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An interview with Charlie Jane Anders

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders

Rock Manning Goes for Broke is out in the world, and doing well for itself. We're pleased to present a glimpse into Charlie Jane Anders' novella, in this short exclusive interview conducted by our own Gwenda Bond.

Gwenda Bond: I know this novella has an interesting tale of how it came to be. Can you tell me a little about the genesis of this story—where did it come from and how did it develop? 

Charlie Jane Anders: Rock Manning actually started its life as a novel, back during the George W. Bush era. We were invading Iraq and there was all sorts of stuff going on that was freaking me out, and I wanted to try to write about it in my fiction. And meanwhile, I was interested in trying to take my comedy as far as I could—not just in terms of being funny, but in terms of weirdness and extremeness. I was interested in physical comedy and mayhem and those moments when something is funny, until it suddenly isn’t. I was trying to get this book published in the late 2000s, and couldn’t get anyone interested. But then in 2013-ish, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey were editing a trio of anthologies that were pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic, and I was able to cut the novel down to three installments of around 7000 words each. More recently, I decided to try revising the 21,000-word version one more time, to see if it could become a standalone project. (And I’m so glad it did!) Cutting out a lot of random subplots and weird side trips from the full-length novel definitely went a long way towards making it more readable, I think. It’s a much stronger book at 22,000 words than it was at 70,000. 

GB: Rock and Sally are both such great characters. Did they come to you fully fleshed out or how did you develop them? I’m curious about Rock’s influences like Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan—do you share his love of slapstick comedy?

CJA: I feel like Rock and Sally developed slowly, over time, while I was writing different versions of their story in the Bush era. But some aspects of them were there all along, chiefly Rock’s love of slapstick and intense over-the-top set pieces. And yes! I have always loved slapstick comedy, partly because I’m a very clumsy person who breaks everything I touch. Pratfalls are basically my life, so I kind of identify with slapstick characters. While I was working on this book, I got a big boxset of Harold Lloyd movies, which I highly supermassively recommend. They are incredible films that hold up to this day, plus you get a beautiful view of Los Angeles from almost 100 years ago, with streetcars everywhere. And I’ve been a huge Jackie Chan fiend forever, since I was living in Hong Kong and my local theater was constantly showing his films.

Head over to the Rock Manning product page to read the rest of the interview or order your copy.

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