Friday, February 29, 2008

Interview with Anton Strout, author of DEAD TO ME

Happy Leap Day, everyone! Today we celebrate this rarest of dates, this precious calendar gift (for those of us who have stuff due in March) with Anton Strout, debut author of Dead to Me, starring psychometrist Simon Canderous. Anton's giving away a signed copy of the book to one lucky commenter.

Speaking of such prizes, the winner of a signed copy of Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned is...Saroya! Congrats! The rest of you, go buy it now, using the link in the previous sentence, so that one day I can put my dog through obedience school with the kickbacks from Amazon.

So what's psychometry? Well, Simon's deal is this: he can divine information about someone by merely touching an object that belonged to them. Though this power wreaks havoc with his love life, it's launched his career with the Department of Extraordinary Affairs (Other Division, to be precise). Paranormal bureaucracies always do the right thing, right?

SciFiChick said, "Dead To Me has all the fun and mystery of the Dresden Files with great secondary characters as well. Paranormal creatures and danger, infused with comedic relief, made this debut stand out from among the rest."

Q. What's been your biggest surprise/thrill about your first release?

Anton: I think it’s that people seem to really enjoy reading it, for the most part. Yes, it has problems that I think a lot of first books do, but overall I put my heart and humor into it, and I think it comes across to most people. The book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but nothing ever is. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Oh, and there was a cake at my launch party with the book cover on it. That was a fun surprise too.

How does Simon control his psychometric abilities? Is he pretty much limited to using credit cards instead of cash?

Well, that’s the problem. He really can’t control really them, which has pretty much destroyed every relationship he’s ever had. However, Simon doesn’t get readings off every last item he touches. Some items have far more resonance than others. Otherwise Simon couldn’t get even get dressed without putting himself in hypoglycemic shock on a regular basis.

I've read you were working on a non-urban fantasy novel about an aging punk band when you sold Dead to Me. Do you hope one day to straddle genre lines and publish in mainstream fiction as well?

To me, a genre label is the last thing I think of when I sit down to write. I just want to get the story out, whatever that tale is. I’d love to publish my mainstream work, but whether that happens under my name or if any of the audience will follow me over to it remains to be seen.

How was your first booksigning? Was it everything you dreamed? How many people asked you where the bathroom was?

It was astounding. From what I was told, I was charming and funny and read the piece well. I also compared it against a book I wrote in the fourth grade and that was well received. Then I learned the strangest lesson of all: it’s near impossible to write witty things in books while signing and say witty things at the same time. So I felt like I was ignoring my signees every time I started signing one.

Based on your MySpace page, we have several beloved defunct shows in common. If you had the power to resurrect one of the following, which would you choose: MST3K, The Critic, Sports Night, or Arrested Development?

This question is tougher than I thought it would be, but I would love to have MST3K back, the early years. I think so much bad scifi movies have come out in recent years that they could use a good ribbing from Joel and the Bots. Mike would be okay, too, but it got kinda sketchy once we got to Bobo and Brain Guy and Pearl. Incidentally, one of my main characters is named Jane Clayton-Forrester in homage to MST3K and, by association, War of the Worlds.

If you could inhabit the life of any of your characters, enter their world and deal with it as that person, which one would you choose?

I have this older character in the series: Inspectre Argyle Quimbley. He’s the head of Other Division and he’s been around forever and although he’s somewhat grandfatherly and jovial now, you just know he’s kicked some serious paranormal ass over the years. Every so often it comes out and there are rumors all around the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, but I would love to be him in his youth. I think there’s a book in that.

Conversely, which of your characters would you most like to bring to life in our world (maybe as a best friend or much, much more ;-) ?

Hmmm… I think I’d have to go with Simon. I like the guy. I think his powers are Wonder Twins cool! I feel like I’d owe it to him to make him real in this world. Although Jane does have a sexy ass… tough call…

Same two questions, but use examples from another author's work (including television/movies/theatre)?

If I could inhabit someone else's character, I’d go with Spider-man. Comparatively, his powers are small time and he does best in a city, but I’d kill to be ole Webhead. Do you have connections? I’ll sign in blood if I have to!

And if I could bring some other character into this world…again, tough call, but I’d have to go with Ash from the Evil Dead series. I think he’d be a hoot in the upcoming zombie apocalypse. I bet you thought I was gonna say Mary Jane, didn’t you?

Which author, living or dead, would you most love to collaborate with?

I think Douglas Adams and I would have a good collaboration purely out of nostalgia’s sake, but you know Joss Whedon could call me anytime and we could get cracking…

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?

