Interviewed at the Drovers Gap by the charming Henry Mitchell, who reads and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Carolina. Henry to Henry…
. . . A STORY PLACE, NOT TOTALLY A FICTION, NOT QUITE ON A MAP.
February 25, 2021
HENRY TO HENRY…
I read Henry Anderson’s new novel, Cape Misfortune II, in a day. I can’t remember the last time I did that. It was hard to put down, even for dinner. I skipped dessert.
We had a Henry to Henry conversation across the water (via email), about his new book, and writing in general. Here’s what we talked about:
How has your writing as a reporter nourished your fiction?
I think writing news stories gave me the self-confidence to attempt prose. News stories are called “stories” for a reason. A reporter uses language to bring to life what they’ve seen. It’s more or less the same with fiction but the events are an imaginary mash-up of memory and imagination. Ultimately stories need to feel truthful and authentic. Writing fantasy it’s doubly important to ground it in some kind of reality.
Does your story first find you through, setting, character or plot?
With “Cape Misfortune” the story is about people going missing, so I was looked for a foggy location. Two of the foggiest places in America are Port Reyes, California and Cape Disappointment in Washington State. I decided to combine them and drew a line between them that ended up on the southern Oregon coast, where the Pacific is cold and unforgiving and the coast is rocky. It impacted the story at every level- characters, plot and all the rest.
If I was writing a fictional story about you, interviewer and author Henry Mitchell, the fact that you lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains would be important!
At what point in your writing do you know where your story is going?
Usually at the end of the second draft! Every author is different. I find the problem with planning a narrative is that the characters take over and change things. I suppose you have to try and strike a happy medium between spontaneity and structure.
Do you have a daily work routine for writing?
I think if you do anything every day it ends up as a superpower. I try to set aside time to write no matter how time-strapped things are.
Do the living and the dead interact in your outer life as they do in your fiction?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think it’s possible to fully escape the past. I suppose we’re all haunted by people and events from our life, whether we like it or not. I certainly am. The only difference is that in Cape Misfortune some of the dead may actually be real and living amongst us!! Some of the action in “Cape Misfortune II Agata’s Story” takes place in pioneer times. The West was supposed to be a place of limitless opportunities for health and wealth. It didn’t always turn out that way. The settlers on Cape Misfortune bring themselves, and their ghosts, with them.
Who has been your most valuable teacher/mentor as a writer?
My book is dedicated to David Smith, an English teacher who had an infectious love of literature. There were a few journalists I worked with who were generous with writing advice and support.
What is your preferred writing tool?
Ninety-five percent is tapping away on a laptop and the rest on iPhone. I do draw sketches of characters and locations in a notebook.
Where do you write best?
I like to think of myself as one of those tough individuals who can write anytime and anywhere, but a comfy chair is a definite plus. I actually like writing outside, but in the UK there are many months when that is not feasible.
What are you reading currently?
I’m reading “Devil in a Blue Dress” by Walter Mosley, the first Easy Rawlins book, and enjoying it.
What new projects are you working on?
The third Cape Misfortune Book. I can’t tear myself away from that place!