Monday, June 23, 2008

Anton Strout Interview and Book Giveaway!

After reading Dead To Me and hearing Ace author Anton Strout speak, my goal was to have him answer some questions that have been on my mind about the publishing industry along with the Urban Fantasy genre that has exploded recently with such excellent authors! And, I can honestly say that Anton is one of these authors.
Since you work in the publishing industry, are there any secrets or advice you can give to a new author trying to get their work published?

Anton: Be professional when trying to submit your work. Publishing is a business, and although your secret heart is poured out on your manuscript pages, you can't take things personally. If you get a form rejection, don't rage and scream against the industry. If you get a more personalized rejection, take any advice you get in it and give it careful consideration. I've heard too many stories about aspiring authors getting caught up in feeling like their precious baby has been kicked in the teeth that they forget that they SHOULD be trying to make their manuscript better! Serve the story. Even published authors are always learning new things to make their work better. You should be too!

I have heard so many rumors about how important it is to wait to buy a book on the release date. How true is it that sales are only counted after a book is released than before? If I buy a book before its release date, does that mean I am a bad person and that it won't count toward the total sales of the book?

Anton: It depends. Generally, it works best if you pick up an author's work in the first 8 weeks or so after the "street date" of a book. Why? The stores that carry these books are looking to see what the strong performers are during that time period and those sales will affect how many of your NEXT book they will take. It's also a crucial time for trying to get an author onto the bestseller list. By buying a book early, there is a chance that those early sales won't get lumped into the first week sales that are reported and crucial to a books performance. I believe some of the online retailers do factor this in and report the sales as one rolled up figure, but it's not a constant.

How did you come up with the character of Simon?

Anton: Is it strange to say that he decided to show himself to me over time? There was no initial inspiration for him that I can remember, but when I started writing the protagonist of this story I wanted to tell, the situation's kind of help to build him. Simon strives to be a badass hero that we're all used to in the genre, except he's not. He's a fairly normal guy who simply wants to get his shit together, date, and do something a bit more good and meaningful in his life. But all of this only came to me as Simon walked up to situation after situation. It was only then than he revealed how he'd handle it.

You made New York City come so alive that it seemed like another character in Dead To Me. Did you do any type of research on the city or just make it up along as you wrote since you work there and live close by?

Anton: I lived in Manhattan for about a decade and about six years in Queens, so I am very familiar with most of New York City. It IS a character all its own and I set out to portray the lively creature that it is. I researched a lot of my locations within the story and if I didn't have the time I would Wiki some of the history of those locations. It's such a fascinating city! I have little videoed bits on my camera where I would act out certain scenes at locations, which drew some stares. The Lovecraft Cafe, for example, is based on an East Village coffeehouse/movie theater I used to go to. I'm almost afraid to go back there because my fictional version of it has so taken over that I might be disappointed by the reality of it.

What does the future hold for Simon?

Anton: Well, Ace recently contracted books three and four in the series, so suffice it to say, poor Simon has some troubling times coming. DEADER STILL, book two in the series has Simon dealing with oubliettes, ghosts, cultists, and the scariest creature of them all... women!

What is your definition of Urban Fantasy? Do you see this genre exploding even more? What other authors should we look forward to?

Anton: I have a very loose definition. I think that to qualify as urban fantasy you need a modern day city and you need something fantastical... magic, vamps, you name it. That's it for me. A lot of it can wander into the paranormal romance category, which generally speaking constitutes more emphasis on the boning and less on the plot. Julie Kenner gets away with sub-urban fantasy, with her soccer mom demon slayer, so there are of course exceptions to these rules... I'm doing humorous urban fantasy, sort of in a Whedon-esque vein, and I'd love to see even more of that. I miss Buffy and Ghostbusters.I think the genre has grown about as much as it will, but I think we'll be seeing changes in what specifically is being dealt with in urban fantasy. Vampires were the initial trendsetters... shape shifters are big now... I'm gonna predict that dragonkin will be next. Not in my work, mind you, but hey, it could happen!As far as other authors, I can always recommend my colleagues over at the League of Reluctant Adults... and also this new author at Ace, Jes Battis, who is doing my kind of stuff only with a more serious edge and a paranormal CSI squad.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 5 books would you want with you? Also, what 5 characters would you want living in your hut?

