Friday, September 16, 2011

Get to know Anthony Neil Smith

I met Anthony Neil Smith through Twitter, but I knew about him before that. I found his site Plots With Guns years ago when I first started researching writing markets. He was editing it at the time. He doesn't anymore. He's the publisher now. But he's also an author. Find his books here and buy one or two. They don't cost more than a couple of bucks, tops. And, if you're on Twitter you need to follow him there. Honestly, with all his promotion, I think he's responsible for about half the sales of Chasing Filthy Lucre.

In 100 words or less, give us the writing history of Anthony Neil Smith.

     Read HARDY BOYS in 2nd grade. Wanted to do that. Wrote little stories. Moved on to adult fiction. Loved crime stories. Then--comic books, rock and roll, guitar, religious conversion, more music, religious de-conversion, Creative Writing Classes, James Ellroy & PULP FICTION (same year, I think), grad school, published short stories, published novels. Now trying to write more.

 If you had to classify yourself as a writer, put yourself into a genre, which one would it be? And you don't have to stick to the traditional genres. Make one up if you think it'd fit better.

     Yeah, really, I have no problem at all with the label of crime writer. I embrace it. The coolest writers, to me, were always the crime writers--usually smart and respected by literary folks while simultaneously being accepted by the commercial crowd. I write stories about characters dealing with the consequences of crime. And I like that.

Following some of the conversations you've been having on Twitter with others, you seem to spend a bit of time contemplating the direction of crime and noir fiction. So, what is their future? What direction are they heading in, and is that good or bad?

     I don't know anymore. There are things I hope will happen, like a lot more literary writers embracing genre and thus doing cool shit with it, but I'm not sure what's going on with publishing right now. Seems harder for edgy crime writers. I see a lot more use of noir as a flavoring in other genres or lit fiction. I like that, too.
     With ebooks flourishing, I hope we'll see a return to shorter novels like they had in the 50s and 60s. And I'd like to see prices of ebooks settle at a level that will attract a lot of new readers rather than just folks with a lot of money. 10 bucks for a book just doesn't seem right. 10 bucks for an ebook, even less so.
Another Twitter based question. You seem to spend as much time promoting other people's work there as you do your own. Is that just the good, Christian thing to do, or do you have sinister motives?

     I've always been a fan. I started PLOTS WITH GUNS as a way to read more stories in the vein I liked, which we didn't get from the BIG TWO crime mags at the time. And when I get around other writers, I talk about the writers I like, and the ones I don't. If I find a new write through PWG who deserves attention, I work like hell to do whatever I can to get it. So with Twitter and ebooks, I've found a new way to do that. And it's fun.

I know your books are like your children, all little snowflakes and special in their own way. Still, crush the dreams of all of the others and pick a favorite. Then tell us why you love that one more.

     Well, there is an unpublished one about a nerdy, shy PI who, for some reason, is irresistible to women, so he ends up having sex with allllll sorts of people. Not a "pan to the curtains" type of thing you see in older noir flicks. And, well, he can't help himself, but it makes him tired. Oh, and his older sister has him trapped in an incestuous relationship, too, that he can't free himself from. Somewhere in there, he tries to find a missing pregnant teenager.
     I think that book really taught me how to write the sorts of books I've written since. It was my third one, and it didn't sell, so I moved on to YELLOW MEDICINE and HOGDOGGIN.

At what point in your career did you say to yourself, "I'm a writer."

     Either when I sent a story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine when I was 19 (terrible story. Rejected), or when I made the decision to go to grad school. At that point, I knew I wasn't going to stop until I got to publish books.
     What's been the biggest challenge of self publishing? Most rewarding experience of self publishing?
     The most rewarding is the surprise of having new readers get so excited about the books. The internet makes that easier than ever. I love to hear from them. The challenge is reaching them. How do I find these people and market myself in such a way as to make them want to give my stuff a try? I keep looking.

What's the one piece of advice you'd give to someone thinking of putting their own work out there?

     Make sure it's ready -- editing and formatting solid, reviewed by several readers -- and then be smart about promotion. People want to get to know you, not constantly hear your pitch. Give it some variety. Play around.

Give us a quick recommended reading list. What little-known books have you discovered that more people should know about?

     That would take forever. And forever. Seriously, follow me on @docnoir on Twitter, and you'll see. I will say that I'm excited that PLOTS WITH GUNS alums (whom we call "Crimedogs") Frank Bill and Greg Bardsley both landed cool book deals. Awesome!

Now how about the three books you couldn't live without?

     Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor, LUSH LIFE by Richard Price, and the Dave Berry book where he went to Japan. The single funniest opening 30 pages I'd ever read.

Finally, what's next for you? Anything we should know about?

     I've got a new e-book coming out in October called ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, more of a thriller than my usual noir chops. Still, very dark. Keep an eye out for that and the new company publishing it soon.
     I'm working on some new novels. Seems like I have so many I want to write that I ended up freezing myself. Chipping away, though.


  1. Great interview! I love getting a glimpse into the mind of a writer I admire.


  2. Very cool interview Jarrett. It's been a few interviews I've read with ANS and you have a knack to make people say what they wouldn't say to anybody else. Very excited about ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS. Might even buy a friggin' Kindle for it.

  3. Good read, Jarrett - and nice to get more info about Anthony as well. Good luck with the books!


  4. Neil is a god to me. May he live forever.

  5. Great interview. I love Doc Noir. Especially on the grill.