Have you guys heard about the Simon Canderous Series by Anton Strout?
Of course you have heard of it! Well, guess what? Today we have a guest, well: more than one actually. Wait for it… Anton Strout is here with us! Thanks to @SimonCanderous on Twitter. Naturally, Simon is helping me co-host this… should I call it interview?
(Ale) Pick a color, Simon
(Simon sez) then why don’t we get on with it?
(Ale) That is what she said *giggles*
(Simon sez) really, Alejandra?
(Ale) *Sobers up* yeah, yer right… So, give it up for Anton Strout *Applause*
-Anton enters the stage–
(Ale) Hi Mr. Strout, thanks for joining us today. Well, what are you waiting for? Come and sit on THE chair.
(Simon sez) Why does he have a special chair? I deserve one more than he does.
(Ale) *glares at Simon* So, Anton, how are you feeling today?
(Anton Stout) Good. A little freaked out to have Simon talking to me, but good nonetheless.
(Ale) Good, good… Lets start with the most important question, the one that everyone is expecting: How many hairs do you have on your head?
(Simon sez) ::face/palm:: Don’t even bother to answer that, man!
(Ale) Geez Simon, talk about party pooper… But okie then…
Ale: When did you start writing? Why?
AS: I’ve always dabbled, but I don’t think I took it seriously until 1999 or so. I’ve always wanted to entertain, be it music, acting or writing. I’ve had some moderate success with the first two, but the siren song of writing kept calling to me. I had stories to tell and they had to get down. So my friends and I formed the Dorks of the Round Table, a writing group that I’m proud to say consists of me, Carolyn Turgeon, and Jeanine Cummins. All of us are published now. I’m the only genre writer, technically, but Carolyn is fast becoming one, writing about fairy godmothers and a new take on The Little Mermaid…
Ale: Godmother was a cool book… What inspired you to write your first book?
AS: Technically speaking my first book was written in 1987 and I wrote it because I was in love with Frank Miller’s run on Marvel Comics Daredevil. It was unabashed fan fiction with ninjas and New York City. I reread it a little while back and I’m still shuddering at what my 17-year old mind created.
Ale: *looks at Simon- whispers* What do you think? I entertain him and you go and borrow it?
(Simon sez) ::looks both ways making sure no one’s hearing:: Sounds like a plan.
Ale: So… How do you usually come up with the titles?
AS: There is a store in 15th Street that sells them. Titles are another thing I don’t consciously think about. They’re hard to do. How do you take 100,000 words and come up with 1-5 words that captures it all? Yet somehow in the process of writing all those words, themes start to stick out. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. As the pieces fit together, you see the whole of it and that’s about the time I have an “AHA!” moment with regards to title selection.
Ale: Wait, 15th Street you said? I have to go and visit that one. Are your characters inspired on people you know?
AS: I think everything I’ve watched and everyone I met have influenced the characters I create. How could they not? The world is an interesting place. People are what make it so. I’m fascinated with makes us smart monkeys tick. Once you commit to becoming a writer, I think you’re always recording the world like you have a built in video camera looking over your shoulder. All your experiences and meetings go into your memory banks, all fodder for later use when you’re plucking character traits out for someone.
Ale: How much of your writing is based on personal experiences?
AS: I’ve never had a paranormal encounter myself, but I know people who swear by them. I do love a good ghost story though. I think my personal experiences factor into little things throughout my work. I interpret the old axiom “Write what you know” to mean that I litter bits of what I know as a person into my books so that they become touch points for the reader. My example is about Simon’s power of psychometry. His blood sugar drops from using it, mimicking the effects of hypoglycemia. I’m a diabetic. I know a thing or two about low blood sugar at times. I can use that. It’s what adds flavor to the soup of my books.
Ale: What author(s) and/or book have influenced your writing the most? Who would you consider your all time personal favorite and why?
(Simon sez) Ours, of course.
Ale: Let me rephrase, what book (not including yours) is your favorite?
(Simon sez) Is this a serious question? After writing about me, there is no one who can follow… Ow! Why are you hitting me?
AS: If I go high brow, I’ll go with the Lord of the Rings for my favorite book (and yes, I count it ALL as one book). If I go with a more mass market answer, I’d say The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. I love epic fantasy, but I also adore quirky humor in the scifi/fantasy genre. I’m all over the place. Also a big fan of Stephen King, because whether he’s writing fantasy, horror or straight ole fiction, he taps into a universality in writing that most of his readers totally get. I’m trying desperately to get there as a writer. I bow to his mastery.
Ale: *High 5* Lord of the Rings rules! And sweetness, I think I need to bleach my brain after that *ahem* picture you gave us. Besides book four, are there any other projects/anthologies we should look forward to?
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joss Whedon. He’s my master. I worry that one day when I meet him, security will have to pry me out of his lap.
AS: I have a few things I can’t discuss yet. I have about four short stories on submission from a variety of invites, but until the contracts are signed I can’t go into it. I also have several projects I need to flesh out for pitching to my editor, but first I have to finish book four and promoting book three. If Dead Matter does well, I think that will determine if there if a book five and six for Simon.
