domenica 19 giugno 2011

An interview with Kent Harrington

Thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed these interesting questions. Just so your readers know, I was in Italy last year for the first time in my life and I felt like I’d gone home. Really it’s true.

Hi Kent. Thanks for accepting my interview and welcome on Liberidiscrivere. Tell us something about you. Who is Kent Harrington? Strengths and weaknesses.

Kent Harrington, the man was born in San Francisco and beyond that is a complete mystery to me, and I’m the one who knows him the best! I’ve got only one real strength and that’s a profound stubbornness. But without it I could never have succeeded in ever finishing a novel, or, for that matter, having any kind of career in the arts. You have to be stubborn and somewhat indifferent to any outcome as an artist—certainly you must be indifferent to criticism or you’ll never get anywhere. So you could say that – up to a point – you have to give a shit and at the same time not give a shit. Those are contradictory ideas, I know, but the world of the artist is a confusing one filled with contradictions, tensions and impossible mazes—it’s a special kind of insanity. Weaknesses. Oh god I have so many. But I consider them, oddly, strengths too. Because through battling my weaknesses I’ve run head long into my humanity. We are all imperfect and fail constantly. You just hope you don’t fail at the big things in life. There was a very famous bullfighter who was once asked what he did to stay in shape and he said “I drink and smoke cigars. How can I ever be stronger than the bull?!”

Tell us something about your background, your studies, your childhood.

I was sent to a military school when I was very young, nine years old. It changed me. I was never the same because once you are cast out from the family at such a young age and into that dog-eat-dog environment that is an all-boy’s school, you can never go back. I never was able to view my parents any longer as protectors, or as “parents”. It’s not that I didn’t love them, it was that once you are left to fend for yourself, with no one to call for help, you either are crushed by the experience, or you learn to survive. In that school survival meant learning how to physically fight. I learned how to fight so that the other boys respected me enough not to pick on me. The boys that didn’t learn that important lesson were crushed spiritually and it was devastating. In many ways I’m glad that I was left to fend for myself as a child because it made me much stronger later in life. I went on to University and got a degree in Spanish literature. I was never happier than as a university student. There is nothing I like better than studying something. Maybe that’s why I chose to be a writer because the novel always turns you into a student. No one can master the novel! No one. For me Heaven will be a university campus with lots of old books, cappuccino, and conversation.

What made you start writing crime fiction?

I stared writing crime fiction because I was intrigued by Jim Thompson’s work. I had not read much, if any, American crime fiction as a student. It was not the kind of reading that was allowed at my school. I wasn’t exposed to pulp fiction until I was in my twenties in fact. I grew up with heavier fare at the school as parents expected their children to be exposed to the classics so pulp fiction was actually confiscated! Anyway, when I came across Thompson, after I was well out of university, I was transfixed because I had not read anything like him. And for whatever reason I felt I understood him, why he’d chosen the style he had. I also wanted to try writing in a more Hemingway style and less of the DH Lawrence style which I’d been trying in earlier work. What I didn’t understand was that it was the Noir sensitivity that was really what was attracting me to Thompson. Anyway, I decided to try a crime novel and it turned out to be my first published novel: Dark Ride. It was a minor success. I was very lucky; it allowed me get my start in the novel business.

In interviews you cite Hemingway, Fitzgerald, D.H. Lawrence, Greene, Faulkner, Orwell as a writing influence. Is it true?

Yes it’s very true. All of them had a profound influence on me. I regret now that they have fallen out of favour, at least in this country. We have less style now in popular fiction in America than we used to. I owe those writers a great deal, as they truly made me the person I am today. People who say art isn’t important have never read a great novel. It can change you.

Can you tell us a little about your debut novel, Dark Ride?

As I said I was intrigued by the Noir sensibility. It is a very “sudden” style. Things are seemingly blunt and exposed yet somehow you come to see that it’s just the opposite. In fact it’s through this blunt style that you are introduced to a very complex way of projecting things about society’s other hidden face, the secrets about American life if you will. Ours has always been a society of secrets and double dealing and obviously lawlessness. I mean look at the history of our march West. Why do we feel the need to own so many guns in America? In Dark Ride I wanted to write about a character that was driven crazy by middle class expectations, and the underlying culture of success that dominates here. In the US-- I don’t know about Italy-- if someone wears a suit and has clean hands then they really do get respect. It’s the most amazing thing to witness. If you want to really hide your criminal intentions in America, wear a suit and you will go a long long way. Dark Ride is also about the importance of sexual expression as a language of the human psyche. In other words, sexual expression—as in the case of sadomasochism I write about in the novel -- is extremely articulate about what the larger culture is concerned with. I felt that the culture of success in America is linked to the idea of dominance and aggression and that Jimmy’s inability to be successful made it logical for him to fall under the spell of a woman who was overtly interested in the domination/submission sexual dynamic of sadomasochism. In other words, if you can’t be dominate in the larger world—where you are perceived as a “failure”-- perhaps you can play at being dominant in the bedroom and vice versa? There are cases of very powerful men who pay so they can play the submissive role sexually. Anyway Dark Ride is my American family portrait shot in black and white, and with a double exposure.

Red jungle evokes a richly rewarding literary tradition and especially draws comparisons to the work of Graham Greene, particularly The Heart of the Matter and The Quiet American. Was this a goal?