Anton: Hmm...again with the tough questions! I tried to come up with all kinds of erudite answers, but you'll have to settle for these...
Fellowship of the Ring- I like beginnings, and this is my favorite one. I reread it every few years.
The Hotel New Hampshire
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- I don't think I'd be a writer if it weren't for the humor in this book
The Sandman- the entire graphic novel series, which I'm counting as one book.... this has a little bit of everything and helps class up my list
Neuromancer- this William Gibson classic made me realize that I had to work hard, both as a writer AND as a reader... first read through at fourteen, I didn't get it, but I wanted to. Gibson (who I recently had a sammich with!) hits the ground running, not looking back, and it's up to the reader to catch up to what's going on and quick.. I like that Runner up:
Snow Crash/The Diamond Age- Neal Stephenson makes me drool a little bit, what can I say...?

If you could have any superpowers, what would they be? Who is your favorite superhero if you have any?

Anton: These are tough questions to ask a self-proclaimed comic book geek. I've given too many hours to thinking about this in my life. Spidey has always been one of my favorite heroes and I'd probably want his powers. I don't need nigh-invulnerability or anything grand like that... I'd be happy to settle for webslinging, clinging to walls and super strength. Although I always used to play Tony Stark driven Iron Man clones back in my RPG days... I'm also a huge Batman fan, but other than his smarts and wealth, he doesn’t really have powers... which is keen in its own right. Now please to be putting on this Wonder Woman outfit....

Not only was Anton nice enough for me to "pick his brain", he is giving away a signed copy of Dead To Me! All you have to do to win is post here by Thursday. But to make it interesting, I want to know:

"If you could have any super power what would it be and why?"

Katiebabs, who would want the power to fly! :D


Heather said...

Great interview! For a super power, I'd choose the ability to change into water--no, wait, that's Wonder Twins territory--okay, I'd choose the power to actually be able to tell funny jokes. Because I think comedy is pretty super.

azteclady said...

*ears perk up*

Oubliettes???? Yay!

Powers... shape shifting to something cool--can I do the mermaid/leopard thing again? :grin:

macbeaner said...

Any ability? Hmmm. The ability to lift heavy objects fairly easily. Super strength in other words. Because I don't have the patience to lift weights and am tired of asking for help to lift heavy things up.

Great interview!

Anton Strout said...

Now don't be thinking Labyrinth Oubliettes and David Bowie in tight pants.. we're talking classical torture prisoner oubliettes.. maybe with a dose of magic or two to them..

Oh, and Katie, I forgot to mention that Deader Still also features NY Comic-Con.. hehe.

Ana said...

Great interview. I have seen this book around and I was intrigued - I think it's been a while since I read a book with a male protagonist. I am definitely going to pick this up.

I also thought it was VERY interesting to learn about the publishing dates and what they mean for the writers.

And oh, I am taking the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Sandman to my Desert Island too !!!!You have good taste Anton!: )

My superhero power? To be able to freeze time so that I can read all the freaking books I want!

Anton Strout said...

I was going to suggest bringing The Kama Sutra For One, but then I feared for the poor monkeys on the island...

MaryKate said...

hi Anton - Congratulations on your book. Kate has been absolutely raving about it. So I'm sure it's wonderful -- her taste is exemplary! ;o)

Most authors I talk to, when you ask them if they've always known they were an author, answer something like, "Yes, ever since I was in kindergarten and wrote my first story about my kitten fluffy." Was it the same for you? Did you always know you wanted to write?

And also, your work is published by Ace, who publish one of my total author crushes - Patricia Briggs. Who do you think are among the best in the urban fantasy genre?

Also (sheesh, MK!) what's the last book you read that totally blew you away?


Daintress said...

Strout sounds like a really entertaining guy - makes me want to read the book even more! :) (And kuddos for the LOTR comment. That's the first book I'd take with me anywhere also. Lol!)

