This is part of a new series of interviews featuring indie authors. These interviews will drop once or twice a week. If you’d like to be part of this series, please contact me at Sarah (at) bookwormblues (dot) net. Please support the authors by clicking on the affiliate links in the interview, spread the word, and, of course, buy their books.
We’re all in this together, you know?
About the Author
Fantasy and science fiction author Anton Strout has given readers equal shares of chills and laughter since the first book of his Simon Canderous paranormal detective series, Dead To Me, came out from Penguin/Ace Books in 2008. He continues his tales of mayhem in Manhattan with his second series, the Spellmason Chronicles, as he treats readers to the story of a girl and her gargoyle, and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and love with his trademark snarky twist. He’s also the host of The Once and Future Podcast, where he talks about writing, games, and other nerdy stuff with some of today’s most popular speculative fiction authors. His latest project is CLAW AND ORDER, a collection of his short fiction and more, now on Kickstarter!
How can readers contact you?
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. Describe yourself in six words or fewer.
Raconteur of the bizarre. Misses Buffy.
Tell me about your book.
It’s entitled Claw & Order and I had a hell of a lot of fun collecting these tie-in tales I’ve written over the years. From the world of The Spellmason Chronicles and the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series comes a collection of tales from the repository of New York City’s underfunded and mostly secret paranormal protection agency, the Department of Extraordinary Affairs
What makes you and your books unique? Shine for me, you diamond.
Well, it’s my sandbox I’m playing in, so I’m more out of control than ever before, in a sort of mad-with-power kinda way. For over a decade I’ve listened to well intended readers clamor for more adventures from the Simon Canderous quartet and the Spellmason Chronicles. What they might not have known is that I’d also written many short stories set within that shared world, all published among assorted and sometimes hard-to-find anthologies…until NOW. It’s an opportunity to put all the related tales to the series in one sexy looking volume, plus we may see some new tales featuring Simon and Lexi depending on what stretch goals we read. It’s all up to the readers and their support.
What are you working on now/any future projects you want to talk about?
I’ve got the fulfillment and extra tales to (hopefully) think about for Claw & Order, depending on how it funds by Friday, November 13th. Plus I’m polishing up a game world piece for Dystopia Rising and then there’s a sekrit thing I can’t tell you about yet, but it’s a property I’ve wanted to write for since 1984-ish. I’ve said too much. They’re on to me! Run!
Let’s celebrate. What’s one of the best things that’s happened to you as an author? Don’t be shy.
I became friends with actress/director/writer Amber Benson. Her editor at Ace suggested she read me to get a feel for urban fantasy and we met at New York Comic Con where she thanked me. I was a huge Buffy fan and was (spoiler alert) sad when her character had passed on the show years ago, but she was so sweet and like minded in humor that we became fast friends, thanks to my author life, so that was pretty keen.
Let’s talk CRAFT
What about self-publishing appeals to you? Why did you choose this particular path to publication?
Most of my work has been traditionally published, but I also know from 22+ years dayjobbing in the Big 5 NY publishers that not everything I write fits nearly into their worldview of what’s publishable. And I have very vocal cheerleaders online who want more of Simon Canderous and Lexi Belarus from both my series, so putting together a collection of tales around them and other beloved side characters seemed the way to go. The great thing about Kickstarting a self-pubbed project like this is that you’ll know pretty quick if your project is full steam ahead or not. The proof is in the pitching of the concept. Plus I get to make a lot cool in-world products as rewards…
Plotter or pantser, and why?
I’m a minimalist plotter, maximist pantser. I need to keep the book a bit of a surprise to me while I write it. When I’ve been forced to do a formal outline, I get so much down that I have a hard time wanting to flesh it out into the actual book. Because I write multiple series, I DO have to do a bit of planning for long arc ideas vs book to book arc of ideas, and that takes a small bit of plotting. Once I get a first draft down, I’m able to step back, see the whole, and add all the supporting details to it, but I have to let the book surprise me a bit on the way to the end. I like the tease of discovery along the way.
