Henry Anderson’s ‘Agata’s Story’, the second novel in the ‘Cape Misfortune’ series, was published by Solstice on 15th January 2021. This is the spellbinding tale of a celebrated law enforcement officer in the wild coastline town of Cape Misfortune. Aptly named, so it seems, for Sergeant Agata Dollar is experiencing bizarre paranormal events!
Naturally I have to ask you some questions about your writing, Henry. Firstly, what led you into journalism and what areas were you involved in?
I did some work experience in features but got drawn to news because I found the process of putting a news story together rewarding. I enjoyed getting to the truth of a story, particularly interviewing the people involved. When you drill down into a story everything is quite human. Someone said that journalists write the first draft of history and it was interesting to experience that close up.
How did you find the transition from journalist to an author?
I think reporting gave me the self-confidence to attempt writing. Which is hard whatever discipline you are in. As you would know from writing features you have to be a bit more self-disciplined if there is no deadline!
Your key character is a police officer, have you had any experience in these fields or was it filled inn through research?
It was through research. I grew up in an army family, so I suppose writing about people in uniform doesn’t seem totally foreign to me. I’ve always thought there is a kind of idealism in people who serve, which makes them interesting.
I like the take on your story, mainly about a policewoman and the apocalypse. What gave you the idea for this, and can you see it going further than a trilogy
This is definitely a tale that is growing in the telling. At first, I was intrigued by the idea of a lone deputy investigating missing people in the middle of nowhere. Then I added the idea that the missing weren’t actually missing, because they knew where they were. The Cape Misfortune locals were always superstitious, at some point I thought “what if it isn’t superstition?” It kept getting bigger. For the third book I would like a final showdown.
What writing routine do you have?
I try to write every day, usually for a couple of hours, usually with a cup of coffee. Before COVID I used to write in coffee shops. My local coffee shop sells my books! I try to balance research and writing time, otherwise I just end up reading. It’s my favourite part of the day.
How do you get feedback on your work?
I have writing friends who I can discuss things with. My extended family are usually pretty honest. I read reviews. I’m of the opinion you should listen to criticism no matter how awful it is!
Favourite author, and why?
I really like authors who write narratives that take you out of yourself. I’ve just re-read Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and his ability to ground his fantasy in a believable world, to bring the reader with him on the strange journey, is impressive.
Second interview with Mark:
I always find it exciting to interview a new author and to find what makes them tick. Today we’re lucky to have the approachable Henry Anderson, on the release of his second novel ‘Agata’s Story’. This is a paranormal tale linked to apocalyptical times, ideal for those long, cold, winter nights.
Henry, people generally write about what they know. With this book being about the paranormal, have you any experience in this or is it simply a genre that really interests you?
Even if you don’t believe in ghouls you can still enjoy a good ghost story! I’m sceptical by nature, but I think it’s more fun to be open-minded. Until very recently humans believed their lives bordered the supernatural world. I researched German folklore for “Cape Misfortune” and was struck by how rich the old tales were. The stories seem incredibly human.
Post apocalyptical is a favourite trope of mine. What led to you writing about this in particular?
Usually in post-apocalyptical scenarios society as we know it has broken down, so I suppose for a writer it becomes a theatre of the imagination. The world of Cape Misfortune is the ground zero of a possible apocalypse but no-one knows it, or wants to believe it.
Who is your favourite in this genre?
I like “Ridley Walker” by Russell Hoban. The hero narrates, in broken English, his travels through a post nuclear society, attacked and befriended by packs of wild dogs. The new language makes reading it a very immersive experience.
Have you ever woken with an idea and then the next morning forgotten about it If so, how do you try to overcome that?
Practical advice from writer Will Self: “Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” For me, jotting things down on my phone is helpful, particularly in a dark bedroom near to unconsciousness. Also, nowadays you can dictate into the phone – although quietly so as not to wake your bed-sharer, if there is one.
What advice have you for your readers with regard to social media?
On social media, as in life, you have to try to remain positive! It’s best to keep the moral high ground. There is a saying, “don’t feed the trolls.”
What plans have you for the future?
I have started on Cape Misfortune III. I’m writing a short story set on an island off the cost of Sicily in Neolithic times. I am also planning a book about vampires!
Roughly, how long does it take you to write a book?
I try for a year as a vague goal, but don’t always manage it! Some people knock them out every few months. I’m trying to reduce the number of drafts I do!
On the lonely roads, out on patrol, it feels like there is a presence beside me in the passenger seat, riding shotgun. A silent partner watches the road with me, looking out for me. I’ve never worked out who it is. Or what. It started as a shadow on my bedroom wall. I was seven or eight. It wanted to speak, I thought, but it couldn’t. My mother called it an imaginary friend, but it was never a friend. We didn’t really play, either. It was just there. My parents were spooked. They were okay about it, at first. They put out an extra plate at mealtimes. Later they started to get worried. “Imaginary friends are more common amongst first- born or only children,” Dr. Joachim Alvarez told my mom. “Most kids are aware their pretend friends aren’t real. It will go away when Aggie starts mixing with her real peers.” But it didn’t go. I just stopped talking about it.