Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block has won four Edgar and Shamus awards. He has also been awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger Award. He is the author of six different series, more than fifty novels and more than a hundred short stories, as well as a series of books for writers.
He has also written a wide range of books under a number of different pseudonyms including the name Jill Emerson. He has written eight books under the pseudonym Jill Emerson. The most latest one being Getting Off: A Novel of Sex and Violence is published by Hard Case Crime.
It has been quite sometime since you wrote under the pseudonym Jill Emerson. How did you feel returning to her and was she something more than just a pseudonym?
I haven’t used a pen name on anything I’ve written since the mid-1970s, but somehow it felt right to do so with this book. Jill’s not just another pen name, more like an aspect of self. She had an interesting career, seven books over a decade, including sensitive lesbian fiction, experimental erotica, and a mainstream literary novel. Getting Off is a departure from what I’ve been writing in recent years, and I felt it fit nicely into Jill’s oeuvre.
What made you use the name Jill Emerson in the first place and why did you not write anything under that name after 1970?
There’s a lot of discussion of that question, and some dialogues between myself and Jill, on the Jill Emerson page of my blog. (And you’ll see some photos of topless readers while you’re there.)
What can you tell us about Getting Off?
It’s the story of a young woman whose chief delight in life is picking guys up, taking them home, fucking their brains out, and then killing them. Over the years, five of them got away. So she decides to hunt them down and wipe the board clean.
Getting Off is interestingly subtitled “A Novel of Sex and Violence and I read somewhere that Publishers Weekly has “complained” that it is extremely violent and erotic. What are your thoughts about writing explicitly?
The subtitle’s there to make sure nobody picks it up hoping for a book about a charming burglar and his stubtailed cat. PW’s always been very generous to me over the years, but I guess their reviewer read Getting Off on a bad day. Other hand, “Too sexy for Publishers Weekly!” isn’t a bad blurb line.
Funny what works or doesn’t work with sex and violence. To my mind, the most erotic scenes in thebook are pure dialogue, Kit and Rita in conversation, sometimes over the phone. And I remember how much Don Westlake admired a line of Hammett’s: “I hit him with the door repeatedly.” Now that’s violence.
Getting Off is in my opinion a deliberately provocative book. There is a complete absence of traditional moral compass. Was this your intention when you sat down to write the story?
Well, I’m not sure what my intention may have been, or even if I had one. I fell in love with the heroine and had more fun telling her story than I can recall having had in years.
What three words best describes your main character Kit Tolliver?
Imaginative, resourceful, and hot.
Are we likely to see anymore of Jill Emerson in the future?
No idea. But I hope so.
What is it like to work with Hard Case Crime?
An unparalleled joy.
Are there anymore of your books written under any of your pseudonyms that we can expect to see republished soon?
Oh, indeed. Avarice, you know, is a powerful motivator, and it led me to make available a slew of early pseudonymous works over the past year, most of them as Open Road eBooks. In May, Hard Case will team up with the quality small press Subterranean for a double hardcover volume; it’s HCC #69, and will feature two of my early books bound back to back (or, if you prefer, belly to belly) in the manner of the old Ace double volumes. 69 Barrow Street, orig. by Sheldon Lord, and Strange Embrace, orig. by Ben Christopher, with spectacular new covers for each by the legendary Robert McGinnis.
And I’m thinking about bringing out the sexological nonfiction I wrote as John Warren Wells. He and Jill Emerson dedicated books to each other, you know…
You have been rather busy of late. We have had the first new Matt Scudder book in 6 years with A Drop of the Hard Stuff, you have reissued many of the books in your backlist as eBooks and you appear to be a dedicated Tweeter and poster on Facebook as well as a blogger. With regard to your participation with social networking what has been the best part of it for you?
Obviously there’s a commercial purpose to my use of the social media. But I don’t think I’d be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. I was active on Facebook for a year or more before it ever occurred to me that I could try to boost sales through it. I thought of it as a way to stay in touch with a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, and gradually people who knew me as readers joined up, and, well, I still think of it as an ongoing dialogue with friends, even if most of them are friends I’ve never actually met.
I think people who don’t enjoy this sort of thing would be well advised to steer clear of it. I understand publishers are telling new writers that they have to blog, have to tweet, have to build up their presence on the social media. That’s crap. All a writer has to do is write, and even that’s optional.
Is there anything you are looking forward to doing or do you feel that you have done everything?
Well, I’ll be cruising the Indian Ocean next month, from Mauritius to Zanzibar. That’s something I haven’t done yet, and I have to say I’m looking forward to it.
Any last words?