Evil E Jr., here, again…Evil E is still on the mend and sends her very best to everyone, and her thanks, especially, to The Interrogators, who have done the most phenominal job of keeping the columns going in her absence, and to Laura Lippman for giving such great interview! Thanks a million!
A funny thing happened in the middle of Laura Lippman’s career: she became a bestseller. This wasn’t exactly a surprise to anyone. It already seemed like she’d made fans of just about every mystery reader around. She’d won the Edgar and the Anthony and the Gumshoe and all the other awards a mystery writer could win. But through eleven books, she’d never cracked the New York Times’ list.
Then came What the Dead Know and the rest was history. She repeated that bestselling success earlier this year with Another Thing to Fall. Who knows where she’ll go from here? But if we had to guess, it would be up, up, up.
Laura’s next work will be a serialized novel called The Girl in the Green Raincoat, running in the New York Times Sunday magazine starting September 7. It features Laura’s most popular character, Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan. Oh, and Tess is pregnant in it. (How’s that for a surprise?)
As if that weren’t enough, Laura has yet another book, Hardly Knew Her, coming in October. It’s a collection of short stories and a new novella.
Somehow in the midst of all that, she had time to answer questions from our panel of interrogators. Please welcome this month’s special guest, Laura Lippman.
I confess, I really like this picture of Laura…which is why I stole it off the Sun-Sentinal’s Weblog here.
From David Montgomery:
Now that you’ve been enjoying so much artistic and commercial success with your standalone novels, do you foresee a time when you might retire Tess Monaghan and turn your eye entirely to new projects?
The commercial success isn’t as different as you might think — Another Thing to Fall was a New York Times bestseller and up against much stiffer competition than What the Dead Know — but commercial success also doesn’t have much bearing on what I do. I think every series has an end point. The trick is recognizing it. On Sept. 7, the New York Times will start running a serial that I thought would definitely be the end of Tess. But, dang, she’s plucky and it’s not quite as clear-cut as I thought it would be. That said, I still think Tess needs to take some time off, soon.
From Paul Guyot (I really hope this has a literary reference, lol):
What time is it?
Well, as the clock in Tess’s office says, “It’s Time for a Haircut.” And I’m going to use that as a really strained segue into talking about found opportunities. I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal this summer about my folk art collection and succumbed to some thumb-sucking profundity about how folk art informed my writing, how it was all about the use of found materials. [Insert sound of long toke here, then mime passing a joint.] But, um, it happens to be true. For four books, Tess labored under that sign, which, in real life, still hangs outside a local barber shop. And then she got a most untimely haircut. That’s not something I planned or orchestrated, but it happens a lot in my writing.
From D.P. Lyle:
Tess mostly hangs around Baltimore but occasionally will get involved in things away from home-like in San Antonio. What are the advantages and pitfalls of setting a story in your hometown versus another city?
I loved writing the San Antonio book, but the problem was — I knew San Antonio and Tess didn’t. I couldn’t begin to use all my knowledge. Meanwhile, it’s really hard for me to write about places I don’t know. I’m fascinated by people who set novels in places they don’t know intimately. I tend to be familiar with even the passing locales in my books. St. Simon’s Island and Brunswick, Georgia, for example, which appear very briefly in What the Dead Know — my dad was born in Brunswick and my parents spend the winters on St. Simon’s. My mom drove me around Brunswick, helping me find the perfect street and house for the scene I wanted to write. I can’t fake place. But that’s just me.
From Louise Ure:
Laura, although your plots are fascinating and complex, I find that I often focus on the extraordinary character development you’ve done. Would you ever consider writing something that didn’t hinge upon a crime? Something outside the crime fiction genre entirely?”
Sure! But I haven’t found a crime-less story yet that really calls to me. I like writing crime novels and don’t feel at all hemmed in by the genre.
From Nick Stone:
a). Following your impressive turn as a befuddled reporter on Season 5 of The Wire, will you be making cameos on screens big and small?
Can we be frank? I got one of the worst reviews I’ve ever gotten in my life for that cameo. It was the first time I realized that I was beginning to be a public person in my hometown. And, therefore, a person worthy of ridicule. All sorts of people, far more notable than I, have appeared in what I’ll call stunt cameos for The Wire. The former governor, a former mayor, a person whose job I won’t specify, although I will say I know he had to be edited around ruthlessly, and people generally thought he was great . . . The only good thing that came out of that cameo was that The Wire actors were genuinely nice to me for trying to do what they do, and for admitting to them that it was way too hard for me. One, Gbenga Akkinabe — he played Marlo’s hardcore enforcer, Chris Partlow, but he’s sweet as pie — patted my arm, then said in amazement upon making contact with my bicep: “Do you work out?” That made the cameo worth it.
b). I’ve heard you write in coffee shops. What’s your preferred brew?
Skim latte when I’m not dieting, skim cappuccino when I am. A skim latte is 3 points on the Weight Watchers system, while a skim cappuccino is only two. I’m not proud of knowing that, but I do. A Luna Bar has three points, by the way.
From Allison Brennan:
I have so many questions, can I take you out for drinks? Seriously . . . okay. You’ve been alternating between Tess’s books and stand alone novels. Do you enjoy writing something completely different? Do you miss your continuing characters? What are some of the pros and cons of writing a series character vs stand alones?
Allison, I am always available for drinks. I’ve loved moving back and forth. For a writer, I can’t imagine a better situation. A standalone is harder — new world, new characters, starting everything from scratch — but it’s also more exciting for the same reason. And taking a break from Tess makes the reunions that much sweeter. I like her. I don’t take credit for much, but I did create a series character whose company I honestly enjoy. The con is that someone’s always unhappy. While I’m lucky to have enormous overlap in my readership, there are Tess readers who don’t care for the standalones, and standalone fans who don’t like the Tess books.
I really lucked into this back-and-forth, best-of-both-worlds thing. When other writers ask me how to do this, I generally say: Try not to be too successful at either. If I had created Jack Reacher, or started writing standalones similar to Harlan Coben’s, I might not have had the same amount of freedom. Then again, Harlan used the popularity of his standalones to bring back his series character, to great results. And Michael Connelly makes it work.
And from Ken Bruen:
Who would you ideally like to play Tess Monaghan in the movie?
Well, everyone has their own idea, right? And whoever I choose is going to be wrong, not fit someone’s idea. And I’m a big theater-goer, who believes in changing people’s perspectives on a work via casting. I once saw a production of A Doll’s House in which all the women were six feet or taller, and all the men were dwarves. This was at Spoleto in Charleston and a few outraged matrons dashed for the exit at intermission, but I adored it. So, in that spirit, I advocate a radical bit of casting that might reinvent the series, and maybe even television.
I think Tess Monaghan should be played by Wendell Pierce, who embodied the Bunk on The Wire for five seasons. Look, the guy has done Beckett, and Chekhov. He’s an amazing actor. And he can rock a pink bathrobe.
And before you all go anywhere else…you’ve got to check out the terrific list of restaurants Laura’s put together, for those of you going to Bouchercon. Head over to her website at www.lauralippman.com and scroll halfway down the page to: Speaking of Bouchercon - Some Eating Advice.
Also - want to express enormous congratulations to our own Interrogators, Ken Bruen & Jason Starr for their Anthony Award Nomination for Best Paperback Original - Slide ; to Ali Karim for his Anthony Award Nomination for Special Services - Shotz Magazine ; and to this month’s victim, er, guest…Laura Lippman for her Anthony Award Nominations for Best Novel - What The Dead Know, & Best Short Story - Hardly Knew Her. Congratulations to all of you!