Josh Pachter


JOSH PACHTER was the 2020 recipient of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement. His stories have been appearing in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and many other places for more than fifty years, and he is the author of Dutch Threat (a whodunnit set in Amsterdam) and First Week Free at the Roomy Toilet (a chapter-book mystery for younger readers).

Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer (How did you get started? What propelled you into the industry? Were there pivotal moments or key inspirations?)

When I was fifteen, I read a story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (“Open File,” by Richard Deming) in which the police failed to solve a crime. I thought there were enough clues presented that the cops ought to have come up with the right answer, and so I sat down and wrote a new ending and sent it off to the magazine. I got a handwritten response from Frederic Dannay — one of the two cousins who wrote as “Ellery Queen” and the editor of the magazine — that praised my solution and ended, “Have you ever considered writing a detective story yourself? Seem to me, Josh — if I may — you should!” So of course I did, and Mr. Dannay bought and published it. That was more than fifty years ago, and I’m still writing!

Q: What genre/s do you write in? What aspects of this genre or genres captivate you most?

I write mostly crime fiction. At the heart of all crime fiction, I think, is the idea that “things are not what they seem,” and that central idea continues to inspire me. I also edit anthologies of short crime fiction and translate both fiction and nonfiction from Dutch to English.

Q: What do you write? (short stories, novels, poems, etc.)

Primarily short fiction, although my first novel — after fifty-five years of short stories! — came out in September (Dutch Threat, Genius Book Publishing) and my second, a chapter-book mystery for younger readers (First Week Free at the Roomy Toilet, Level Best Books) will be out in April.

Q: What does your creative process look like for coming up with ideas? How do you get started? Are there specific experiences or themes that fuel your creativity?

Much more often than not, my stories begin with a title. I’ll see or hear a phrase that catches my eye or ear — “The First Law of Plumbing,” “The Stonewall Jackson Death Site,” “The Night of Power,” “Pisan Zapra” — and think That’s a story title! Then all I have to do is come up with a plot, a setting, and some characters!

Q: What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I like seeing my work in print. I’m not in it to get rich or win prizes — although the money and prizes are nice, when they come — but I love seeing my name on the cover of a book or magazine and thinking, Hey, that’s me! I did that!

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Rejection is inevitable. If you can’t handle being rejected but you really want to write, keep a diary. If you want other people to read what you’ve written, though, then don’t be afraid to put your work into the hands of someone who’s in a position to buy it from you. And if you are afraid, do it anyway!

Q: How do you overcome writer's block? Can you share personal strategies and experiences?

Yes, sometimes I’m working on a story and I get stuck — the words just don’t seem to want to come. But I don’t think of it as a “block.” If Story A isn’t flowing, then I’ll set it aside and work on Story B or just take a break for a while. Eventually, either I’ll realize how to move forward with Story A or just recognize that I’m not ready to write Story A at this point in my life.

Q: What motivated you to write for Storiaverse and how does the platform align with your goals?

I got an out-of-the-blue email from Storiaverse, inviting me to submit a story. Honestly, I thought it was a scam at first, but I had a very pleasant Zoom meeting with Storiaverse — really, from my perspective, out of a desire to see if I could figure out how the scam was intended to work —and came away from it realizing that Storiaverse was not only a new market for short fiction but an exciting new market that was paying top dollar. Since my goal is to get my writing in front of readers and Storiaverse offers an innovative new way of doing that, the platform aligns perfectly with my goals.

Q: Tell us about the most recent story you have written for Storiaverse? What themes or elements can audiences expect? Why did you want to tell this particular story?

I pitched a couple of ideas to Storiaverse, and although they seemed clear that they really wanted to work with me, the ideas I pitched just didn’t quite seem to check off all the boxes they were looking to check. After a couple of back-and-forth exchanges, they asked me if I’d be willing to listen to them pitch me an idea. I said sure, we Zoomed, and I really liked the story idea they proposed. So I agreed to write it, and it became “If It Bleeds….”

Q: What do you like about the opportunity to merge reading with animation?

About a year ago, I retired from a long career in higher education, where one of the subjects I taught was the history of animated film. So blending animation with my fiction seems like a natural evolution in my writing career. I can’t wait to see the results!

Q: How important is diversity and representation in writing? And how do you approach it in your work?

I am a straight white cisgendered older American male, a poster child for the literary patriarchy. I think I’ve managed to set aside a lot of the prejudices you might expect from someone like me, but I recognize that I don’t necessarily have the lived experience to write convincingly about characters who are very different from me, so I tend to focus in more closely on characters who are like me than on characters who are unlike me. In the books I edit, though, it’s extremely important to me to provide representation to underrepresented communities. So I always include as many stories as I can by women, by people of color, by members of the LGBTQIA+ community, by people who are early in their writing careers, by people who can produce quality work but have experienced difficulty in getting past the industry’s gatekeepers.