Frank Bill works in a paint factory and writes the grittiest, grizzliest rural noir this side of Knockemstiff. His debut collection, [embeded attachment not found], is a bruising odyssey into the dark heart of the heartland.
You've got meth, murder, a grandfather pimping out his granddaughter, and all sorts of other mayhem. Where do the ideas come from?
One of my best friends is a cop. He lives in a small town close to mine, and he often talks about how the demographics of small towns like his changed through immigration. We studied martial arts together, and I often go out with him to research for stories. He would show me areas that are tacked up now; areas that have a very real gang problem now. I'd done some research on the "MS-13" (Mara Salvatrucha) gang and spoke to a gal who later got murdered for being an informant. It's bad. These folks come from a struggling class of people who think that gang involvement is the only way they can get out. They want the fast track to getting the nicer things that they see other people enjoying.
Is Indiana really as vicious as it comes across in your fiction?
It's certainly not as bad as I've made it out to be in the book. It's beautiful country. I grew up here on my grandparents' farm hunting and fishing. The people are nice, but there are always rumors of crime. I had a friend I went to school with who got mixed up with methamphetamine. He started out as an athlete. How he got mixed up in that I have no idea, but, yes, you hear those stories a lot about what drugs have done to small towns in the Midwest.
In your acknowledgments, you thank your parents for the stories they shared with you as you grew up. Do those stories turn up in here?
Yes, a good part of the stories came from elements of truth. Some things started out with truth, then turned into other things. "The Old Mechanic" in particular is very truthful. My mother would tell stories about her father being abusive and a "terrible man" who caused a lot of turmoil for the family. As a kid, I didn't really want to know him, so I grew up with my step-grandfather, whom I considered to be my "real" grandfather. The story's ending comes from the history of him being in WWII and in a nursing home later on.
How do you balance your job and your writing?
I spent 14 years on the night shift, so, previously, I had a lot of daytime hours to write. The economy bumped me to the day shift, so it's more difficult now to get up at 3:30 a.m. and write until 6:30. On the weekends, I get up at six and write until one or two, or when my wife decides it's enough.