I think there would be like a week where authors would walk in editor’s shoes so both sides would understand each other. There’s a symbiosis in the relationship, but I think it would make the whole process make sense to both sides. Not that this happened to me. My editor works down the hall from me, which makes it easy to work out all the kinks, but I think walking in each other’s shoes would be a tremendous benefit to all involved in the publishing process.

What's the weirdest tidbit of research you've ever incorporated into a book?

Oh, there’s a LOT about actual New York history in my books, only twisted to the paranormal. However, in my non-genre work about the band, they have a big fight over contracts and I did a lot of research on the whole ‘Did Van Halen refuse to play gigs that didn’t have bowls of green only M&Ms?’

I wish I could say something cool like ‘I had to figure out if you could keep a severed head alive while mounting it to control a walking gun turret’, but well, I’ve said too much. There’s actually a few things I’ve researched out, but that would spoil some very fun parts of Dead to Me and its sequel.

What's your earliest memory?

I can remember being like two years old, sitting in my crip playing with a green cigar and a cash register (apparently my fantasy was to be a Vegas pawn broker). My mom was wearing a blue shirt with white stars and red stripes on it, and Don McClean was playing on the radio. It’s probably the purest and happiest thought I have.

Do you have any phobias?

Snakes and rodents freak me out. I just got the shivers while typing that and had to check under the couch (this is New York, either could be there!) Other than that I have the general neurosis I think most fledgling writers have. Is there a clinical term for fear of teh suck?

My husband hates when people use the word 'barometer' to mean 'measure.' Which word usage faux pas drives you berserkest?

I’m sure I make tons of them everyday (as one reviewer recently pointed out…), but I am driven mad by people who use the word ‘irregardless’. Oh and fun things like ‘ATM machine’ which is like saying Automated Teller Machine machine.

Name a literary cliche that makes you throw a book across the room.

Gah! I don’t mind clichés or even the occasional ‘Mary Sue’… if they’re done well. BUT I am a little tired of Buffy Summers clones, which, I suppose is why I dabble at poking fun of the kick ass heroine so much in my series.

Let's say there's a TV show, movie, or recording artist that has a cult of you. Which is it? (i.e., what do you like that no one else you know likes)?

I love ska music, in particular the Third Wave movement, which is best exemplified by my favorite band of all time, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I started going to their shows back in 91, hung with them, saw countless shows, and sadly they broke up a few years ago. There is talk of a reunion, so I’m hopeful!

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Catch up on my video gaming. Video games, when done well, are some of the best storytelling out there and I love to immerse myself in them when I can.

If you could ask your favorite author one question and they had to answer honestly, what would it be?

I’d ask J.J. Abrams (who technically is an author) what the grand scheme for the ending of Lost is. I got burned by all that last season Rimbaldi crap on Alias and I MUST KNOW!!!

If you could write in a totally different genre than your current one, which would you choose?

I’d write those cowboy western porn series, like Gunsmith, “Longarm” and my favorite name, Slocum. Am I kidding? I’ll never tell!

What are you working on now, and what new releases can we expect to see from you down the road?

I just turned the sequel to Dead to Me in to my editor so I suspect we’ll see it next March on shelves. And there’s the band book I’d like to get back to, but ideas keep popping in my head for book three of my series, so I gotta play to my strengths right now.

If you could tell a stranger just one thing about Dead to Me (other than what it's about--no cheating by quoting synopses or back cover blurbs), what would it be?

Damn you and your cleverness. I’d tell them, “The author really misses Buffy and Ghostbusters and if that’s your kind of humor, welcome to the Department of Extraordinary Affairs.”


Sigh...the more I hear about this book, the more bitter I am that I'm in Deadline Hell. Can I get an extra Leap Day, please, just to read it? February 30, anyone?

Give Anton a comment or a question, or tell us which superpower you think would be most inconvenient, down there in the comments before 5 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 6. I'll draw a name and announce the winner next Friday morning.

If you don't have a Blogger account, never fear! Just sign in as anonymous and leave your name at the bottom of your comment so I can identify you.

Don't forget, you have until Monday at 5 to add a comment at Ann Aguirre's post to win a copy of Grimspace.

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Okay, I've got a question for Anton. Were other title ideas tossed around before settling on Dead to Me?

Posted by: Blogger Jim C. Hines at 2/29/2008 8:43 AM

Actually, Dead To Me fell into my head early on. My workshop leader hated it, but I felt it spoke on many levels about things going on in the story and it was catchy!

I googled it and was surprised to see that no one had ever taken it as a book title, although there is a band...

