* This was my first Sideshow Press book, and the first thing I’ve read by the incredibly talented Sam W. Anderson. Sideshow did an amazing job in construction. This book is solid and beautiful with lots of wicked artwork by Tom Moran. Making it extra special is this book is a limited edition: only 100 softcovers and 40 hardcovers. I’m a sucker for picking up something that not everyone can have. Call me Mr. Vain.
There was a period of warming up to the tales, and a friend of mine also read it at the same time, and drew the same conclusion: This book sucks you in. And it gets better the deeper you sink your teeth into the marrow. Sam is a truly gifted writer with imagination that is as wide and deep as a hooker’s selfishness.
Lee: Thanks for joining us, Sam! It’s a treat!
Sam W. Anderson: Thank you, Mr. Vain. I bet you think this interview is about you, don’t you, don’t you.
Lee: Some of my favorite stories in the collection were: “What I know,” “Amongst the Wailing Winds,” “Degrees of Persuasion,” “In Shadow,” and the rest of the stories in the second half of the collection are all top-notch. Is it possible you have a few of your own favorites? Or do you love all of your children equally?
Sam W. Anderson: Hell, I don’t even love my real children equally… I put them through certain tests every day, and whoever does the best gets my affection. The other, I ridicule publically.
But my stories, well, that’s important stuff!
Seriously though, all my stories mean something to me – where I was at a time; what struck me as important.
Many stories in the collection mark a change for my writing. Sifting Through the Ashes of His Gutted Being was a huge story in my development. In Shadow was where I found my voice – what I wanted to say as a writer.
Surprising, to me anyway, is you prefer the later stories in the book, while I think the beginning stories are my best representation. If Mama Ain’t Happy, well, that’s where I felt like a writer for the first time ever. I love the fact that there’s a stupid crazy story that’s juxtaposed with a serious theme and has something to say.
And, I love the reaction Tossing Butch, Saving Theodore gets. It’s the one story you tell people about, and they say “I have to read that!”
Lee: How did you create such unique characters? A troubled childhood? Did you see past the façade and see the freaks we all are just beneath the surface? (Too many of these characters scare me, for when I hold them to the mirror, I see all of us at our most vulnerable and our worst.)
Sam W. Anderson: I’m just gifted…what can I say?
Honestly, writing is characters. I just play the “What if/How’d they get here” game. I come up with a situation, figure out what type of person would be there and then work backwards. I don’t intend to dismiss the question, because I spend hours thinking about this. I drive a lot. I have kids…I pretend to talk to them and I really think about who I’m writing about. But, seriously, how much can you act like you care about Pokemon anyway?
Lee: How did the Money Run world come about?
Sam W. Anderson: Well, hundreds of thousands of years ago, there was this event that scientist called “The Big Bang.”
Oh, wait, that’s not what you mean.
On the first day, there was light, and it was good.
TMR was kind of an evolution. I wanted to write about a strong character, but not be cliché. So, I started with all the clichés and then worked backwards. A badass who could crush anybody…seven foot, three-hundred pounds of badass named Mack West. Again, start with character.
But how do you not make him cliché? A skirt might help, right? And then you have to explain the skirt, which means a tail (for me anyway) and, naturally, that’s followed by a world where this can happen.
Then, I had to deal with a good friend of mine, the excellent writer John Mantooth, who was absolutely livid I was writing stories about lizard people. So, I quit writing about those particular characters and started writing about the setting, which has become somewhat of a character itself.
It’s been a fantastic arena to explore the themes that interest me. And I get curse a lot…I fucking like to curse.
Lee: What common threads/themes run through this collection, things you’ve learned as a man, or still question as a fragile child, that saturate your work?
Sam W. Anderson: Dude, you’re getting way too deep for me here.
I think the common thread among my work is the common thread among all writing when you boil it down. It’s about identity. Identity and midget tossing.
I’m fascinated about the gossip industry in America. Not the gossip itself, but the fact that a business empire can be built around it. What is the most profitable newspaper in America? The Wall Street Journal? The USA Today? The NY Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times? Fuck no…it’s the National Enquirer. It has been since long before the downturn of the print press.
Why do we care so much about this trash? It’s because we want to think we’re good people. We judge others to say “at least I’m not that bad.” But we most all are. We all are capable of great things and horrific things, sometimes in the same day, but which act defines us? That’s what makes me write.
