Andrew Shaffer is the author of Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love and, under the pen name “Fanny Merkin,” Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody (a Goodreads Choice 2012 Semifinalist). His next book, Literary Rogues, will be released by Harper Perennial in February 2013.
His writing has appeared in such diverse publications as Mental Floss, Maxim, and The Huffington Post. He reviews romance, erotica, and women’s fiction for RT Book Reviews magazine.
Shaffer attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for a summer semester and studied comedy writing at Chicago’s The Second City. He is also the creative director of Order of St. Nick, the greeting card company whose irreverent cards have been featured on The Colbert Report, NPR, and FOX News.
An Iowa native, Shaffer currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, a magical land of horses, basketball, and bourbon. You can find him most days causing trouble on Twitter at @andrewtshaffer,@evilwylie, and/or @proudzombiemom. He is repped by Brandi Bowles (Foundry Literary + Media).
1) Counting pseudonyms and twitter handles, how many identities do you have?
I am published under two names (Andrew Shaffer and Fanny Merkin), at least as far as anyone knows. I tweet as @andrewtshaffer, @evilwylie, @emperorfranzen, and @proudzombiemom—again, as far as anyone knows. So, six? A minimum of six.
2) What path did you take the first time your work was published?
My first-ever published work was a short story in a literary zine. Well, that’s not entirely accurate: I self-published zines as a teenager, which included everything from comics to interviews to short stories. My first “real” publication was Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, which began life as a series of Nietzsche anti-Valentine’s Day greeting cards.
I wrote it in ten days back in February and March of this year, and it took another two months or so to go through the editing process with Da Capo Press. During that time, there were several self-published parodies that hit the market, but I’m glad we took the time we did to make it as funny as possible.
4) Your book An Earl Grey Christmas came out a couple days before this interview. If a naïve, tea-loving passerby happened to pick it up, what would they find?
It’s a humorous tale about an Amazon employee who hunts through the Amazon warehouse for the perfect gift for her husband, and encounters a band of ex-employees (led by Steve Jobs) intent on overthrowing Amazon and gaining control of publishing. So, a heartwarming story that will appeal to anyone?
5) Is there something kinky about the hand position on the cover of both Earl Grey books?
Not that I’m aware of.
6) Why did you choose the pseudonym Fanny Merkin?
A “merkin” is a pubic hair wig. I found the name in a book of funny names from the 18th and 19th centuries—it was an actual woman’s name.
7) Is there any marketing advantage today for a male author to use a feminine pseudonym, or an entire female persona? Is the opposite true for a female author using a masculine or gender-indeterminate name?
I just read something last week about how women who write thrillers and science fiction still take masculine and gender-indeterminate names sometimes; the reverse is true for men who write romance and erotica. I chose to use a woman’s name because I didn’t want Fifty Shames to seem like an attack on women’s fiction. Whether or not using a female pen name “worked,” I have no idea.
A little scandal is a good thing; too much scandal is a distraction. Having said that, an author’s true value in the long term is measured by their words and not by their deeds or behavior.
I review romance, erotica, and women’s fiction for RT Book Reviews. I write about publishing for places like Mental Floss, The Huffington Post, and Suicide Girls. I also design covers (including the Felt Tips cover).
11) With two writers in the house, do you enhance each other’s creativity?
We give each other space when we’re on deadlines, and sometimes bounce ideas off each other.
12) What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Scrivener is indispensable when writing nonfiction.
13) What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
14) What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Televised sporting events. I don’t get much writing done on Saturdays or Sundays during football season.
15) What do you love most about the English language?
The number of swear words and phrases is virtually endless.
16) What do you hate most about the English language?
I don’t hate anything about it. It seems like a decent enough language, though the only one I have to compare it to is Spanish.
17) What was the last dessert you ate?
I just had a “no-sugar-added apple pie” at Cracker Barrel last night, and it was fantastic. Thanks for asking.
18) What’s your least favorite Christmas song?
“Little Saint Nick.” What an awful, horrendous abomination.
19) Coffee or tea?
I go back and forth, actually. Coffee for four days, tea for three; then vice versa. Maybe I’ll throw in a Red Bull or two—I don’t discriminate when it comes to caffeine.
20) Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han. But Greedo flinched, so Han was justified.