Man on the Run: MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart

 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Woman From PragueRob Hart’s latest novel to feature series character Ash Mckenna, has the unlicensed PI in the middle of a Eastern European spy tale when he is coerced by a mystery man (claiming to be a government agent) into intercepting the hand-off of a thumb drive. When the plan backfires, Ash finds himself on the run with Sam, his target, and the eponymous woman from Prague. The book is a slam bang action store with the same hard boiled heart we’ve come to expect from the series.

We’re happy to bring you this Q&A with Rob the day before he joins Bill Loehfelm and Jordan Harper at BookPeople for our New Voices In Noir discussion. Join us for one of the year’s most intriguing panels, this Wednesday, July 26th at 7 PM

MysteryPeople Scott: What made Prague your choice of setting for Ash’s latest?

Rob Hart: I visited Prague a few years ago and was just completely infatuated. I knew right off I wanted to set a book there. And by the fourth book in the series I was feeling like it was time to put Ash in a situation where he was thousands of miles from home, completely unfamiliar with everything around him, and totally outmatched. Ash thinks he’s pretty tough, and it was time to dissuade him of that notion.

MPS: While the first three books in the series hit different mystery subgenres, this is an espionage tale. What did you want to explore in that genre?

RH: Maybe this only makes sense in my head but there’s a fairy tale element to spy stories that I really like. They tend to deal with secret worlds ordinary people don’t see, machinations we don’t always understand, characters who are incredibly prescient or powerful in a way that sometimes defies reality. Those concepts tied into some things I really like about the folklore of the region, like the golem of Prague and the pigeon knights of Krakow. There was a weird alchemy to how this one came together.

MPS: I couldn’t help notice a few echoes of James Grady’s Six Days Of The Condor, you even reference the film version,Three Days Of The Condor. What grabbed you about that story?

RH: My day job is publisher of MysteriousPress.com, and Six Days of the Condor is one of the backlist titles we publish. It was also one of the first titles of ours that I read, when I got the gig. It’s a classic for a reason, and it was one of the books (along with some books by other authors we publish, like Brian Garfield and Ross Thomas and Charles McCarry), that planted the espionage seed for me. Grady’s book is such a fantastic example of the “man on the run” story. I really liked that Condor, while a trained operative, isn’t some Seal Team Six badass. He’s closer to a regular guy, which makes the stakes feel higher.

MPS: Sam is such a wonderful character and it is really the first time in the series where Ash is partnered with someone throughout most of the book. Did that affect the writing in any way?

RH: If anything I think it made it easier. In the first three books Ash spends a lot of time by himself, so there’s a lot of trying to balance action with his own internal conflicts. For this one he constantly had a foil, someone to bounce off of. And it was a lot of fun to make Ash the beta to Sam’s alpha.

MPS: This was also the most action oriented book in the series with some pretty visceral violence. Was that a conscious choice before you went into it?

RH: Absolutely. In the first three books, a lot of the conflicts were internal. It was about a confused, scared kid trying to find his moral compass and atone for things that he’d done. For this one I just wanted to go full tilt. He’s battled his personal demons enough. I really wanted to pit him against some heavy external forces.

You can find copies of The Woman from Prague on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by the store this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM for our New Voices in Noir Panel discussion with Rob Hart, Bill Loehfelm, and Jordan Harper. 

Noir is to Literature what the Blues is to Music: MysteryPeople Q&A with Bill Loehfelm

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In The Devil’s Muse, Bill Loehfelm puts his New Orleans patrol woman Maureen Coughlin into a mystery that takes place over one long night when a shooter cuts loose during the Mardi Gras parade. A great take on the procedural, The Devil’s Muse has a strong sense of immediacy and presents an insider’s look at New Orleans.

Bill will be returning to BookPeople for our New Voices In Noir Panel, this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM, but we were able to get some questions to Bill before the event. He’ll be joined by Rob Hart and Jordan Harper for the panel discussion. 

MysteryPeople Scott: I know you said you were wary about doing a story set around Mardi Gras since it’s a cliched backdrop for authors to use when writing about new Orleans. What did you see as the in to making the story fresh?

