"The Anonymous Source evokes comparisons to John Grisham’s finest – The Firm and The Pelican Brief, with a touch of All the President’s Men…An explosive debut novel from a talented new writer sure to do damage to the best-seller lists.” –Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon and New York Times Bestselling Author of My Sister’s Grave
Alex enlists the help of Camila Gray—a captivating media professor—as he receives a series of tips from a mysterious anonymous source. Aided by an Internet genius, a billionaire’s sexy widow, and a washed-up sports reporter, Alex and Camila uncover a $500-million secret that could derail the largest corporate media merger in history.
It’s a secret that unearths dark memories from Alex’s past. It’s a secret that leads them back to the morning of 9/11. And it’s a secret that could get them both killed.
A.C. Fuller Gives EiR the Scoop
A.C: I struggled with Alex's character. One of first editors who read the book said, “Alex isn’t likeable.” Since then, I rewrote him a few times so he retains some of his quirks, but his backstory reveals that he’s more complex than he seems at first. And throughout the book, Camila is affecting Alex, changing him. She is, in many ways, his opposite. For Aelx's arc to make sense, he has to have a few jerky tendencies at the beginning. Plus, this is the first book in a trilogy, so he will continue to grow through the next two books as well.
Plus, I’m not into idealized heroes. Many classic “hero” characters are not especially likeable at first, and that’s what I m aiming for here. Three examples come to mind--two from books, one from a movie. Holden Caulfied from CATCHER IN THE RYE—he’s whiny and cynical, yet he’s beloved because we can feel the heart and vulnerability in his character as well. Especially at the end of the book. But, like many teenagers, he’s covering it up with cynicism. Mitch Mcdeere from THE FIRM is arrogant, ambitous, and seems at first to only care about money. But he has a heart of gold for his brother and (spoiler alert), eventually turns whistleblower and helps bring down the firm and a bunch of gangsters. Luke Skywalker is famously bratty at first—“I was going in to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters.” But this makes his gradual development into a Jedi all the more powerful. I don’t mean to put my book in the same class as any of those works. But, with Alex's character, I wanted someone who could be the "hero" while also having room to change.
EiR: It's okay to put your novel against other great novels. EiR agrees that perfect heroes are boring, and Alex is anything but boring. The novel opens in New York during 9/11, and while it is honestly treated, it is not the focus. It is, in fact, a background idea. Why choose such a tumultuous time to start your plot?
A.C: I lived in New York City on 9/11 and chose that day to start the book because it was a pivot point for the city and the country. Much of what happened in the years after was a reaction to 9/11, or was at least affected by it. There was the initial shock and fear, then all the events that came after: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the protests, heightened security, the Patriot Act. Everyone was talking about 9/11 and everything was changed by it. And yet daily life went on for millions of people in New York City. So I wanted to capture the time period, while not making the book about 9/11.
Most of the book takes place a year after 9/11, in the fall of 2002. I chose that time because the early 2000s were a key time in the country’s transition to digital media, which is another backdrop in the book. In 2002, less than half of U.S. homes had Internet access, and 3/4 of the ones that did were using dial up. Remember dial-up? There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no smart phones, and Google was just getting going. The very first iPods were starting to come out. I actually had to do some historical research just to get certain details right, like how much it cost to use a pay phone.
So, I see the time after 9/11 as a transitional period, both because of the wars and other political situations that came after, and because our day-to-day lives were being so rapidly altered by technology.
EiR: It does have a bit of historical importance, without being overwhelmed by the history of the time. That bit about researching payphones is hilarious! Your cover is wonderful. It's layered and interesting and hints at many elements in your book. Who is responsible for that success?
A.C: His name is Greg Simanson. He’s a wonderful designer who works for my publisher, but he also does freelance work. (http://www.simansondesign.com/)
EiR: Well done, Greg. Truly impressive. Tell us about your debut authoring experience. Do you feel twenty years older? Will you ever publish again?
