Hi everyone! This week, I conducted an interview with Steve Anderson, author of screenplays and espionage thriller The Losing Role.
Besserwisser: A Novel
The Losing Role
Book Review: The Losing Role
Steve Anderson (author website)
Facebook: Steve Anderson
From the looks of the bio on your author page, you've held a wide variety of day jobs. How have these experiences impacted your writing?
I'd like to think they give me different perspectives and angles. Working as a server and a language instructor exposes you to people you might not meet normally, and that surely comes through somehow in characters and situations I write even if it's not conscious. My copywriting has me writing all the time, but marketing and communications work is vastly different from fiction. It has taught me discipline and economy. Same goes for my brief stint in journalism with the Associated Press. All the variety has forced my brain to adjust (and hurt sometimes!), but hopefully it has kept me sharp too.
Speaking of stretching your brain, how did you draw the line between fact and fiction in The Losing Role? What were some obstacles you encountered in inserting your own character into an actual historical event?
Great question. I did the research and reading so that I was versed in the events, but I tried not to let myself get hung up on too many specifics. The setting, dates and mission are faithful to the history, but once you're in the character, on the ground, you have to be able to rely more on emotion and feeling to convey the drama -- and get at the truths behind the events if you're lucky. As far as obstacles go, I had to make sure my main character Max, who loves life and performing, could also turn serious when he had to. This in itself was somewhat of an obstacle for Max and in the end a lesson, I think.
That makes sense. The faithfulness of The Losing Role to historical fact was impressive. How do you go about researching for your writing?
I first consult whatever books I have, and then I hit the Internet. I'm still amazed at what you can find online, even if it's just clues on blogs and forums. It's also so easy to get books from abroad if need be, or articles from journals online. I also like to consult period documents, books (including fiction) articles, movies and newsreels to get a feel for things. I've done little interviewing of people who were either there or are experts, and I'd like to do more in future. Knowing German has helped, because I can find material I hadn't seen in English.
Very thorough. Now, you write both screenplays and novels. Which one do you prefer? Why?
I prefer novels, but a screenplay is such an amazing exercise in forcing you to understand the story and what it's really about. A screenplay exposes all and never lies. Doing them has really helped me with fiction. But I enjoy being able to provide internal narrative as I can with fiction.
Nothing like being inside a character's head. You've been talking a lot about challenging yourself, so what aspect of being a writer do you find to be the most challenging, and how do you overcome it?
Finding the time to write! We all share it. I appreciate the day job. I'm glad there are more opportunities to find readers for my fiction. But they all take so much time. I'd like to push my ratio of straight fiction writing time to something like 75 percent -- which would also require no sleep, so that could be a problem.
Yes, sleep deprivation often is. Besides getting rest then, what sort of advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don't settle for a draft or second draft. Revise and revise again. Do focused revisions according to a theme, looking at one thing only. It only gets better when you revise. With it so easy to self-publish now, there's a huge temptation to push things out sooner than later. You have to have the patience to make it better. You can get the word out all you want, but the work has to be good enough for your readers when they find you.
"Patience is a virtue" and all that, yeah? I'm a trifle curious to see what sorts of books you're into. If you could be any character from any book for a day, who would it be and why?
That's tough. Alec Leamus pops into my head -- the burnt-out, disillusioned secret agent from The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. That sounds grim but I can't help it -- it was one of the first books I read that really clicked with me. Among the runner-ups are Rooster Cogburn from True Grit and Ignatius J. Reilly from Confederacy of Dunces. And Sam Spade. I guess I'm into antiheroes.
Well they certainly keep things interesting! Thanks for sharing with us today.
Thanks for offering the interview.