Red Jungle was my return to the other writing style that I am very attracted to and which I grew up with and which I enjoy; it’s a more literary style say of Graham Greene. ( I like to oscillate between the two diametrically opposed styles.) It’s that “literary” style that I think can add so much to a popular thriller. In other words, the two are not mutually exclusive in my view. In fact there is, I believe, a real plus to the literary style of someone like Graham Greene when you are writing about place. Place is an important part of Red Jungle. And although it was easy for me to write about my mother’s country on one level – I spoke Spanish before I spoke English-- I knew I had to get across that sense of Place through language. If I failed to do that then I felt the novel would fail because it would only be interesting if the reader was really brought to Guatemala-- that special locale. Anyway, that’s what I thought and that’s what I tried to do. If there is a comparison-- and there has been between my political thriller work and Green’s-- it’s because I like to use Greene’s sense of objectivity. Nobody really comes out smelling good in Greene’s world. He reduces politics to the actions of individuals, and that’s what literature is supposed to do. No one gets a free pass. I think I have the same attitude. For example in The Comedians, truly a work of genius, Green captures modern Haiti. He absolutely defines the problems of its colonial status and relation to the US and France over the years. In a way it’s scientific, almost brutal, but sometimes scientists, whether political or medical, have to face the hard truths in order to come up with cures. Good novels help us translate the complexity of the modern world into something understandable. And hopefully we come away more educated. I highly recommend Greene’s The Comedians to everyone. It is a great work of art, and a useful tool in understanding Haiti to this day. That is a remarkable achievement for a novel that’s over 40 years old!

Let’s talk about Día de los Muertos released in Italy with Meridiano Zero. What’s Día de los muertos’s publishing history?

It was published in the US by DMP (Dennis McMillan Publications one of the great and now rightfully famous small crime fiction publishers in the US.) in 1997. I had had trouble placing the book with larger mainstream publishers at the time despite the success of Dark Ride. They viewed Dia De Los Muertos as simply too outré. I’ve never understood that opinion. It was strange to me. However DMP read it and called me back quickly and said they would publish it and damn the torpedoes. They had a hit with it and the book is now considered a noir classic. The original edition sometimes sell for more than they it originally. Funny! Of course I’m proud of the book’s popularity. It was later published By Capra Books, who published Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller and others, in 2004 in trade paper. It’s been published in several countries around the world including in Italy by Meridiano Zero as you said. It’s about to be published by Diversion Books in eBook format this summer in the US. The book has never gone out of print in over 10 years. It always makes me realize that you should never give up on a book just because someone says it’s too much, too shocking.

Can you tell us a little about the writing of the book? What was the most laborious part during the writing?

I wish I could say that Dia De Los Muertos was hard to write, but that’s not true. (Unlike Red Jungle that was difficult.) Dia De Los Muertos poured out of me. I can honestly say that I felt the presence of Hemingway, John Huston and Jim Thompson in the room while I worked. I know that sounds crazy, but some mornings, I swear to you, I felt them there with me giving me advice and cheering me on. (It was very funny and ironic that after publishing the book, John Huston’s son called me on the phone and wanted to make it into a film!) It was wonderful to feel their presence. I hope that happens one or two more times in my life.

Have other works inspired you in the writing of this novel? Was Jim Thompson an influence?

I wanted to do a novel that took place in just one day – twenty-four hours. I knew that, but there is no novel that inspired me in that regard. What happened was this: I had gone down to the bullfights in Tijuana a lot, mostly by myself. Anyway, one day I was having lunch in this place that was a crazy place; it had outdoor seating and all kinds of different people came there: movie stars from LA down for the bullfights, gangsters, Marines, tourists. Just a real mixture of types, and I saw Vincent Calhoun come in. And then I started seeing him other places around town, and that was my inspiration. To me Calhoun exists. He’s a real man. I saw him one Sunday.

Could you tell us a little about your protagonist, Vincent Calhoun?

Vincent Calhoun is a composite of all the tough guys I’ve actually known, and I’ve known some. The thing that makes Calhoun interesting I think is that he doesn’t give a shit. He really doesn’t. He could die or not die in a gunfight. He’s dangerous because he really doesn’t care if he lives or dies. I was working in East Oakland prior to writing Dia De Los Muertos and there was a lot of violence. I’d been working in the worst part of the a hyper-ghetto for several years in fact. I’d almost been killed in a crossfire and I’d kind of lost my mind and didn’t really care anymore if I lived or died as long as I got paid. I just gave up caring. And I think that’s what I infused Calhoun with, my own don’t-give-a-shit attitude. If I died I died. I had that attitude in Guatemala too when I wrote Red Jungle. Thank God I don’t have to live that way now. But it was very real back then and I think it’s what makes some of my novels breath: I’ve been in some crazy places. Unless you’ve really been out on the edge and looked down, then you can’t come back and write about it. Or if you do, I think people know that you’re just “making things up”. There is a lot of Vincent Calhoun I didn’t have to make up, believe me. That’s why he’s real to me, and always will be.

It’s a noir set on the border in the city of Tijuana. Is the Latin world a source of inspiration? Have you read James Elroy’s Tijuana Mon Amour?

Yes the Latin world is a source of inspiration to me. I’ve got that in my blood and I enjoy translating the Latin sensibility to the outside world. I think my thought processess are Latin ones. I have never read Elroy’s Tijuana Mon amour but would like to. I’m going to add it to my must read pile!

I'd like to talk about the day to day process of being a writer. Would you describe a typical working day for you?

I get up very early in the morning and review what I’d done the day before and then dive in. By 11:30 I’m through. I can’t write well after about 12 noon. I leave my desk and go exercise: run, lift weights do something non cerebral. Sometimes, when the book is almost finished, I’ll take a peek at what I’ve done in the late afternoon in preparation for the next day. I don’t work on the weekends, normally. I can’t drink when I’m working. I wish I could, but I can’t. So I don’t. I have to do all my drinking and partying when I’m not working on a book..

Do you write short stories or only novels?

I do write short stories and enjoy them. I would like to write a short story collection before I leave the party.

Who are your favorite living authors?

Le Carre is one name on a very long list.

What's the last book you read?

V.S. Naipaul “An Area Of Darkness”

Do you ever get writer’s block and what do you do when that happens?

