Anthony Mora - The Author Taking Virtual Velocity into our Reality
By Carin Chea
Anthony Mora is a successful journalist, editor, playwright, but first and foremost a novelist.
Anthony's newest novel, Virtual Velocity, An L.A. Story, which draws from his experience as a rock journalist, will be released later this year.
Virtual Velocity is a story told backwards starting in 2018 and ending in 1966.
It's the journey of Jake Jenkins, a literary novelist, who unwittingly becomes a viral star that takes him from unknown author to bestselling pop phenomena. Think Great Expectations meets Almost Famous.
A homage to the city of Angels, Virtual Velocity is indeed an L.A. story, documenting a city that is in a constant state of disappearing.
You're a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and public relations guru. Which came first and how did all the others evolve into existence?
I started as a rock journalist when I was sixteen. I wasn't paid to start. The deal was that I was able to get into concerts for free - which, at the time, seemed great. I stayed with it and my rates went up a bit.
After freelancing for several years, I went on to serve as the editor of a couple of magazines. I then went to what many of my journalist friends called, "the dark side," and worked as a PR consultant.
But all through that journey, being a novelist had been front and center. Reading Salinger, Kerouac, Fante, Miller and too many others to list, had a huge impact on me. They did what I wanted to do.
In 1998, my first novel, Bang! A Love Story, was published. I decided to read a page or two, and then dramatize about 15 minutes of the book. Then actors would step in. I called it Novel Acts and we did it in Los Angeles and New York.
That experience was life changing. I fell in love with theatre, which was not in my game plan at all. Now, seven plays and twenty years later, my second novel is coming out.
You're a prolific writer. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have a theory that characters are basically waiting to be brought to life. They're waiting to be written. That's the writer's job.
As to inspiration, I basically just write. I don't work with an outline; I don't plot. I've talked to a lot of writers who write begrudgingly: They don't like the process of writing, but they're driven to write.
I feel incredibly lucky in that I (generally) love the process. I'm going along for the ride and don't know what's going to happen next.
I gravitate towards the novel because of the demands it makes on the reader. I just do part of the work; the reader needs to complete it. It's different from other art forms in that way.
For example, if we both read The Great Gatsby, we're going to see different Gatsbys. It's not like a film where everyone is seeing the director's vision. That's what makes it so interesting. The reader is creating the work with me.
Linda Cardellini starred in the play adaptation of your first novel BANG! A Love Story. I am a fan of hers. How do you go about casting the actors in the works that you stage?
That was early in her career, before she did Freaks and Geeks. She came in to read and I remember saying, "We don't need to read anybody else." She blew us away. She's really taken off since then. The production I did with her was my first foray into theatre.
I've done several plays since then. I fell in love with the process of the theatre, watching it come to life -- every night, every performance being the same but different depending on the audience and on the actors' moods. It's always fascinating.
Tell us about Virtual Velocity
The main character, Jake Jenkins, is a literary writer who initially was able to get his books published, but made no money from them. Then a life changing event happens. He refers to it as a hurricane. He wrote a book called Virtual Velocity and, unbeknownst to him, a band named themselves after his book.
The band goes on to become incredibly famous and, long story short, a video of Jake and the band goes viral transforming him from an unknown writer to the country's most famous novelist.
When we meet him, he's already a huge success. He's decided to leave it all, to basically step out of the hurricane. And, in his final interview, he tells his story to a young journalist.
There's a story within the story that takes place in the punk new-wave era of the late 70s, early 80s. That was the era when I was a rock journalist.
Back then, there were a number of L.A. clubs - Madame Wong's, the Starwood, the Arena - a lot of rock clubs that don't exist anymore. I go back and use my life experiences as a background, but the book is fiction.
I wanted to take a look at fame that comes by being in the proximity of fame on social media. I wanted L.A. to be a character in the book. I liked what Quentin Tarantino did in his film [Once Upon a Time In Hollywood] because he deals with L.A. in a very similar way.
Years ago, I used to share offices with Quentin. I had a PR company then with a partner. We managed actors, and we did production. Quentin was just getting started. He was trying to convince us to produce a film of his called My Best Friend's Birthday, and Quentin was the star. We brilliantly said no.
Then came Reservoir Dogs. And the rest, as they say, is history. So, we were the bright ones who said no to Quentin.
With Virtual Velocity, I also wanted to do an L.A. book that doesn't have to do with film or TV. This deals with L.A.'s literary and music cultures. The book goes backwards. You start with Jake as an older writer who is intentionally going to get away from it all.
It's divided into three sections and they're sequential, but they don't necessarily follow one right after the other.
The book ends in 1966 when Jake is 16. Plus, that was a seminal year in rock, the year Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, Aftermath and Revolver were released.
What do you believe is the central message in Virtual Velocity?
It's not really a statement or a message. But I did want to put a bit of a microscope on how the culture is impacting how we experience things. I wanted to show how there's all of this movement that's going very quickly, and a lot of it seems unreal.
I suppose that's where the name Virtual Velocity came from. Jake's success came from outside of what he did, and there's a disconnect there.
Do you see a sequel to Virtual Velocity?
Not really a sequel, but Jake does make an appearance in the new novel I'm writing. It's partially based on this experience I had when I finished BANG! and someone wanted to turn it into a film. It was one of those Hollywood horror stories.
Do you see this novel being adapted into a stage or screenplay?
I have adapted the 2nd chapter as a play called Ricochet, which is already written and should be produced in 2020.
It would be interesting to see the first chapter, "Hurricane," be made into a film. I'm ambivalent about that, though. I've been around the film industry long enough to know that writers have very little control over the final product. Part of the beauty of the novel is that the writer calls the shots, similar with the theatre.
But, in film, the writer is generally at the bottom of the totem pole. It's a director's medium.
Well, in any case, if your novel was being cast, who would you place in the leading roles?
Good question. I haven't given it much thought. But, if I had a magic wand, it would be great to see Viggo Mortensen as Jake. He's an amazing actor. He's also a musician and an author.
A part of Virtual Velocity takes place at Beyond Baroque. It's in Venice. One of L.A.'s main literary art centers. It's a place Viggo is very connected with. I wouldn't argue with Margot Robbie as Cindy.
What advice do you have for blossoming writers?
The thing with writing is - if you don't write, you won't write. Sounds obvious, but if you want to be a writer- write! It's easy not to.
Early on it was easy for me to go to where writers go, like cafes, and pretend I was a writer, but I wasn't writing! And just as important - read. Read good books, bad books, everything. But read. Then, when you've taken a break from reading - write!
Please visit www.anthony-mora.com to keep up to date on Anthony's latest and greatest projects and forays!
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