Bill Loehfelm: A couple of years ago, a friend and I were discussing writing about New Orleans, talking about avoiding clichés and the postcard version of New Orleans that we’re constantly selling. I told him I had a list of rules, of things I’d never write about, and one of them was Mardi Gras. But instead of agreeing with me, he challenged me, pointed out I had a lot of experience as a waiter and a bartender, a lot of inside experience with Mardi Gras that others didn’t have. That comment put the idea in my head of a Mardi Gras story told from the inside out, a story from the point of view of someone inside the infrastructure of the holiday. It gave me a fresh take on the subject.

When the opportunity for a Maureen Coughlin one-off came, it seemed to perfect time to take up that challenge.

MPS: I noticed I read this book in longer sittings than I usually do, mainly because the short time span of the story made it feel immediate. Did it have any effect on your writing the story?

BL: Originally, I was going to set the book over the last long weekend of Mardi Gras and cover more of the city, but that was just too much material, too much to explain. So instead I went the other way and decided to pack everything into one parade night, on one compact section of the parade route. I just wanted to see if I could do it. Now instead of four days, the book takes place over more like four hours, along about two miles of St. Charles Avenue. A Mardi Gras parade is such an intense experience, I thought a tightly condensed story would help communicate that intensity.

MPS: There is a documentary crew that plays a key role in the book. What did you want to say about the media’s role with either the city or the police?

BL: One of the hot debates in New Orleans right now is over authenticity, over what’s “real” New Orleans and what’s not. We call it getting “Nolier than thou.” I wanted to address that debate a bit, is the “real” New Orleans something you can even find as a visitor? Especially if you’ve come here looking for the clichés. And who gets to say what’s authentic? And I wanted to challenge how the media can focus on the negative, and how sometimes we tend to think as the negative interpretation or version of this city as more “real” than the positive. Sometimes we think of a murder as more authentic New Orleans than a parade. I don’t think that’s true.

And I’m fascinated by where power lies in modern media, especially the internet, but TV news, too. That power seems to lie with whoever can speak to the most people the most quickly and the most provocatively, who can get the biggest reaction – and not who can speak the truth the best, or truth to power. All the Maureen Coughlin books are about power, one way or another.

MPS: I noticed Maureen does less second-guessing in this book, even though you dropped her in an overwhelming situation. What besides experience has made her more self-assured?

BL: I think necessity. An officer I talked to for research told me that, whatever happens on your part of the parade route, it’s yours, no matter what it is. Everyone else on the route has their own massive responsibilities and they’re counting on you to have an answer, to handle your shit. That really stuck with me. We’ve watched her learning to swim for a couple of books. It was time to toss her in the deep end and let her fend for herself. She’s had a lot of faith in herself; I wanted to reward it.

MPS: What is the major quality that Maureen possesses that makes her a good police officer?

BL: I guess you’d call it empathy, or maybe emotional intelligence. Before she was a police officer, she had a long career as a cocktail waitress. If you’re going to survive in that business, especially as a woman and as someone of small stature, you need to learn how to read people and situations quickly and accurately, how to anticipate what they’re going to do, what they want, what they’re about, what they respond to. She’s developed those skills at a very high level. I think her big flaw is that she doesn’t understand herself nearly as well as she understands other people.

MPS: You’ll be a part of our new voices of noir panel. What do you think is the biggest misconception of the genre?

BL: To me, noir is to literature what the blues is to music, and I think people can misunderstand noir the way the blues gets misunderstood – that all the subject matter is dark, sad, and depressing. But noir, to me, like the blues, is about survival, especially in the face of harsh realities, and that’s what I love about it.

To get a better idea of The Devil’s Muse, check out the book trailer-

 

You can find copies of The Devil’s Muse on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by the store this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM for our New Voices in Noir Panel discussion with Rob Hart, Bill Loehfelm, and Jordan Harper. 

MysteryPeople Makes the List!

Mystery transparent_1000pxMysteryPeople has recently been featured on Feedspot’s list of the Top 50 Mystery Blogs around today, and we couldn’t be more proud to share list space with sites like The Strand Mystery Magazine, Mystery Writers of America, Killer Characters, ReviewingtheEvidence.com, and the Seattle Mystery Bookstore. We’re ranked number 17 on the list – plus we’re the highest ranked bookstore blog!

