Anne Moose – When You Read This I’ll Be Gone

Anne Moose – When You Read This I’ll Be Gone

Anne Moose was raised in a family of doers, each of whom was determined to make their own positive contributions to the world. Anne was drawn to social / cultural anthropology at UC Berkeley and built a four decade career as a writer, editor and small publisher. Her stories thrust her cast into complicated environments as they face often untenable situations. Anne Moose joins me to talk about her adventures in The Craft and her newest novel, WHEN YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE GONE. Finding another person who seems to have lived in a parallel universe led us to an all encompassing visit that lasted over two delightful hours. Here are highlights from our conversation.


Give us a synopsis on the book.

When You Read This I’ll Be Gone is a psychological thriller about a writer/college lecturer named Valerie Hawthorne who goes to a writer’s conference in Bozeman, Montana. She’s booked herself into a beautiful river-side hotel by the Gallatin River, and there she meets a very interesting, attractive man—Tom. One thing leads to another, and although she’s married, she spends a romantic night with him. She knows she shouldn’t sleep with him, but she also knows her husband has been unfaithful, so she figures What the hell, and gives in to temptation. But they agree it will be a one-time thing.

Unfortunately, the next morning she wakes up to a nightmare. Tom is gone, but she soon discovers that, while she was sleeping, he used her phone to take nude photos of her. He then emailed the photos to scores of people in her Contacts list, including her husband, her college-age kids, the head of her department, her agent, some of her students, and on and on. And it gets worse from there. Eventually, she discovers that he set the whole thing up as part of an extravagant plan, and he’s done it because he partially blames Valerie for the death of his only daughter, who was one of her students. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book ultimately tells two parallel stories: Valerie’s story as it unfolds, and the terrible story of what happened to Tom’s daughter, London.

You don’t shy away from topics that generate conversation and controversy. What made you choose to create this particular story?

Well, this book is really the result of two separate ideas I had for what I might want to write next. My first two novels, Arkansas Summer and House of Fragile Dreams, were both suspenseful, with thriller aspects, but they weren’t in the thriller genre. I like writing nail biters, so I decided to try my hand at writing a straight-up thriller. I initially had the general idea of writing a story about someone who does something against their better judgment, and then it snowballs into a disaster with worse and worse consequences. Kind of like A Simple Plan, or Fatal Attraction. But I’d also been thinking about maybe writing something about college rape and the insane amount of extreme drinking that is becoming a bigger and bigger problem on some college campuses these days. I’d heard horror stories about college drinking from various sources, including my own kids, other college students, and parents of college students who described really disturbing situations, with kids becoming “black out drunk” and behaving in ways that are really dangerous, especially for girls who put themselves at great risk of being raped when they’re too out of it to defend themselves and the boys around them are drunk and out of control. Part of what solidified my desire to write about this was a non-fiction book called Missoula, by Jon Krakauer, which is about some rapes that occurred at the University of Montana in Missoula. So, I’d been thinking about these two things, and I eventually had a vision for how to put my two ideas together. Strangely enough, it came to me when I was driving home from a trip to Bozeman, Montana. I actually placed the start of the story, where Valerie and Tom have their encounter, in the exact hotel where I stayed.

You give Valerie and Tom both good and bad qualities amid their challenges. How do the complexities of your protagonists add to the richness of the story?

I think characters are more interesting when they’re complex and act like real people—not all good or all bad. In the case of both Valerie and Tom, neither is a simple character. Valerie is by far the more sympathetic of the two, but she is by no means a perfect person. She not only has the affair, but she tells some pretty serious lies to try to redeem herself after the photos are released. And there’s also the matter of her role in what happened to London, which you don’t discover until the end of the story. Tom does some really terrible things. More than I’ve let on here. But everything he does is in response to some truly horrendous things that happened to his only daughter, which ultimately destroys his entire family. You could say it drove him crazy. But you’re right. He does have redeeming qualities as well. That’s why Valerie was attracted to him in the first place. Even London…she’s incredibly sympathetic, but you could argue that she is also complex. She should have reported what happened to her to the police. But part of what the book is about is why she didn’t report it. Rape is a complicated crime, and the aftermath can sometimes be as bad or worse than the rape itself.

What brought you to the writing craft?

