Belly up to the Bar with Anonymous-9

Hey folks. Welcome Anonymous-9 to the bar. Spinetingler Award winning writer of “Hard Bite,” which she’s just expanded into a novel for Blasted Heath.


Tom:
Good evening… Anonymous-9. What are you drinking?






Anonymous-9:
Santa Barbara Landing Chardonnay, 2009. It’s $3.99 a bottle. After a decade of Two-Buck Chuck, I upgraded, even though I have to drink half as much to stay in my budget. Note to those who do not shop at Trader Joe’s: 2-Buck Chuck is a cheap bottle of wine made famous by the grocery chain. I try to work just enough to keep body and soul together plus pay the rent, so I have time to write as much as possible. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fancy taste in wine. I haven’t enjoyed a beverage that cost more than 5 bucks a bottle (unless somebody else was paying) in years. But my impoverishment won’t last forever. Either the writing starts to pay for itself or else. It’s a real investment, and things get incrementally better every year. “Don’t quit early,” is my motto.


Tom:
So your novel Hard Bite is out today, about a paraplegic with a homicidal monkey named Sid. Hard not to be interested in a setup like that. What made you write it?


Anonymous-9:
HARD BITE started out as a short story. It was the third short story that Beat to a Pulp ever published and I submitted it because the site was still finding its footing and there wasn’t that much material to choose from. Patti Abbott had given David Cranmer THE INSTRUMENT OF THEIR DESIRE for the kick-off story and it just blew my socks off.
This was back in early 2008, I believe. HARD BITE got a big reaction out
of people and won Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Short Story on the Web 2009. I didn’t even know I’d been nominated until Cranmer emailed to tell me. Anyway, it was obvious that the protagonist, a paraplegic with a helper monkey named Sid, grabbed people in a big way. So I slogged for 4 more years and finally got it whipped into an acceptable novel. Many drafts, many rewrites, much hair pulling.


Tom:
David really lit a powder keg with Beat to a Pulp, didn’t he? When I started writing, his zine was one of the first I wanted to crack, because I was impressed with the quality of the stories. I’m not surprised that you and Patti Abbott both got in early. Was the novel a story you wanted to see told?


Anonymous-9:
Yeah I got in early—I was Editor at Large for BTAP the first year and a half of its existence. Great experience. I wanted to see a novel that turned some of the conventions of crime storytelling inside out. I wanted to take risks and break rules and still have the story “work.” As an editor I have only one rule: Break all the rules you want, but it has to “work,” people have to buy into it. My premise is so outré that every agent passed on it and just about every seasoned editor who agreed to read it said something like, “This premise is outrageous. Let’s see if you can deliver.” It took me several drafts and years of work but finally Allan Guthrie and Brian Lindenmuth both decided separately and simultaneously that I had finally delivered.


Tom:
That’s a lot of work. A story takes what it takes until it works. I find that a lot of writers either lose patience or get frustrated and move on to the next project when a good story needs that kind of work. I know you’re an editor, what are your thoughts on that?



Anonymous-9:
The problem with half the writers is they are willing to take criticism but they’re not willing to put in the work. The problem the other half is they’re willing to put in the work but they’re not willing to sit still for the criticism. If a writer can meet somewhere in the middle, it’s a done deal.


Tom:
James Lee Burke says a good crime novel is a sociological novel. What are your thoughts on that?






Anonymous-9:
Mr. Burke isn’t here to defend himself, but if he meant that a good crime novel reflects the mores and values of the society it’s set in, then I’d agree. I’m writing about Los Angeles, 2011, and what a sociological study that is. I get it all in from Bel Air to Hawaiian Gardens (not far from where I live) which had the biggest gang bust in US history in 2010.


Tom:
You mentioned turning the conventions of a crime story inside out. What genre trope or cliche drives you crazy?


Anonymous-9:
They don’t get a chance to drive me crazy because they bore me to death first. I love detectives and mysteries but please, please give me something fresh and different about a character I haven’t seen before, a crime I haven’t seen before. And give me visuals, lots of visuals. Writers sometimes forget the reader is not in their head. I like watching a movie while I read and the only way that can happen is if the writer paints vivid pictures. I find visual minimalism incredibly unsatisfying.


Tom:
According to the FBI, violent crime in the US, particularly murder, is at an all-time low. Yet crime fiction seems more popular than ever. Have you experienced crime or violence up close?



Anonymous-9:
I live in a suburb of Los Angeles, right next to Long Beach. It’s famously dangerous and violent. I see crime and violence on a daily basis, in fact right now we have a neighborhood mail thief working the streets and the cops were here a few days ago. Apparently he/she is following the UPS truck and then snatching packages. They actually SIGNED for a package my blind landlord ordered and stole it. I hear gunshots outside at night on a weekly basis. Crime and violence come with the territory when you line in a cheap neighborhood in LA.


Tom:
Well, I’m glad you dodged those. Let’s turn that around. What’s your death row meal?



Anonymous-9:
I wouldn’t want to say in case it came true.





Tom:
Kristine Rusch says the best promotion for your first novel is your second novel. What’s next on tap?






Anonymous-9:
BITE HARDER is in the works. It continues in real time where HARD BITE leaves
off. I’m also adapting HARD BITE into screenplay. I already think Jon Hamm of Mad Men would make a great Dean Drayhart. He’d have to go on one of those starvation diets, but he’s a great actor and has keen instincts plus the perfect eyes for the role. HARD BITE drops OCTOBER 25TH, 2012. First the e-book, then the WORLD.
I’d also like to complain and blast the crap out of my publisher Blasted Heath. But I can’t. They’ve treated me too well and thrown terrific support behind the HARD BITE promotion. I produced my own trailer and paid for it myself, and I got a terrific deal but it was still expensive. I ate hotdogs for a month just to license the footage. So when BH saw the trailer, saw that T. Jefferson Parker was willing to say positive things–I’m one of the few writers who thinks calling my stuff “outlandish” is positive–BH revved everything up a notch. They’re running a contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite over on their website. You are invited to enter.
They’re also running a contest on Goodreads. You’re invited to enter that too!


Tom:
You hear that, folks? Better stock up on Purina monkey chow. It may just save your life.