MysteryPeople Q&A with Jason Starr

Jason Starr is one of the leading names in modern noir. His latest, Savage Lane, deals with how the projections of several people in a community lead to murder, working both as a involving thriller and satire on suburbia. Jason was kind enough to take a few questions about the book and writing on the edge.

MysteryPeople Scott: What spurred the idea for Savage Lane?

Jason Starr: The idea of a recently divorced woman, trying to get on with her life in a small, insular community. The suburbs can be a fish bowl, what with everybody getting into your business, making assumptions, and when you’re divorced in a community of mostly married people you become the subject of gossip, and perhaps unwanted fantasies. Then I though more about who this woman is, and about a friendship she has with an unhappily married man, and I knew this situation would provide plenty of fodder for a crime thriller.

MPS: Much of the book deals with the fantasies people project on one another. What did you want to explore with the idea?

JS: Well, in most cases fantasies are harmless. We all have fantasies, which can be normal and healthy. But I think there is a dark side to fantasies, and when I’m writing fiction I love the edge, I love the dark side. And I liked the idea of putting these characters, who have these wild misconceptions about one another, in a quaint affluent community. The contrast of the normal facade with the twisted characters also appealed to me.

MPS: With one major exception, every character under twenty seems sharper than most of the adults. What did you want to express with the kids?

JS: I hadn’t really thought about this, but you’re right. The kids aren’t jaded, haven’t been hurt in relationships, and can see things clearer than the adults. Also, this book is probably the most satirical book I’ve written, and seeing the adults from the point of view of the kids provides a different perspective on the behavior of the adults, gives more opportunity for satire and dark humor.

“Well, in most cases fantasies are harmless. We all have fantasies, which can be normal and healthy. But I think there is a dark side to fantasies, and when I’m writing fiction I love the edge, I love the dark side.”

MPS:  Lately you’ve also been writing for comics. What have you learned by writing in that field?

JS: In comics you have to be very economical with storytelling, more so than novels and even screenwriting. Every word counts in a comic and if a scene isn’t moving a story forward you have to cut it. I’ve tried to carry over this attitude when I’m writing thrillers, where pace is also very important.

MPS: Polis Books is releasing most of your early work as well as Savage Lane. What do you hope new readers get out of these books?

JS: Mainly I want to entertain–myself first, and ultimately readers. I understand that have a lot of entertainment choices these days and I know I have to grip readers from the get-go. So I want to entertain readers, and, at the same time, I hope my books have themes that resonate. If somebody reads a book and still remembers it years later, I think that’s the biggest compliment an author can get.

You can find copies of Savage Lane via bookpeople.com

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