Mark Pryor is one of our favorites here at MysteryPeople – we’ve followed his Hugo Marston series from the very beginning, and we’re happy to welcome The Sorbonne Affair, the seventh volume of the series, to our shelves. Mark joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th, at 6 PM, along with James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht of P.J. Tracy. Ahead of the event, our Meike Alana sat down with Mark to ask him about the book, Paris, his busy schedule, and what’s next.
- Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Meike Alana: Your love of books (which you share with your protagonist, Hugo Marston) is on full display in the series (titles include The Bookseller and The Paris Librarian). Your latest, The Sorbonne Affair, deals with a best-selling American romance writer who discovers a hidden camera in her room at Paris’ Sorbonne hotel. You poke some fun at the romance genre–Hugo is slightly disdainful towards romance, and is incredulous to discover that many of his accomplished, intelligent friends are fans of the author. Do you care to elaborate on your own views?
Mark Pryor: Absolutely—my position is that a good book is a good book. As such, I hope it comes across as people poking fun at Hugo for being a book snob. I know for a fact some of my readers are also lovers of the romance genre, and just last month I gave a talk to a crowded and enthusiastic room of romance writers.
Ha, but you’re wondering if I read romance, though, aren’t you? Yes, I have and I would. My problem is that I don’t have time to read much, and almost all my reading time these days seems to be taken up blurbing books for other people. That means I have to prioritize, which in turn means I have a giant stack of unread books in my bedroom!
But again, what I’m trying to point out in a playful way is that if a book is good, its subject or genre shouldn’t matter, and yet there are some people who insist their reading or writing are more… let’s say elevated and don’t include one genre or another.
MA: This is the 7th installment of your series featuring the Paris-based Hugo, although Hugo has traveled to London (The Button Man) and Barcelona (The Reluctant Matador). For anyone planning a visit to Paris I always recommend they read one of your books–you so aptly capture the Parisian energy and mystique. Yet you’re a Brit who lives in Austin, Texas. How do you manage to capture the spirit of the City of Light so perfectly? And what’s your favorite spot in Paris?
MP: Thank you for the kind words, I try hard to bring Paris to my readers. To do so, and I know it’s tough, but I try to make myself go there as often as possible. Choke down a croissant or two, suffer through a dozen garlic snails, drag myself along the city’s boulevards on crisp autumn evenings. We all know artists suffer, and as you can see, I suffer as much as any of them…
As for my favorite spot, well, I have several. I always visit the bookstore Shakespeare & Co., and a walk in front of Notre Dame is a must. Other than that, I try to find new places to explore and share. There are always undiscovered cafes and restaurants, little parks and squares and churches.
MA: Previous Hugo novels have hinted at his previous FBI career but we’ve never learned the details about why he left that agency. We learn more about that in The Sorbonne Affair. What made you decide it was time for the reader to learn about the events leading up that his career change?
MP: Your boss. Seriously. That marvelous bookseller Scott Montgomery has said to me since the very first novel that he was sure there was a story behind Hugo and Tom leaving the FBI. I assured him on multiple occasions that no, there really wasn’t.
Turns out he was right.
As for why, I think it’s because I’m always trying to show a new side to Hugo. He’s a hard man to get to know so this particular event gives us a really good look at his psyche, and why his friendship with Tom means so much—to both of them. I better stop there before I give too much away.
MA: Given the complexity of your plots, the evocative Paris setting, the well-developed characters many readers would be surprised to know that you don’t write full-time; in fact, you balance your writing with a challenging legal career and a full family life including 3 young children. How in the world do you find time to write? Do you have to be very disciplined and organized, or do you just randomly throw words on the page when you can carve out a few free minutes?
MP: It’s all about the discipline, filling every spare moment with either writing or something book-related. The way I explain it is to say that I never, ever, have a moment in my life when I think, “Oh, nothing going on today, what should I do?” Ever. Even on July 4 I had to take time to write a couple thousand words in between pool trips and burger-making.
That said, I have no complaints at all. I have a fascinating job, books I love to write, and hugely supportive family and friends (and readers!). So, yes, I’m crazy busy but in all the best ways.
MA: What’s next for Hugo?
MP: I have a few ideas rolling around in my head but so far it’s all a little hazy. More than likely he’ll be paying a visit to Lake Como in Italy, which won’t be too much of a hardship I suspect (for him or me!). I want to develop the secondary plot like from The Sorbonne Affair a little more, the new threat to Hugo and Tom. And I think I want a princess in the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
MA: In addition to the Hugo series, you wrote the outstanding psychological thriller Hollow Man. (For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book tells the story of Dominic, a psychopath British district attorney who lives in Austin. Pryor is a British district attorney who lives in Austin. He assures us the work is “completely fiction.” Hmm….) Any plans for another book about Dominic?
MP: Dang it Meike, you know what a sweet, kind, non-psychopathic chappie I am! I haven’t killed anyone for ages and ages, I promise!
Actually, on January 30, 2018, the sequel to Hollow Man will be published by Seventh Street Books. It’s called Dominic, which is suitably ego-centric for that character. This time around he’s set his sights on a judgeship that he would like, but to get there he has to deal with two significant problems: a colleague going for that same position, and a detective who still has questions about Dominic’s role in a murder that someone else went to prison for.
MA: We always like to ask for reading recommendations from our favorite writers. Read anything lately that you want to tell us about?
MP: Oh, good, this lets me have a quick rave about Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, which is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in years. I’m also about to delve into Unsub by Meg Gardiner and Blame by Jeff Abbott. Oh, and the new James Ziskin, Cast The First Stone. Love that series. As you can see, my TBR pile is greater than my recently-finished stack, but to be fair it’s because I’m reading some manuscripts for blurb purposes, and not so much published work.
You can find copies of The Sorbonne Affair on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Mark Pryor joins us Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM to speak and sign his latest. He’ll be appearing with fellow crime writers Traci Lambrecht (of P.J. Tracy) and James W. Ziskin.