Angie Hodapp is the Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency. She holds a BA in English and secondary education and an MA in English and communication development, and she is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. She and her husband, novelist and co-editor Warren Hammond, live in an old carriage house in the heart of Denver.
The following is an interview with Angie Hodapp.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
What inspired you to write this book?
Warren and I have been involved with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), a local organization with a current membership of approximately 700, for many years, in various volunteer capacities.
When the opportunity arose to edit RMFW’s 2018 anthology, we stepped up and offered to do it together. Some background on RMFW’s anthologies: In the 2000s, RMFW published a handful of anthologies, but then stopped; as any anthology editor will tell you, it’s a heckuva lotta work, and it’s tough to get volunteers who are dedicated to seeing such a huge project through.
But in 2013 member Nikki Baird proposed the organization resume its publishing program. She edited “Crossing Colfax” the following year. Since then, RMFW has been on schedule to publish an anthology of short fiction written by members every two years, with a different editor at the helm and a different theme chosen by that editor: “Found,” a Colorado Book Award winner edited by Mario Acevedo, was published in 2016, “False Faces” in 2018, and “Wild,” scheduled for 2020 with editors Natasha Watts and Rachel Craft steering the ship, will be open to submissions May 1.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
The most exciting thing for us is that two stories we selected for “False Faces”—”That Donnelly Crowd” by Anne Therese Macdonald and “If You Say So” by Suzanne Proulx—were also selected for the 2019 edition of “Best American Mystery Stories.” BAMS has been published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt since 1997.
Series editor Otto Penzler selects a short list of what he believes are the 50 best mystery stories published in the U.S. over the course of each year, and then a guest editor—this year it was Jonathan Lethem—chooses the 20 that will appear in the final volume. The remaining 30 are granted honorable mentions.
The fact that not one, but two mystery stories from our little regional anthology made it into the final 20 is mind-boggling, especially given that “False Faces” is a multi-genre collection (because RMFW’s mission is to support writers seeking publication in all commercial genres). Yet, on the other hand, it’s not surprising at all; RMFW members have a lot of talent!
Warren and I were also immediately intrigued by “Steamboat Annie” by Mark Stevens. This is a short story told entirely in online reviews. We loved not only his unique take on the theme of false identities, but we thought his current-day spin on the epistolary form was nothing short of brilliant.
“A Snake in the Martin House” by Steven LeRoy Nelson (who passed away unexpectedly just as we were going into production and to whom the anthology is dedicated) introduces us to a clever housewife who manipulates her husband into settling a petty rivalry with their neighbor; the author’s acute understanding of human nature is perfectly layered into this seemingly sweet story.
Another favorite, which will be of particular interest to music lovers because it comes complete with a playlist that readers can access on Spotify, is “Roadmap to Rock-and-Roll Stardom” by Chris LaFata. In this one, an aging rock star being interviewed by Rolling Stone struggles with whether to reveal the impossible truth behind his rise to fame.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
Writing adult fiction from the point-of-view of a child is incredibly difficult to do well, as many such stories often lapse into preciousness or cliché and ultimately lack the depth and sophistication necessary to pique an adult reader’s sensibilities.
But Katherine Christensen’s “Bernice’s Mom’s Honolulu Vacation” presents a masterful portrait of place (1960s Las Vegas) through the eyes of a very odd little girl named Bernice. The story calls over its shoulder to mid-century existentialist literature, and it does so in an iconic mid-century setting.
The dreamlike quality of the narrative makes you feel enveloped in thick Vegas heat, and the actions Bernice takes as she navigates a sudden loss—one you’re not sure she completely understands—are far from expected.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Well, if you didn’t yet know, Warren and I are married! So we each had not just a co-editor, but a true partner with whom to refine the theme, define the process, discuss submissions, and divvy up the workload.
For the most part, we share a literary aesthetic, but we think our differences really gave the final lineup of “False Faces” a nice balance. For instance, Warren values tightly crafted prose and a clear story with a singular, satisfying payoff at the end, while I’m much more willing to sink into lyrical prose, and an ambiguous ending, if set up well, is OK with me.
What was the most difficult section to edit in this book? Why?
I’d say the most difficult part of editing this anthology was having to turn down so many writers we know and respect. RMFW is a large organization, but it’s also a close-knit and supportive community, and as I already mentioned, there is so much talent among its ranks. So selecting 20 stories from the 73 submissions we received was a challenge.
Yes…sending out those rejections was tough. Any other editorial team could have chosen 20 different stories from that same pool of 73 submissions and could still have crafted an award-worthy anthology. In the end, art is subjective (this we know), but rejections sting, and as writers ourselves, Warren and I are highly sensitive to that.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
It was a goal for Warren and me to publish established authors side-by-side with authors for whom this would be their first publishing credit—and we did that. It was so rewarding to work with these newer authors, to take them through their first editorial process and publishing experience.
For any author, that first time an editor looks at you and says “You’ve got what it takes” means the world. It can often give you the boost you need to keep writing, keep submitting, keep the faith. I love that we were able to provide that rite of passage for a few of our authors.
What project are you working on next?
I think Warren and I are hanging up our anthology-editing hats for a while, but we never say never. Warren is currently putting the finishing touches on the second book in the “Denver Moon” series, which he co-wrote with Joshua Viola. (Book one, “Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars” was a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award.)
And I am working on my second nonfiction book for writers—it’s all about how to query agents and is a follow-up to my January 2019 release, “Do You Need a Literary Agent?”