What does your research process look like?
As a general rule (which, yes, I break all the time), I try to restrict my research first time through a book. I keep it on a need-to-know basis. Falling down the rabbit hole is far too tempting and stops me getting words on the page. I’ll often do something like: “Simon grabbed the $$medieval weapon like a Morningstar, research later$$” and keep going. Details, for me, get added in like flavoring an elaborate soup or something. The first draft words are the soup base.
What are some of the most interesting rabbit holes you’ve found yourself lost down?
The most dangerous one I hit is for weapons. In The Spellmason Chronicles, I have a sort of Latina paladin character whose fell in love with polearms. Hard to weild in modern Manhattan, but she makes it work. She favors the glaive-guisarme, but I have lost days of researching many a pole arm, taken field trips to MOMA, gone and played some D&D to try them all out… It can be days before I get back to my writing!
Time to talk about BOOKS
Tell me about the most recent book you’ve read.
In all the crazy of the world right now, I’ve had a little trouble focusing on reading fiction. Which sucks, because I’m not reading genre, which I live, nor am I reading the hundred or so books a month I need to focus on for my day job in publishing. Instead, I’ve turned my reading to a little soothing of my anxious mind with The Daily Stoic and Daily Stoic Journal. Ryan Holiday has been applying classical Stoicism to modern day problems, and I find his approach refreshing and it scratches an itch in me to control what I can at the center of the world’s storm. The journal lets me reflect on topics that are discussed in the main book, and as a one-two combo, it’s helping me cope. Launching a Kickstarter just adds to my anxiety in all this, so I need the mental help!
What’s your favorite book as a child?
Around 12 or so I went to this now defunct bookstore in the heart of the Berkshires, October Mountain Books. I picked up a book for a show I caught five minutes of on PBS, right after Doctor Who. It was wacky, science fiction, and had a tone to it that influenced much of my own humor for the rest of my life. That book was The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be in the writing business if not for his influence.
Hobbies & All Things Weird
When you aren’t writing, what can you typically be found doing?
Much of the past few years used to find me filling my free time with gaming, but then my wife and I had the brilliant idea to have twins, so that’s pretty damned time consuming. Now that they’re seven, I’ve had more time to write again, but I do have a standing Dungeons & Dragons game on Tuesdays for the past three years to fit in a little gaming.
I am a firm believer that we all have to be a little weird to do what we do. What makes you delightfully wacky?
Well, for years I thought I was mentally deficient or something, because I was either super conversational or else seeing how long I could go without talking to anyone. Sometimes it would be several days of silence. Or I’d see the CEO of my publishing company, just the two of us in a hall, and I’d loudly proclaim “HOWDY!” Howdy, Strout? Really? Note: I am from New England and have no country accent. Why would I do that? Then I learned there was such a thing as an ambivert, a combo intro-and extro-vert. It explained much, and just being able to name something gives you control and power over it in your life. I’m not sure all my interactions were delightful, but they were wacky.
What’s your favorite holiday and why?
I’m a big softie for Christmas, especially with 7-year old twins in the house. I’m ready for that tree to go up right at Thanksgiving, to decorate, to anticipate, to see old friends, to drink, to be merry, and end the year well… and all of it with presents, giving and receiving. I’m pretty classic about it. I think I have some urban fantasy holiday stories I want to explore…
What’s your favorite food from a country you do not live in?
Kobe beef. Like actually from Japan, not the Americanized version, tho it will do in a pinch. I’m not a snob about it. Rare to just barely medium rare.
Any final thoughts?
I read a question somewhere on the interwebs, and I need to know the answer. If the Star Trek replicators are creating food from molecules, and not, say, animals themselves, can vegetarians feel free to order meat from them? I’m sure there’s a Starfleet test called The Impossible Whopper Maru or something that shows a scientific breakdown of it…