It’s not every day someone like Anonymous-9 visits One Bite at a Time. (At least I don’t think so. Everyone else who’s been here has a name, but is she one of them? Do they even give their real names?) I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to risk a reputation here, and kudos to Anonymous-9 for being upfront about it.
She is the winner of Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Short Story on the Web 2009 and a two-time nominee for the Thriller Award sponsored by the International Thriller Writers as well as the Derringer Award sponsored by The Short Mystery Fiction Society. She has published two collection of short stories (the aptly titled The 1st Short Story Collection and Just So You Know I’m Not Dead) and four novels: Dreaming Deep, Crashing Through Mirrors, Hard Bite, and Bite Harder).
One Bite at a Time: You were the Editor-at-Large for the Beat to a Pulp web site, so you know more people in the crime fiction community that Madonna has had boyfriends. I’m a relative naïf, so I’m hoping you can catch me up on a few people we may both know. There’s no better place to start such a quest than with Les Edgerton. He hit my radar hard at the Albany Bouchercon where he read a poem that stopped me cold. Since then I’ve met him in person and struck up a friendship, but I know there’s more to Les than meets the eye. What can you tell me about him? (It’ll stay between us. No one reads this blog, anyway.)
Anonymous-9: Les Edgerton? HAWWW! Les Edgerton just screwed the pooch when he let Gutter Books publish Bomb, which is the book that wrecked his life and launched his writing career. Maybe it was a good idea to release the book after all these years, but who in their right mind gives up all the juicy details when Random House screws you over? Sure, it really happened, but no Big Five writers have enough guts to talk about their business deals. That's how writers stay poor: it's a conspiracy to keep the business side hush-hush. By the time the next Bouchercon rolls around I expect to see Les standing outside the hotel dressed in rags and holding a begging cup so he can come inside and get coffee. Unless people buy the book to get the all the dirt on Random House. If that happens then he can pay me back the ten bucks he owes me.
OBAAT: Les hangs with one Jack Getze, sometimes with disconcerting frequency. I’ve read all of Jack’s Austin Carr novels and have a natural (in the healthy sense of the word) interest. What’s up with him?
ANONYMOUS-9: Ya got me! Jack is the one person I can't say anything bad about. As Fiction Editor over at Spinetingler, Jack spotted me back when I was a tadpole with a few short stories under my belt, and he tapped “Hard Bite” for Best Short Story on the Web. I'm also a beta reader for Jack from time to time, and he writes the cleanest, tightest manuscripts I've ever seen. Or maybe that's his bare butt I'm remembering from the bath salts spree he was on in Albany.
OBAAT: Speaking of Albany, Eric Beetner and I shared a panel on noir and hard-boiled writing there. Excellent and extremely prolific writer and, from all appearances, a pleasant and decent human being. What can you say about him?
ANONYMOUS-9: Eric just became a brother because Blasted Heath, my digital publisher, just signed him. I've heard that every full moon Eric sprouts hair and teeth, and has to spend a few days chained to a wall in the basement. Other than that he's a great guy and has been very kind to me. He'll make a great Heathen.
OBAAT: Let’s talk a little about you. Your work has earned you a solid rep in the industry.
ANONYMOUS-9: I'm all about learning the rules so you can break the rules. Hard Bite has the first paraplegic action hero and if the premise weren't so bizarre it would have a movie deal by now. But that bizarre premise has made it a cult hit, people love to review the book, and it has 194 organic reviews on Amazon. That's without any Big Five publisher promotion. You asked me what drives me to write the way I do? I write the stuff that's burning up to be said and shown, but nobody else is doing it. I'm the idiot that gets tapped for it. I live and die on that hill.
OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?
ANONYMOUS-9: I love word play. Anything with personality or musicality to the writing rather than prose that lumps along. One of the most entertaining authors you haven't read yet is Frank De Blase and his Pine Box For a Pin-Up. He spins lyrical, noirish turns of phrase that get me eagerly turning pages. Chandler had the same quality, that writing with personality that immersed you in the story. Megan Abbott's Queenpin also comes to mind.
OBAAT: What made you decide to be an author?
ANONYMOUS-9: I didn't decide, I was made that way. Life isn't worth living if I'm not writing. I created my first illustrated story at three years old about a lion. I drew a stick picture of me, and then concocted this whole story about a lion. When people asked me where the lion was, I said he was there, he just wasn't on the page. Which everybody thought was hilarious. But I knew even then I was exercising my imagination and exploring possibilities. Who said the lion had to be on the page to make a story? And I was right. No illustration ever captures the whole story. There's more there.
OBAAT: How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for what you write?
ANONYMOUS-9: I think you have to spend a lot of time alone, with a lot of space to think.
OBAAT: What do you like best about being a writer?
ANONYMOUS-9: It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I like being outside the constructs of what society usually imagines for someone of my age and gender. You could call me an outlaw, I guess. But it's not easy being an outlaw. Truman Capote said, "The problem with living outside the law is you no longer have its protection." Bob Dylan said, "To live outside the law, you have to be honest." I think they're both right.
OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences? (Not necessarily writers. Filmmakers, other artists, whoever you think has had a major impact on your writing.)
ANONYMOUS-9: Tom Wolfe's "new journalism" from the late 1960s always floored me with its realism. Tom Robbins and his wild magical realism grabbed me when Skinny Legs and All came out. It's still one of those watershed works that I never have far from me. Douglas Lindsay slayed me when he came out with The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, about a homicidal barber in a small Scottish town. And it just got made into a movie starring Emma Thompson (no relation) and directed by Robert Carlyle. So it just goes to show that you have to write your heart out and let the chips fall where they may. If you write your passion, and the energy pours undistllled onto the page, the work will find its way. You have to be true to the work and have faith.
OBAAT: Who is your intended audience?
ANONYMOUS-9: That's a good question. My intended audience is always the college-age male, and yet lots of women love Dean and Sid, and older people too. Rather than an age or a gender, I think it's a spirit in my readers, and a willingness to let the story take them to places they haven't been before. Not everybody wants to take the ride, you know.
ANONYMOUS-9: Ask yourself, "If I were writing this and nobody would ever know it's me, what would I be doing different?" In the beginning, Early on I realized that "censors" were sitting on my shoulders always considering what so and so would think if they read my work. It was getting in the way. So I came up with a pen name and that took care of the problem.
I'd also like to talk about community. Find "like minded others" and befriend them. Writers review each other and talk one another up when they like the work. Johnny Shaw and Sam Wiebe have been incredibly kind to me, mentioning my work in interviews in the last year, and that means a lot because they have wide readerships and influence. Both are award winners with talent that's leaving a mark.
OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.
ANONYMOUS-9: Following politics from both sides. Some writers are fierce ideologues, all about one side and one ideology. But that's too limited for me. Half the population always sees it from another angle. I think a real writer has to understand all the arguments. In 1997 I went to the University of Toronto and became a member of the Hart House debates club. I learned how to argue both sides of an equation, no matter how I felt personally about an issue. That was the best training for writing, ever.
OBAAT: What are you working on now?
ANONYMOUS-9: I actually just started a book on writing which doesn't talk about anything other how-to books talk about. I'm doing my own cartoon illustrations. It's a simple, illustrated book on writing which not only has never been seen before, but it talks about stuff no other authors tackle, and no MFA programs deal with either. But you can't get published without this information. Just like Hard Bite, you're going to have to read it to believe it. I'm drawing my own cartoons for it.