Interview slots are now closed until September 1st, when I am opening the slots up for author book release and promotions (i.e. without the interview).
I am pleased to present an interview with Anthony:
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on the follow up to Shotglass Memories, titled No Shelter from the Cold. It’s more of that Cold War Romance Noir feel as I’ve been describing it. War is never over for a soldier or their families.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
It depends on the story or the character. But once I have a character they grow in the murky recesses and expose themselves in the moment of an epiphany. Inspiration fuels the fire but I’ve learned to trust my gut. Most times I’m not even thinking about Joe or Kelsey. The answer to a problem I need to solve, be it development or pacing, comes to me then the flood gates open. All the little nuances of performance and what’s needed in the scene come to me. I equate it to watching a film unfold in my mind. All I do is dictate it onto paper, or keys.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
There’s a little of me in every character but none of them are me in any form. It could be a bit of dialogue, or the way they give a glance, but it’s that part of your work that takes from what you know. Even then it’s a small fraction of the character once they take on a life of their own. I’ve never been anything that my characters are, or lived through anything they have.
I start with the person they are then build around them.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
They brew for as long as they need to and there isn’t a gauge for it. Only then do I write down notes in the moments of epiphany, which later get expanded on. I don’t use character sheets because I either know something about them that fits the story, or I’ll discover it along the way. Or it just doesn’t matter. I’m not against character sheets and may start using them once a few books are written, of what happens to them in those books, but I don’t need to know every aspect of who they are. It needs to service the story and that keeps writing fresh for me. I may not think that a character is capable of something until I push them back against a wall in a knife fight.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
Both. When I blocked out No Shelter from the Cold I took a compilation of digital notes and got them all down on note cards. Some were bits and pieces I didn’t use in Shotglass Memories and others are ideas I wanted to try to make work if, again, it services the story.
I spread the cards out on the floor, each one representing a chapter or split into two smaller chapters in terms of word count. Looking at them in a physical state showed me that there could be a better way of telling the story. All I needed to do was rearrange a couple of cards. But the details, nuances, and whatever else within those chapters are mostly left up in the air depending on the day or what I’m reading for tone. A couple of cards aren’t filled in. I have ideas but I’ll discover works best along the way. If chapters write longer than they may not even be needed.
I have a plan, but not a full outline, and surprises happen along the way.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
Along with the notecards, I’ve been an avid user of OneNote from Microsoft. You can take a notebook and break it down into chapters, then scenes, and you can rearrange them with a drag and drop. It’s on the web, desktop, and mobile and always with me wherever I go.
I use Pocket to hold potential online reference until I have time to read it. Evernote to archive reference or anything else. I use Pinterest for mood boards but I also archive pins in hidden boards for reference in the cloud. Tumblr is also an amazing online resource for photos and or research material and I also combine that with Pinterest as well.
Most of them are just scraps. Little facts here and there that culminate into a story or bring a desired tone to what I’m writing. Emotion and mood come through in a photo. But the craft is in how you use that inspiration to emote the same feeling in words. Not what you’re looking at. It’s not description. It’s nuance. It’s the air leaving the room and how the pressure feels against your chest.
Each of those resources have a very specific role in my process. I use Microsoft Word to do the actual writing.
Has your technique changed over time?
I’ve started to find my voice within the writing and because of that it’s come easier. Part of it is destroying self-doubt and relying on myself without second guessing. I frontload everything so when it comes down to do the writing I just write. I’m never sitting there staring at a blank page.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
Books. Movies. Television. The usual. I don’t actively seek it out until I’m trying to steel myself up for the road ahead. For Shotglass Memories, and now working on No Shelter from the Cold, I had to get myself into a dark place tonally. The tone of the book and not becoming the characters. I had to deal with emotional trauma, the casualties of war be it living or dead, and other messes.
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/ silence/music/desk/sofa etc
I can design to music but I have to write in silence. Which is hard to do with a young child but it’s usually in the hours after she’s gone to bed. I constantly take notes down whenever they come to me. Stories run through my mind without intention. But the actual prose comes out at night. I work on a laptop so the room doesn’t particularly matter as long as I’m comfortable and in the mindset.
Everyone has their own ritual. Mine is a glass of Bourbon, straight up.
I’m 53K words into my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
Don’t focus on the end goal. Don’t let it remotely cross your mind. Write down a number you want to hit and throw it in a drawer somewhere.
At the start 80K, or whatever your target is, looks like it’s impossible to achieve. It’s a vertical climb of self-doubt and second-guessing. You’re at 53K but focus on the next page. Take it in steps, one page after another. Break it down from book to chapters to paragraphs to sentences to words then switch it around and build up.
Make it manageable. It was something I learned as I went plugged along and I don’t think it can be taught. You have to experience the feeling before and after to understand how it becomes easier. Then it starts all over again on the next book, but now you’ve got that understanding.
