Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview with debut mystery novelist James Anderson

Today’s special guest is debut mystery author James Anderson. His novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, has already received a lot of positive reviews, and we have him here to answer a few questions and give us insight into his writing life.

“Anderson distills the heat and shimmering haze of the Utah desert into his fine first novel.”—Publishers Weekly
“We predict The Never-Open Desert Diner will be one of the best books you read in 2015.”—Prose ‘n Cons™ Magazine 
 A striking debut novel—lyrical, whimsical, atmospheric.”
CJ. Box, New York Times Best Selling author of The Highway and Breaking Point
“The Never Open Desert Diner is crime fiction that transcends the noir genre, in the vein of James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane.”
—William Hastings, author of The Hard Way

Welcome, James. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Seattle, Washington and raised primarily in Oregon. I attended various public schools. I was a frequently absent and perpetually poor student. I graduated from Reed College in Portland with a degree in American Studies, and then attended graduate school in Boston. Along the way I worked for the Army, lived in many places around the world, did logging, commercial fishing, sold cars, and founded and ran a small publishing company. For a short period I produced documentary films.

Please tell us about your debut release, The Never-Open Desert Diner.
Ben Jones is a single, thirty-eight year old truck driver who makes deliveries to people along a particularly remote stretch of highway in the high desert of southern Utah. He discovers a woman playing a cello with no strings in the model home of an abandoned housing development in the desert. I am not really all that interested in crimes themselves. I am more interested in how the residue of a crime clings to the lives of people, often disparate strangers, almost like leaves on water being rocked by a motorboat’s wake a half a world away.

What inspired you to write this book?
What my friend, nonfiction writer Bruce Berger calls the “intersection of landscape and humanity.” Particularly the desert. There is a certain fullness of nothing that has attracted seekers and wanderers for thousands of years. I combined that with my affection for the mysteries of John D. MacDonald, James Crumley, and others whose novels seem to derive their beauty and force from the region in which they are set. I have long been a fan of writers like Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, Gretel Ehrlich, as well as Bruce Berger.

I was also much influenced by Thomas Merton’s Wisdom of the Desert Fathers.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am writing the next Ben Jones novel and also a novel set in Oregon, which I’ve been working on for several years. Alternately I am also working on two novellas, short stories, and poems.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never thought about it. I still don’t. It was something I have always done. Before I could write I told stories. Okay, lies! I was writing short stories in elementary school and finished my first novel when I was sixteen. My first publications in national magazines began when I was around nineteen, a poem called “Running It Down” in Poetry Northwest.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am up every morning around four am. I usually write until about nine. I read in the evenings, everything from novels, poetry, memoirs and science, particularly neuro-biology and physics. I also do native stonework from time to time. I used to run marathons, but all my running friends have become injured or just quit. I go to the gym now or hike. Once in a while I will run trails. I also do Chinese calligraphy.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Just one? I close my eyes and inhabit the scene. When I open my eyes I write what I saw and heard. I’m sort of a “method” writer, I guess. Of course that’s during the rough draft. The detailed nuts and bolts and polishing comes in the revision process. The novel we are discussing went through fourteen major revisions.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Someone else.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just a simple “thank you.” Thanks for reading. Period. My work and everybody and anybody else.

My book is available through your local independent bookseller, Barnes and Noble, and other online venues, as well as through my publisher directly at:

Social media:

Thank you, James! Happy writing!

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