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"EACH BOOK IS LIKE THERAPY FOR ME.": AN INTERVIEW WITH ASSASSINS ANONYMOUS' ROB HART

In Assassins Anonymous, creates an action packed summer read with humor and pathos as well. It follows Mark, struggling to put his old ways as the wet work agent own as The Pale Horse with the help of an assassins self help group. The group is crashed by another assassin out to kill him and he is on the run with an underground doctor as he tries to figure out who is gunning for him and why.


SCOTT MONTGOMERY: How did the idea Assassin's Anonymous come about?


ROB HART: I've been wanting to write an assassin book for a long time, and always thought it would be some kind of group therapy setting. And then one day it hit me that recovery programs would be an interesting way to explore this—especially the part about making a list of people you harmed and making amends. How do you do that, as a hitman? I also felt like: every hitman movie, they retire and something nudges them and then they slaughter a hundred people. I'm not knocking those stories—I love them!—but I wanted to see if I get stick to the no-killing vow. 


S.M.: Mark is an odd character in the sense that he has the background and skills of a pulp hero, but comes off as an everyman when not in action. How did you go about constructing him?


R.B.: The first big decision I made with him was that he had to be charming and funny. First because I just thought it was a funny juxtaposition. But also, I knew he was going to do some terrible things and if the reader loved him, the reader could walk away. 


S.M.: Astrid is a wonderful foil and possible love interest. What did you have in mind for her and their relationship?


R.B.: That's the kind of thing that starts off from a technical standpoint—Mark is on the run, and he needs someone to be on the run with, because it gives him someone to explain stuff to, but also some plot complication because it's a person he has to protect. And I loved the idea of it being someone from his past—a black market trauma surgeon who patched him up a few times but never knew the truth about his identity. Astrid was a really fun character to write, and I think serves as a really good anchor for Mark, in terms of the reality of what he's facing. 

S.M.: Almost every chapter has a passage with Kill Bill style action. How did you deal with each scene to differentiate?


R,B.: Each action scene has to have its own tone, because it's telling a story about the characters. It's got to be cool, sure, but cool isn't enough. So the question for each scene is: What does this say about Mark? Once I had a sense of that it was a matter of sitting down and mapping it out. I draw a lot of diagrams. 


R,B.: I'm a sucker for hitman movies. The Professional is my favorite, but I love the John Wick movies, and I watched this cool movie called Interview with a Hitman as I was working on this. Getting the action down was one thing, but I also loved the character stuff in Professional—Jean Reno's deep sadness and disconnection from the world. I'm also a fan of kung-fu movies, which are shot differently than American movies. They tend to pull the camera back and let the skills of the actors speak a little more clearly, rather than shoot in tight to try and cover things up. So I always lead from there... pulling the camera back so you can get a full picture. 


S.M.: Many of your books pull off a magic trick that you set up a wild and satiric comic book story and it becomes completely human and grounded by the end. What do you keep in mind while crafting that?


R.B.: Each book is like therapy for me. Except I get paid instead of my therapist. This one was about getting to a point in your life where you recognize that you've made mistakes, and you have this desire to change and grow and be better, but you're not sure how to break your conditioning and do that. Once I zero in on that personal aspect, I know I'm at a good starting point. 

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