"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 23, 2014

6 Questions for T. Jefferson Parker

1. You write mystery very well so well that you have written 20 crime novels. What got you started
down the path of mystery writing?

I was reading the authors they don't let English majors read, such as Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald and Ross MacDonald, and I thought: hey, I want to write a mystery. They're smart and fun to read. So I began conjuring what became Laguna Heat. 

2. Besides dreaming up the dark details and characters in your own mind where do you pull inspiration from?

Place inspires me. California small towns and cities. I also keep physical clip files, big plastic bins where I keep newspaper and magazines clippings, Internet stuff, anything that looks promising. I always dig through the bins when I'm fishing for a new story.

3. How do you feel your writing has developed since your first book? How have you grown as a writer?

I make fewer wrong turns. I deliberate more before I start a novel. I'm more economical with the words and I've learned to trust my instincts.

4. On the flipside of that, what areas of writing would you still like to grow in?

You can't write dialogue that's too sharp. When I look at Elmore or McCarthy or McGuane I think: man, that's good! I'd like to find room in my novels for humor. Not comedy, but the kind of out-of-left-field humor that brightens a scene.

5. You took a slight detour with Full Measure in that it’s not a mystery novel. How was your writing
process different with a literary novel than with mysteries?

With a literary novel you don't have the mystery/thriller conventions to either pen you in, or to lean on. So your whole viewpoint changes. I wrote Full Measure in between thrillers, in my "spare time," if you can call it that. I was able to work more slowly and deliberately because the book wasn't under contract. That allowed me to feel my way into the story. I wasn't sure I could pull it off until I'd written the last page and thought, yes, okay, you've written a good novel.

6. What authors inspire you? Who do you like to read?

I've been reading war literature lately, born of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. So, Phil Klay, Kevin Powers, Ben Fountain, Karl Marlantes. I'm continually inspired by the Old Testament and Shaekspeare's tragedies, all the way up through Steinbeck, Heller, Jim Harrison and Don Winslow. The list is long and varied.

T. Jefferson Parker discusses and signs Full Measure on Monday, October 27th at 7pm.