Interview with Alan Annand

What genre do you write?
I write crime fiction, a blend of mystery, suspense, thriller and action. As I look back on my books, I notice structural similarities, and perhaps this is becoming my brand. My plots generally start with a murder or two, then ratchet up into an increasingly difficult investigation, until there’s a break in the case and the whole thing turns into a frenzied pursuit of the killer.

My novels are often hybrids, and may resist easy categorization. I generally weave in elements of private investigation, police procedure, psychological suspense and cinematic action. I certainly try to amuse myself as much as I can during the writing, and pass that on to my readers.
Do you write series or stand-alone novels?
Mostly stand-alone novels. A part of me resists getting trapped in a lifetime commitment to a single character. As a writer I find the prospect restrictive, although it’s obviously worked well for many writers. But on the flip side, once a character is developed, there’s the advantage of knowing them so well that you have a head start for future books.

Therefore, I’ve embarked on at least one series, and perhaps others will arise. The series is one I call New Age Noir, featuring my hero Axel Crowe, a criminal profiler using astrology, palmistry and other esoteric techniques in his work. Scorpio Rising is the first of the series. Felonious Monk will come out in 2014, Soma County in 2015.
What comes to you first: characters or story line?
My novels are very plot-driven. Before writing Chapter One, I prepare a detailed plot outline of 20-30 pages, basically a few sentences for every scene in the book. I don’t write my first draft until I’ve reworked my outline and know my complete story line – beginning, middle and end.

Simultaneous with the outline process, I also write character sketches of the principal figures in the plot, generally less than a handful. As I get to understand these characters, whether at the outline or actual writing stage, I allow their personalities some free rein to influence aspects of the plot.
Do you favor any particular settings?
I lived in Montreal for 26 years and am familiar with the city. Between its rich Mafia history, biker wars and European atmosphere, it’s a good setting for crime novels. Harm’s Way features a private investigator seeking to retrieve a politician’s runaway daughter from a Honduran cocaine gang. Al-Quebeca involves a female homicide cop whose investigation into a mid-winter hit-and-run reveals a sleeper cell on the verge of a major act of terrorism.

I’ve been to New York many times. Much of Felonious Monk, the sequel to Scorpio Rising, takes place in New York. One of my forthcoming novels, Antenna Syndrome, is a SF mystery set in a post-apocalyptic New York devastated by a terrorist dirty bomb on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

I’m also quite familiar with San Francisco. A good part of Scorpio Rising occurs there, while Soma County, the third instalment of my New Age Noir series, will mostly take place within the Bay Area.

I weave in foreign locales that I’ve visited. Part of Al-Quebeca is set in Paris. I used Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand) locales for several chapters in Felonious Monk. I intend to have a few chapters of Soma County take place in Delhi and Varanasi, India.

I live in Toronto, as does Axel Crowe, the astrologer/palmist hero of my New Age Noir series. Another novel, Hide in Plain Sight, is split between Montreal and Toronto. The great thing about murder, aside from the unfortunate loss of (fictional) life, is that it’s universal.
Do you do any research for your books?
Since my protagonists are often private investigators or police, I read about police procedure, forensics, occasionally criminal law. I review police websites – Montreal, New York, San Francisco – to get a feel for precinct issues.

I’ve interviewed several law enforcement professionals – a homicide detective turned private investigator, an undercover cop in Vice, a CSI technician, an investigator who works for a criminal lawyer. Their helpful advice has lent my novels some realism.

I like to be accurate with location, so some research involves reacquainting myself with certain cities. In daily life or on vacation, I drive around or hang out in neighborhoods I want to use as settings. Aside from my memory, field notes and photo collection, I use Google maps and street view a lot. Apparently it pays off, because many reviewers comment on how well I know the place.