As to a superpower, I've always loved Wolverine. I think I'd like to heal from anything almost instantly. :) (minus the weird metal skeleton and painful experiments of course)

Katie(babs) said...

Anton: Comic Con?! :D You must mention the lovely ugly dolls that were walking around. LOL
Simon would have a field day there or need to drink a gallon of OJ before he even stepped foot in the building.

I so adore the movie Labyrinth!

Jennifer Snyder said...

Awesome interview.

Kind of curious what's going to happen at Comic Con with Simon walking about . . . but I can wait. March isn't that far away. *looks at calender*

For a superpower I loved control of fire; to create, maintain, and shape.

Kristie (J) said...

Anton: Just so you know, Katie did such a good job talking you and your book up, I went out and got a copy of my own yesterday - and it wasn't even in the Romance Section!!! Just so you know *g* that is unusual for me. Up until then, the only authors I bought outside of romance for quite some time have been JD Robb and Linnea Sinclair.
And I love the Lord of the Rings books - I read them every few years myself. What do you think of the movies? Me, I thought that while they left a lot out of the movies, still they managed to get the 'feel' of the books very well. And except for Aragorn, the casting couldn't have been truer than the books. I thought the movie Aragorn much better.
And I loved Hotel New Hampshire too. Such a very, very odd book it was.
And while there's no need to enter me - since I just got Dead to Me - if I had a super power, it would be the ability it call Krisite, my alter ego, out at will.

kim said...

I've heard great things about this book! Congrats Anton for getting 3&4 picked up!

I have a stupid question so pardon my ignorance but can you tell me the difference between UF and SF/F? Are those even the right terms??? See? I am clueless.

As for super powers- I want the ablilty to time-travel. How cool would that be and how much trouble could I get into? ;)

Carolyn Jean said...

What a fine interview! you asked a lot of great questions. So, he's bringing 5 books to the library? Will we find all the heroines in his hut? Wonder woman, apparently will be there.

Super power? I'll have to get back to you on that.

Night critter said...

Wow, your book sounds great, Anton, looking forward to reading it.

I think it would be cool to have the super power of invisibility and the ability to make object invisible also so I can hide a way and read undisturbed.

Thea said...

Wow, awesome interview Katie and Kristie--Anton, I cannot wait to read your book! (It's on the shelf right now, eyeing me)

I'm with Ana--The Sandman series is pure genius, and you have great taste ;)

Hmm a superpower? Do I have to limit this to ONE superpower? Can I usurp someone else's powers? In which case, easy-peasy, I'd be Wonder Woman. No? Well...I'm a huge Ororo Munroe fan, and having control of the weather is pretty sick. But then there's also telekinesis...gaah! Too many choices.

Tracy said...

Ok I want teleporting to be my super power. Blink from here to Tahiti in a second? What's not greaT about that?

This book sounded great after reading the review the other day but after the interview I def. want. Winning it would be even better! Gotta buy shoes for my poor litte children, you know! lol

Christine said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait just a second!!! Did Anton really just say women are scary? Did he?

book two in the series has Simon dealing with oubliettes, ghosts, cultists, and the scariest creature of them all... women!

Why yes, Christine, I do believe he did. Well. ... well... all I have to say, Anton, is that... scariness is in the eyes of the beholder, so .... so... so there! :P

Seriously, though, great interview, Kate & Anton. Thanks, guys. :)

I think its great that Simon is just a regular kind of guy trying to get by and do his thing. Its that kind of "normality" about a character that will really draw me into an urban fantasy novel.

I love reading novels set in NYC. I think because I've lived in the suburbs of NYC all my life and I'm familiar with the sights, sounds, smells and culture of the city, I get that extra connection with the story that makes it even more enjoyable. Kate and I actually attended a panel at NY Comic Con on said subject--it was pretty neat.

I'd like a healing superhero power (for my altruistic side) as well x-ray vision (for personal enjoyment) Although I suppose the latter could have its practical purposes, too. ;o)

Anton Strout said...

