Sunday, May 1, 2011

Finding Anna by Dana Cameron

Dana Cameron’s short story in Boston Noir, “Femme Sole,” was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity awards; two more Anna Hoyt colonial noir stories will appear in 2011. Her second Fangborn story, “Swing Shift,” appears in Crimes by Moonlight,and was recently nominated for an Agatha.   A third, “Love Knot,” will be published in 2011. When not exploring the dark colonial past and the violent but hopeful lycanthropic present, Dana finds herself writing across a wide range of crime genres. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. You can find Dana on FaceBook and Twitter (@danacmrn) ; she blogs at her website ( and with the Femmes Fatales (


Finding Anna
by Dana Cameron

When I first encountered Anna Hoyt, we were both in a state of desperation. I needed a story for Boston Noir and had never written in the subgenre before. Anna turned out to be an 18th-century tavern owner struggling to keep her property from a variety of violent thugs, including her husband. Maybe it was my own panic to figure out how to get the story done, but in the end, Anna surprised me—and scared me, too.

And that's just fine. If a writer is unnerved by something she wrote, chances are, readers will be, too. But when it came time to write another Anna story (“Disarming,” which appeared in the June 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine), I initially froze up. I knew Anna's secrets, I knew that she was not the person I believed she was when I started writing “Femme Sole.” I wasn't sure I could do her justice, knowing what I did. Ignorance may be bliss, but it's not something awriter can afford.

I was thinking Anna might just be a one-off, when I realized, “Anna's got problems, and she's sure got issues, but she just wants what everyone else wants. It's just she goes about it differently.” The moment was a little like the Masterpiece Theater version of Moll Flanders, where Alex Kingston (as Moll) looks straight into the camera and asks “What would you do?”

I didn't need ignorance, I needed to know Anna better. In writing “Disarming,” I could use the homesickness I felt when I lived in London for a year and I could use my experiences in getting to know the culture there to inform Anna's story, but when she started to deal with her problems in a way that made me uneasy, I needed to let her do it. In fact, the more she worried me, the better I felt about the story.

I once told an interviewer that I related more easily to my “Fangborn” characters (werewolves and vampires) than I do to Anna. That's partly true; all of us experience fear and rage and other dark feelings. With the Fangborn, I know their violence is in the service of good. With Anna, you never know.

Anna's in a third story, “Ardent,” which will appear in the forthcoming Cape Cod Noir. I wanted to know whether Anna had ever been truly in love, and if so, what would she do to protect that love. Given Anna's history with men—and crime--it made me very nervous indeed.

And that's just fine.

Dana, with editorial assistants Kaylee and Zoe


jenny milchman said...

She sounds like a great character, Dana! I will go look for her--although I must admit, the upcoming what-Anna-does-for-love is especially intriguing...

Dana Cameron said...

Thanks, Jenny--I hope you enjoy the results! I'm never quite sure which choice Anna will make.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Dana, Welcome!!! And hey - what's this I hear about you being next year's Toastmaster at Malice?! Yay, you - Congratulations!!!!!! (I'll be there).

Jenny - will I see you there?!

Dana Cameron said...

Thanks, Kaye! It was announced at the banquet! See you all there!