Today and tomorrow we turn the spotlight on Edgar Award-winning novelist Andrew Klavan, hailed by Stephen King as "the most original American novelist of crime and suspense since Cornell Woolrich." The author of such bestselling novels as True Crime (adapted to film by Clint Eastwood), and Don’t Say a Word (made into a film starring Michael Douglas), Mr. Klavan's latest novel is Damnation Street (Harcourt):
Scott Weiss is a private detective. John Foy is a professional killer. Julie Wyant is a hooker with the face of an angel. Now, from a town called Paradise, through a wilderness that feels like hell, Weiss searches for Julie -- and the killer follows, waiting for his chance. They are two expert hunters matching move for move -- until it ends on Damnation Street. "Klavan crafts a taut, tense noir leavened with rollicking mayhem and romantic yearning. Grade: A- " -- Entertainment Weekly
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WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I’ve been a very disciplined writer all my life, and I work a long day. I’m at my desk at eight, and write till about noon. During at least part of that time, I turn off my phone and email. Lunchtime, I try to go out and do something athletic—play tennis, practice karate, hike—something to clear my head.
Then in the afternoon, I go to work again, but on something different—a film project, maybe, or research—something that uses slightly different brain muscles. I get home to my family around 7:30 but around 9:00 or so, I start doing my reading for the day. I usually finish up around 10:00 or 10:30. After that, of course, like all good writers, I drink myself into a stupor, lol.
ARE YOU AN “OUTLINE” OR “MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO” WRITER?
Outline, outline, outline. I go at it pretty hard. I find it the only boring part of writing and I don’t like doing it much, but it makes everything else so much easier. Plotting—good plotting—is the hardest thing to do in fiction. Not the most important, but the hardest.
In crime fiction, it’s even harder, because you have to keep the action tight while allowing time to build character and relationships and so on—the stuff that makes it matter. So I find if I can work out most of the plot kinks beforehand, I can just sit down and do the richer, more meaningful stuff without worrying that I’m going to get to page 350 and realize the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. Of course, the outline changes as you go along, as the characters make different decisions than you expected. Still, for me, it’s a good guide.
WHAT’S THE BEST/WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
The best thing someone can say about your writing is that it changed his life or point of view or that it said something he knew but couldn’t quite put into words. The worst thing someone can say about your writing is nothing!
AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
Well, talking about fiction here, I’d say it’s that wonderful moment when a fresh, richly drawn character collides with the one story he was born to live. The moment when Macbeth hears the prophecy of the witches, say, or when Raskolnikov commits murder and realizes all his theories were wrong. It can even be something as simple as the moment you realize that the Mel Gibson character in the film Lethal Weapon is the one cop for the job because he’s suicidal and will do anything. That’s what I love as a reader and what I try to create as a writer.
In True Crime, it was the politically incorrect reporter who’s the one guy who can see past the polite lies of a PC story. In Damnation Street, it’s an obsessively romantic detective racing to find a woman before an obsessively romantic murderer gets to her first. When I reach that moment where story and character merge, I know I’m where I want to be, whether I’m writing a novel or reading one.
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Come back tomorrow for the second half of our conversation with Andrew Klavan. Find him online at AndrewKlavan.com. You can also follow his blog, and sign up for his newsletter.
Q&A: ANDREW KLAVAN, PT 2
Q&A: LINDA GILMORE (short story writer)
Q&A: BRANDT DODSON (Seventy Times Seven)
Q&A: ERIC WILSON (The Best of Evil)
Q&A: JON L. BREEN (Eye of God)