So, it hit me one day and I never gave it any other thought.
Everyone except my old workshop leader has loved the title...

Now book two I'm a little stumped on, although I am a bit partial to Deader Still.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 2/29/2008 8:55 AM

In my opinion the most inconvenient superpower would be to be an empath. I have enough problems dealing with my own emotions and issues without being able to connect to other people's as well.

Posted by: Blogger Katie at 2/29/2008 9:06 AM

I ran into Dead To Me out of the blue and was like, "Oh my gosh, so THIS is Anton's book!" I had seen you post on FFF, but I didn't know what book you had written. XD I'm sure I added this to my wish list on Shelfari, but if I didn't, shame on me.

I have a question for Anton as well. How long did it take you to write Dead To Me? How many drafts did you go to? Okay, so that was two. I always like to hear the answers to these, as I'm in the middle of writing my first novel myself, and I just like hearing about author's experiences.

As for the superpower... Hmmmm. Well, I don't know if this counts as a superpower, but being a werewolf would be horribly inconvenient, if I were the traditional kind. If that doesn't count, I'd have to agree with empath. I would HATE to know someone who could hear my thoughts more than me being able to hear their's, though.


Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/29/2008 9:42 AM

Dead To Me took a bit of time, about three and a half years, for several reasons:

-About halfway in, I decided it had to be a first person book so I had to fix all that

-I started workshopping it so I kinda of slowed down a bit to a 7 pages a week pace for that

I had beta readers look over the first draft, did rewrites, turned it over to an editor friend of mine for more pointers and they ended up buying it and the sequel.

The sequel, since I'm under contract, I only had a year to write. Turned it in this past Tuesday. Then we ate some minstrels and there was much rejoicing.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 2/29/2008 9:55 AM

"I'd ask J.J. Abrams (who technically is an author) what the grand scheme for the ending of Lost is."

Oh man...I'd love to know what the heck is going on with Lost! So if you find out let me know. Last night's episode was super good though, right? ;)

I would not want to be able to read minds. I just don't want to know what people REALLY think of me lol.

Posted by: Blogger Brooke Reviews at 2/29/2008 10:36 AM

So...the cake with the commanding "Buy My Book" frosting, how'd it taste? What flavor was under that lovely covering, and was it an appropriate taste to share covers with your book?

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/29/2008 11:43 AM

So, as a Buffy fan, have you been reading the Season 8 comic (I now have my own my mailbox at the comic shop...please don't judge me).

Posted by: Blogger Crystal at 2/29/2008 11:59 AM

This was another fun interview, too, Jeri!

All of these books sound great. *twitches* WHY did I promise my husband to stop buying so many books?! WHY? *goes to library and makes mucho requests*

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/29/2008 12:06 PM


We're still eating that damn thing. It's taken over the entire bottom shelf of my fridge and seems to grow back every night, but it's really quite delicious.

The cake itself is white n' fluffy, with like chocolate pudding layers in it... kind of obscenely good.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 2/29/2008 12:44 PM


I have been following it and haunted by nightmares of how much trouble a giant Dawn could produce in a single day...

I could never judge a woman who collected comics... I could only imagine them naked.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 2/29/2008 12:46 PM

Happy Lead Day!

I think I would hate being able to read people's mind, there's just some things that I seriously do not need to know! Eek!

I was wondering about the title of your book, it's unique and definitely catchy!

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 2/29/2008 2:13 PM

I just have to jump in and comment on the title. I love it. My in-laws are Italian South Philly, and someone in the family is always dead to someone else. I would buy it for the title alone.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/29/2008 2:17 PM

Seems like we're both Josh Whedon fans -huge fan here. And your book sounds great! Can't wait to get a copy. Congratulations and Happy Leap Day!

Vicky B.

Posted by: Blogger Vicky B at 2/29/2008 3:22 PM

I think that x-ray vision would be pretty darned inconvenient. I'd hate to know what most people's insides look like, what was in their pockets or purses, the insides of their apartments if I hadn't been invited. . . . And it would probably ruin Christmas for me!

Posted by: Blogger Kimberly B. at 2/29/2008 3:38 PM

I think x-ray vision would be awesome! Especially if it could be turned on or off, hee! Kinda like the contact lenses that Jaz Parks has!

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 2/29/2008 4:49 PM

Actually, hers is for seeing in the dark but eh, you get the point, right? RIGHT!

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 2/29/2008 4:50 PM

Video games have some awesome stories... even the ones that aren't just about saving the world. Although those seem to be the ones that fall into 'among the most freaking awesome stories I've ever seen/read'.