Ok, Blogger ate my first response to all these and of course I hadn’t saved them, so bear with me as I bulk answer you fine folks!

I always dabbled with writing growing up, but I didn’t take it seriously until about seven years ago. There is a trunk full of short stories, bad novels, screenplays, plays, none of which should see the light of day.
Although often when I speak, I bring along a story I wrote in the fourth grade to compare and contrast.

Patricia Briggs was a happy new addition to Ace, and the sudden burst she had with the latest Mercy Thompson book. I like old school Laurel Hamilton before she got all porntastic and now that I’ve got Dead To Me on the shelve, I’ve started with the Jim Butcher series.

The last book that blew me away? Hmm. Well, I’m a zombie fiend (not literally) so I was pleasantly surprised by Stephen King’s Cell and how action packed it was. The last book to make me cry was the conclusion of the His Dark Materials trilogy. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I was inconsolable.

I know… it kills me that the release date is so far away, but such is the life of a publication schedule! You can tide yourself over with The Fourteenth Virtue in this July’s The Dimension Next Door however!

I appreciate you branching out from your safety zone of the romance category for me. I thought the LOTR movies did a phenomenal job of capturing the essence of the books. I loved the dialogue that was used for the screenplay, and yes, I skipped out of work on Trilogy Tuesday when ROTK released.

The diff between scifi/fantasy and urban fantasy? Technically UF is a sub genre of the fantasy category in the same way paranormal romance is a sub of romance. And depending on how much pornology is on the pages, a book can shift from the UF category to PR in a heartbeat.

I find your attempt to garner contest winning sympathy by mention your children deplorable. I like your moxie!

Let’s get this straight. SIMON finds women scary, not Anton. Why? Well, you’ll just have to read Dead To Me, I guess! And I love using NYC because I’m a lazy writer and by using it as a setting, I don’t have to over describe things. Even country folk have vague notions about the city that helps them fill in the blanks around the action and dialogue I’m writing.

Christine said...

Okay, phew! Nice save. ;)

Katie(babs) said...

I miss the days when Anita was not a horny ho :(
What is about Jim Butcher that everyone raves about?
Christine and I are now Comic Con junkies. I am so there next year! I will make sure to bring my 10 inch sword with me. heh heh

TK42ONE said...

I'd have to say my super power would be the ability to stop time. Then I would never be late and still be able to peak into the girl's showers.

Aymless said...

Great interview. I am currently reading DEAD TO ME. I love it. Simon is a great character. I will definitely be looking forward to more adventure of Simon.

Bunny B said...

Great interview :)
If I could have any superpower, I'd like to have genie powers and conjure up everything that my heart desires :) That'd be sooo cool!

Thanks for the chance!

bunnybox9 at gmail . com

Sarai said...

Okay I would want the ability to read peoples' emotions Empathy and all that. B/c it would be nice to know what people are feeling when you are talking... are they bored, excited, horney What?

Sarai said...

Jim Butcher's series is great Katie it has a wizard who gets his butt kicked EVERY Book and yet still manages to save the day. VERY good

Katie(babs) said...

I also would like the power to read people's minds. Yup, I really want to know what people think of me.
May not be a good thing in the long run, but at least I know who is real and who isn't.

Katie(babs) said...

I also would like the power to read people's minds. Yup, I really want to know what people think of me.
May not be a good thing in the long run, but at least I know who is real and who isn't.

sydney said...

Great interview, thanks. If I could have a superpower - hmm, I'll go with telekinesis, cause it's nifty.

Alexis said...

For my super power I really want to be able to fly, however if I can pick I figure why not get some freebies in with my wish. Sooo... either telekenesis (including the ability to lift MYSELF off the ground and traverse distance), shape changing, including to hallow bones and the ability to fly or impersonate my cat and disturb her thereby getting even for all the disgruntled looks she gives me when I want to use the couch, the ability to locally control gravity, or last the ability to teleport myself and whatever I am touching (be it friend or hanglider- glide until you get close to the ground then teleport back up to 10,000 feet). All of these sound awesome, but I think telekenesis would probably be the best way to go, and if that allows teleportation it wins hands down.