Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Interview With Steve Ulfelder

by Joyce

Working Stiffs welcomes author Steve Ulfelder today. His debut novel PURGATORY CHASM was released this week to rave reviews. Working Stiffs' review can be found here.

1. Tell us a little bit about your book. Is Purgatory Chasm the first book you've written? Or do you have some of those this-will-never-see-the-light-of-day manuscripts stuffed in a drawer somewhere?

Purgatory Chasm kicks off when an AA buddy of protagonist and narrator Conway Sax asks for help wrestling his classic car away from a shady repair shop that’s had it forever. For his trouble, Conway gets his head caved in. Then the AA buddy is found hanging from a pipe. Even though he never especially liked the AA buddy, Conway makes it his mission to figure out the death and dole out justice in his own way.

I’ve got several other books under my belt, including that never-see-the-light-of-day novel – in my case, a bad Elmore Leonard impersonation that I wrote 20 years ago. Purgatory Chasm is the third book featuring Conway. The first two may see the light of day sometime, who knows?

2. Conway Sax is a pretty cool guy. He has a racing background. You have a racing background. Coincidence? How did he come about?

Series crime fiction has always been my thing, and many of my favorites – John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee especially – fall into the amateur-sleuth category. One thing you need for an amateur sleuth series is a believable machine to provide cases. A full decade ago, it came to me that an Alcoholics Anonymous group could be such a machine. Conway is a recovering drunk with a fanatical devotion to his AA group. Once I figured out that part, much of Conway’s character and background fell into place. He had to be tough, with a beat-up backstory, and he had to have an insanely strong sense of loyalty. As to the racing stuff – hey, write what you know, right?

3. Was it hard to make the switch from journalism to writing fiction?

For me it was easy, because I’ve always been a better writer than reporter. Great reporters love to dig, love to talk with people. Me, I’d rather sit in my dark office making stuff up. Sad but true. Journalism did teach me several valuable lessons, though. First, I know that nobody’s prose is golden nuggets of unchangeable brilliance: anything can and should be edited. Also, for six years I supported my family as a freelancer. So I know how to sit in the chair and be productive even when I don’t feel like it. Put me firmly in the writer’s-block-is-a-crock-of-shit camp.

4. Will there be a sequel? When? What is it about?

Oh yes there will be! Minotaur bought a second Conway book for 2012 release, and I recently sent it over to my brilliant editor, Anne Bensson. This one centers on an election in Massachusetts. An old flame of Conway’s, whom he helped disappear years ago after she had an affair with a powerful businessman, returns to the state – because the businessman is now running for Lieutenant Governor. All the pols begin blackmailing and backstabbing one another, and when people turn up dead, Conway gets stuck sorting out the mess …

5. Are you doing a physical book tour? Blog tour? 

No physical book tour, but I am trying to fold events into my racing schedule. Things haven’t firmed up yet, but anybody who lives near Lime Rock, CT; Loudon, NH; Watkins Glen, NY; or southern New Jersey, near Millville, should be on the lookout for me!

I’ve been popping up on some fantastic blogs, including yours (obviously!). Here are a couple others: Do Some Damage (, The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog (

Thanks for being our guest today, Steve. For more information, check Steve's website, Or better yet, click this link to buy a copy of his book.


PatRemick said...

Welcome Steve -- and let me know when you get to Loudon as I'm a New Hampshirite == or is that Granite Stater? Or if I am to believe the NH Speaker of the House, I am a Liberty Stater....
Looking forward to your book!

Anonymous said...

Pat, I've got a big tripleheader at NHMS over Memorial Day Weekend. Drop by Saturday or Sunday, if you get a chance. Ask folks to point you at Flatout Motorsports - you can't miss us!

Joyce said...

Steve, I don't know what happened to all the comments here. I guess Mr. Blogger was hungry.