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Interview with Anna U Mormack

Where do you get your information?

In the pre-Internet days, I always went to libraries. These days, I use a mixture of libraries and Google. It’s very important to vet sources, instead of just taking your first source’s word for it. For example, I was horrified to discover a scholarly-seeming website I’d used for years (and that several other sources cited) is a very well-disguised Holocaust denial site, with a sister blog making no secret of the author’s true views! Wikipedia is best used as a jumping-off point, by reading the sources linked to.

One of my favorite sources is the website Vintage Dancer. It has so much great information on bygone clothes and accessories.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since age four, as long as I’ve known how to write. It’s just something I’ve always done, my calling in life. I can barely remember a time before I didn’t write.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Find and honor your own unique voice and style. If you try to chase trends, write a certain way because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do, or radically rewrite something based on comments from someone with a much different style, the resulting story won’t be the real you speaking. It’ll be you pretending to be someone else. A genre, voice, or style might not always the most popular, but when you’re passionate about something, it’ll show through in spades.

What would you tell your younger self, related to writing and your writing career?

You’re not ready to be published, nor to query anyone, if you haven’t reached the stage where you’re able to edit yourself. Your work is never perfect the first go-round, and the younger you were when you wrote it, the more intensive revising and rewriting it needs. You also won’t get instantly rich and famous, nor are most writers immediately accepted after querying.

Do you base your characters on real people? Does that lead to a better story?

I’ve based quite a few characters on real people, to varying degrees. Some merely have a similar physical appearance, while others started out much more strongly based on real people. There needs to be a balance. Thinly-fictionalized real people aren’t good characters.

How does your editing process go?

For older drafts undergoing a radical rewrite, revision, and restructuring, I cut out all the clutter and infodumps, flesh out too-short chapters and scenes, dial down the God-mode narration, and add new material as needed.

How do you select character names?

I tend towards classical eccentric and classical unusual names (e.g., Justine, Leopold, Octavia, Desdemona, Felix, Wolfgang), and also choose similar names for non-English-speaking characters. More common, popular, or trendy names tend to be saved for secondary or minor characters. I also like to choose names (both first and last) whose meanings have significance for the characters. Behind the Name and its sister surnames site are frequently consulted, as are a few names sources in other languages,

What has the best compliment you’ve received so far?

Someone said she only belatedly realized a story was in present tense, and it was no wonder she always felt so pulled into it, on the edge of her seat, full of tension, right in the moment. My next-greatest compliment has come from multiple people, who’ve praised the emotion and realism of my first-time sex scenes.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?

I do my best work while listening to The Hollies, The Four Seasons, Duran Duran, and an Eighties playlist I have on YouTube. I gave one of my characters the surname Duranichev as my humble way of saying thank you.

How do you add humor to your stories?

I have a lot of dark humor and deliberately over the top humor (think American Dad or Family Guy) in my Atlantic City books. Some of it is inspired by classic slapstick.

For more by Anna U Mormack please take a look at her blogs: Focuses on writing, historical fiction, silent and early sound film, historical topics, classic rock and pop. Focuses on names and onomastics.

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