Colette Transcript!

Tyler

On today’s episode we’re going to be talking about Tampa Bay Noir a new collection edited by Collette Bancroft, who is also the book’s editor at the Tampa Bay Times. Then in the second segment, we’re going to actually get to talk to Collette. We are going to interview her about the collection, about the Times Festival of Reading, about writing this kind of crime fiction because she has a piece in there. I think it’s gonna be a great conversation. I’m excited about that.

Gramel 

And, you know, when you were a little boy, the same friend that I’m having a book club with right now, got me to go to the first Festival. She had never been. From then on as the story goes, I took Tyler every year. And he ended up being a speaker at the festival.

Tyler

We will talk to her about it because I think they’re going to do virtual events this year.  

Gramel 

We’ll have to do that. That would be fun because I walked with a cane. So that’ll be helpful.

Tyler

In your understanding what is noir?

Gramel 

It’s all about Mystique.

Tyler

According to Google, noir is a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity. So there’s a lot of criminal elements to all of the pieces in this collection. It’s broken into four different sections, based on geography of the Tampa Bay area. The first section is this suburb sinister and it has folks like Lori Roy and Tim Dorsey. Then Part two is blood in the water with Lisa Unger. Sterling Watson. Part Three is grifters paradise –

Gramel 

With the story “Tall, dark and handsome.”

Tyler

Written by Ace Atkins, “The Midnight Preacher” by Sarah Gerard, and “Jack Knife” by Danny Lopez. His story took place in Gibsonton, where Carnival folks used to reside, which I knew a little bit about, and I’ve been really interested in that so it was interesting to see how this writer took that into consideration. And then part four is “family secrets” with folks like Gale Massey and Collette Bancroft. There are other stories in there too, but you’re gonna have to buy a copy and see who else is in there.

How about we talk about some of the stories that spoke to you. Since there are a good amount of stories in here? Why don’t we just highlight a few that spoke to you?

Gramel 

I loved the one that was written about Pinellas Park. And that was by Gale Massey. It goes in the story of a young little girl’s life. That was very, very sad. But she had people that loved her, like her poor mom and dad, it really got into the relationship with her and her grandfather, her and a coach and these were all sweet relationships. She was a good girl that got dealt a bad hand and the way she coped with it was off the wall, but a very interesting story.

Tyler

It kind of aligns itself with that old writing rule is if there’s a gun, the gun has to go off. But who is a gun going off toward? And does the gun hit anything? Those are questions. Yes,

Gramel 

The hitting someone that is usually up in the air.

Tyler

And I think that in this collection, there a lot of guns hitting things. There’s a lot of interesting and creative ways of dying. So let’s now talk about the one that you and I were talking a little bit about last night, called “Tall, Dark, and Handsome.” And that piece is by Ace Atkins. It’s grouped in part three, the grifters paradise, and grifter means someone’s trying to scam you. Somebody’s trying to get money..

What was it that you drew you to this one?

Gramel 

Well, the name of course. But I see another vein going through these noir stories. People don’t have a lot of self-confidence. They don’t think highly of themselves. They don’t set boundaries. And this is what happens in “Tall, Dark, and Handsome.” And I’m a boundary setter, and that wouldn’t happen to me.

Tyler

So essentially, this woman moves from I think it was Detroit. I She moves to the West Shore area, she gets out a job at the mall.

Gramel 

And she’s very preoccupied with shaving men.

Tyler

That’s her job. And then she meets this man who I don’t think is tall, dark and handsome. She kept keeps talking about how old and saggy. I think probably at one point, maybe. Hmm. I guess.

Gramel 

And he has a prescription problem.

Tyler Gillespie 

Blue pill. Yeah. I think that’s I don’t know if that’s a problem. I think that anyway, let’s just skip past that. So she meets this man and she goes on a date with him and he’s very charming to her. She finds him charming.