I do what I can with internet research on weapons. I have a good friend who’s a gun buff and keeps me accurate on all things related to weapons and high-performance vehicles.
What writers have influenced you the most?
Like any writer, I must admit to multiple influences. Within the mystery genre, I like Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Martin Cruz Smith and Philip Kerr. For economic prose, Ernest Hemingway. For erotica, Anais Nin. For moral dilemma, Graham Greene. For atmosphere, Alan Furst. For police procedure, Michael Connelly. Currently, I’m very fond of Nelson DeMille, who pretty much epitomizes great writing for me.
What’s your biggest writing challenge?
Writing mysteries is a major challenge in itself. You have to create believable characters with compelling motivations sufficient to overcome any suspension-of-disbelief issues. You need to develop a plot complex enough to sustain a novel-length work, with sufficient twists and turns to intrigue the reader yet still keep them guessing until pretty much the end. Personally, I also like to weave in a certain amount of controlled violence, non-gratuitous sex and occasional humor, so it’s sometimes a daunting checklist to complete before I consider a novel finished.
Where do you get your ideas?
I read The Economist and a few other magazines for criminological, social and technological trends. I read newspapers for local stories, and follow internet threads as they arise, especially if they have anything to do with crime, terrorism, etc. I watch TV documentaries and read lots of books, particularly crime fiction and true crime.

I keep notebooks at my bedside and desk to capture ideas, whether inciting incidents, characters, or plot points. I assemble related ideas in file folders. After awhile something or other reaches critical mass and I’ll start to think of it as a potential novel.
What’s your writing process and routine?
In my early years, I’d start with just a vague notion of a character and a plot, and plunge into a first draft. Typically the writing would falter 100 or 200 pages later, because I didn’t know where I was going, and when I got lost, I didn’t know how to recover. Occasionally I’d sense where I was going and finish the damn thing, but that process was hit-and-miss, more often the latter.

After taking a screenwriting course, I realized the importance of a treatment, a detailed plot synopsis, before writing a first draft. A trip without a map is a disaster in waiting, or at least a waste of time recovering from wrong turns down cul-de-sacs.

After the initial ideas have coalesced, I describe my novel in a single sentence. Then I write a synopsis of the entire novel from beginning to end. This requires a single paragraph for every scene I can see in my mind’s eye, from the opening scene to the final one. I also write character profiles for each of the main characters – protagonists, antagonists and a few supporting cast.

I then re-write that synopsis, constantly asking myself if my inciting incident is strong enough, if my characters are sufficiently motivated, if the plot has enough twists to keep the reader guessing, if there’s enough action, and if the ending is satisfying from an emotional and logical point of view.

Once I’m happy with my synopsis, I write my first draft. I work in the mornings, starting as early as I can when I’m mentally fresh. I write for about five or six hours until lunch time. I follow my synopsis fairly slavishly as far as the plot line goes, but allow myself (and my characters) a certain amount of freedom in the writing of individual scenes.

The next day I re-read only what I wrote the day before, and continue from where I left off. I average about 1500 words a day, so in 60 working days I have a manuscript of roughly 100,000 words. I set that draft aside and let it cool off for a month. When I return for a second draft, I cut the fat, re-sequence and rewrite scenes as required, and tighten up plot points that nag me. I let it cool off for another month before the third draft in which I polish it every way I can. Repeat ad infinitum. One novel took me ten drafts to get it right.

Generally I have two or three novels in development at any given time. I may be writing the first draft of one, developing an outline for a second, and doing third-draft edits of another. Not everybody works this way, but I like it for two different reasons. First, within any given month I’m exercising the writer’s three muscles: imagination, writing and editing. Second, the enforced gaps between the three phases allow me to let my ego cool off, thus gaining some necessary objectivity to look at my writing in a more critical light.
What’s your writing background?
I wrote the first of a few (never published) novels in my twenties, then sold a SF mystery to a New York publisher at age 29. I sold another four pseudonymous novels until the birth of my daughter obliged me to get a real job. For fifteen years thereafter, I worked off and on as a technical writer for the railway industry, writing novels in my spare time, until I bailed out of my day job to write full time again.
Any hobbies?
I’ve been an astrologer and palmist almost as long as I’ve been a writer. I have diplomas from both the British Faculty of Astrological Studies and the American College of Vedic Astrology. Along the way I’ve also learned some numerology, ayurveda and vastu, the Hindu variant of feng shui. I’ve been a speaker at national conferences and published articles on both astrology and palmistry. My public role as an astrologer/palmist has been a nice complement to the typically-insular life of a writer.
Published 2013-12-30.
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Books by This Author

