I should tell you that I am not going to recommend one of his books, which I normally do on Thriller Thursdays. Here's why: I'd rather you go to his website, or some bookseller's website (just click, I've made it easy!), and look at his work and choose one for yourself. The other reason is that I am going to recommend one specifically next week, one that I'm reading now but haven't finished yet.
I'm double-dipping with David because, well, we're on first-name terms. Here's what kind of elitist, ivory-tower author he is: I wrote asking for an interview and we ended up having coffee for two, very enjoyable hours. And he paid for his own! So, he's not only a fabulous writer but an exceptionally nice person, which means he gets twice the recommendation from me.
- Did you always want to be a writer growing up, or did you come to it as an adult?
See next question.
- Did you have a lot of support when you began writing, or did you suffer the same raised eyebrow most of us do? In other words, what kept you motivated at the start of your career?
I had wanted to write fiction since I was in high school, but I married young and my wife and I had children young, so the pressure for a reliable paycheck kept me too busy to write. But by the time I reached the age of thirty-five, my suppressed desire to be a novelist reached a critical mass. I felt like it was "now or never." So I took a night job and wrote during the day. The kind of fiction I chose to write was purely an economic decision. I had to make money at this, or give it up. I had already done an informal survey of what kind of fiction sold best and steadily over several decades, and "mystery novels" seemed to be the direction to go. I'd never read a mystery novel, so I bought about twenty, twenty-five of them, and read them all, one after the other. Then I launched off and wrote my first hundred pages. Luckily I managed to sell the pages, but the novel's advance was small, so I kept the night job and started another book. The advance I got for my second novel allowed me to begin writing full-time. But that was in the early '80s. The publishing world environment was quite different then...before the scores of privately owned publishers merged into the handful of corporate giants of today.
- What is your writing schedule?
I write most of the day--until I feel like I've just about squeezed myself for all I can get. I begin around 8:00-8:30, take an hour for lunch. I keep promising myself that I'll QUIT at 3:00 every afternoon, and then devote myself to reading. But it's a promise I keep breaking.
- Do you actively look for story ideas (combing newspapers etc), or do they just come to you?
No. The truth is, it's easy to come up with new stories. (I worked closely with homicide detectives in the Houston Police Department for a couple of decades, so there was a lot of stimulus for the imagination in those experiences.) But the hard part is coming up with commercial stories, something you can sell. That gets harder and harder as the market changes and, in this genre, at least, as the gymnastics of the plot demands overtake, and overwhelm, other aspects of fiction writing.
- Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre?
Yes, but again, the marketplace changes are happening so fast now that it's tough to know where to land. I make my living writing, so it comes down to sticking with what I know. For now, anyway.
- Who are you favorite authors?
Actually, after those initial twenty or so novels I pretty much quit reading much fiction. And I certainly don't read fiction in "my genre". I used to be apologetic about that, but over the years I've talked to a number of writers who are the same way.
- Which novel are you most proud of?
This is an unsatisfactory answer, but it's the truth: each novel is "special" , or "least favorite" in its own way to me. I find it difficult to separate them from the memories of the struggles I had writing them. That colors everything for me. Picking one that I'm most proud of just doesn’t seem possible.
- If you could offer just one piece of advice to aspiring novelists, what would it be?
Love it or leave it. It doesn't always pay well. Reviewers can be unkind (though when they love your work it's like experiencing levitation). Every book is hard work, and it beats you up, and fills you with waves of doubt about your talent and your sanity. So if you don't love it, the pain just isn't worth it.
- Do you outline your novels?
No. But I keep a journal for each novel and record my thoughts about characters and motivation and pacing and where I'm going, or where I think I'm going. Often I'm not going where I think I'm going. Very often.
- How much energy do you put into the language aspect of your novels, the “art” so to speak?
I just sort of go with the flow on that. Every novel has its own "personality", and so for the first 100 pages or so you're trying to "feel" that personality. When you get it, then the language finds its voice. The first 100 pages are usually very difficult for me because I'm trying to find the voices of my characters, the beginning threads of the plot, and the tone of the narrative. It's all a bit much, and very demanding.
- Is there any part of being a professional, full-time writer that you don't like?
I used to think not. But, as the years go by, and after fourteen novels, I realize that the solitude is a price you have to pay. Luckily solitude suits me...for the most part...but after a while you do realize it’s a sacrifice. I recommend regular dinners with good food, good friends, and lots of wine after those long, lonely days.
- You’ve taken a few years off, what were you doing?
I got really frustrated with the publishing business about five years ago and tried my hand at other things. I worked on a television documentary about an new architectural project that was under development. I spent two years on that before it fell through...much to the disappointment of my agents in
- You’ve just finished a novel – can you share the basic plot?
Uh-oh, now I've got to reveal a superstition. I consider it bad luck to talk about a novel until I'm completely through with it, and that means when the publisher and I have finished editing and they've put it to bed. So there's still some more to do on this one. I can say, however, that it's set in