SECOND LOOK MAGAZINE
A CANDID TALK WITH NICK ANDERSON...the bestselling author of "Blackberry Brandy" and the soon to be released "Black Russian."
NICK ANDERSON SITS AT A TABLE, SIPPING ON A MARTINI, AT THE POSH FOUR SEASON'S HOTEL IN BEVERLY HILL, CALIFORNIA. He seems at once to be very at ease with his surroundings and himself. He has a charming smile and a quick sense of humor. But at closer inspection, Nick has a disarming quality about himself. His eyes are continually watching you, as if he's trying to look deeper into you, or maybe he has discovered something about you, that you yourself don't know or what to know. At times, I feel like he's silently interviewing me. He seems like a paradox, sitting there in his khaki pants and white satin shirt, a mixture of old school gangster and philosophical royalty...or in his words...He's a good Bullshitter.
Candice: So Nick, let's start from the beginning. Let's talk about who Nick Anderson is?
Nick: I grew up in Jersey, My father worked on the docks as a longshoreman. I haven't seen him since I was 8 years old. My mother raised us on her own. She was a singer in my Aunt's band, and we traveled around the East Coast a lot from show to show. I can remember as far back as three years old, her giving me a bath in this huge kitchen sink and singing "Where the boys are"...she kind of had this Connie Frances thing about her. My mom always sand when she was taking care of us...if we were sick or hurt. She was always singing Connie Frances or Patsy Cline. Anyway we wound up moving out to California and that's where I have been ever since. That's when things started to get a little crazy. My mother met this man who became my step-father and we didn't get along. So I made it a point at a very early age to not be around much and that didn't go over well...with anybody. I started making decisions at that time that someone that young had no business making in regards to their life. One of the things that influenced a lot of my decisions back then was the fact that I didn't feel like I had a safe place to go to.
Candice: You said your mother raised us. Who are you referring to?
Nick: There were four of us. My sister and three brothers.
Candice: How was it not a safe place?
Nick: My stepfather was a violent son of a bitch. He liked to take it out on my mother and my little sister. I would be in the next room, listening to it all coming down...don't forget I was just a kid myself...but that's where I learned to say fuck it and I would jump right in the middle of all of it. My whole thing was to just stop my mom and sisters screaming..and I was successful because he would stop hitting them and come after me. Then I would just stay away from home for a long as I could. The problem with this is that if you're not at home and you are a 13 year old kid...what are you doing?
Candice: So what were you doing?
Nick: The truth is that at 13, I learned how to show up and shut up in places that most normal people don't even know exist...I felt at home there. I learned to observe, and what I learned from that was how to be in a place without being noticed. I could blend into the walls, like I could be hanging out in a bar watching dope deals, murders, the whole sha-bang and no one paid attention to me, nor did they give a fuck that I was just this kid...
Everybody was getting high on something, anything...I say what was being offered to me as an opportunity, as a way in or a way out depending upon how you look at it and at the time it looked pretty fuckin' good. I look back at it now and I realize that I was earning a rite of passage into a world that wound up becoming my life, the details don't really matter. Call it fate, call it whatever you want, but all of it got me to where I am now.
Candice: So how do you see yourself, as a convict or a writer?
Nick: How about as a convicted writer.
Candice: But you were a convict before you were a writer and that's what makes you more interesting; the fact that Blackberry Brandy became a best seller while you were still in prison, and you began Black Russian before you got out.
Nick: Like I said earlier, everything that I have done so far has gotten me to where I am now. The same can be said for my writing...without my experiences as a con I wouldn't be the writer I am today. I was lucky, there are a lot of talented people in prison, and smart, with something to say and a need to be heard...in my experience, that's the problem...not being heard. I mean most the guys in prison except for a few are just average guys. I found a creative outlet for all of my demons, and I found a way to be heard, and that was when everything shifted for me.
Candice: So what gave you the idea for Blackberry Brandy?
Nick: Well, I developed a lot of respect from the other guys while I was in prison. It's a commodity that you can't buy with money. It just has to do with how you show up as a man. As you know from reading the book, Blackberry Brandy, Ron, The main character that book is based on, was in a lot of trouble when he first showed up, and I had been writing for a while journaling the stories that the e guys were telling me about, while always being careful to change the names and dates, for lack of a better way to put it...to protect the guilty. Remember the last thing that you want in prison is to be responsible for another prisoner catching another case...even though everybody knew who I was writing about.
Candice: Oh, you mean like Mario Puzo did in the Godfather!!!
Nick: Exactly, I got really good at mixing fact with fiction, as you know. Ron's story unfolded right in front of me. It wasn't something that I had to think about, it was just there. And as a writer, I couldn't just walk away from it. These punks who gang raped him were trying to make a name for themselves. They thought it would give them some kind of bullshit status...they fucked up...they picked the wrong guy to rape and the rest is Blackberry Brandy.
Candice: With the success of Blackberry Brandy, how did that affect your relationship with the other prisoners?
Nick: What do you mean?
Candice: I mean did that cause problems, you became kind of a celebrity in prison. Did that cause problems of animosity with the other prisoners?
Nick: Are you kidding, they loved it. I had about a year to go when Blackberry Brandy hit. Every guy in the state pen wanted a story written about them, even the guards wanted books written about them. But, just like everything else, prison is political, too. I had all these journals stacked up with all these stories, but I had to play the politics. And that's how Black Russian came about. The publishing company was requesting a second book when Ivan came to me about writing his story and that pretty much shut the door on everything else. The word got around real quick for everyone else to back off...Ivan wanted his story told...and if Satan comes to you to write his story...you give the devil his due. I proposed the idea to my publisher, a deal was made, and the collaboration began while we were still in prison. But an agreement was made that I wouldn't start writing it until Ivan was released.
Candice: Which brings us to the present. Now you have two bestselling books, Blackberry Brandy and Black Russian...and now they are making Black Russian into a movie.
Nick: Yeah, does it get any better than that? Black Russian coming to a bookstore and a theatre near you.
2nd Look Magazine.