Writing has always been my greatest skill. Even as a young child, I was a good writer, although I wasn’t one of those kids who started writing fictional stories when I was ten. Most of my writing was for school, but I found it easy compared to most of my peers. In college I was a master of the Blue Book, and I always got high marks on papers. When I first graduated from college, I was interested in book publishing. I actually started a small press of my own and published a few books, including one of my own called Berkeley USA. But I also worked for a couple of other small publishers, editing and doing other things related to creating and selling books. I eventually fell into technical writing, pretty much by accident, but I stuck with it because it was a way to make a good living. The starving artist thing was fun for a while, but eventually I needed to figure out a more practical career, so I jumped on the high-tech bandwagon back when it was first starting up in the early 1980s. I’ve been doing technical writing ever since, but probably about fifteen years ago or so, I started to do some creative writing as well.

I started out writing short essays about my life. Memoir pieces. Eventually, I had what I thought was a good idea for a novel, and I wrote Arkansas Summer, which is an interracial love story that takes place in Jim Crow-era Arkansas. It’s very loosely based on some of my own family history and is essentially a love story that is also a horror story about what the segregated South was like for black people during that era. I kind of think of it as a history book disguised as a novel, and it’s a reflection of a life-long interest I’ve had in race and inequality. That book pretty much changed my life—in all kinds of ways. It was remarkably well-received (and continues to be my best-seller). As a result, I’ve become hooked on writing novels. I’ve now released three, and I’ve slowly started to work on what may be a fourth.

What has been the audience reaction to WHEN YOU READ THIS I’LL BE GONE?

I’m happy to report that the response has been really strong. I’ve never had so many reviewers write that they “couldn’t put it down!” It’s quite gratifying for a do-it-yourself author, such as I am. I’ve self-published all of my books. My background as a small publisher and professional writer and editor has given me all the skills I need to produce books on my own, so that’s what I’ve done. Of course, as an independent author/publisher, I’m never going to sell a million books. It’s a tough business and hard to find a wide audience even when you’re not self-published. But I’d have to say that for an independent author, I’ve done pretty well. I judge my success more by reader response than anything else, and the response to all my books has been overwhelmingly positive. And I’m not talking about friends and relatives. I’ve managed to find an audience through Amazon, especially Kindle Unlimited (where you get paid for pages turned), and I’ve had enough success there at this point to feel a great deal of satisfaction. I love knowing that my books resonate with readers. They all deal with serious topics, so it means a lot to me when people appreciate my efforts. I try to write books that are meaningful.

What do you hope the take-aways from the story will be?

The primary take-away from my latest should be that people need to be aware of the extreme drinking and “partying” that is going on in some colleges and universities these days so that they can prepare their kids for some of the pressures and dangers they’ll face. It’s especially dangerous for young girls, who may be naive about the risks they take when they’re around heavy drinking. Many more women are raped than we ever hear about. You only need to start talking to women about the subject to realize this sad truth. Since I released the book, I’ve had conversations with quite a few women about their experiences, and it’s surprising how common rape is. And it’s so traumatic. That’s what When You Read This I’ll Be Gone is essentially about–the trauma of rape and its terrible aftermath. There’s a more complicated story with lots of twists and turns wrapped around it, but this is fundamentally the point of the story. I think we, as a society, need to both warn young women and better train our sons, who, after all, are the rapists. And I think all of us need to stop turning a blind eye to the extreme drinking and also drug use that is starting to become more and more common among college students. The beer bashes of yesterday have, at least on some campuses, turned into something much different, much darker. And there is great pressure on kids to participate.

What’s next on your storytelling agenda?

I’m working on something now that I’m hoping will be a novel. The jury is still out. It might end up being a novella, or a long short story. But one way or another, I’ll put out another novel. Whether it will take a year, or more like three years, is unclear. I like that there’s no pressure on me. I do things at my own pace. But I love to write, so I have no doubt that I’ll produce a few more novels before I’m done.

How can people learn more about you?

Foolishly, I don’t have a website at the moment. Someday I’ll get my act together and get one. In the meantime, anyone can Google Anne Moose or my books’ titles and find my novels and read the reviews. My novels are Arkansas Summer, House of Fragile Dreams, and When You Read This I’ll Be Gone. (BTW, on Amazon you can only successfully search for When You Read This I’ll Be Gone from the Books section, because of its “adult” content.) I’m also active on Facebook, and I’m always open to new friends, so anyone who is interested can friend me on Facebook. I can also be contacted at