We’ve also got plenty of strange bedfellows on the list, given the multiple meanings of “mystery,” so those looking for blogs featuring paranormal mysteries, ancient aliens, Reddit discussions of unsolved crimes, and more, take a look at this fascinating list (which does primarily feature mystery fiction review sites).

Thanks to Feedspot, the authors who inspire us, and our loyal readers for helping us make our mark in the blog scene!

See the full Feedspot list. 

Short and Sharp Words: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jordan Harper

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun is one of the most exciting full-length novel debuts to come down the road in some time. It concerns an ex-con on a crime spree road trip with his eleven-year-old-daughter. Over the course of their journey, both are targeted by a White Supremacist gang. It is a tough, uncompromising book, with a heart that is hard-won.

Jordan joins us at the store for our New Voices of Noir panel this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by Bill Loehfelm and Rob Hart. We got ahold of him by himself for this pre-interrogation.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for She Rides Shotgun come about?

Jordan Harper: I recently prowled through my DropBox and found an early draft of She Rides Shotgun that was dated 2014. It’s been in the works for a long time now, and just how I got the initial idea is a little murky to me. But I know the initial idea came from me noticing that there was a very small subgenre of crime story, that of the criminal and child on the road together. It’s a subgenre I’ve always loved, even if I’d never noticed it was a genre at all. I was inspired to add to the canon that includes Lone Wolf and Cub, Paper Moon and The Professional.

MPS: Does telling a story on the road come with any challenges?

JH: I found the road aspect of the book pretty easy. I spent a lot of time driving around Southern California, and nearly every place in the book is either real or modeled after a real place that I visited while writing. I think it’s vitally important to physically visit places you are writing about, or you’ll never capture it accurately.

MPS: Who did you go about finding the voice of an eleven-year-old girl?

JH: I talked to some parents about their children, but mostly I spent time thinking about what I had been like at eleven, and figuring that I had at least as much in common with an eleven-year-old-girl as I do with a white power killer or methhead.

MPS: You’ve written a lot of TV scripts and short stories. What was the best thing about turning to the novel form?

JH: The ability to dive deep into a character is really rewarding, but even better is the unfettered nature of the novel. How you can leap to different points in time and space, with no thoughts to budget or feasibility.

MPS: The violence in your work feels both real and visceral. Do you keep anything in mind when you come to those passages?

JH: I think the key to a brutal voice is short and sharp words.

MPS: As a writer what appeals to you about crime fiction?

JH: I always say that crime fiction does for your sense of oppression what Superman comics does for your sense of gravity – you shake off the world and fly. I think it’s very important to think about the invisible walls that society has built around us, and what we’ve gained from them but also what we’ve lost, and I think crime fiction does that for us.

You can find copies of She Rides Shotgun on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by the store this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM for our New Voices in Noir Panel discussion with Rob Hart, Bill Loehfelm, and Jordan Harper. 

 

Brimstone and Potpourri: MysteryPeople Q&A with Thomas Pluck

Thomas Pluck’s Bad Boy Boogie follows a man just out of prison after a twenty-five-year stretch for killing a bully back in his mid-teens. The victim’s father, a mob captain, doesn’t think he’s paid enough. This a hard-core crime novel with a beating heart. We caught up with Mr. Pluck to talk about it.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for Bad Boy Boogie come about?

Thomas Pluck: Bad Boy Boogie is a story I’ve been kicking around for at least ten years, inspired by events in my hometown, and how the place has changed since. It’s an odd suburb, Martha Stewart sprang from one side like a decorating demon in a cloud of brimstone and potpourri, and I grew up on the other, literally across the tracks, in a zoned industrial dump between a truck repair shop, a quarry filled with trash and capped that we called “the Fields”, an and abandoned paint factory we used to explore. The part of town where my old Italian grandmother, when she went to the town hall to ask the mayor to replace our streetlamp light bulbs, was told, “if you don’t like it, move.”

MPS: Even though the book takes place in Jersey, Jay’s Louisiana upbringing plays a big part in his history. What makes it an integral part to you who has a foot in both cultures?