Gramel 

Except –

Tyler

He forgot his wallet. The classic Oh, I didn’t bring my wallet I forgot it. So she meets this man who doesn’t pay and the bill is like $300 and like almost $400 because their data is expensive. So that for you is a red flag that’s where you would just definitely not be going on a second date. So if you were in her shoes, what had happened would not happen.

Gramel 

Because I have standards.

Tyler

Well, she kept talking about you know, she was feeling lonely and she would the man was very charming all of these kinds of things.

Gramel

When you get lonely, read a book. If you read regularly, you won’t have time to get lonely. Read noir – that will make you not want to go on a date.

Tyler

Is there another story you’d like to talk about?

Gramel 

Well, of course Sarah’s. And that was about this off the wall preacher named Buck. Sarah’s protagonist was a journalist. And she really knew how to go after a story and not back down or back off and she was brave. She had her standards. And she was smart.

Tyler Gillespie 

Her story is called “The Midnight Preacher.” And it is about a kind of he’s like a televangelist kind of person, but kind of a bootleg version. And he does it on the internet. And he’s shady and he’s a grifter. That’s why they’re in the grifter section. And we actually got to talk to Sarah about her writing that story on another episode. And she said, I won’t give too much away. But she said that it started from her own interest in someone who was actually like the character that she wrote about in this fiction. I just think some televangelists, it seems like they’re really ego driven. And they are collecting a lot of money and stuff like that. I like Joyce Meyer, even though, she does push a lot of books and stuff like that. Anyway, I liked Sarah’s I pieces because it was a really like she was finding clues as she was going out going along. And it had a really good pace. We, you know, we can check back with Sarah’s episode to hear more about that story. One piece, I liked a lot of the pieces in here is they have a lot of good pacing. They’re very fast paced reading.

Gramel 

I would advise not skipping around, because if you start at the beginning, you’re like, questioning everything. But as you read the stories, you kind of get with the pattern. And you start not wondering as much as just immersing yourself into the story.

Tyler Gillespie 

I agree. I think that’s a good idea, a good way to approach it. The piece that I want to talk about is called “Only You” and that’s by Lisa Unger. And it takes place in Clearwater Beach. And essentially that story is about a guy who moves away from Clearwater gets rich moves back and is trying to get back with the love of his life. I like this because it really reminded me of being at the beach. The descriptions really put me back in to Clearwater Beach. I could see myself there at some of these places that I’ve been to the parts of the beach and stuff like that. It was really nice and made me want to go to the beach.

Gramel 

And yes, he got rich by doing what.  

Tyler Gillespie 

He created a video game.

Gramel 

And why was he back in town? Besides the love of his life.

Tyler

because he was rich, and he wanted to build a house.

Gramel 

A mansion. So, he was quite successful.

Tyler

Yes. And the video game aspect was cool, too, because there were some parallels in the writing. They would kind of discuss the video game, which I thought was cool.

Gramel 

Is that what they would do? I didn’t grab that.

Tyler  

That character was trying to get home and he was trying to get home and it was.

Gramel 

That makes so much more sense! I’m 77 very smart, but –

Tyler

You’ve never played a video game.

Gramel 

I think maybe I might have done one of those things that you shake the machine.

Tyler

A pinball machine.

Gramel

I think I’m on I’ve done them. One of them, maybe one time. And I did not see the point of it. So, you know, I did read a book.

Tyler

I’m not a big gamer either. I’ve definitely read more books than played games. Is there anything else that you’d like to say about this book?

Gramel 

It’s an eye opener. I would recommend it.

Tyler

There is some crime, there’s death murder, the blood. But it’s fun. We will live to read another day.

//

Tyler

in the last segment we talked about Tampa Bay Noir, the edited collection. And now we are going to get to talk to Collette, about the book about her writing about Noir. And about the time specificall of reading, which is a huge event and it’s always a lot of fun. Here we go.

So can you talk to us a little bit about how did the book come to be from initial thought to publication?