Yes, of course. My cure is to keep going to work and facing the page. If it really gets bad I take two or three days off, or work in another part of the book reviewing earlier chapters. I know it will pass and don’t let it freak me out.

Dark ride, The American boys, Red Jungles, The good physician. Do you know if Meridiano Zero translates them into Italian?

I know Meridiano Zero is going to publish Red Jungle soon I hope they do them all!

What is your relationship like with your readers? How can readers get in touch with you?

Well I don’t blog or that kind of thing because I’m always busy working on a novel or a script or something. But I hope that people will join me on Face book which does make me feel connected when I see fans friending my author’s site. It’s a good feeling seeing those faces, because being a novelist is a lonely occupation, let’s face it. And of course they can contact me via my web site. I do read the emails that come through the web site, and when I can, I respond to them. Please feel free to write me via

Do you enjoy touring for literary promotion? Tell to our Italian readers something of amusing about these meetings.

The funniest one was with my first book Dark Ride I was scheduled to appear in a Barnes & Noble in a mall in California and I went and they had not been told anything about me and weren’t expecting me. They put me out by the magazines sitting at a little card table with no books. A man came up to me and told me to please move as he wanted to get to the Penthouse Magazines and I was blocking him. I felt two inches tall and since then have always been afraid when I walk into a bookstore for any kind of appearance, that they will not have been told! And I will be put out, all alone, by the magazines again!

Will you come to Italy again to introduce your novels?

I hope so! As I truly love Italy. I hope someone very rich invites me. Someone with a great hotel who says they’ll pay my restaurant and bar bills too! Call me ( smile)

Finally, the inevitable question: what are you working on now?

I’m working on a new crime novel called FRIENDS OF OURS and some of the story is set in Italy!

martedì 14 giugno 2011

An Interview with James Rollins

    Hi Jim. Thanks for accepting my interview and welcome on Liberidiscrivere. Tell us something about you. Who is James Rollins pen name of Jim Czajkowski? Strengths and weaknesses.

    “James Rollins” is a writer of thrillers, but as the penname implies, I do wear a few hats. I’m also “James Clemens,” a fantasy writer. And “James Czajkowski,” the veterinarian. With so many names, sometimes it’s hard to keep it all straight.

    Tell us something about your background, your studies, your childhood.

    First of all, I blame my mother for my writing career. She read while I was growing up, so I read. And that’s where all the insanity started. Sure, I was interested in animals and science and knew since third grade that I would be a veterinarian--but I also loved to read. And reading was like throwing gasoline on the fire of an overactive imagination. Growing up with three brothers and three sisters, I was the “storyteller” of the family (what my mother called “The Liar”). So fiction writing was in my blood from a very young age. But I never considered writing as a real career. I thought you had to have some literary pedigree to be a successful author, the son of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. So instead I turned to my other passion for a career: veterinary medicine. But I made one mistake. I continued to read—and that little twisted corner of my imagination never fully died away and I began dabbling with writing again in my mid-thirties. First, I wrote a bunch of short stories that are safely buried in my backyard—then my first novel, which actually sold.

    What jobs have you held in the past?

    Prior to becoming a veterinarian and author, I’ve waited tables, spun pizzas in the air, washed dishes. I’ve worked at a pet store, a department store, and a grocery story. I also taught chemistry at a university. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? What about when it comes to fiction? As mentioned above, I’ve always loved spinning stories. But it was only when I was in high school that I actually tried my handing at writing those stories down. In college, though, I set that all aside to concentrate on my veterinary studies. After college, I wrote some nonfiction articles about veterinary medicine, which whet my appetite to want to write fiction. And one day I decided to do just that.

    Tell us something about your debut. Your road to publication. Have you received many refuses?

    Certainly I’ve had my share of rejections: first for all those short stories, then for my first novel. That manuscript was rejected by 50 different agents before one finally agreed to represent it. That book eventually went into a bidding war among two publishers and sold. Even the movie rights got sold. I’m glad at least ONE agent liked the book.

    Is it true that Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum and Wilbur Smith are your influence?

    Definitely. I still read Cussler and Smith, and I miss Robert Ludlum. But I have to mention that Michael Crichton was also a huge influence. Who are your favourite living authors? I love Stephen King, Dan Simmons, George R.R. Martin, Steve Berry, Nevada Barr…oh, the list goes on and on.

    You are the author of bestselling fantasy and action-packed adventure-thrillers. Could you tell us something about your books? Which one is your favourite?

    It’s hard to pick a favorite, but that first book (which was rejected by so many agents) holds a special place in my heart. That book was published in the US under the title Subterranean. Though that book was published as a thriller, it also features telepathic marsupial creatures living under Antarctica…so even in my adventure thrillers, there is a bit of fantasy. All in all, I love to blend weird science and historical mysteries together.

    In 2007, you were hired to write the novelization of the script for the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skul. Tell us something about this experience.

    First of all, I’m a huge Indy fan. In fact, I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. There was a sneak preview of that movie, and I had to be the first to see that movie. I’m just sort of that sort of movie geek (and proudly so!). BUT I had also booked a white-water rafting trip for that same day. I remember paddling really, really fast to make sure I was out of that river in time to make the movie. I didn’t quite make it. I had to go straight from the river to the theater. So I watched Raiders with soaking wet sneakers and damp clothes…and all in all, it’s not a bad way of watching Raiders, added a little something to the viewing. As to writing the novelization, I found it an interesting and fascinating challenge. It was both involving and liberating: deconstructing the script, creating internal monologue, expanding some scenes, contracting others, and inventing brand new scenes. The studio gave me a fairly free hand. And all in all, I was able to add about a dozen entirely new scenes that aren’t in the script or movie. So I had a blast, getting to wear Indy’s hat and crack his whip (if only in my own imagination).

    Could you tell us something about The SIGMA Force series?

