Interview with the Ravenous Anthony Neil Smith

Interviewer: L. Vera

Writer/Author: Anthony Neil Smith

L. Vera: The Doctor of Noir is in. Anthony Neil Smith, recent Spinetingler winner for Best Novel. It’s nice to have you here.

Anthony Neil Smith: Thanks for your invitation. The cool thing about the Spinetingler is that they have more than one novel category. Mine was for “Rising Star”, which is flattering. Most days, I don’t feel like a rising star so much as a salmon struggling upstream against a strong current and a bunch of people swatting at me with sticks. But hey, I’m glad someone likes what I’m doing.

L. Vera: Noir. What do you think defines noir? Is it a genre, a state of mind?

Anthony Neil Smith: Yeah, I do think noir is a genre, with its own styles (notice the plural), worldview, and subject matter. But as with any genre, I think it has to mutate and grow in order to survive. I wince at all of the people who disdain the “neo-noir” writers for not being classically noir enough, because it’s as if those critics are fighting to keep noir stuck in a rut. It would be like Western critics saying “They can only be set between the years 18__ and 18__ and must feature one of these nine U.S. States.” What’s the fun in trying to make those people happy? So I love noir, but I could give a shit about what noir scholars and critics think about my work.

L. Vera: Why write noir? Would prefer to write other genres?

Anthony Neil Smith: I embrace the label “crime novelist”, and I would be happy to write those throughout my career. I don’t have any plans for sci-fi or fantasy or “literary” novels (I have to say, though, that I think lots of works in many genres are literary in scope, and that the small subgenre that calls itself “literary fiction” shouldn’t sit on top of the genre heap looking down on all the others). I write what I like to read, and I write what interests me–which is usually the stuff that scares me. But I have always hoped to find a character around which I could base a detective series. It would be flavored with noir, but I don’t think it would be strictly categorized as such. I enjoy many crime novels that seem to exist outside of the noir/hardboiled/cozy labels, using elements of those for atmosphere and style more than the whole enchilada.

L. Vera: Now I have two of your novels, All The Young Warriors
and Psychosomatic. Which should I read first?

Anthony Neil Smith: Aw, sorry, but you should read Yellow Medicine first.

I’m kidding, actually. Of those two, I would say read ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS because it is the best I could do. It forced me to reach farther than I’ve ever had to, and I felt more invested in these characters than any of my others (except for Hogdoggin’). In the earlier books, there’s a lot of “noir glee” in bashing peoples’ lives around, seeing how much shit they can take. There are plenty of unsympathetic characters who, rightfully, repulse the reader, and yet I’m having some sort of nasty fun shoving them in the readers’ faces. That begins to change halfway through YELLOW MEDICINE, I think. After that, the challenge became making the reader feel deeply for unsympathetic characters–rooting for them in spite of hating them. Or at least becoming more fascinated with them over the course of the book.

L. Vera: What should we expect from you in the near future?

Anthony Neil Smith: I’m working on a book in Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin’s DEAD MAN series for Amazon. Those are a crazy bit of fun, half-horror and half-men’s adventure. I really love what they’ve done by getting several handfuls of great novelists to contribute to the series, so each book tastes a little different. After that, I’m getting back to work on a follow-up novel to ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, revisiting Adem and Mustafa several years after the events of that book. Crossing fingers that it works out. The story is developing in interesting, unexpected ways.

L. Vera: If I wanted to find a great steak place. Where would that be?

Anthony Neil Smith: You know, one of the best steaks I’ve ever had was cooked by Sean Doolittle on his Weber Grill in his backyard. But the beauty of steak restaurants is that you are often surprised by how different the experiences can be from place to place. That said, I’m looking forward to a visit to Murray’s in Minneapolis later in June. It’s one of those “old school” joints I’ve always dreamed of trying but so far haven’t had the opportunity. Check back with me in July.

L. Vera: I will. And how bloody should it be?

Anthony Neil Smith: Medium-Rare. It is the perfect temp for all steaks. Anything more and you miss out. Anything less and you’re just chest-beating, trying to show how manly you are. Chill out. You’re in a suit in a restaurant eating with a knife and fork, so no one is impressed that you said, “I want it still mooing!” If you really want to show off, here’s a chainsaw, there’s a bull. Get to work.

L. Vera: I agree, no other way to eat a steak, like it wasn’t recently murdered. Yumm.Thank you for coming on A Knife And A Quill. I wish you the best of luck in the future. Buy Anthony Neil Smith’s books here on Amazon, find him on twitter and visit his blog and say hi.