Mmmmm, Buffy. Which I haven't seen in ages, but... yes, Joss is awesome.

Dead To Me is a great title. Its evocative of being dead on the inside, for some reason. Numb to the world. I likesies :)

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 3/01/2008 12:01 AM

Ok, uh..huh...couldn't stop thinking about the Wonder Twins, my kids seen the cartoon one day and asked why they're supposed to be super heroes.

I was wondering,how long have you been writing?

Hugs, Danette

Posted by: Blogger danetteb at 3/01/2008 1:51 AM


I have no idea how Zann & Jana qualify as superheroes. I'm sure those powers could be more useful, but not in their hands apparently.

As far as how long I've been writing, it something I've done since I was nine in 1979. Always dabbling, but around 2000 I decided to actually try to do it seriously.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 3/01/2008 4:22 PM

Anton, will Dead To me lead into a series? If so, do you have a set number of books planned already?

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 3/01/2008 7:19 PM


Dead To Me is book 1 in a series. Only two books are sold for it, but I'm starting on book three now because it won't stop haunting me!

Events starting in book 1 culminate for book three, but honestly I enjoy these characters so much I'd like to keep an ongoing series with them. You know, until I KILL THEM ALL! MUAHAHAHAHA... ahem, as you were.

Posted by: Blogger Anton Strout at 3/01/2008 7:24 PM

Ooh, that sounds good! Not the killing them part (How could you do that to Simon?! He's so cute!) but making it a series. :)

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 3/01/2008 9:57 PM

I hadn't heard of the book before, but now I'm intrigued, and I'll be running out to get it as soon as I can!
I think that the most inconvient superpower would be mind-reading, especially if you couldn't control it. I like to imagine what people are thinking, but it would probably hurt more if I heard what they were honestly thinking. Ignorence is bliss.

Posted by: Blogger Kim Leonard at 3/04/2008 11:28 AM

This book sounds very fascinating. Congratulation to the author! I like the cake he was presented that was decorated with his book's cover. Please enter me in your drawing. Thanks,Cindi

Posted by: Blogger windycindy at 3/04/2008 12:40 PM

This comment has been removed by the author.

Posted by: Blogger ChristyJan at 3/04/2008 2:10 PM

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note: there's no need to post your e-mail address in your comment. Doing so can result in spam, and I'd hate to be indirectly responsible for spam--nasty stuff!

If you win, I will find you, don't worry. I'll announce it here in the comment thread and on Friday's post. If you have a Blogger account, I'll follow it back to your profile and track you down.

So if the last three commenters would like to delete their comments and repost them without their e-mail, that'd be cool with me. :-)

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/04/2008 6:35 PM

Congrats on your first release.
Dead To Me sounds like a wonderful read!
Please enter me in the drawing to win a copy.

Posted by: Blogger ChristyJan at 3/04/2008 7:00 PM

From reading the comments, mostly everyone thinks mind-reading would be one of the most inconvenient superpowers and I wholeheartedly agree - can you imagine knowing what your parents, you instructors, etc are thinking?! That would be traumatizing!

Posted by: Blogger Wendy at 3/04/2008 7:33 PM

Whoa! I'm sure this book is such a cool read - Would love the chance to win it! Congrats on your first release!

I agree that the most inconvenient superpower would be that of an empath. However, only if you can't switch it off. I'd like to know what people are thinking of sometimes :) Just not ALL the time.

Posted by: Blogger Bunny B at 3/05/2008 6:10 AM

I think seeing the future would be the worst! Great giveaway! Count me in. bebemiqui82(at)yahoo(dot)com

Posted by: Blogger Bebemiqui at 3/05/2008 7:05 PM

This sounds like a really cool book!

I think that having super hearing would be dreadful!

Posted by: Blogger Maude Lynn at 3/05/2008 10:21 PM

I'm looking forward to this one, please enter me in the draw!

Posted by: Blogger tetewa at 3/06/2008 4:03 PM

Congrats to Silverstein, who just won a signed copy of DEAD TO ME. Just send your mailing address to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com, and I'll forward it on to Anton.

Everyone else, go console yourself by buying Anton's book. If you do it today, you'll have it before Silverstein gets it in the mail, which should be some small revenge.

Stop by the blog today for an interview with Chris Marie Green, author of the Vampire Babylon series. She's giving away a signed copy of TWICE BITTEN.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/07/2008 9:51 AM

What an interesting way to get people interested in reading! Book trailers are like movie trailers, but for books! You can find them all over the internet now, but here is a site that's featuring them on YouTube.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 3/19/2008 5:11 PM

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