    SIGMA Force is my ongoing series featuring a group of former Special Forces soldiers who are retrained in various scientific disciplines and sent out into the world to investigate global threats. They’re basically “scientists with guns,” who get into all sorts of trouble.

    Why did you decide to write Altar of Eden, your last book published in Italy by Editrice Nord ?

    I always wanted to merge my love for animals with my passion for writing. Altar of Eden offered me that chance. It’s what I call the first “veterinary thriller.” .

    How long did the process of writing the Altar of Eden take?

    Like most of my novels, I spend about 3 months researching and crafting the general plot, then it takes about 7 months to write it and another month to polish it.

    Have other works inspired you in the writing of this novel?

    The biggest inspiration can be found at the very beginning of that novel. I use a quote from H.G. Wells, from his novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Altar of Eden is my homage to that great and frightening story of animal research gone amok.

    Could you tell us something about the plot of this book without revealing the final?

    Sure. It feature a veterinarian, who stumbles upon an exotic-animal smuggling ring, only to discover that something is horribly wrong with these animals, that they’ve been experimented upon at the genetic level. She must discover why this was done and how to stop them before a horror is unleashed that will threaten all of mankind.

    Could you tell us a little about your protagonists?

    The veterinarian is Dr. Lorna Polk. She works for a research facility outside New Orleans that is attempting to save endangered species. When she’s called in by the border patrol to help investigate a shipwrecked trawler, she must team up with Jack Menard, a border patrol agent who shares a dark history with her. The story is full of adventure, suspense, and explores the redemptive power of love.

    When will your next book be released in Italy?

    My next instalment of my children’s series (Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx) will be out Summer 2012. And the next Sigma book (The Devil Colony) will be released around the same time…if not sooner. I haven’t heard the exact release date yet.

    I'd like to talk about the day to day process of being a writer. Would you describe a typical working day for you?

    My writing routing is pretty much the same everyday: I write 4-5 pages in the morning, take a lunch break, and write another 1-2 pages and edit in the afternoon. The rest of the time (1-2 hours a day) is spent on the business side of writing: answering mail, etc. They are generally very full days. I’ll do that Monday through Friday—and I take the weekend off.

    Your books have been translated for publication in several country. Is this exciting?

    Yes, I’m thrilled. An author’s goal is to get his books read as widely as possible. To know the stories are now being read in over thirty countries is both gratifying and humbling.

    You are a critically acclaimed author. Have you received bad reviews?

    Of course. I don’t think any single book can appeal to every reader. There will always be those readers or reviewers who are not going to like your book. My goal is to write the most exciting and sincere novel that I can and put it out there. Some will like it; others won’t.

    Do you write short stories or only novels?

    I still do write a few short stories. I’ve had stories published in anthologies edited by James Patterson, George R.R. Martin, and R.L. Stine. And I just wrote a story that is coming available in e-book format that ties into the next Sigma novel. It’s a great diversion to be able to write a shorter story every now and then.

    Any movie projects from your books?

    Yes, the late great Dino De Laurentiis read my books during a trip to Italy. He read them in Italian and loved them enough to call me and invite me to his home in Hollywood. From that meeting, I ended up selling his company the film rights to the Sigma series.

    What are you reading at the moment?

    Actually I’m reading my way through the Hugo nominees (the best science fiction novels). I do that every year. I’m currently reading Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold.

    Do you enjoy touring for literary promotion? Tell to our Italian readers something of amusing about these meetings.

    I do. I even did a tour in Italy a couple of years ago. And I’ve certainly had my share of amusing experiences on the road: people showing up in costumes, another time someone came to a signing with a boa constrictor around his neck…and once I even fielded a proposal for marriage (which I declined since I had never met this person before).

    You have a very intense fan base. What is your relationship like with your readers? How can readers get in touch with you?

    I have a great time chatting with people online. My website has a “contact James” button for sending me email, but I’m also very active on Facebook and Twitter. So if you want to know what I’m doing most days, just follow me on Twitter or join me on Facebook.

    Finally, the inevitable question: what are you working on now?

    I’m polishing up the next volume of my kid’s series, featuring time-traveling boy-archaeologist, Jake Ransom, and working on the next big Sigma adventure. I’m also working on a secret project that I’m not yet allowed to talk about. How’s that for ending on a mystery?

    sabato 4 giugno 2011

    Interview with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

    Hi Mr Preston and Mr Child. Thanks for accepting my interview and welcome on Liberidiscrivere. Tell us something about you. Strengths and weaknesses.

    Doug: I do most of the work and Linc just sits around giving advice.
    Linc: Not true! Actually, we both live 300 miles apart so we write our books together using mostly the telephone and, of course, the internet.
    Doug: We each have our own areas of expertise. Mine is in archaeology, history, mathematics and physics, while Linc is the expert in computers, codebreaking, food, wine, and the finer things in life.

    Tell us something about your background, your studies, your childhood.

    Doug: I grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley, outside of Boston.
    Linc: And I grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Westport, Connecticut. We have that in common. Doug, I understand, was a quasi-criminal growing up, in trouble all the time, while I obeyed the law.
    Doug: We’re still like that. Linc’s the find, upstanding, law abiding citizen while I am a bit of an outlaw.

    When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

    Doug: When I was eight, I wrote a book with a friend called Animal Valley.
    Linc: And I also started writing seriously around the same age.

    What about when it comes to fiction? Do you read other contemporary writers?

    Doug: I love the books of Michael Crichton, Nelson DeMille, Ruth Rendell, as well as many of the 19th century English classics such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens.

    Linc: Add Dennis Lehane to that list, along with H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James.

    Tell us something about your debut. Your road to publication. Have you received many refuses?

    Our first novel, Relic, was turned down by five or six publishers. It gave us great satisfaction when it was a huge bestseller, and then Paramount made a film of it.