TP: I’ve loved Louisiana ever since I grew up watching Justin Wilson cook on PBS with my grandma. “Ah garawntee!” That love led me to James Lee Burke. I read Black Cherry Blues and was hooked, and in college, I took a road trip down to New Orleans in my Mustang… with Jersey plates. We didn’t get stopped once. I wanted Buford T. Justice to barbecue my ass in molasses, but I was disappointed. I’ve loved the state ever since, and I wanted to portray my hometown through the eyes of a stranger. Jersey and Louisiana have some similarities– swamps, a reputation for corrupt government, and a love of good food– so it worked out. As one character says, “Jersey’s the armpit of America and Louisiana’s the crotch.”

MPS: What did you have to keep in mind about having a character just out of prison who went in at such an early age?

TP: I read a lot of narratives by ex-cons in Angola and elsewhere to get the mindset, but I know a few personally and when you’re institutionalized from a young age you form a protective shell, and see everyone as a potential mark or predator. And to me, that made for an interesting head to get inside and see the world through, as most of us citizens are oblivious in many ways. Some cons turned fighters helped me with that, and Les Edgerton, the crime writer. His novel Just Like That depicts the outlaw lifestyle perfectly.

MPS: The violence in this novel is not fun, mainly because you feel Jay putting his humanity on the line. How did you approach it for this this book?

TP: My first published novel, Blade of Dishonor, is a pulp adventure and the violence in that needs to be at arm’s length or it becomes Blood Meridian with ninjas. Bad Boy Boogie, while a two-fisted romp at heart, treats violence more realistically, as I’ve personally experienced it. The story is about the consequences of violence, whether it is aggression or vengeance in response to it. Blood feuds are not pretty, and to wage one, you have to be a certain kind of human. I read Lt Dan Grossman’s study On Killing and drew on my association with a few people in the life to make Jay capable of extreme violence while holding onto his humanity. He pays for it dearly.

MPS: As well as being an up and coming writer, you’re also an respected critic in the genre. Has that had any effect on your writing or do you try to separate the two?

TP: My inspiration as a critic is writer Harlan Ellison. He’s known for being irascible, but I’ve corresponded with him, and it’s really that he brooks no bullshit. He is honest in expressing his emotions and strips away what is expected of a critic. That’s what I try to do, just give my honest emotional reaction to a book, whether I devoured it or threw it across the room. But as a writer, I recognize that we do the best we can with limitations of time, experience, and skill, and I respect the work put into art. If I think you could’ve done better, I will say so, but without snark or contempt. If you say you wrote a book in 45 days and it feels like it needed three more drafts, I’ll say that, too. There will be missteps in a book, if we don’t pore over it for decades. Some are just too big to hold in your head all at once, and there are skills and tricks that make us, as readers, forget or forgive the little stumbles. The best way is to write a damn good story with a character we can’t get enough of. Writers can be very unforgiving of other writers, but as long as I feel you’re doing the best you can, and aren’t being cocky and not putting in the work, I’m pretty forgiving.

MPS: You have a story in Lawrence Block’s anthology Alive In Shape And Color, coming out in December, where writers pick a painting to use as  a basis for a short story. Could you tell us about the painting you picked and how it set up your story?

TP: I’m honored to be in LB’s collection, with so many great writers. Mine is based on “Truth Comes Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” by Jean-Léon Gérôme. It fascinated me ever since I first saw it, the raw fury on her face as she rises, and I wanted to put a story to that face. I set it on an archaeological dig in Germany, where a mysterious slaughter occurred thousands of years ago, based on a real find, and collective myths of a primitive paradise. But being me, the real story is the relationship between the woman running the dig and the TV personality sent to do a “In Search Of” style piece on it, and their own dark history.

You can find copies of Bad Boy Boogie on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

You Do a Job: MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins joins us to speak and sign his latest, The Fallen on Friday, July 21st at 7 PM. The Fallen comes out today! Before his visit to the store, we caught up with Ace to ask him about his latest addition to his Quinn Colson series. 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

 

MysteryPeople Scott: While you do dig into social themes and some dark things happen, The Fallen has a lighter and funnier tone than The Innocents. Was there a conscious decision to have a few more laughs after doing one so heavy?

Ace Atkins: Not really. I just think the world has become much more of an insane place. I mean we do have a game show host as president. If you can’t step back and just laugh at it, you’ll go crazy.