You’re second wind comes faster and it keeps the momentum going.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I’ve read significantly more since eBooks arrived on the scene. I’m able to sample more books, find more authors, and actually buy more in both digital and print because of it. Things like the Kindle, or apps on our phones, are very much bridging the gap while also offering up another resource for authors.
I don’t think it’s been diluted but I think reading habits are changing. It seems to be novellas are the new trend in what people prefer. They’re devouring more. They can complete a story in a couple of commutes or in a single night. This goes back to the pulps and even before then. It’s nothing new. It’s just marketed that way. But if it moves content then I don’t see a downside to it.
Except maybe that some readers want more content for a cheaper price to the point of bootlegging, while also taking away next to nothing from the experience of the story. But that isn’t just books. It’s anything in digital format.
But is it in decline or have expectations leveled out? I think it’s dependent on who you talk to and their ultimate goal. Likewise your ultimate goal. By that I mean are you talking to a publisher, an agent, or another writer? A reader may give you a completely different answer.
I would hope most of us agree that nobody needs a ten thousand dollar gold Apple watch.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
Good for her. I didn’t read it. I don’t have an interest at all. We don’t even have to bring up the content issues let alone the quality of the prose. But she put in the effort, wrote the story, good or bad, and it worked for her. It’s caused people to love a book or hate one. But the fact of the matter is, love it or hate it, we’re all talking about it. She did something right and made money off her work. Beyond the satisfaction of writing as writers, isn’t that what we’d all like happen?
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
50 Shades of Grey. To remind us of our failures….
I don’t think I’ve read anything remotely near any number where I could make that judgement call. It might just have to be grab what I see first.
But the books that have stayed with me, that I’d hope survived would be The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Martian by Andy Weir, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett and anything by Dennis Lehane.
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I made the conscious choice of self-publishing Shotglass Memories, for right now, so that people could read it. As I write the next one, do interviews, read at events, I’m driving interest for the next one. At some point I’ll approach a publisher with two or more under my belt along with actual metrics. If they bite, great. If not, I didn’t lose anything.
I have the experience of writing, and readers are enjoying my work. I get to meet new faces along the way ranging from college kids in their twenties to grandmothers in their eighties.
I don’t see any of it as negative, although I know it’s not the route usually taken or recommended. But it’s given me positive results instead of rejection letters.
Isn’t that success?
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
I used to work in publishing as a cover designer so everything was sort of there before I sat down. Which brings me to your next question.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
You have to ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to tell a story or is it to just be published? I’m not talking about writing as a profession. That’s a whole different ball of wax.
You have an idea for a book. All your focus should be on is writing that book. Without the book you have nothing, not even the potential for whatever you define as success.
You should be aware of the industry, the trends, and social media but don’t get caught up in it. There’s a reason why something is called a trend.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Again it begs answering a question with a question. Devalues them to whom? And why should anyone care? If it’s not harming anyone and people are reading / writing…how is that a bad thing?
The only way we get new standards is through innovation or people taking a chance on something. People always seem to remember that something is successful when it’s in the moment. They never look back at the road the writer traveled to get where they are. Something isn’t marketable until it is, all based on opinion of whoever does or doesn’t take a chance on it.
If somebody somehow unlocked the fanfic achievement in the zeitgeist, it would be interesting to see how the reaction changes. Wait a minute…50 Sha….
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
I’m also a graphic designer so any other creative urge I have comes out through that. But the most satisfied I’ve ever been creatively, through my career, has been finishing the novel. I’ve been told that because of being a visual person it does change how I write a story, the pacing, and the nuances I add in.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A graphic designer. I’m at a point in my life now where things are evening out. I’m enjoying myself as a father, and a husband, when I’m not at work or writing the book. I try not to cut into that time because that’s the most important part of my life. I’m well past needing to have a particular thing because of how much I already have, and blessed with.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I see being a writer more as a storyteller and telling a story can be done in more ways than just writing words. I’ve known since I can remember. I’m the only one in my family like that, that I know of, so I couldn’t tell you where it came from. I knew early on but it didn’t click until much later when I accepted it.
What authors do you admire, and why?
My Mt. Rushmore of writing: Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, Cormac McCarthy, and Ed Brubaker
For the dialogue, the pacing, the prose, and the quality of their work. All of them. Their writing just talks to me on different levels and I haven’t read all they’ve done just yet.
You can find out a bit more about Anthony in his author bio below:
Anthony is an old soul, born and raised in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Shotgun Honey, NPR: This I Believe, Episodes from the Zero Hour!, and featured in Noir at the Bar NYC. Shotglass Memories is his first suspense noir. Anthony’s greatest achievement, however, is and will always be his daughter.
He’s currently working on his second novel, No Shelter from the Cold, continuing on with the characters from Shotglass Memories.
Visit his Amazon Author Page at Amazon