    You have written many crime novels and a number of other novels. Which one is your favourite?

    I think we both agree that The Cabinet of Curiosities may be our best novel.

    Yours crime novels about special agent Pendergast have been translated into many languages. Is this exciting?

    Very much so. In fact we get many, many emails from our Italian readers, who love Pendergast. Since Doug reads and writes Italian he answers all those emails. It gives him language practice.

    Could you tell us a little about your main protagonist, Aloysius X. L. Pendergast?

    He is unique, a 19th century gentleman trapped in a corrupt 21st century world. But his principles are unbending, his mind is as bright as a flame. He realizes he cuts quite an eccentric figure, but he doesn’t care. He is extremely impatient with people, but the one thing he cannot abide is stupid, unbending bureaucracy.

    Why did you decide to write Relic?

    Most of our novels are partly or mainly set in New York City, often in and around the American Museum of Natural History. The story of how we came to write about the Museum is a curious one. I had been writing a column in the magazine Natural History, published by the Museum, where I worked. An editor from St. Martin's Press, who had been reading my pieces, called me up and asked if I wanted to write a history of the Museum. I said yes -- and that became my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. After the book was published, I gave the editor a tour of the Museum -- at midnight. I showed him all the best places in the Museum to which I had access--the dinosaur bone storage room, the collection of 30,000 rats in jars of alcohol, the whale eyeball collection, the preserved mastodon stomach with its last meal inside, and a lot of other unusual things. We ended up in the Hall of Late Dinosaurs around 2:00 a.m., with only the emergency lights on, the great black skeletons looming in the darkness around us--and the editor turned to me and said: "Doug, this is the scariest damn building in the world. Let's write a thriller set in here." And that was the birth of Relic, which was, of course, a huge bestseller and eventually a number one box office hit movie. That editor was Lincoln Child. We both discovered we shared the same kind of sick, twisted view of the world. That was how our long and fruitful collaboration began.

    How long did the process of writing the Relic take?

    About two to three years. We were both working on other books.

    Cemetery Dance is another your books translated in Italian. Could you tell us something about the plot of this book without revealing the final?

    A New York City journalist is savagely assaulted in his own apartment—by a killer whom eyewitnesses swear died two weeks before… Now his wife will stop at nothing to learn the truth. Evidence points to a reclusive cult given to dark ritual, animal sacrifice—and, rumor has it, reanimating the dead. But the more she learns, the more she grows endangered—until her life is threatened in an unthinkable way…

    …What secrets lie buried in the ancient church deep within Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park?

    I'd like to talk about the day to day process of being a writer. Would you describe a typical working day for you?

    I work like anyone else, about eight hours a day. I get to work around eight and knock off at around four or five. I often work early mornings Saturday too.

    Any movie projects from your books?

    Quite a few. Gideon’s Sword is being made into an entire series of films by Paramount. The Monster of Florence is being made into a movie starring George Clooney. Riptide is being made into a movie by 20th Century Fox. And we have other books under option.

    Who are your favourite living authors?

    David Morrell, Steve Berry, James Rollins, Gayle Lynds, Mario Spezi.

    What are you reading at the moment?

    Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain (Doug)
    Au Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans (Linc, in French)

    Do you enjoy touring for literary promotion? Tell to our Italian readers something of amusing about these meetings.

    We enjoy touring together. We often get into arguments about who should write the sex scenes in our books. We each think the other’s sex scenes are pathetic and we both feel sorry for each other’s wives as a result.

    What role does the Internet play in writing, researching, and marketing your books? How about e-publishing? Where do you see that heading?

    The internet for us is essential, since we live so far apart. It has made research much easier. Now, instead of spending a week researching one fact, we can get the information in ten minutes. Google Street View even tells us what specific places look like. As for ebooks, there is a big change coming. Even though we are both partial to old-fashioned paper books, we welcome the change.

    What changes have you noticed in the world of fiction in the time you've been writing?

    Of course many authors have come and gone, and tastes have changed. Too many young people are not reading these days, spending most of their time on the computer. But there will always be room for good books, and there will always be readers. Of that we are convinced.

    What is your relationship like with your readers? How can readers get in touch with you?

    We love interacting with our readers. We each have personal facebook pages as well as a fan page, which we post on almost every day. Italian readers are welcome to post in Italian – we have many Italian friends. Doug will answer their posts in Italian. Come and visit us at Be sure to “like” the page, so that our comments wills show up on your newsfeed.

    Finally, the inevitable question: what are you working on now?

    Our next Pendergast novel, Cold Vengeance, which will be published in the US in August. And Doug is working on The Monster of Florence, which will be a film starring George Clooney.

    sabato 7 maggio 2011

    Roger Jon Ellory

    Tell us something about your background, your studies, your childhood.

    I was born in 1965. My mother was unmarried, and my father left before I was born. I still have no idea who he is. My mother and my maternal grandmother raised me up until I was seven, and then my mother died of pneumonia, and I was sent to a number of different schools and orphanages. I stayed there until I was sixteen, and then I returned to live with my grandmother, but she died of a heart attack a few months later, and so – at sixteen – I was left with my brother, who was seventeen, with no parents, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles or other relatives. We got into some trouble with the Police, and we went to prison for three months, and then a couple of years later we went our separate ways, and didn’t see each other for about fifteen years. I had no idea of what I wanted to do in life. I had no formal qualifications. I did not attend any colleges or universities. I just got on with living life, and when I was twenty-two I had a realisation that what I wanted to do was write. I had never written anything before, and it just came to me that this is what I wanted to do.

    What jobs have you held in the past?

    I have worked in the freight industry, I have held office jobs, I have taught children, I have worked with charities who help people get off drugs, all sorts of things!