As far as The Fallen, many of the bad folks we have down South are so naked about their greed and intolerance. I could write a hundred essays about the evil and ignorance or just make fun of them. Making fun of them seems to be much more effective. Anger gives them a purpose.

MPS: Fall out from The Innocents have left Quinn and Lillie with ambivalent feelings about the town they protect. What did you want to explore with their take on Tibbehah County?

AA: Whether it’s Will Kane in High Noon or Cletus Snow in Smokey and the Bandit, we know that “you say you’re going to do a job, you do a job.” That’s what Quinn and Lillie are all about — honor. Surely they definitely want to say “screw it” and walk away. But they know once the do that, the bad guys have triumphed. Every day, they’re at work, it’s a flag in the face of the corrupt and soulless. I am pretty hardboiled but I believe in right and wrong. And that right will triumph in the end. Even if it’s for a short while.

MPS: Next to Elmore Leonard, you have the most entertaining criminals. What did you have fun the most with when writing for the Trump bandits?

AA: That’s high praise! Dutch and George V. Higgins have influenced me more than anyone.

I really like the crew of Marines. I understand them and their motivations. Put in a similar position, I can’t say I wouldn’t be drawn to the same line of work. What fun planning the bank jobs in The Fallen. I have a couple of buddies here — one a former fed and another a former Delta Force operator — who came up with interesting ideas about hitting banks. Let’s just say, it’s fortunate they’re good guys because they sure as hell could rob a bank and get away with it!

MPS: Caddy’s subplot of searching for two disappeared teenagers is the darker crime plot of the two. What was your purpose for it in the novel?

AA: That part of the novel came about unexpectedly and naturally. There is just so much action and momentum with the Trump bandits, I wanted the readers to know that time didn’t stand still in Tibbehah just for this crew of criminals. There are other crimes, injustices going on at the same time without a clear path of investigation. Sometimes bad things happen and you’re powerless to do a damn thing about it.

MPS: It might have been a tossed off character bit, but it stuck with me when Quinn declares he prefers fishing over hunting. Why do you think that is?

AA: Hah! I didn’t know if anyone noticed that. It’s a lot about Quinn’s evolution as a lawman. When he returned home, Quinn was very much in hunter mode. But as he matures and settles into just job, he enjoys the fishing/investigation as much as anything. It’s all about patience, guess work, and finesse.

MPS: Quinn’s new love interest doesn’t like westerns. Can Quinn really come to grips with that or is this relationship doomed from the start?

AA: That’s an excellent point! Only time will tell for Quinn and Maggie. And of course, the next book. Did I mention it’s due out in July 2018? These folks are too much fun to write about.

The Fallen comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Friday, July 21st, at 7 PM

At the Mercy of Storytellers: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott joins us Tuesday, July 18th, at 7 PM to speak and sign his latest, Blamewhich just so happens to come out the day of the event! Come by the store to be one of the first to get a signed copy. Jeff will be appearing in conversation with fellow Austin-based thriller writer, Meg Gardiner. Before the event, our Meike Alana had a chance to interview Jeff about his latest. 

 

Meike Alana: Your protagonist is Jane, a young woman struggling with amnesia.  You’ve done a marvelous job of depicting the insecurity and angst that any post-adolescent female feels, and here that’s heightened by her inability to remember pivotal moments of her life.  What was your inspiration for the character?

Jeff Abbott: I was basically terrified of writing a 19-year-old female protagonist, but I wanted to write about someone who wasn’t quite a fully formed adult, and who had lost her own memory of those critical high school years where so many young women and men get a sense of who they are and who they want to be. I was hesitant to try this, but some of my fellow authors like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott encouraged me. Plus, I have two teenaged children, and I think being around them and their wonderful friends gave me some insights into how they think about the world. I think it is all about writing with sensitivity to a character and finding common ground and understanding. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be an amnesiac teenager. I do know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, or alone, or as if no one understands you or likes you. We’ve all been there. But the specifics of what a person feels at a certain point in their life is of course different. I just tried to use my imagination responsibly and respectfully.