Stellar Astrology, Vol.2
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 49,200. Language: English. Published: March 6, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » New Age » Astrology, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Body, mind, & spirit
Stellar Astrology, Volume 2, is a second compilation of articles covering topics in Jyotish, or Vedic astrology. Techniques for analysis and forecasting are illustrated through a series of articles – biographical profiles, criminal and mundane events, political and spiritual luminaries, and technical essays.
New Age Noir: the Trilogy
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 296,190. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » International crime, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Axel Crowe is a criminal analyst, a finder of wayward people and stolen possessions, who profiles subjects using astrology, palmistry and other unconventional techniques. Facts are gross, but the truth is subtle, his guru repeats like a mantra, and although motives for murder lie buried deep, a righteous and relentless man will inevitably unearth them.
Mutual Reception
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 80,680. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » New Age » Astrology, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Body, mind, & spirit
43% of us have a mutual reception by sign in our birth chart, ie, when two planets simultaneously occupy each other’s sign. It’s a powerful combination linking the effects of two houses in a chart, yet it’s one of the least understood patterns in astrology. This book, an invaluable reference for any astrologer's library, describes the effects for each of the 66 combinations of house lord exchange.
Soma County
Series: New Age Noir, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,300. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Mystery & detective » International crime
Profiler Axel Crowe searches for a missing person in wine country and discovers a little man with big eyes, and a hand in the black market for body parts. When Crowe follows a trail of evidence to an ashram in India, he discovers the fruit of karma is often bittersweet.
Parivartana Yoga
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 59,530. Language: English. Published: August 2, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » New Age » Astrology, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Body, mind, & spirit
Parivartana Yogas are said to be among the most powerful of planetary combinations, having the capacity to link the effects of two astrological houses in a chart. In this book, an invaluable reference work for any Vedic astrologer's library, the author describes the effects for each of the 66 combinations of house lord exchange, also known as mutual receptions.
Stellar Astrology, Vol.1
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 44,260. Language: English. Published: February 25, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » New Age » Astrology
Applications in Vedic astrology (jyotish): a compilation of essays on techniques, in-depth celebrity profiles, and analysis of mundane events. A highly informative reference work for serious students of astrology written by an astrologer experienced in both western and Vedic systems.
Specimen & Other Stories
Price: Free! Words: 26,630. Language: English. Published: February 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(4.00 from 1 review)
A six-pack sampler of short fiction by Alan Annand: humor, crime and WW2 adventure.
Antenna Syndrome
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 79,820. Language: English. Published: April 18, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled
(4.00 from 1 review)
New York, 2026. In the aftermath of a terrorist A-bomb, private investigator Keith Savage searches for a kidnapped artist, the paraplegic daughter of a crime-busting politician, but tracking her down leads him to a place where her fascination with insects collides with his fears.
Felonious Monk
Series: New Age Noir, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,360. Language: English. Published: April 6, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Profiler Axel Crowe investigates the murder of a reporter at a Vermont ashram. His esoteric sleuthing reveals a series of Manhattan rape-murders dating back 12 years, with connections to sex trafficking, drug smuggling and the theft of an ancient golden Buddha.
Al-Quebeca
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 97,480. Language: English. Published: April 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Police Procedural, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Montreal homicide detective Sophie Gillette, still mourning the death of her brother during covert ops in Afghanistan, investigates a fatal hit-and-run, uncovering a terrorist plot to assassinate an American governor, disable New England’s electrical grid, and kill 10,000 hockey fans.
Harm's Way
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 81,220. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
(3.50 from 2 reviews)
A private investigator searches for the runaway daughter of an aspiring politician only to find that, on or off the campaign trail, honesty is the rarest commodity. As mystery descends into mayhem and murder, he confronts an unsettling truth – the innocents are always the first victims.
Hide in Plain Sight
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 83,300. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
(5.00 from 1 review)
A man assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to alibi his own wife who’s accidentally killed his brother in an argument. But when he finds himself sharing a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, he faces bigger challenges and harder choices.
Scorpio Rising
Series: New Age Noir, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 99,710. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
(4.67 from 3 reviews)
A criminal profiler investigates the killing of a New York City heiress, only to discover that her death is linked to two other murders on the same day: a dot-com millionaire in San Francisco, and the team leader of a government counter-terrorist project in Los Alamos, New Mexico.