    When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

    I always knew, fundamentally, that I wanted to do something creative, but I had no idea what it would be. I was interested in music, art, photographhy, film, but in November of 1987 I had a conversation with a friend who was reading a book. He talked about this book with such passion and such intensity, and it was as if someone had switched a light on in my mind. ‘That’s what I want to do!’ I thought. ‘I wanted to write books that make people feel like that!’, and so – that evening – I started writing. And what do I think drew me to writing? I loved reading. That was the simplicity of it. I just loved reading. Always had the thought there that it would be great to write something capable of moving someone emotionally, to create that kind of effect, to have someone read something you’d written and be moved by it. That was the thing: to feel like you had something worth saying.

    What about when it comes to fiction? Do you read other contemporary writers?

    I do not read a great deal of crime, but I try to read as much as I can. I like authors that challenge the rules of writing. I like to read writers who inspire me to work harder. I like to read authors who make me feel uncomfortable, who engage me emotionally, who make me think about life and love and people and reality.

    Tell us something about your debut. Your road to publication. Have you received many refuses?

    I started writing on November 4th 1987, and between then and July 17th 1993 I wrote something every day except for three days when I was going through a divorce. I completed twenty two novels in that time, something in the region of three and a half million words, and at different times I was in discussion with a couple of agents, with one or two publishing companies, but nothing ever really got as far as I would have liked. I wrote first of all in longhand, and then I got a typewriter, and finally ended up with an Amstrad wordprocessor that took about half an hour to warm up! I spent those six years sending material out to British publishers, and received about five hundred complimentary, very polite ‘Thanks but no thanks’ letters. I also have two lever arch files with something in the region of three or four hundred straightforward format rejection slips. This is just from companies that didn’t even look at the material I sent them. I understand the sheer volume of work that a handful of people have to wade through in a publishing house. People have given me figures on just how many unsolicited scripts come to the major publishing houses each week, and that figure is astounding. My belief was that if I just kept on going I would eventually find the right person in the right company at the right time. I had this datum from Disraeli who said ‘Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose’. However, after six years of doing this I finally thought, ‘Enough’s enough’, and I stopped writing. I then studied music, photography, all manner of things, and didn’t go back to writing until the latter part of 2001. The thing that prompted my return to writing was 9/11. I couldn’t stop thinking about the three thousand or so people who went to work that morning and never returned home. It made me think of something my grandmother used to say: ‘Never lead a ‘What if…’ life.’ She used to say that finding your vocation in life was the secret of happiness. I thought about when I had been happiest in my life, and it was when I was writing. So I went back to it. I thought about the quote from Disraeli again, and came to the conclusion that maybe I just didn’t try hard enough. It was then that I wrote ‘Candlemoth’. I sent that to thirty-six publishers, thirty-five of whom sent it back. All except Bloomsbury, and an editor there gave it to a friend who gave it to a friend, and it wound up at Orion with my current editor, and we have now worked together through nine books. Since Orion signed me there have been a couple of comments made by a couple of publishers I have met about how they should perhaps have pursued things with a little more tenacity back in the early days. The earlier unpublished stuff will probably stay right where it is in the loft. It was a different genre, more supernatural in a way, and I write better now anyway. I think the time away from it between 1993 and 2001 made me more succinct, gave me a greater clarity about what I wanted to say. I have gone back recently and read some of my earlier work and it was a little verbose. But hell, it was good practice!

    Why did you decide to write Candlemoth?

    I really decided to write the kind of book that I believed I would like to read, as opposed to the kind of book that I felt others would enjoy. The basis of Candlemoth was simple. I wanted to cover that time period: the 50s, 60s and 70s. I wanted to write about the Kennedys, about Vietnam, about Watergate and Nixon. I wanted to build a story that would segue into those topics without struggling to do so. I wanted to have a backdrop of authentic history against which I could place characters that were fighting something, being challenged and tested. I wanted to put ordinary people in extraordinary situations and see how they handled it. It comes down to people, always comes down to people. People are what fascinates me more than anything. Greatest advice I ever heard about writing was to write about what interests you. More than likely you’ll find it interests others as well. Well, I always wanted to know more about people, and that’s what I try to do with all my work. Get inside peoples’ heads, look at their reasons, their motives, their dreams and aspirations. Put them in situations where they have to handle difficulties and work things out, but at the same time try and reflect the element of humour that seems to keep us smiling in the face of adversity. Really it began with the idea of the conflict between what one was expected to do, and what one wanted to do. It was a matter of people being faced with choices that weren’t really choices. Like a white boy maintaining loyalty with a black boy and vice versa in the face of conflict and disagreement and prejudice. Like the Draft. Like being in prison, being on Death Row in fact, and feeling that there is nothing left one can do to change what has happened. It is that issue, the one of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and what they do about it.

    How long did the process of writing the Candlemoth take?

    I wrote Candlemoth in about three months, as far as I can remember. I tend to write about forty or fifty thousand words a month, and thus a one hundred and fifty thousand word novel will take me about three months. That is my working rate, and always has been.

    Have other works inspired you in the writing of this novel?

    Well, other works must have inspired me, but I don’t know what they are! I think Candlemoth was the culmination of a great deal of experience and a great deal of reading, watching films, documentaries. It really was a distillation of many thoughts and ideas, all of which I was interested in.

    A Quiet Vendetta is a sort of Mafia story. Could you tell us something about the plot of this book without revealing the finale?