Lee: Do you outline? Or write to surprise yourself? (So you know, my money is on surprising yourself and your readers)
Sam W. Anderson: While I never write a formal outline, I also only have one rule. I don’t outline or take notes or anything that a sane writer would do when I write a Money Run story. It means they take longer, but I need that discovery to make them have the edge I hope they have.
But other stories, I’ll take copious notes. I find if I actually try to do something like a formal outline, well, then that’s time I should be writing. Notes, detailed notes, yes. Outlines – depends on the project.
Lee: What is in the works now?
Sam W. Anderson: I’ve turned in my new project for Sideshow Press – 13,000 word novelette entitled The Unusual Events of a Saturday Afternoon at Big K’s Truck Stop and Fine Dining Emporium –A Money Run Tale. Of course, the title is like seventy five percent of the word count.
Now, I’m back to the novel that I deserted to write the novelette. It’s another Money Run story, and it’s kind of exciting to re-experience the events again. Of course, it’s depressing as hell to realize how much I’d forgotten about it.
Lee: Who are some writers’ people should be reading? Who has influenced you? Enlighten us, please…
Sam W. Anderson: I regret how little I get to read now. My wife is a social worker, so she often works late, and I guess we have some really short people that live at our house that I’m supposed to do stuff about…like feed them, and apparently yell at them. They seem to like for me to yell at them because they make me do it all the time.
But this is a question that I could spend all day talking about. Influences, I mean, not yelling at the kids.
I still mostly read short stories – magazines, anthologies and collections. Recently read John Langan’s Mr. Gaunt collection. Not all my cup o’ tea, but I see why he’s the new “it” kid. Along the same lines, Paul Tremblay is a really talented dude. I don’t always love his work, but when he’s right, he’s as good as it gets.
My favorite genre writer is Thomas Tessier. I went to Borderlands Boot Camp in 2006 for one reason: to meet Thomas Tessier. He generously provided the intro to my collection, so I guess it worked out, especially considering how rarely he does that.
As for short stories, I have a “Big Five.” They are: Matheson, Bradbury, Beaumont, Ellison and Steve Tem. I’ll buy most any anthology with these writers, and I’ll read their stories first all the time. I think if you read these writers and my work, it’s pretty easy to see how I’ve been influenced by them. Not so much technique-wise, because I’m nowhere near their class, but in the types of stories I write.
I think Palianiuk and John Irving are a huge influences on me. Quirky characters that you should hate, but still pull for – that’s right up my alley.
But for the people who most influence my writing, there’s six. Melanie Tem is my mentor…yes, the Melanie that’s married to the aforementioned Steve Tem. The other five are the members of my writing group, Snutch Labs: Kim Despins, Kurt Dinan, John Mantooth, Petra Miller and Erik Williams. Snutch all have unique personalities and writing styles, and what we bring is a chance to write more well-rounded stories. I’d never look at a story like Petra would, or Kim or Erik…but their insight makes me rethink things. By far, this group has been the most important thing in my writing life.
Lee: Where else can we read your fiction?
Sam W. Anderson: Well, I could post my resume.
The collection took most all of my stories. At least the ones I deem good enough to share. I actually misread an email from the publisher asking me what percentage of the stories were original, and like, well…Yeah, I had to add a bunch of originals. I suck.
However, I do have the chapbook (The Unusual Events of a Saturday Afternoon at Big K’s Truck Stop and Fine Dining Emporium – A Money Run Tale). Sideshow Press should be releasing this in the fall. It’ll be released in tandem with Ray Garton’s chapbook.
I also have a short story coming out in the HWA anthology, Blood Lite II, Overbite, around Halloween. The story is titled “Son of…a Bitch.” I had to water it down some for the publisher after it’d been accepted by the editor, but I think it’s still a very entertaining story. Someday, though…someday. That original version will see the light of day.
Lee: Thanks so much for your time, Sam! Any closing thoughts?
Sam W. Anderson: I’ve joked a lot about my kids, and just wanted to say that I love them more than life itself. I think they’re the greatest, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything less than fair market value.
And I leave you the eternal life lessons courtesy of Navin R. Johnson:
1 – Lord loves a working man.
2 – Don’t trust whitey.
3 – If you get “it,” see a doctor and get rid of it.
Thanks for your time, Lee.
Lee: My pleasure, Sam!