Bev Vincent won the 2010 Al Blanchard Award for his story, “The Bank job” published in Thin Ice. He is the Edgar and Bram Stoker Award nominated author of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion. He’s a contributing editor with Cemetery Dance magazine and has written over fifty short stories, appearing in places like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, the MWA anthology The Blue Religion, When the Night Comes Down, Evolve and Who Died in Here? Bev blogs at http://bev-vincent.livejournal.com and Storytellers Unplugged. His Facebook fanpage is http://www.facebook.com/bev.vincent and his website is bevvincent.com
You’re a Texan and your Al Blanchard Award-Winning story, “The Bank Job” takes place in New England. How did you think about setting as you wrote it? What’s different about a New England setting versus other parts of the country?
I spent the first 27 years of my life in New Brunswick, Canada, which is almost an extension of New England. I spent a lot of time in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont when I was younger and I have a great affinity for that part of the world. Even though I’ve been in Texas for over 20 years, I still think of my self as a northeasterner and few of my stories are set in Texas. I like writing about New England and eastern Canada because the area has so much character. Actual seasons! Three dimensional landscapes (East Texas is very flat). A working class mentality that I identify strongly with–my father worked in a paper mill for nearly 50 years. There’s something about caper stories especially that make me gravitate toward the area. The story that I had published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, “Wake Me Up For Meals,” was also set in New England. Though I’m somewhat familiar with Boston, the setting for “The Bank Job,” I did quite a bit of research to make sure I had the geography as right as I could without actually walking the streets my characters navigate.
You’re multi-published in short stories with more than 60 published in the last ten years. What advice would you give to short story writers starting out, including the four who are published for the first time in Thin Ice?
My advice is to not be too desperate to be published quickly. We all have a strong desire to see our names in print, and this sometimes encourages us to take shortcuts or to sell our work short. Aim high–always submit to the most prestigious publications first and work your way down. If you aim low and succeed, you’ll never know if you could have done better. Be patient and persistent. I’ve had stories that were well published after amassing ten or more rejection letters. I’ve been entering the Al Blanchard Award contest for three or four years. I also learned to keep a number of stories in circulation at the same time. Rejection letters became so routine that they stopped smarting as much. Resist the lure of some publications that promise only “payment in exposure,” because those publications rarely receive much exposure. That’s not to say that you need always be paid–there are highly respected literary journals that are widely read that only pay in copies. Improve your craft, take any editorial comments you receive to heart, and keep plugging away.
What are you working on now?
I’m always working on short stories — I have submission guidelines for five or six on my desk that I would like to respond to over the next six or eight months, including the next Mystery Writers of America anthology. I have one story in an MWA anthology (“Rule Number One” in The Blue Religion), and I’d like to try again in 2011. I also have the first draft of a crime novel that my agent likes but which needs extensive revision before he sends it out to publishers, so that’s going to be my main focus for the next several months. Plus, I have essays and book reviews under way. I think that’s one of the secrets, too—to always have a mix of things going so that one project hits a wall, I can switch to something else for a while.