    Well, as with many things, I had always possessed a deep and profound interest in the Mafia. A very deep fascination with organized crime, with the way in which a family can become an empire which can control a city or a country for years and years. Additionally, there is the issue of the family itself. The Mafia were all about family. The loyalty was with the family. That was the most important thing of all. For me I am always looking for the emotional connection in a story, and with this one it was easy – the sense of loyalty engendered in people for no other reason than blood. Also, I wanted to write a novel about the worst kind of human being I could think of, and yet write him in such a way as that when the reader comes to the end of the book they have almost forgiven him, they perhaps have some understanding of why he was how he was, why he did the things he did, and they perhaps even wish him to evade the law. That was the idea behind the book, and from what people have told me I seem to have accomplished that. People read the book and they actually end up liking him! That character, the central character of A Quiet Vendetta, is Ernesto Perez, a Cuban, and we follow him throughout his life, through his involvements with Italian-American organised crime families, all the way from the 1930s to present day. I tried to weave a fictional thread through a factual background, hence we deal with the heads of the Five Families, with the deaths of the Kennedys, of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban revolution, the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, all these things. I wanted to write it in such a way as it could all be possibly true. When all is said and done, it has to be a good story. It has to interest and engage and challenge, and I think it is a powerful story and that people who read it get swept away with it. Vendetta holds a special place for me. It was written very quickly, in about eight weeks, and I worked at it for many hours every day. I wanted to write it quickly. I knew it was going to be a big novel, and I knew that if I took months and months to write it then it would perhaps read very slowly. This was my concern. I wanted to get the work done rapidly so as to keep some of the energy and immediacy that comes from working that fast. I researched the factual and historical aspects of the book as I went. I ‘lived’ in that world for all that time. I spent all my waking hours thinking about the story, about the characters, about what would happen. I do not work out books before I start them. I do not do outlines or a synopsis. I just start with the first scene and a basic idea of what I want the book to be about, and then I think about it and plot it as I go. It is often the case that I do not know how the book will end until I am thirty or forty pages away from completing it. A Quiet Vendetta is a big, powerful, evocative, challenging novel about the Mafia. I felt it was something I had to do. Though I have not read Puzo’s ‘Godfather’ I have seen the films, also ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Once Upon a Time in America’, other such movies, and I wanted to create something that was as epic and as cinematic as these things. I do not know that I will ever write another Mafia-based book. I feel like I accomplished what I wanted with ‘Vendetta’ and I am very proud of it as a novel.

    Now talk about your novel A Quiet Belief in Angels. What inspired you to write it? What was the starting point in the writing process?

    I went to visit a friend of mine in Austria, and I too a copy of ‘In Cold Blood’ to read on the flight. I thought it was a superb book. I read it a second time, and then became very, very interested in Capote, how the book came about, who he was, etc. I read his published works, some articles about him, and I came to the conclusion that here was a writer who gave his life for a book. 'In Cold Blood' made him very rich, very respected, the most famous author in America for many, many years, but ultimately it killed him. Afterwards he never really published another word, and certainly never completed another novel, and he drank himself to death. So there was the thing: A book could save someone's life, but it could also kill them. The other aspect of it was the fact that Capote left Monroeville, Alabama as a child and went to New York. The 'In Cold Blood' research (which he undertook with his childhood friend and neighbour, Harper Lee, author of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and a childhood friend of Capote's) took him from New York back to smalltown, mid-west America, namely Holcomb, Kansas. So there was the other interesting idea: the juxtaposition of two worlds - smalltown mid-west America and bigtown New York. Those were the basic threads of inspiration that started me thinking about writing the book. And I wanted to write something that would (hopefully!) make people feel the way I had felt when I read such things as To Kill a Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter etc etc. A Southern drama. A sweaty, sticky, intense, almost claustrophobic drama that dealt with the seeming indomitability of the human spirit against all odds. I didn't want to write a book where a Police investigation resulted in the apprehension of a killer, the three pages of psychological revelation about why the killer did what he did, the jealousy, the mother complex, the desperate attempts to kill someone who represented some other significant figure in the killer's earlier life etc etc. I didn't want the story to be about the killer, but the effect that the killer's actions had - not on those he killed - but on the people whose lives he touched indirectly...and that - as they say - was that!

    What was the most laborious part during the writing?

    Oh, I don’t think there was any laborious part. I enjoy writing very much. I enjoy the actual day-to-day process of creating characters and stories. I enjoy the research. This is what I do. John Lennon said, ‘Find something you love and you’ll never work another day’, and I feel like that about writing. It does not feel like ‘work’. It is just as exciting and interesting for me now as it was ten years ago, twenty years ago.

    Could you tell us a little about your protagonist?

    Joseph Vaughan, the central character of A Quiet Belief In Angels, is a child with more wisdom and empathy than you expect from a twelve year-old. We begin the book with the death of his father, and Joseph, before he is even a teenager, has to face the responsibility of being a contributory member of his family, and also of caring for his mother. He lives in a small town in the south of America. It is the late 1930s, America has seen the Depression, and will soon be involved in WW II. It is against this backdrop that a series of murders takes place, the murders of young girls who are friends of Joseph’s, his schoolmates. Joseph feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to prevent these murders happening, and so – amidst tension and bigotry and racism – he does what he can to defend the town in which he lives against the terrible effects of these murders. The effects and consequences of these killings follow Joseph like a ghost through his entire life, and we live that life with him, all the way into adulthood. I wanted to create a character who was flaeed, troubled, distressed, but at the same time possessed a tremendous sense of personal integrity, an integrity that would help him overcome all the obstacles that he faced in trying to discover the truth about these killings. A Quiet belief in Angels is not a book about a serial killer as such, but more a book about the effects that such events have on people, on a town, a community, a society.

    A Simple Act of Violence will be soon published in Italy? Could you tell us something about the plot?

    A Simple Act of Violence, the sixth book, is essentially two stories – a series of contemporary killings in Washington DC and how these killings are linked to the undercover actions of the CIA in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The book deals with everything from the founding of the CIA, how people are indoctrinated and recruited into the CIA, the actions the CIA have taken over the years in forwarding American foreign policy, and some of the corruption that has surrounded these actions. At the same time we follow in the footsteps of a dedicated but troubled Washington Homicide Detective, Robert Miller, as he tries to make sense of a series of killings that seem to possess no coherent motive, and victims that possess no verifiable identity. The stories – both of the CIA, and the current Washington murders – finally become the same story.

