Today I’m talking with Glenn Langohr, author of Roll Call, and Upon Release. He’s an unusual writer with a unique story, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to interview him.
Kate: What prompted you to write fiction?
Glenn: My research into the drug war went a little too far. In prison fighting trumped up organized crime charges, I had to make my time matter. Writing helped me make sense out of a broken childhood that led to drug dealing, which led to prison.
Tell us what a typical day looks like for you as a writer. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
G: When I start writing a new book I have to block everything else out. Then, slowly at first, I get into that zone where my absolute concentration is honed in on the story. Once I get into a flow that becomes a fire, I pace back and forth in between writing sessions. The pacing ignites more creativity. My writing sessions get closer and closer together, until even in my limited sleep I’m dreaming about the script, seeking the magic.
Your blog mentions your personal faith. How does your faith impact your writing?
G: I have a God over evil, redemptive theme to my stories. Having lived with a chip on my shoulder as a kid, and then with how far involved I got in the drug world, I’m able to explore the spiritual aspects through my characters. My mom used to whisper to me, “Everything happens for a reason; God will never give you more than you can carry.” I use this theme in my stories. Great question! I am still wrestling with it.
How do you form the ideas and characters for a story?
G: My stories are based on experiences. I paint with the true colors of life on a fictional landscape. My former life of crime started pretty innocently, by growing and selling marijuana. At the time of my first arrest I had just turned 18 and my brother was 16. We were both living on our own until an overzealous narcotic detective interrupted us. My character Detective Pincher was born. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get a conviction, even if it means breaking the law. I also created a good investigator, Detective Maltobano, who catches a glimpse of Pincher’s corruption, but gets squeezed out of the loop until he joins Internal Affairs. The drug war combined with tough-on-crime politics gives me plenty of material.
What do you feel makes Roll Call unique as a book?
G: The perspective. Most of the stuff out there, even the crime shows on TV, is written from the law’s point of view. I write from the inside of the criminal justice system out. This allows me to reveal a deeper view.
Do you write purely for pleasure, or do you have a deeper personal purpose?
G: I love writing for pleasure, but I have a vision that pushes me to show the world something. I came out of prison and started a publishing company in hopes I’d be able to help other prisoners turn their experiences into a blessing through writing and art.
Tell me more about Lockdown Publishing. What is it and how does it work?
G: I got out of prison with a vision that other prisoners could turn their lives around through writing and art. Take me for example. During my 10 years of incarceration, I transformed my life writing the novel, Roll Call. When I got out and published it, Kirkus Nielson Media related it to the movie Traffic. My vision for the publishing house is, in the beginning, if we reach 100 prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Super Max and uncover a couple hidden gems, think of the example that will set. I got an immediate response from prisoners to letters I sent and got some great stories and even more incredible art. Now with the publishing world heading digital, it’s easier to publish. I’m working on a charitable foundation where we raise awareness and become available to send instructional writing guides to the willing prisoners. Any money brought in from successful inmate writers would go into a fund. Some of the proceeds would go to the Make a Wish Foundation to help kids; the rest would go to the inmates to develop self-worth and a new life away from crime. It’s a work in progress.
What made you decide to start the publishing house?
G: Compassion. Tough-on-crime platforms don’t work. This is a smart-on-crime solution. Imagine inmates delegated to living in a cell for 23 hours a day in solitary, finding their voice through writing. I just need a little help.
That’s a fantastic idea. The power of story is truly remarkable. What do you like to read personally?
G: Almost everything from the Bible to San Tzu’s The Art of War. Some of my favorite authors are Tami Hoag, Lee Childs, Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, James Clavell and Robert Ludlum. I love reading thrillers and am a sucker for love stories.
Has a certain author impacted your writing style?
G: I think they all have to a certain degree. I write short chapters like James Patterson to keep the readers flipping the pages. I toggle the angle in my stories so it isn’t all first person narrative. I’m also very blessed to have Phillip Doran, the ex -producer of many TV shows and the author of A Reluctant Tuscan, as a mentor. My wife’s father, Mr. John South from American Media, also proofreads all my books before publication.
Tell us about your new novella, Underdog.
G: In California there are 33 state prisons bursting at the seams and breeding bigger criminals. 70% of the inmate population is serving time for drug-related charges. I watched young kids, surfer and skateboarder types with soccer moms, turn into gang members to fit in. It’s a predatory environment without any form of rehabilitation. During my prison sentences, I was involved in 2 unavoidable race riots. While I was in solitary confinement, I found out many inmates were falsely labeled as gang leaders based on dubious evidence that wouldn’t come close to holding up in court. Some of these inmates are being sent to Pelican Bay State Prison’s Super Max, known as the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. Recently, the prisoners in the SHU developed a peaceful hunger strike with 5 core demands. My novella Underdog shines a light on some of these issues. I published it right after the death of one of the hunger strikers, Christian Gomez.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
G: I love the blog post you wrote, “What I Look For.” It’s a great measuring stick for a writer. Thanks for the exposure.
Thank you, Glenn, for talking with me. I wish you the best in your efforts. Keep me updated on Lockdown Publishing.
Readers can purchase Mr. Langohr’s books and become involved in his work at the following locations:
His blog is http://www.lockdownpublishing.com
His Facebook author page is here, and his twitter handle is @rollcallthebook.
Check back this weekend for a review of Mr. Langohr’s novella Underdog.