A.C: Now that the book is coming out, I feel twenty years younger than I did when I was in the last phases of editing. I spent 5 months writing the first draft of this book, and 24 months editing and polishing. I learned so much during that process. At some points I found it difficult to keep going because it wasn’t just a matter of putting in the hours. To achieve what I wanted in the book, I had to get much better as a writer, and this didn’t come easy. There’s a quote about editing I love from S. Kelley Harrell. “Editing is the very edge of your knowledge forced to grow--a test you can't cheat on.” Editing isn’t just rearranging a few words or making sentences flow a little better, though those are important aspects of it. Editing involves feeling more deeply into your characters and bridging the gap between what you intend, and what your early readers are getting. At times over the last year or so I really struggled with this, with the feeling of falling short of what I was aiming at. And that’s why, now that it’s done, I feel so much younger.
I will publish again. Right now, I’m hard at work on the sequel to THE ANONYMOUS SOURCE. It’s called THE INVERTED PYRAMID, and I’m aiming for a summer 2016 release.
EiR: The flow, the characters and the connections were very well crafted, so the editing paid off. I don't want to give away too much about the plot, but I was very surprised by the turn events throughout the novel. How did you successfully keep me in suspense? I always figure out a mystery a handful of pages into the book, but I was actually surprised by THE ANONYMOUS SOURCE. What's your secret to stumping your readers?
A.C: I didn’t know how it was going to end as I wrote it. Because of this, the twists and turns, and the ending, were a surprise to me. The ending also came as a complete shock to all early readers of THE ANONYMOUS SOURCE. During the editing process, I added clues, or “breadcrumbs” to make the ending less of a surprise. I wanted the ending to feel both shocking and inevitable. But it was a struggle to figure out how much information to give the reader along the way to achieve that. It’s a difficult balance. So far, out of about 30 early readers, one figured out the ending with a 100 pages to go, the rest were surprised.
I am always disappointed when I figure out a book halfway through, or earlier. So I wanted to err on the side of fewer clues, fewer breadcrumbs. My hope is that, when people get to the end of the book, they want to start thumbing through the pages again to find what they missed.
EiR: EiR hates knowing what to expect, and was thrilled to be kept in suspense. What does A.C. Fuller do when he's not writing awesome novels?
A.C: These days my time is split between teaching English at Northwest Indian College, producing and hosting the WRITER 2.0 Podcast, and driving my kids around. I also do most of the cooking in my family, so you can find me in the kitchen 1-2 hours a day. In my free time I might be reading, playing with my kids at the beach, or watching the Seahawks.
EiR: A man of many talents...EiR accepts food bribes, btw. You have the support of bestselling author Robert Dugoni. How does it feel to be "in" with other wonderful writers in your genre?
A.C: It feels like an utter privilege to have the support of Mr. Dugoni and other writers in the genre. At the first writing conference I attended, Mr. Dugoni gave me and the other writers in the room a great piece of advice. Something to the effect of: “If you want to make art, immerse yourself in a community of artists.” I took that to heart and realized that, because I had so much to learn, I needed to surround myself with people who knew more than me. More about the craft of writing, more about the business of writing, more about becoming a professional.
With the WRITER 2.0 podcast, I’ve aimed to provide a similar kind of immersion for writers who might not be able to make it to a conference. Many of the guests have given me advice about the craft and business of writing, and I’ve found that the writing community is the most supportive I’ve ever been a part of.
I spent years thinking of writing and publishing as a kind of “ivory tower." Something far off, probably in NYC, that one needed special permission to join. What I found out when I started engaging is that the writing and publishing worlds are made up of a bunch of people, just like any other business or art form. There is no special entry exam. There is no membership card. So as I immersed myself in the community, I learned a lot about craft, but I also learned that there is no right path in publishing anymore. This freed me up to get much more aggressive about pursuing a path that works for me.
EiR: Truly, writers are very diverse. One thing is clear to EiR, however, that true writers live it frequently, practice it daily. Reading TAC, we know you fit that category. No membership card needed. Where can readers, potential agents and anonymous sources find more information on A.C. Fuller?
A.C: My website: www.acfuller.com
My Twitter: @acfullerauthor
My Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/acfullerauthor?ref=hl
My podcast, which is released every Wednesday: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/writer-2.0-podcast/id924980625?mt=2
EiR: Thanks so much for stopping by, A.C. We really enjoyed your suspenseful, intriguing and truly enjoyable novel. We highly recommend that readers get a hold of this book June 25th, 2015.