    Do you write short stories or only novels?

    I have written three or four short stories for magazines, but I am a novelist, forst and foremost.

    I'd like to talk about the day-to-day process of being a writer. Would you describe a typical working day for you?

    Writing a book is a sort of ongoing organic process. I buy a notebook, a good quality one, because I know I’m going to be carrying it around for two or three months, and in the notebook I will write down ideas I have as I go. Little bits of dialogue, things like that. Sometimes I have a title, sometimes not. I used to feel very strongly about having a good title before I started, but now – because at least half the books I’ve published have ended up with a different title - I am not so obsessive about it! Also, there seems to be two types of writer – those that plot and those that don’t. I’m the second type of writer. I have a vague idea of the kind of story I want to tell, a good idea of the emotion I want to create, and a definite decision about when and where it’s going to take place. The immediacy and spontaneity of not planning a complete novel appeals to me. I get involved with the characters, and sometimes I just change my mind about where I want them to go, or how I want them to handle certain things. As the story evolves so do they, and the decisions they then have to make can thus influence the plot and vice versa. I don’t write methodically-planned police procedurals. I believe I write human dramas where the crime is actually a secondary issue. The books are more about the effect of such things on people, and that’s what has always interested me. I think if I sat and planned a book – chapter by chapter, section by section – then by the time I had finished the plan I wouldn’t want to write the book anymore as there would be no flexibility and unpredictability about the process. It’s the writing itself that enthuses me, and that element of uncertainty with which I approach a book makes it all the more interesting and challenging. And as for the actual day’s work? Well, I try to write three or four thousand words a day, and on that basis I get about fifteen or twenty thousand words done a week. That is the routine for me. I am working each day, seeing where the book is going, finding out what I want to do with it, making decisions, changing my mind etc. When I am done with the first draft I go back to the start, and now that I know how the book will end, well I just fix everything that now doesn’t make sense.

    Do you feel that any critics have influenced your work?

    Well, criticism is par for the course, but I don’t think it has influenced what I do or how I write. It’s something that you have to accept will always be there. It bothers me greatly when I read reviews on amazon, and someone says, ‘This is rubbish. I have a six year-old who could write better than this’. Sometimes the comments are wholly vicious and unpleasant. The frustrating thing for me is that I meet a lot of people who have read and enjoyed the books, and yet they don’t put reviews on the net. Amazon – fortunately or unfortunately – is one of the very, very few public forums where people can post reviews that will be read by people. In my experience, the number of people who post reviews versus the number of people who have read the books in infinitesimal. I really wish people would post reviews! Regardless, the bottom line is that you are not going to please everyone, and if you spend all your time worrying about what people think then you’ll never do anything for fear of criticism. You learn to accept it, to try not to be bothered too much by it, but sometimes the things you read are so hostile that you wonder what purpose the person is trying to accomplish by saying such things. However, more often than not, people have been very kind and very complimentary about the work, and the newspaper and magazine critics and reviewers have been especially good.

    Do you enjoy touring for literary promotion? Tell to our Italian readers something of amusing about these meetings.

    I do enjoy touring. It is the one way in which you can actually meet people who have read the books and get some direct feedback and response. I toured a great deal last year, over forty cities in eleven countries, and in the second half of this year I will be touring again. Something amusing? Well, just meeting readers can be funny and challenging and very interesting. Everyone is different, everyone has a different meaning for the book, and sometimes you are asked questions and you definitely feel as though the reader believes that your own life is like the lives of the characters you have created! You are expected to remember everything you have ever written, and you are expected to be able to answer every question you are asked, and sometimes that is impossible!

    Will you come in Italy to introduce your novels?

    Well, in December of 2010 I was in Courmayeur for the Noir Festival, and I will be in Piacenza in June this year, and then in Mantova as well.

    Any movie projects from your books?

    Well, I received an e-mail last year from a French film director called Olivier Dahan. He was the man who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning film ‘La Vie En Rose’. He had finished reading the French translation of A Quiet Belief In Angels, and he wrote to me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a screenplay for him. I went to Paris to meet with him, and we got along great. We had a very definite agreement on how a film could be made of the book. I left Paris with the feeling that it might come off. A few weeks later I got word that the production company ‘Legende Films’ was ready to go ahead, and then I signed the contracts to write the screenplay for the film. I have now completed that first draft, but I am uncertain whether the project will now go ahead. The basic difference between a book and a film is that so much of a book is about what people think and feel, whereas a great deal of a film is about what they say and do. It was a challenge to adapt such an introspective and internal book into a film, but I really believe I did a good job. It was a very good experience for me, and it taught me a great deal about succinct writing. It taught me a lot about saying more with less words. The film industry is its own thing. Nothing can happen for two years, and then everything happens in two weeks. We shall see if anything ever comes of it.

    What are you reading at the moment?

    I am just finishing ‘Dispatches’ by Michael Herr. This is a great book, and I started reading it as I am writing a book with a central character who served in Vietnam, so this is part research. After I have finished ‘Dispatches’ I will read ‘Twilight’ by William Gay.

    What is your relationship like with your readers? How can readers get in touch with you?

    Well, people can find me on facebook or through my website ( I receive a lot of e-mails – about fifty a day – and I answer every single one of them personally.

    Finally, the inevitable question. Are you currently working on a new novel? Any other projects?

    Well, I have a new book out in the UK in October called ‘Bad Signs’, and then another book is completed for 2012. I am currently working on the book for 2013, and because this does not have to be delivered to my publisher for more than a year I have embarked upon a long outstanding project to form a band and record a CD. I am the singer and guitar player for ‘The Whiskey Poets’, a three-piece blues/rock trio, and we hope to be recording in the studio in the next couple of months.