Interview With an Author: S.A. Cosby

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Shawn A. Cosby and his new novel, Razorblade Tears
Author Shawn A. Cosby and his new novel, Razorblade Tears

Shawn A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia, now residing in Gloucester, Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. His short story "The Grass Beneath My Feet" won the Anthony Award for best short story in 2019. He is also the author of My Darkest Prayer and Brotherhood of the Blade. His writing is influenced by his experience as a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager, and for six hours a mascot for a major fast-food chain inside the world's hottest costume. When he isn't crafting tales of murder and mayhem he assists the dedicated staff at J.K. Redmond Funeral home as a mortician's assistant. He is an avid hiker and is also known as one hell of a chess player. His new novel is Razorblade Tears and he recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Razorblade Tears?

The main inspiration was a friend of mine, an African American man, who came out a few years ago to his family. His experience was not positive and that inspired me to want to talk about homophobia and racism and how they exist as parallel issues in the African American community.

Are Ike, Buddy Lee, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

Not really...I think aspects of their personalities are definitely amalgamations of people I know but not true inspirations.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

We didn't lose any characters but I did do some significant revisions on certain scenes to express the ramifications of certain decisions Ike and Buddy Lee make and how do those decisions come back to haunt them.

Razorblade Tears could act as a primer for issues surrounding race and the LGBTQ community. Was that one of your intentions when you began writing the novel or was it a consequence resulting from your telling Ike & Buddy Lee’s story?

I think my main desire was to start a conversation, not that the conversations haven't happened before but I guess I wanted to reignite it. As a writer, I don't ever presume to have any answer but I am fully committed to asking the questions.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

Two books. A classic and a soon to be classic. Light In August by William Faulkner and Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon. I just finished Midnight Lullaby by James DF Hannah which was excellent.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Walter Mosley
Toni Morrison
Raymond Carver
Chester Himes
Ernest J. Gaines

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

I loved The Cricket in Times Square. My mom taught me how to read it to myself when I was 4.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Ha! Anything by Clive Barker or Hubert Selby.

What is a book you've faked reading?

In high school I was assigned Alas Babylon by my English teacher and I just couldn't get into so I wrote a very esoteric book report full of purple prose to hide the fact I didn't finish it. I did go back and finish it years later though. I hate not finishing a book.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Food Whore by Jessica Tom.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Devil in a Blue Dress made me realize I could write about the people I grew up with and not be afraid of my work being too black or too country.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

The Devil All the Time is the greatest Southern Gothic novel that doesn't really take place in the South. It's a remarkable examination of the banality of humankind's propensity for cruelty.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

The Color Purple...

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I watched a film version of On The Road from a few years ago, and it was incredible. A beautiful, sensual visual experience. Like a fever dream set to film.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

Drinking an Olde Fashioned at a rooftop bar in Manhattan or reading a book on the dock near the beach in Mathews County at sunset. Either way, I'm gonna be happy.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

No one ever asks me what my favorite animal is...and the answer is a lion. So there's that.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a few projects but my main one is my next book, a Southern Gothic murder mystery set in Southeastern Virginia, tentatively titled All the Sinners know...a book for the whole family.

Book cover for Razorblade Tears
Razorblade Tears
Cosby, S. A.

Two young men, who are deeply in love, married, and fathers to a young girl. Two fathers, who cannot accept their sons as they are nor the life they are creating. Two senseless murders that remove any possibility of reconciliation or the chance to say what should have been said. Two unlikely partners, intent on discovering who killed their sons and why, who will stop at nothing to secure vengeance.

In Razorblade Tears, S.A. Crosby follows Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-convicts and proudly “conventional” men who are also the fathers of their gay sons who have been mysteriously murdered. Based on the details given to him by law enforcement, Ike believes this was an execution, but he has no idea why anyone would want these young men dead. Buddy Lee is insistent that Ike join him in finding out who killed their sons. While Ike initially resists, he finally agrees. As they learn more about the lives their sons were creating and living, they are exposed to perspectives completely outside of their own range of experience. Part “buddy” book, part mystery, and part thriller, Razorblade Tears combines all of these elements into a compelling read of regret, self-examination, and revenge.