Colette Bancroft 

Well, the noir books are a series, they’ve actually done more than 80 of them. As a matter of fact, they started doing them about 15 years ago, and there’s Miami Noir and Boston Noir, and then they just expanded from there. They had never done Tampa Bay, and I had some sort of connections a little to the publisher, and I was familiar with the books, I’d seen them. And so we connected and I wrote a proposal for it, and I started working on it about two years ago. The first step is recruiting the authors. You know, I had to find people who were willing to do it. They’re all new stories. They’re not you know, they’ve never been published in other places. So they had to agree to do the stories. But fortunately in Tampa Bay, there are a lot of really good writers. So I had a good field to choose from I really I, you know, I told someone else I could have had an anthology with 50 writers in it, but their limit is 15. So, I recruited those authors and they turned in the stories, we went through the editing process, and, you know, production and all that. And it was a lot of fun. It was interesting to work with. These are all authors that I’ve met in the course of my job, but at the time since the book editor there, and I’ve reviewed the books by most of them, and it was interesting to be involved in the editing process – it was not very hard work. They’re all really good writers and very professional and you know, so it wasn’t heavy lifting to edit them. But still, it was interesting to have that kind of back and forth. process with them.

Gramel 

They were very well written, I don’t know how you choose, because I mean, there’s so many to choose from, and how you chose down to 15? Because there’s a lot of talent.

Colette

Yes, there is. It was hard to choose. There were, you know, people I wish I could have included that I couldn’t. The publisher likes to get diversity into the books. I had to choose writers who were both men and women, I had to have some writers who were people of color, I had to have some writers who were LGBTQ people. And so that was kind of putting a puzzle together, you know, to think about those things as well as just wanting to get really good writers, but I think it worked out.

Tyler

What had been your connection to noir is it something you’ve been very interested in reading and writing? Or what’s your relationship to it?

Colette

Yeah, I’ve always been a fan of noir of crime fiction in general and especially of noir writing. Before I was a journalist, I got a master’s degree and did PhD work in English and when I was working on my PhD, focused on crime fiction. The dissertation I never quite finished is about the crime fiction writer Raymond Chandler, he’s kind of one of the founding fathers of American crime fiction and he’s not exactly a noir writer himself, but he often kind of moves in that direction. And, so I like the style of a lot of noir writers, to the kind of dark way that they look at the world.

And, and so I was I’ve always been interested in it. I like that. I like the style of a lot of noir writers, to the kind of dark way that they look at the world. So yeah, I’ve been a fan for a long time. It was kind of a natural fit me.

Gramel 

Now that’s what the movie Gaslight was.

Colette

Yeah. There are a lot of film noir as a whole, you know, kind of, I think the books came first. But then film noir became a whole genre on its own. But yeah, that’s certainly one of them.

Tyler

And so you have a piece in there. Can you talk to us a little bit about your writing of the piece in your inspiration and in your work on it?

Colette

It was unusual for me in that I made my living as a writer I have for, you know, most of my adult life. But I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years. And I haven’t written fiction since I was in graduate school since I was in my 20s. And this is the first story I’d written in a fictional story in a very long time. But as I was working on the book, they gave me the option. Each of the books in the series has an editor that does the job I did of putting the book together. And the editor always has the option of writing his or her own story or not. And at first, I thought, Oh, I’m not going to write when I have so many good writers. But the more I worked on their stories, I thought this little bit of, I had an idea for this story that had been in my brain for a while and I just thought, Oh, I’m just gonna write it, you know? And if it’s terrible, they’ll tell me, you know, it’s terrible. Don’t put it right. So So I wrote it, and it actually, it didn’t take me that long to write it. I wrote it and rewrote it over about a month. And, some of it is it’s based in a neighborhood in Tampa called Rattlesnake and I lived there when I was a kid. I mean, the setting of the story comes from my own background – little bits of the story come from my own experience, but it really is fiction. I’ve had a couple of friends read it and say, That’s terrible that that happened to you. The most autobiographical thing in that story is the mother, the snake killer. That’s my mother. That’s okay. That’s the most autobiographical thing, but it came out of you know, some things that I knew about that it happened to other people, but I really did make most of it up. It really is fiction.

