January 23, 2015

Go Hard or Go Home: an interview with Anonymous-9, author of "Bite Harder"

Anonymous-9 is the pen name of Elaine Ash. Although her work is synonymous with Los Angeles, Elaine was born and grew up in eastern Canada. At seven years old her first published work in the church paper won a Temperance Award. It inspired her to take up drinking responsibly at an early age. (source: http://www.anonymous-9.com/)

Her Books:

I had the chance to ask the pseudonymous crime writer about her books and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: With Hard Bite, and by extension its sequel that was released this year, Bite Harder, the premise sounds absolutely amazeballs. At the very least with the inclusion of a helper monkey as partner-in-crime shows an aptitude in bad-assery. Where did the impetus for this series come about?

Anonymous-9: Hi Gef and thank you so much for the work you do promoting authors. The impetus for HARD BITE came about with a short story that won Spinetingler Magazine's Best Short story on the Web 2009.  Everbody said, 'That should be a novel." So I wrote one and it got picked up by Blasted Heath. They didn't TELL me they wanted a series. I thought it was a standalone book and Al Guthrie writes and says, "You know, we really want a series." Sometimes, you can't plan stuff, it just comes along and you have to roll with it.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Anonymous-9: I'm always looking for the unlikely protagonist, the premise I haven't read before. That's what I want to read so that's what I want to write. In terms of research YouTube is my friend. I spend butt-busting days searching out videos and then watching them over and over to gleam information. One trick is to watch videos not for what's said or done, but for what's in the background. I'll take screen shots and them import them into a program and blow them up, finding clues and details the cameraman isn't aware he/she's getting. That's a good trick.

Gef: You very recently came out with a novella, Crashing Through Mirrors, that has earned its share of praise from readers and writers alike. How much of a gear shift is it to go from writing a novel to a novella?

Anonymous-9: Ha! An easier shift. I've adopted trying stories out on readers before putting in the investment a novel takes. (CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is technically a novelette at 15,000 words.) I'm a natural short sprinter as a writer. It's easier for me to writer shorter than longer. That being said, CTM has done so well, and been so well received, that I will probably turn it into a novel and sell it. Releasing it as a novelette first means it can find its readership, get rated, and ultimately sell for more money as a "known" quantity. I like to be as "out of the box" businesswise as I am premisewise.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the crime genre?

Anonymous-9: The saving grace of the crime genre is the kind of writers it attracts. The crime genre is concerned with ugly violent things and when people exorcise ugly and violent urges out of their systems and onto a page, they can then turn around and be civil and supportive to one another. Unlike musicians, who are team players. and have to watch their aggression or nobody will want to play with them, writers for the most part are lone wolves. Writers can savage each other at the drop of a hat. Just throw a bunch of comedy writers into competition and watch the blood squirt. But crime writers aren't like that. They're civil and kind to one another, excepting rare aberrations. That's the saving grace of the genre, and why I'm sticking with crime.

Gef: What's the allure of using L.A. as a backdrop? Is it just the kind of city that lends itself as a character or is it as simple as just living in California? How 'bout Texas? Or eastern Canada for that matter?

Anonymous-9: It's as simple as living in California where I can write realistic descriptives. I do want to end up in Texas cause it's rich in so many ways: history, culture and storytelling. I would love to be a southern writer, at least for a little while. In terms of eastern Canada, I wrote my first novel set there and in Toronto (now out of print). I may spend some time in Newfoundland before I'm done and at least write a novella there. For my latest work contracted to Uncanny Books, I referenced Farley Mowatt's GREY SEAS UNDER. A great Canadian writer from the old days.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Anonymous-9: A major New York agent advised, "Get rid of the monkey." That person shall remain nameless.

There's no writing advice I wish would go away, but I wish the industry would stop WHINING. The book industry has never stopped complaining and crying and heralding the demise of the book since it was born. In the 90s, when Borders/Chapters and the big chains came in, and my first book was nationwide in Canada, the barking and howling was deafening. The biz was going into the toilet they said! There was no future in publishing they said! I believed the hype and left writing novels to try screenplays because "it was the future." But novels were my first love and what I did best. I lost ten years of my novel-writing career because I believed those lying complainers. Have you seen a reduction in books since 1990? Heck NO!!! But they never stop. I think it's a ruse to beg for everything they can get and keep writers cowed. They whine because it works. My best advice is make a name for yourself and then charge what you want. Learn to negotiate and stop with the "I don't know anything about business" mantra. That's a guaranteed losing mindset. Not that I'm such a genius but at least I know it's a vulnerable place to be.

Now would you like me to tell you the way I really feel?

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Anonymous-9: I have no guilt regarding sex or pleasure. I know it's very American and I want to be a good citizen but I don't get it. Why feel guilt about pleasure? Does not compute.

Gef: Looking back at 2014, everyone and their mama has written year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites of the past year?

Anonymous-9: Hunger Games captured me in a big way. Streaming free episodes of shows I can't get on my TV via Amazon Prime hit me big in '14.  

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Anonymous-9: I'm snailing it to the finishline on a novelette for Uncanny Books called DREAMING DEEP, a Lovecraftian tribute set on a tugboat in Long Beach, CA. Just when I think it's almost finished I throw out the second half and start again. I'm a perfectionist and no amount of drafts are too many to get it right. I read Part 1 out loud to a gathering of Port of Long Beach tugboat operators not long ago and they loved it. So I refuse to let those people down. It's got to rock hard from start to finish.

I also landed a gig bringing an untold story in the life of Tennessee Williams to light. Mia Phoebus was a housemate and cohort of Tennessee Williams back in 1940 in Provincetown. I have delightful vintage pictures of them together at the house and on the beach. Incredibly, her story has never been told and I'm beyond thrilled to be part of a book that will join the chronicles of Williams' life and times. It's a bit of a change from the hardboiled crime fiction scene, and still exciting. Mia will be using her exposure with the book to cross promote her original poetry, some of it dedicated to Tennessee. She's marvelous with language. No big surprise, with Tennessee Williams as her confidante.

Great talking with you, Gef. Again, THANK YOU for your blog and all you do for books and writers.

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