Monday, October 12, 2015

Answering some Bloody Questions from Germany

The German crime fiction website Krimi-Welt interviewed me as part of their "Bloody Questions/The Crime Questionnaire" series of Q&As with authors (the first Crissa Stone novel, COLD SHOT TO THE HEART, has just been reissued in a German-language edition from Pendragon Verlag publishers as KALTER SCHUSS INS HERZ). The German version of the interview is here. I won't attempt to translate interviewer Marcus M√ľntefering's introduction, but here's the interview below, in the original English:

1: Have you ever thought about committing a crime/committed a crime?

As far as the act, nothing significant, fortunately. In regards to the thought, who hasn’t? The question is why some people follow through on it and others don’t. Is it conscience, fear, upbringing? All good questions for crime fiction.

2: Who is the worst villain of the history of (crime) literature?
A great crime novel – or any novel for that matter – will create a certain amount of sympathy for even its worst villains. That’s what gives the stories resonance (Thomas Harris’ RED DRAGON is a perfect example). Who’s the most unsympathetic villain in crime fiction? I’m not sure, maybe Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. He’s certainly one of the most enigmatic.


3: Do you remember the first person you ever killed in your novels?
Yes, a major character toward the end of my first novel, THE BARBED-WIRE KISS. I was surprised at the sense of loss I felt. That scene was difficult to write.

4: The Beatles or Stones question: Chandler or Hammett?
Both great writers, but I will always prefer Hammett. Discovering his books in my teenage years changed my life. His novels felt like they were set in the real world, one I recognized. THE GLASS KEY will always stay with me. I think it’s his masterpiece, even more so than THE MALTESE FALCON. 

5: Have you ever seen a dead body? And how did it affect your life?
Everyone has. If nothing else, it reminds you that time is finite and the carnival always ends, usually before you’re ready.

6: Have you ever witnessed a crime?
 Yes, and we’ll leave it at that.

7: Is there anybody in the world you’d rather see dead?
No, but there are quite a few people who have passed on that I wish were still alive.

8: How did you make a living before you became a success as a writer?
I worked in daily newspapers for 23 years as a reporter and editor. I still freelance for magazines and newspapers when possible. 

9: If you wouldn’t write crime novels – what would you (like to) do?
Direct films. But in one sense that’s what I’m already doing with the novels, except I have an unlimited budget and no one to second-guess me. 

10: Do you listen to music when you are writing? And if this is a yes: What music? 
Off and on. I did a CD playlist for my third novel GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER which included some of the music I listened to while I wrote it, mainly old-school soul and R&B, which figured into the plot. But I wrote the first three Crissa Stone novels listening exclusively to the music of American minimalist composers Philip Glass and John Adams. I found their work beautiful and hypnotic in a way that seemed to aid the writing process.

11: Do you prefer to write at day or at night? At your desk at home or everywhere you go?
I write at night, usually from ten p.m. on. I have to write at my desk at home, or someplace similar. I have a laptop but don’t really do much first-draft writing on it because it feels a little awkward. I can’t work in public – coffee shops, libraries, etc. – at all. Too many distractions. I know several excellent writers who do though.

12: Are the any days where you can’t write a word? What do you do then?
Collate and recopy notes, look up visual references, handle correspondence. Those days come more often than you’d think. A lot of times it’s fatigue-related though, and in those cases short naps seem to help. 

13: What happens after death? And: What should happen after death?
I like to think we go back into the universal soup we came from and are reunited with everything that is, ever was, and ever will be. 

14: Crime and Punishment: What do you think of capitol punishment?
I’m generally opposed to it, although it can be hard to make that argument when the crimes are as horrific as they sometimes are.  But it’s never been applied fairly in terms of class, and the astonishing number of Death Row inmates who have been freed and exonerated based on new evidence indicates the process is far from foolproof. But it is final.

15: What do you make of Bert Brecht’s statement: What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?“
As James Lee Burke has answered eloquently in his "Bloody Questions" interview, banks helped create the middle class by granting access to money to those who didn’t have it. However, that concept of banking – and the IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE version of the “good ol’ Savings and Loan” – is a far cry from the current monolithic financial institutions whose greed and recklessness sent the world’s economy into a downward spiral that will be felt for generations. 

16: What should be written on your tombstone?
“Wow, he was old.”

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