Ale: Simon, I think you should go and dance the hula so everyone will be interested in buying your book.
(Simon sez) ::Shakes his head:: Just ignore her.
Ale: Bleh… You are so boring, Simon… Anton, what have you learned from writing your books?
AS: I’ve learned that I’m always learning. Even after a book goes to press, I still want to tweak it some more as I get better at writing, but you have to let go. There is no such thing as thinking your work is perfect. There’s only thinking that when it publishes, it’s less wrong than it was before.
Ale: What person(s) has/have helped you the most in your career?
AS: I credit that to Jean Rabe, a fine writer and editor herself. We met at the big gaming convention GenCon several years ago. She was a published writer on a panel and after talking to her, she offered me a shot in an anthology. That first published story was a foot in the door, one that gave me credibility when shopping my series around as well as the confidence to know I was publishable. We’re still friends today and now I proudly sit by her side on many of those panels I used to attend.
Ale: What encourages you to keep writing?
(Simon sez) the fact that he knows what a marvelous character he has created.
AS: First of all, I love being able to share my stories with others. I spend a year writing and editing something, then later someone reads it and there is the snap of finally connecting, of finally sharing it. That’s very encouraging. As far as a motivation to write, I think it’s the looming contractual deadlines I’ve signed off on that keeps me going. I have a responsibility to more than just my readers. I have it to my publisher, who has an aggressive schedule that they adhere to as a business.
Ale: What turns off your creative flow?
(Simon sez) Yeah, what’s the biggest downer, amigo?
AS: Insecurity and neurosis, which by the way are part of every writer’s burden, I think. Can I do it? Should I do it? Will it suck? Ooh, an Alf marathon is on! It’s no secret that as a writer, your brain is sometimes your own worst enemy. It’s easily distracted, and when it lets you write, it constantly is throwing self-doubt at you. Sometimes I want to shove a letter opener up my nose and give it a good poke.
Ale: Why do you not go for a hot poker instead? They work nicely, trust me *grin.* How do you manage to not get distracted?
(Simon sez) I capture all hisattention, babe.
AS: Oh, as a gamer and comic book fan, I have plenty of distractions. Also, I have Lost to watch. The secret to me was learning my triggers, things that put me in optimal shape for getting words down. The Matrix soundtrack does it, as does Philip Glass. The thing is you have to pay attention to yourself and what makes you tick. Setting the right writing mood for yourself is essential.
Ale: Do you have a special place where to write? A schedule to avoid any issues?
AS: I write well in several locations depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. I have two hours a day when I’m commuting in and out of NYC, so I tend to write out dialogue by hand in a notebook. Then I get home and while watching TV, I put that into the computer, giving it a first edit as I enter it. Every so often when I’m in the thick of the story and must concentrate on continuity and such, I barricade myself up in my office, shutting the world out.
Ale: Of all the characters you have created, tell me which one is your favorite and which one is your least favorite and why.
(Simon sez) ::Stares expectantly::
AS: I’m going outside the series for this one. I have a short story, Lupercalia, in A Girl’s Guide to Guns & Monster. The lead character is this stone cold bitch named Leis Colchis. She’s not nice at all, sees cherubs as demons and Cupid as a dick who needs punishing. BUT… I understand her. She’s had a bad dating life, and who hasn’t had that at one point or another? Her complexity really makes me get behind her. I don’t like her or her actions, but I get why she does what she does, and that makes her damn interesting to me.
As for a least favorite character…? I don’t know if I have one. It’s like asking a parent which of their children they like least.
Ale: Oh, I really liked Leis; she should be here instead of Simon. *LOL*
(Simon sez) Hey!!
Ale: Oh, I am just joking, do not get yer panties on a bunch now!
Ale: Now tell me, which one is the easiest to write and which one is the hardest. Why?
AS: Connor Christos, Simon’s partner in Other Division, is probably the easiest. He’s a seasoned vet of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. He’s not tooooo jaded, but he is a bit one track. He’s confident, knows what he’s doing (most of the time) and generally is a guide for Simon. He’s easy to write because I know where he’s coming from. Simon is the hardest to write, because he has to have a lot of various emotions and problems to work through to keep him interesting. It’s hard to do without being repetitive.
Ale: Well, after meeting Simon it is hard for me to think that he might be the hardest… How do you come up with names?
AS: Sometimes they just come to me. In my head, from day one, the Inspectre was always going to be named Argyle for a first name. It just seemed to fit. Sometimes, though, I steal from video games or make a nod towards them. For instance, Canderous comes from the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. If I remember correctly, he is an old school Mandellorian mercenary from 4,000 years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.
Ale: Is there a message that you want your readers to grasp?
(Simon sez) Hell yeah! How magnificent The Man Canderous is, isn’t that message enough for you?
Ale: *smacks him on the back of his head* is he always this cocky?