Tyler

I wasn’t familiar with Rattlesnake as an area.

Gramel 

I don’t think I was either. I thought you were talking about the town in Florida.

Colette

Yeah, it’s a neighborhood in Tampa that it’s not people don’t usually call it that these days. But it used to be called that it’s the area right around West Shore Boulevard and Gandy. If you come off, the bridge coming into Tampa. Right at the Tampa end of the Gandy bridge, that used to be called Rattlesnake, there was a rattlesnake post office at that intersection. And it was named that because long ago, there was actually a rattlesnake canning plant located there and that’s in the story to where they would catch rattlesnakes and cook them and put the meat in cans and sell it at tourist stops along the highways.

And, and so it was called that and when I lived there as a kid in the 1960s it people still called it Rattlesnake. People don’t call it that much anymore. Although if you google map, Tampa, often that neighborhood will show up as rattlesnake on a Google Map. It’s interesting that that somehow Google picked that up I don’t know how. But that’s where it came from. But the stories the other stories are, as I said, they’re all over they range from like, The North End of Clearwater Beach down to Gibsonton and –

Gramel

Largo.

Colette

Yeah, it was interesting that we asked the writers to each pick a neighborhood and to avoid overlap. Before they began writing, I got each of them to tell me where they wanted to set their stories, so that they wouldn’t, you know, write about the same neighborhoods. And I was a little bit afraid that a lot of writers would pick Ybor City, just you know, because it has kind of a history of crime. And none of them did – not one person. That surprised me.

Gramel 

That proves that authors are unpredictable.

Colette

Yes, they are. They’re their own their own people.

Gramel 

I have a cousin that was born in St. Petersburg. When she got married, she got a home in Pinellas Park. And I want her to read that story, which was one of my favorite, but I think I have about 10 favorite.

Colette

Oh, good. I’m glad you have so many favorites.

Gramel 

Well, you know, I just love variety in life period. And I have a usually my favorite book is the book I’m reading right now I know that gets boring for loved ones to hear. No, but yeah, that’s the way it is. I just, I say I love words.

Colette

I feel that way too. And because of my job, people often ask me what’s your favorite book? And I hate that question. I can’t pick a favorite book – probably give them a list of the hundred best books I’ve read, you know, but I’m sort of like you – often it’s the book I’m reading right now, unless you ask me my least favorite book that happens once in a while, but most of the time, you know, it’s the one I’m right in the middle of.

Gramel 

Your job just sounds special.

Colette

I’m very lucky to have it.

Tyler

Something that I also liked about the book, like she was talking about was, and you were saying there’s a diversity and people writing and there’s a diversity of narratives as well. And they’re specifically dealing with some issues of gender and sexual orientation and stuff like that. So, I thought that was a really cool element of the book.

Colette

Yeah, I think so too. And I was glad that was something that I didn’t have to ask authors to do. You know, that’s something that those writers did on their own. And I was I was glad to see that diversity just sort of come naturally.

Gramel 

Yeah, I like that too. I always think it’s, you know, real to have a hurricane mentioned because we have hurricanes. That’s part of our life in Florida.

Colette

That’s right. Well, when that story came in, that’s the story Jackknife by Danny Lopez. And it starts at the strip club, the Mons Venus strip club in Tampa with a stripper and an ex-cop falling in love. And then it ends in Gibsonton you know, the circus town with a hurricane and I wrote him back and I said, you have the Mons Venus, Gibsonton and a hurricane. That’s the trifecta of noir.

Tyler

You touched every base. It was. It was really fun to get that story. It’s a good story and after writing the short story that you have in the collection has that kind of reignited maybe more work from you? Or how do you feel about the writing fiction moving forward?

Colette

I’m sort of, I’m not sure. I’m kind of waiting to see what kind of response it gets. It was fun to write. But I’m not sure whether I want to write more fiction or not.

Tyler

I thought your story was really strong. And you know, it had a lot of interesting elements in it. And especially like ending the collection, too, I thought it was an interesting place to have that story because it deals with – without giving too much away – it has some exploitation, some trauma involved in it that some of the other stories had, but in different ways.

