million copies right out of the gate at Big Box retailers like Sam’s, Walmart, Costco, Target, etc. They were shipping them out by the crates. It was then that I thought writing books in addition to films might be a thing to consider. My agent has given me back critiques on my next novel, so – when I take her sage advice – we can maybe discuss that one in another interview.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

CS: I don’t have a favorite, but I can tell you why I like them. I’m an underdog kind of guy. It may be the blue-collar, farm mentality that I came from, but I like the underdog, I like the guy (or girl) who goes against the system, or government, or organization, and stands for something greater than themselves. Sometimes, interestingly, the characters I favor and remember the most are not always the good guys, or certainly not pure in any sense. It’s hard to beat Rhett Butler, Ralph de Bricassart, Michael Corleone, the second Mrs. de Winter, any Spielberg film, or anything starring the likes and persona of Harrison Ford, Holly Hunter, William Hurt, or Tommy Lee Jones, just to name a few. Male or female, it is a spicy, running-solo character on the outside looking inward at values greater than him- or herself and fighting for something bigger and more important than he could ever be.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for "Savage Gulf"?

CS: I should probably think of something clever, but there’s really not. I think when you’ve been writing for decades, you just show up and sit down and write. When I start writing, I’m not really sure where the story is going go. I took the same parameters I gave to all the other authors in the collection (someone had to have been killed and a detection was in order, or the threat of harm or the actual impending of harm had to be present, and there had to be a surprise ending). I started thinking about where one would feel the most inferior and vulnerable (high school reunion) and what could have gone wrong with someone’s life (failed business, failed marriage), and just kind of took it from there. “Savage Gulf” was born.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

CS: You have to make a living somewhere. If it sits in a drawer, you’re going to have to find another job to make ends meet. So you not only publish, but you publish as much as you can to give you the privilege to sit and make up stories all day. And it is a privilege.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

CS: Oh, that’s a hard one. If you take a fundamental stance, and say God is the author of “The Bible”, I’d include Him. I’ve got a lot of questions. John Steinbeck and Jack London would definitely have seats. If one of them couldn’t make it, I’d check with Charles Dickens. I’d invite Stephen King, but he can’t come because he’s too busy being on other author wish-lists. I think I’d give the last seat to the Unknown Author, kind of like the Unknown Soldier. I love hearing a new voice and getting excited for someone starting on their writing journey. There’s always a place at my table for that guy (or girl).

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

CS: I’d love to send you a picture. I have a green, worn leather chair I read in. On the large tables on both sides, and on both sides under the table, and along the two connecting walls are a stack of about 150 books. I read books like people watch TV. What do you want to read tonight, like shall we watch for 30 minutes on TV? In the collection is poetry, nonfiction, fiction, reference books, a whole mishmash. Rarely do I finish a book in one sitting. If it is a good book, I want to drag it out over several episodes. If it is educational or an emotional story, I’ve got to be in the mood.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

CS: Writing and reading, in equal proportion. Raising exotic animals and fish. Outdoor activities (hiking, climbing, boating). I used to love running until a tree fell on me and nearly killed me.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

CS: Mayonnaise. No self-respecting Southern writer would not have mayonnaise in the refrigerator. Eggs. If they truly do cause cholesterol issues, I’ve got small chicks running amuck through my veins. Milk. I drink about a gallon every two days. Buttermilk. The champagne of the milk family, a glass before bed, and the necessary ingredient in any edible biscuit or corn bread recipe.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books?

CS: None.

Of course, I do! I have trunk novels waiting to be pulled out when needed. My next novel is back from the agent, waiting for me to make edits. I’m working on some writing projects with other authors. I’ve got several scripts I’m working on. I’ve got my own incomplete novels in various stages of revision. And I’ve got the Killer Nashville Noir annual anthology series now to add to that list each year.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

CS: Writing. No kidding. I wake up in the morning ready to write. I write all day. I reflect.

The second favorite thing is meeting other people and doing research.

Kathy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

CS: I can’t thank YOU enough. The pleasure is all mine.




Killer Nashville Noir


on Tour November 2015


Bestselling authors Jeffery Deaver and Anne Perry join rising stars like Dana Chamblee Carpenter and Paul Gail Benson in a collection that proves Music City is a deadly place to be when your song gets called.
Featuring stories by: Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Jefferson Bass, Mary Burton, Jonathan Stone, Steven James, Maggie Toussaint, Clay Stafford, Heywood Gould, Jaden Terrell, and more…
Every year, some of the biggest names in the thriller world converge in Tennessee for the Killer Nashville conference, an event where stars of the genre rub elbows with their most devoted fans, where the bestsellers of tomorrow pick up tricks of the trade, and where some of the best writers of today swap dark tales of good deals gone bad, rights made wrong, and murder in all shades...
This collection of new stories features some of the biggest names in suspense, from bestsellers to ferociously talented newcomers. Grouped around the classic theme of murder, KILLER NASHVILLE NOIR: COLD-BLOODED is a first-class collection and a must-have for fans of the genre.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller Anthology
Published by: Diversion Publishing
Publication Date: October 27th 2015
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 1626818789 (ISBN13: 9781626818781)
Series: Killer Nashville
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads


This is a giveaway hosted by Diversion Books for Clay Stafford & the Killer Nashville team. There will be 8 winners for this tour. The winner will receive 1 eBook copy of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded. This giveaway is for US residents only. The giveaway begins on November 1st, 2015 and runs through November 30th, 2015.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Clay Stafford
“Savage Gulf” by CLAY STAFFORD
Everyone wants to be successful, and nothing lets one know life didn’t turn out as planned like a thirty-year high school reunion. By all accounts, Jack’s life is falling apart. His business is upside down. He suffers the loss of his wife. But between the punch bowl and the restroom, an opportunity presents itself to even the score. From filmmaker and author Clay Stafford comes a story of justice, as unique as the darkness beyond the cliffs of Savage Gulf.
Clay Stafford is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has sold over 1.5 million hardcover copies of his children’s adaptations and has seen his film work distributed in over 14 languages. Publishers Weekly named Stafford one of the Top Ten Nashville literary leaders playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” not only in middle-Tennessee, but also extending “beyond the city limits and into the nation’s book culture.” He is the founder of Killer Nashville and Killer Nashville Magazine. Previously associated with Universal Studios and PBS, he is currently CEO of American Blackguard, Inc. near Nashville, Tennessee.

Connect with Clay: Twitter Facebook or on his website http://claystafford.com

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours




  1. Thanks so much for introducing us to this author and editor of this anthology. Can't wait to start reading it myself!

  2. What a fantastic interview! And the anthology is pretty darn good too.

  3. Great interview. I always love hearing the history of how the Killer Nashville Conference got started. My first time there was 2009 and I've been ever since.