AS: He’s not that cocky when I write him, no. And that’s the point. Each person brings their own filter to what they read. They’re going to see Simon in their own special way, imprinting their own life and experiences over him as they read him. I portray him as best I can as a guy who ultimately regrets his criminal past and wants to be good, to do good. I think he’d be good husband material, which I think appeals to woman who might be a little sick of the bad boys you always see as a cliché in urban fantasy/paranormal romance. I think trying to be good is a much more difficult struggle than giving in to being bad. Just ask Angel from the Whedonverse, one of Simon’s heroes.
(Simon sez) ::Proud smile::
Ale: Now, now… Yer no Angel *googly eyes.*
(Simon sez) ::Pinches her arm::
Ale: OW… As an aspiring writer I know how time consuming writing can be (in a good way, of course) and it annoys my family, how does your family cope with it? How do they feel about your writing career?
(Simon sez) Yeah, Doesn’t your lovely wife feel third wheel-like when you are spending time with your man (AKA –Me)?
Ale: I do wonder, does she feel the need to rip a page just to torture you, Simon, and bring you lots of pain… hmm… *mwahaha*
AS: My wife used to be an editor at Random House, so she understands the crazy that being married to a writer entails. She knew what she was getting into when she signed on. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: If a man has a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill provider. I think that applies to writers, too. Writing is a solitary and lonely job. It takes a special person to love us, to put up with long hours of being ignored. Luckily, I am mindful of this.
(Simon sez) And speaking of dealing with stuff, how come I don’t ever have a sexy scene with Jane?
Ale: I second that question…
(Simon sez) Of course you do; kinky, aren’t we?
AS: Yeah, I tend to fade to black whenever the sexay is about to go down. I guess I consider that a private part of my characters lives. Sorry! John Grisham said something once in an interview of his I was reading after The Firm came out. He said he wrote the type of books that he imagined his family could read. The idea of writing sex scenes and having my coworkers or my Grammie reading it is a bit beyond me.
Ale: If the books were turned into a movie, who would you like to play Simon?
AS: If I go with who appeared on the covers, it would have to be Nathan Fillion, but that might be me just being a Firefly fanboy. The cover for Dead Matter looks more like a man-orexic Rob Low to me though.
Ale: Hmm… If you looked like him, Simon, I might consider you hot *wink*
(Simon sez) Oh, I am already, and you know it.
Ale: Yeaah, riiight… If there was a movie made about your life, who would do like to play your part?
AS: I think they could easily cast Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark from Rent. I used to look a lot like him mid 90s. Although now I think they could get away with using Alton Brown from The Food Network.
Ale: If you could change something about your life or the world in general, what would that be? Why?
(Simon sez) I better not be on that list, that’s if you don’t want writers block…
AS: Outside of solving world hunger and ending war? Let’s see… What I’d love to change about myself, and would love the world to embrace too actually, was best said by Conan O’Brien on his final show back in January. It’s something I’m striving to do and I think I’ll be a better person for it. He said:”All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality — it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
I grew up cynical and all it got me was a bitter chip on my shoulder. I fight everyday to be better than that. I like who I am a lot more because of it.
Ale: Thanks for the advice, I think there are lots of people that can benefit from hearing that. Now, how do you feel now that Simon is following you on twitter?
(Simon sez) He loves it, but he tries to hide it by ignoring me.
AS: It is… interesting.
Ale: What is a question that no one has ever asked you that you wish they would?
(Simon sez) Good question; please provide the answer to that question as well.
AS: Would you like half a million dollars for the film and television option rights for your series? I really would like to hear that question asked of me.
Ale: Anton, I know you are a busy man, so one last question: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a published writer?
AS: Write. Like all the time. And most importantly, allow yourself to suck. The only way you get better is by writing a lot and learning how to refine and edit. That takes a lot of words going down on the page. I know a lot of “writers” who don’t actually write. They get so hung up on getting it right the first time that they never get words down at all. People, it’s called a first draft for a reason. It implies many more to come after. It’s easier to correct and edit words that are on the page than it is to correct a blank page. Allow yourself to suck and learn to edit from it.
(Simon sez) Do we really have to end this?
Ale: Yes, we do.
(Simon sez) I didn’t get to ask anything, can I just get one? Or two?
Ale: Go on… Do it fast
(Simon sez) When’s my birthday? And don’t dare to say I should know.
AS: It does strike me odd that you don’t know your own birthday, but who am I to judge? I would say it’s probably it’s 10/13 (in a nod to The X-Files) or possibly January 24th.
(Simon sez) You see, that was not that hard… I’ll take 10/13 though. Aaaand… What do I wear? Boxers or briefs?
AS: You strike me as a boxers kind of guy, Simon. I don’t think you want to be constricted when running from the zombie hordes. And you will be running, oh yes, you will be running…
(Simon sez) That’s what you do on your spare time; imagine me wearing boxers for you? Oh you are a twisted man, Strout.
Well Anton, thank you very much for sharing with us today.
And for you dear readers, you can find his newest book Dead Matter [which came out yesterday] in stores! Now, why do you not guy and get it?
Thank you all for reading.
You can visit Anton Strout HERE!
*This interview is also posted @ www.undeadapproved.com
And special thanks to Jen @ Undead Approved, who helped me with everything.