With Robert Crais releasing his eleventh Elvis Cole Novel, The Watchman (Orion), in March, Chris High dropped him a line with a few questions via the wonders of Email. Here are his answers. Robert is set to visit the UK from March 26th. See www.robertcrais.com for details.
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Why concentrate more on Joe Pike, now, in this the eleventh Elvis Cole novel?
I’ve wanted to write this novel or a novel like it since the second or third book in the series. It would have been easy to dismiss Pike as Elvis Cole’s sidekick, a kind of double-Y chromosome thug, but he’s a man of great depth and complexity. His complexities make him enigmatic, so I wanted to explore them. I didn’t know how until now. I never had the ‘right’ Pike story until I created Larkin Barkley and her situation. The Watchman is the perfect story for Pike.
Cole and Pike are very much two sides of the same coin. Were such contradictory character traits difficult to create and do you feel the characters are still growing?
I used to believe the coin analogy, too, but I no longer feel that way about them. In some ways, I see them as the same man, somehow split apart early in life with each man following a path defined by different choices. Defining and exploring these choices—what you’re calling their contradictory character traits—man, that’s the good stuff. I write crime fiction, but it’s not about whodunit or the guns or the missing falcon for me. It’s about the people caught in these situations. I love revealing these people. I love uncovering their true selves.
Unlike with many series, it didn’t feel as though I’d have missed anything by starting here. Is this an aim you hoped to achieve?
Absolutely. I write my books so you can pick up any one of them and hit the ground running. This business some people believe about having to read a series from the beginning makes me tired.
Larkin Connor Barkley is a very complex, yet somehow “simple” character, in as much as she is a “typical” teenager in many ways. Were the multi-faceted aspects of her personality difficult to maintain and illustrate?
Larkin required as much work as Pike. I set a difficult task for myself because of the way I chose to present her. We start with the prologue, which suggests certain sensitivities and nuances, but when I present her in ‘real time’ over the next few chapters, I purposefully show her as Pike and the outside world sees her—shallow and self-involved. I wanted to use Pike to open her, little by little, through their interactions. The depth had to be there, but she still had to be Larkin.
How long did it take you to write The Watchman, how much research did you undertake and of what does your typical writing day consist?
About ten months, something like that. This project was light on research. Kimber pistols. The ATF’s NIBIN system. Some of my books are research intensive, but not this one. It’s about the people.
Which do you prefer to write, stand alones or the series? How does your approach to writing either differ?
No preference. When I hook into a character I want to explore, I’m gone. My approach is the same either way.
Why, after such a successful period as a TV scriptwriter, did you turn to writing novels? Do you miss the TV work and do you still get a thrill from seeing your books on the shelves?
I don’t enjoy the collaborative process. Hollywood demeans the writer. Pays well, so a lot of guys are willing to suck it up for the cash, but my writing means more to me than that. Novels give me the freedom to write whatever I want. And, yeah, I still get the juice. Here I am with fourteen books—wow. These things are bestsellers—wow. My books are in forty countries—are you KIDDING me??? It’s as if I’m living two lives.
What do you think are the major obstacles facing aspiring authors, today?
A blank page is a blank page. That hasn’t changed. The page has to be filled, and it must be filled well. Anything that distracts you from that is an obstacle.
What three tips do you have for aspiring authors?
Write what you love. Don’t chase trends. Read and then think about what you’ve read.
What are you currently reading? Do you read “in genre” when you are writing?
I’m reading Kickboxing Geishas by Veronica Chambers. It’s a non-fiction examination of how young women and teenage girls are changing Japanese society. Most of my in-genre reading these days is for blurb consideration. I just read an advance manuscript of Gregg Hurwitz’s upcoming novel, The Crime Writer. It’s a killer. An absolutely terrific book.
What’s next for Robert Crais, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike?
Elvis and Joe. Together again. Those boys rock.
Read Chris High’s Review of The Watchman.
Video Clips Of Robert Crais at Waterstones, Milton Keynes
(Courtesy of Ali Karim at Crimespace)
Clip 1 [2 min] : Robert Crais talks about how the idea of ‘The Watchman’ came to him and how he started the book
Clip 2 : Robert Crais reads the opening of ‘The Watchman’
Clip 3 : Robert Crais Photo Slideshow at Waterstones Milton Keynes