Christa Faust on her new novel Choke Hold — a Boing Boing Exclusive

Christa Faust has penned numerous crime and horror novels, including the Scribe Award-winning novel version of the cult movie Snakes on a Plane and Edgar Award-Nominated Money Shot. Choke Hold, the standalone follow-up to Money Shot was released on October 4th.

Chokehold 1When I wrote Money Shot, my hardboiled revenge novel set in the adult film industry, everyone wanted to know if I'm a porn star. (I'm not, in case you were wondering, too.) So far no one has asked me if I'm a fighter, but people still ask why I chose MMA as the world I wanted to explore in my new Angel Dare novel Choke Hold.

For those who don't know, MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] is the style of fighting popularized by the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. It's characterized by a combination of stand up striking and grappling, often (but not always) inside a chain-link cage.

The pugilistic arts and hardboiled/noir fiction have been natural bedfellows since the Black Mask era. The violence, the corruption, the working class grit and desperate, volatile men with nothing to lose, it's the perfect setting for the kind of stories I like to read and write. MMA is just the 21st century's version. But that's not the only reason why I chose to write about it.

201110071148See, I get these crushes on certain topics. No idea why or what topic I might become obsessed with next. It's just like a human crush. Eyes meet across a crowded room and all of a sudden you absolutely have to know every single thing about that person. I love research of all kinds, but I've found that the most rewarding and useful way to understand what it's like to be involved in something is to talk to people that are. Anyone who wants to be a writer needs to be a good listener. If you're respectful, non-judgmental and genuinely interested, people will tell you almost anything.

For me, the initial crush on MMA lead to a more specific obsession with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, also known as "Punch Drunk Syndrome." I was deeply affected by the case of pro-wrestler Chris Benoit, who first murdered his wife, strangled his sleeping seven year old son the following day and eventually, after spending hours alone with their corpses, hung himself. His irrational actions were first thought to be related to steroid use but have since been attributed to depression and dementia caused by CTE.

Although the gruesome and tragic events of the Benoit case didn't directly influence the plot of Choke Hold, they made me start to wonder what it would be like to be right on the brink of CTE related dementia. To know it's coming but still be relatively lucid. How that would feel, and how it would affect the choices that a character would make. That was the spark that grew up to be Choke Hold. It's a novel about two fighters, one young and cocky who's just getting started in the game and one older who is suffering from the early onset of CTE. My protagonist Angel Dare, a former pornstar on the lam from her own violent past, winds up caught between them.

Faust 1While working on this book, I also found myself drawing a parallel between young women becoming porn stars and young men becoming fighters. I started to find common threads and reoccurring themes. The offering up of young bodies for mass entertainment. The potential for a quick buck and the long term consequences, both physical and mental. The winners and losers, the successes and the sob stories. Drugs, Daddy-issues, and low self esteem. The idea that a male fighter is almost like a caricature of the "ultimate" man while a female porn star is an equally over-the-top fantasy of the "ultimate" woman.

On the other hand, I didn't want to cluck my tongue and sensationalize the darker aspects of the fight game. Unlike a lot of other crime writers, I didn't portray the adult film industry in a strictly negative light in Money Shot . I just told it like it really is. Some good, some bad, and most somewhere in between. It's not all innocent lambs and villainous wolves, just lots of ordinary people doing their jobs. I really wanted to do the same for MMA in Choke Hold. Show the some of the positive aspects without flinching from the downsides. Mostly just tell it like it is. I hope I did.

So what's next? I have no idea. And that search for the next fictional crush is what keeps life interesting.

Buy Choke Hold on Amazon