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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Author Interview: Anne Marsh

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome debut novelist Anne Marsh. The Hunt has just been released by Dorchester Press and has already garnered some rave reviews, including a 92 from Mrs. Giggles.

Anne told me she wrote most of The Hunt between 4 AM and 6 AM, because she's very much a morning person. "I'm one of those no-fun people who actually fall asleep sitting up at the table if you keep us up much past eight o'clock," she admitted.

Anne shared with me that she'd always been interested in writing and, in fact, has always done it in one shape or another. She's a professional technical writer and spends a lot of time, as she says, "translating Engineer into English. Which is harder than it sounds."

She'd always daydreamed about writing romance, but there never seemed to be enough time. She was laid off, though, from a dream job at Pixar, went home and, after crying, got mad and decided she was going to do what she'd always wanted to do. She started writing her first book.

"It will never, ever see the light of day (unless I just feel like torturing my agent and putting her manners to the test)," she said, "but it was an important start."

She credits Pixar, though, for being the inspiration for that first book.

Her dream job at Pixar was as a technical writer, which means she wrote software manuals for software Pixar used to make their movies. "My kids are always disappointed that I didn't get to write the movies," she told me.

"I firmly believe they put something in the free coffee they served in the atrium each morning. Everyone there-- and I mean everyone—wrote," she shared. "People would leave all the time to pursue independent writing projects."

She took a fiction writing class from Pixar University (their in-house training and education group). "I was in a room with junior directors, technical artists, model makers, project managers, two members of the security team, one of the kitchen chefs and the guy who offered weight training and personal fitness in the gym," she remembered. "And we all wanted to write. And Pixar believed we all could. Plus, at the time, my cubicle was right next to the rats that served as the inspiration for Ratatouille (the technical directors would take them out and let them run around to see what rats really looked like) and across from the conference space where the writers worked. So I'd watch the rats and sort of half-listen to the 'Well, should Remy say THIS?' conversations, and it just kind of rubbed off."

She preferred sexy shape shifters to rats, however, and three years ago began writing paranormal romance.

One of her favorite authors is Kresley Cole. "I had to call in sick and stay home from work with her last book," Anne admitted. "Her characters are all so distinct and three dimensional. Plus, she has a wacky sense of humor and she is one damn, sexy writer. Can I be her when I grow up?"

She's trying to follow Kresley's advice and she recommends the same practice for new writers.

Along with believing you can, setting a schedule, and sticking to it, Anne adds, "And follow Kresley Cole's advice-- always have 25 irons in the fire. I never made it to 25, but I'd always have 10-12 submissions out there, whether it was partials or contest submissions or other things. As soon as one rejection came in, I'd buy a bag of Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos (with Diet Pepsi Max-- because saving those extra 150 calories soooo made up for the 2200 other calories), empty the bag and send the next manuscript out the door. And, when you take the bag out to the trash on your way to the mailbox, remind yourself again that you can do it."

I asked Anne, "How do you come up with the titles to your books?"

"I'm terrible at titles. Flat-out terrible. When I was pre-published, I was always tempted to call them Books A, B, and C, but that reminded me too strongly of Cat in the Hat Comes Back and the little Cats. My editor, Alicia Condon, came up with the title for The Hunt. I'd called it 'Caught by the Cat', but that was an act of sheer desperation when I started subbing it (since 'The Cat Book' didn't really have a NYC ring to it). I'm a) pathetically grateful that Alicia is outstanding at coming up with names and b) that I don't have a Marketing job where I have to name things."

Her job as a technical writer, though, comes in handy when she's suffering from writer's block.

"Writing software manuals is good for the romance and vice-versa," she told me. "Fortunately, my software engineers are always mucking around with the UI, so there's plenty for me to document and, usually, after describing the behavior of two or three pesky little widgets, my pesky alpha male starts to jump up and down for my attention and the writer's block goes away."

And, for those times it doesn't? "Typically, I order too many daylilies from the online nurseries and then, when I can't face the UPS guy anymore, I get back to work."

The revisions to her book were the hardest part of writing it, she told me.

"There was so much that I didn't know about everything, from point-of-view to plotting to character arcs. I am so fortunate that Dorchester and Alicia Condon are willing to work with new authors. I didn't fully understand what that meant until we started hammering through my revisions."

On more of a personal note, I asked Anne if she wanted a dog.

"Do all the dog-lovers take me out and shoot me if I admit that I'm really, really scared of dogs? And want absolutely nothing to do with them? I have four cats-- and would happily take four more. And I'm saying this after Baby #2 peed all over my laptop bag this morning right in front of me. Worse, I was just pathetically grateful that she'd waited until I'd removed the laptop. I should want a dog. I really should."

Anne's not a big fan of having her picture taken, she shared with me, and admitted she hadn't voluntarily had her picture taken since her wedding sixteen years ago. So, she was in a bit of a quandary when Dorchester asked for a headshot.

"The only photos I had of myself were the kind where your husband takes a charmingly enlarged shot of your rear-end in a bikini you never should have been wearing... yeah, as if I was going to put THAT on the back cover of umpteen books," she told me. "I kept slinking out into the backyard with my eight year-old son, telling him to 'take another picture of mommy.' He's now convinced he's a professional photographer and I've learned that there are drawbacks to working at home in your pajamas when you have to snap a quick photo."

Anne's favorite pizza is one you don't just run down the road for. "There's a French seafood place on Moorea called Le Sud," she told me. "Best. Seafood. Pizza. Ever. We keep flying four thousand miles just to eat pizza. I'm fairly certain the owner is convinced we're crazed Americans, but he lets us come back, so all is good."
You can keep up with Anne on her blog, http://annemarsh.wordpress.com/blog

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