Anne Mortensen has been writing in one form or another most of her life. In between it all, she held various full-time positions including typesetter, PR executive, cafe owner, photographer, and journalist. Originally from El Paso, Texas, Anne now lives in London with her loving husband and gentle tabby, Meli.
In Conversation With: Anne Mortenson
Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with author, Anne Mortensen. Thanks for entertaining us with a visit. Can I offer you anything to drink?
Very kind of you! Straight-up water is great. Thanks.
Congratulations, you win the least demanding author award, and no there is no medal, trophy, or monetary prize, although everyone should get a participation ribbon.
You say you have been a writer for most of your life. What was the very first book (published or non-published) that you wrote?
Oh gosh. Many moons ago, I started writing articles for a local paper in my teen years. Having built my writing muscle, I began a novel called Being Human that I thought was the best thing ever. Got up at 5am every morning, pantsed my way through, chapter by chapter, before I had to leave for my paying job. I discovered so much about the process of writing and my preferences during that time. Such as, first thing in the morning is the perfect time of day to write—the city is quiet. By the time I’d leave for work, I felt fulfilled. Took months to get to Act III. And then, when I arrived at the climax, eager to wrap it up and declare myself a winner, the magic dried up.
I couldn’t figure out how to end it. Morning after morning, I struggled. In the end, I never finished it, and it haunted me for many months.
Looking back at it now, I can understand why I never finished it. It was…well it was Draft 0, so you can just imagine. The work had just begun.
But if it wasn’t for that book, maybe the others wouldn’t have happened, right?
I probably would have written anyway because it taught me some good lessons. Like, maybe it’s a good idea to outline before I write something that involved, lol!
What were some of your earliest influences?
Spy-thriller writer Robert Ludlum. Adventure writers like Gerald Durrell’s, My Family and Other Animals. Loads of fun! The voice of the character inspired me to say, “I can do that!” I started paying attention to character voice more. Naturally, Catcher in the Rye was up next. Further along the adventure line, but more intense and serious, was Lord of the Flies. This book is the one that engaged my curiosity of social power structures and groups vs the individual.
Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books. I think it is brilliant. Do you have a favorite book?
So many favorites, it’s hard to choose just one.
For page-turning, glue quality: Simon Kernick’s Relentless. When it came out, I bought one hard copy and took it with me on a trip. One afternoon, while I went to go do something, my husband picked it up. When I returned, he refused to hand it back. The book was in a tug of war. Neither of us wanted to stop reading it and neither of us wanted to wait for the other to finish it. There was only one solution: we read it at the same time, each taking turns to hold open the book.
For buttery, rich prose: Lolita.
For swank and attitude: Anything by Raymond Chandler
You have several books about current events and issues. Why write these?
I used to be a journalist, covering press issues for The Independent in the UK.
Do you miss it?
I miss having the time to stay on top of the deeper issues regarding the press, particularly because press issues is one of those subjects that’s a bellwether on the state of a society. When I have a bit of spare time, I look at the stats and trends. The players may change, but the story, sadly, is the same.
The book description for The Truth Effect comes across as 1984-y. Was there some influence here?
George Orwell is a king of sorts for me. I adore his writing style: clean, simple, simmering sentences that encompass complex concepts. His concepts were unique for his time. He used to be a journalist too (at a time when journalism had more public trust).
Ah-Ha! I knew it. Let me take a moment to pat myself on the back.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Usually something physical like cooking. Helps get me out of my head and gives my other senses exercise and delight.
What is your signature dish?
Chile Colorado. I’m still working on getting the chilli to garlic to spices ratio just right, but every time I make it, it always turns out pretty good.
What are three main differences between El Paso (where you grew up) and London (where you live now)? Wait! Let me guess: The food, the climate, and the accent? Right?
Haha!! Right! Oh yes, very different places. El Paso is earthy, bright, and hot. The Mexican food is way better in El Paso than it will ever be in London. But London has tons going for it, lol! It’s super diverse, updates itself all the time, and it’s a city that loves mixing the old and the new. If I personified El Paso, I’d describe it as reliable, whereas London is stressed.
But El Paso doesn’t have a “Curry Row”.
True! You can’t beat the curries here.
I try to work the subject of music into conversations. Do you have any favorite genres?
At the moment, I’m into synthwave for energy. I love most genres, but my go to is instrumental jazz. For writing, I prefer silence.
I’m with you on that. I can’t have music on when I’m writing.
Are you ready for the lightning round?
Ready, player one.
Most fascinating wall?
The Wailing Wall
Weirdest food you have eaten?
I’ve always wanted to try those.
How many countries start with the letter Z?
This is probably wrong, but I can only think of one! Zimbabwe.
Fog. Creepy or magical?
Absolutely magical and mysterious.
I’ll have to deduct a point because you did miss Zambia. There used to be Zaire, although was renamed, to what, I don’t remember.
Oh man! I won’t forget now.
Well, it looks like we are out of our allotted time. This has been a pleasure. Thanks for chatting.
Thank you for this delightful interview!
Any links you want to share?
My website is www.annemortensenwriter.com where readers can sign up for my newsletter 🙂
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National Poetry Month starts next week!
Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.
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