Colette

Yeah, thanks. And I wasn’t sure about putting it last, although I felt that was a good place for it. The publisher really liked having it in that position. He felt that way too that it was a good endpoint for the collection. I also liked one of the advanced reviews that the book got in Kirkus Reviews; it said that my story was perhaps the most disturbing story in the collection. And given what the kind of literature this is, I was really proud of that.

Tyler

The most disturbing of the disturbing stories.

Gramel 

But one of the sweeter stories if you can use the word, was the one about the little girl that came from Colombia.

Colette

Yeah, and there and certainly bad things happen in that story. But that character herself, you know, the character who narrates the story –I really like her. You know, I like that character. And I liked her. How she felt about her family about her parents, you know, I yeah, it that story does have a kind of sweetness to it.

Tyler

And so I know you have you all have an event coming up with the bookstore in early August. How has what’s going on changed your events? And what other events are you kind of thinking of doing for this?

Colette

Oh, it’s changed everything about, you know, book events for me. And for everyone else, you know, I had hoped to, I’d hope to do you know, book signings and have some of the other authors, contributors to the book join me and because a lot of them live here, and that was what I was thinking all along as I was working on this over a year and a half. But we can’t do any of that. So we’re doing a virtual book launch with Tombolo in St. Petersburg, on August 4, and that will be me and Lisa Unger and Sterling Watson and Gale Massey. And then on August 9, I’m going to do another event with Oxford exchange bookstore in Tampa. The same sort of thing, and I’ll have three different contributors with for that event. I’ve done some interviews, this one of course, and I’ve done a couple of TV and radio interviews about the book.

And then in November, Tyler, as you know, because you were there a couple of years ago, we do the Times Festival of Reading, and that too is going to be virtual this year. We just thought it probably wasn’t a good idea to get 5,000 people together, you know, at a live book event, so we’re doing everything virtually and recording interviews with authors. But we’ll be doing something for this anthology, too. I don’t think I’m going to put all 15 of us on screen at the same time. I don’t think that’s going to work awfully well. But what I may do is do like three groups of five, you know, authors, and then people can watch online that conversation online. And, and by

Gramel 

That sounds very exciting!

Colette

Yeah, I think it’ll be fun. We’re, we’re doing this festival like from the ground up, you know, as a virtual festival. So we’re figuring it out as we go along. But I hope it works out.

Gramel 

Well, I walk I walk with a cane when I when I’m out, so it is right up my alley, it would be very hard for me to cover that much ground. I can cover that much ground sitting.

Colette

And also, every year when we have the festival, you know, it’s on one day and we have about 40 authors. And every year people complain to me, why did you put my two favorite authors at the same time? And I had to pick one. I couldn’t see them both. Well, now you can see everybody.

Gramel 

Every year, I took Tyler and he started when he was just about seven or eight. So I have a real tender spot in my heart for this festival. Is there going to be a way for people out of state to watch it?

Colette

Yeah, I think it’s going to be hosted on YouTube. So we’ll have a website for the festival and you can go to that website and say, you know, I want to see you know, Laura Lippman’s interview. Most of them will be interviews with the authors or panels. So you can just click on that, and the video will come up and you can be anywhere, you know, you can do it from anywhere.

Tyler

And can you talk to us a little bit about your involvement with the festival, when you first started and how it’s evolved over the years.

Colette

I was the second person to sort of work on it. The previous book editor got it off the ground. This will be its 28th year and I’ve been doing it for 13 years. So it was already kind of established. You know, when I took over the job, the first couple of years were crazy, because I’ve been trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I don’t do everything myself, thank goodness, because that would be impossible. I work a lot with our marketing department at the Times to do a huge amount of work on it. And we have volunteers who work on it. And some of the other time staff helped me with it. So it’s definitely a group effort. The main things I do are recruiting authors, you know, inviting authors to be at the festival. And that’s up until now that’s been a big part of the job because you’re competing for authors and when we were doing the festival as we’ve usually done it live, that meant you had to try to get an author to come to St. Petersburg on a specific day. And the biggest thing that kept us from getting every author we wanted, we’re scheduling because we were always competing with other book festivals. And other venues and you know, you’d, you’d say, I want Carl Hiaasen. And they’d say, Sorry, he’s already booked for that day, or he’s going to be in Seattle the day before, and we can’t send him all the way back. It was always a scheduling, you know, puzzle.

