What's James Anderson reading?

James Anderson will release the novel The Never-Open Desert Diner early next year.
James Anderson will release the novel The Never-Open Desert Diner early next year.
Published Dec. 15, 2014


James Anderson

Anderson is a former publisher who oversaw Breitenbush Books, a publishing house he founded in Portland, Ore., in 1975. Early next year, Anderson, 62, will see his own book published when Caravel Books releases his novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner. Anderson describes the book as "a literary noir hybrid.'' Set in the high desert of southwestern Utah, it is the story of Ben Jones, a truck driver whose life takes a mysterious turn when he comes across a woman playing a cello.

What's on your nightstand?

A lot. First, I've got Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. He is the (executive director) of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. The book involves death row, and he makes quite a larger, persuasive case about the death penalty. It's very good. It's important to honor the conventions of storytelling even if you are writing nonfiction. I read all kinds of things, and ones that have the biggest impact on me are the ones that tell stories.

And to whom would you recommend Just Mercy?

Anybody who wants a really good story and also those interested in social justice.

Do you want to continue with the other books on your nightstand?

I've also got Rex Burns, Body Slam. It concerns a detective based in Colorado. I've got Morning Light by Barbara Drake. It reminisces about Oregon. I've got Missing the Moon, poems by Bin Ramke, and Breathturn Into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan.

Do you read poetry often?

Yes, I read poetry off and on all the time. I think fiction writers can learn so much from reading poetry, about syntax and juxtaposition of metaphor. It helps elevate prose.

When did you decide to write The Never-Open Desert Diner?

Someone close to me was a heroin addict, and I was helping this person, and in order to do that we had to move, basically to run from drug dealers. As I was trying to help get him off heroin, I didn't have a computer, but I wanted to write. I started writing the novel on stationery. It just came out because it was a way of entertainment for me during this time.

Since you were in the business and now you're looking at it from a writer's point of view, how important is it in 2014 to have a publicist and an agent?

I want to give you concise answers. Yes, I do think agents are important. Are they as important as they used to be? It depends on where you are at with your career. Is a publicist important? Yes. In part because you can't do everything yourself. If you try to do everything yourself, when are you going to have time to write? When are you going to hug your children? When are you going to go to work? The fact is that there are things publicists can do and they can do them better than you.

Contact Piper Castillo at or (727) 445-4163. Follow @Florida_PBJC.