What I’m finding another silver lining to do it to doing it the way we’re doing it is that it’s easier to get people because I’m not asking them to be here on a certain day. I’m just asking them to come online for an interview sometime between August and October. And I’m getting people I’ve wanted for years and haven’t been able to get before. So I think we’re going to have a really great lineup this year because of that.

And the other part of what I do for the festival is, is write about the books. You know, we try to get every one of our festival authors into the paper. Before the festival, we book reviews or interviews or excerpts or whatever. And I do almost all of that. And that’s a lot of work, too.

Gramel

You’ve probably already thought about this, but since it is going to be online, have you got the word out to people with special needs.

Colette

We’ve announced that it’s going to be online without a whole lot of details, but just that it’s moving online. We’ll do a bigger sort of announcement and more details, probably late August or early September. And I think for a lot of people with special needs, as you were saying, you know, if you have mobility problems, this will make it easier for you. And we probably need to look into closed captioning the videos.

Tyler

And YouTube’s a good platform for that too.

Colette

Yeah, I think it’s not very difficult to do. I think it’s just a matter of adding that so.

Tyler

Is there anything else you might want to touch on that we haven’t kind of discussed about the book or the book fair?

Colette

I don’t think so. I think we’ve covered most of it. I I’m very happy that you all asked me to talk about it. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been an interesting experience for me the last couple of weeks because I’ve spent so much time interviewing authors, you know, being on the other side asking the questions. So it’s a different experience for me to be the one answering the questions. And it’s a little weird, but it’s fun.

Tyler

It’s funny, because so I’m used to giving interviews on by myself, you know, I’ve given them for so many years. But working as a team is a new experience for me. It’s a lot different than doing it on your own.

Gramel 

He does the mechanics, and I add color whether he wants it or not.

Tyler

That’s why we’re kind of a good, good team.

Colette

Yes, I think so. I think so.

Tyler

Well, thank you so much. And if you know if there’s anything else that you want to say just, you know, shoot me a message. We also interviewed Sarah Gerard and Gale Massey, who are both great in the collection. We read their novels and then we also talked to Sarah about her story.

Colette

I’m glad that you did. That’s terrific. Good. I look forward to listening to those.

Tyler   

Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for your time. If there’s anything else just reach out, you know, we’re around. We’re not going anywhere. Like I said in that message. We are at home. So we’re here.

Colette

It is a pleasure to meet you, Margie.

Tyler

Have a great rest of your day.

Colette

Good to see you again. Tyler. Take care.

Tyler

So that’s our show. We talked about Tampa Bay Noir. And then we got to interview Colette. We got to hear all about the Times Festival.

Gramel 

I’m excited about the upcoming big festival. Being on the internet. And I think I’m starting to appreciate noir a lot more.

Tyler

I mean, tonight’s a good night for it. It’s Thunder storming, it’s raining. So who knows what could happen next?

Gramel

Well,if monsters and criminals have any sense, they will be inside.

Tyler

Check back. We will update our website with the information for the Times Festival reading when it comes out. So check our website, subscribe to the podcast, email it to a friend check out the festival, which is cool like you were saying. Now folks that aren’t even In Florida can check out all the events is always a great time. They have amazing authors. All right, well, we hope you have a good rest of your day or night or whatever. And we hope that tomorrow is sunnier than it is right now. It’s raining.

Gramel 

And thank you for the ones who have contacted us that you like what we’re doing. That means more than you’ll ever know. We appreciate that.

Tyler

All right, signing off. Bye bye.

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