“We’ve seen some brilliant examples in thriller writing recently of unreliable narrators, such as the couple in Gone Girl or Rachel in The Girl on the Train—narrators who may not be entirely honest with the reader, storytellers who have their own secrets to keep. I wanted to twist that idea around with Jane—because an amnesiac is at the mercy of those storytellers around her.”

MA: Jane is struggling with a very specific type of amnesia–only a certain period of time has been erased from memory, and it’s believed the cause was physical trauma related to the car accident in which her neighbor was killed.  Can you tell us a little bit about the research you did to develop her condition?

JA: I read a lot of memoirs and  accounts written by people suffering from amnesia. Some had partial memory loss, some had total. And you know, there is no surgery or physical treatment to deal with this issue. Amnesia patients get sent home, to try and move on with their lives, in houses they may not recognize as homes, with people that are family who they may feel no love towards. No cases of amnesia are exactly the same, and I wanted there to be an open question with Jane: how much of hers is physical, from the accident, and how much might be emotionally repressed memory? In a way, Jane has to solve the mystery of herself. Not only answering the question of what happened that night, but who is she? What kind of person was she in the days, hours, minutes leading up to the car crash? Which leads to your next excellent question….

MA: It was fascinating to think about the fact that someone with amnesia may not even know who she herself is, and Jane questions whether she might have been a “bad” person before the accident.  Ultimately the only clues she has to her own identity are the memories that others provide for her, and if those are incomplete or  tainted (either intentionally or through the other person’s viewpoint) then she can’t really know who she is–and she can’t fully analyze the motivations of those around her.  Can you talk a little bit about how you developed this psychological puzzle?

JA: We’ve seen some brilliant examples in thriller writing recently of unreliable narrators, such as the couple in Gone Girl or Rachel in The Girl on the Train—narrators who may not be entirely honest with the reader, storytellers who have their own secrets to keep. I wanted to twist that idea around with Jane—because an amnesiac is at the mercy of those storytellers around her. Her mother, her friends, her enemies are the ones telling her what her life was like, how she treated them, who she loved and hated, what kind of person she was—and each and every one of them has an agenda, intentionally or subconsciously, and has a viewpoint that may conflict with the unvarnished truth. Even a slight slant on a story told to Jane could deeply affect how she views someone. I think this was the kind of twist that made the book great fun for me to write, and is probably why it is getting compared to Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, or The Woman in Cabin 10. Which I’m very grateful for, and I say that as a reliable narrator.

MA: You are adept at switching back and forth between writing series installments and stand-alones, and you do it incredibly well–all of your books are critically acclaimed and commercially successful.  Do you prefer one over the other?  How does your writing approach differ?

JA: Thank you for the kind words. I really enjoy writing both. My writing approach doesn’t differ between them: a book is a book. I don’t prefer writing either—it all comes down to what is the idea that I want to write, and is that idea best executed in a standalone novel or as part of a series. I tend to get ideas for standalones while I’m writing series books, and vice versa, so I think writing one helps fuel writing the other.

“I think what I wanted to reflect is that Jane is a kid in an atmosphere where success is expected and nurtured and is a huge focus, and she came from that background, and when the book opens she’s homeless and eating off a friend’s meal plan at his college. A disaster like Jane’s is deeply frightening to people who would like to imagine they are immune to fate. I wanted to look at the fear of having built a comfortable life then looking at what happens when it all can be taken away in a second.”

MA: Blame is set in the fictional Lakehaven, an affluent suburb just outside Austin.  You live in an affluent suburb of Austin.  Can you talk about the similarities and differences between the two?

JA: There is some geographical similarity of the hills and cliffs with West Lake Hills, the academic rigor of the school system with Westlake High or Lake Travis High (and the community’s laser like focus on the school system), the comfortable suburban lifestyle in both. I think what I wanted to reflect is that Jane is a kid in an atmosphere where success is expected and nurtured and is a huge focus, and she came from that background, and when the book opens she’s homeless and eating off a friend’s meal plan at his college. A disaster like Jane’s is deeply frightening to people who would like to imagine they are immune to fate. I wanted to look at the fear of having built a comfortable life then looking at what happens when it all can be taken away in a second. I do think people in West Lake Hills or Lakeway would have been kinder to Jane and her family in the aftermath of the accident, rather than the less kind citizens of the fictional Lakehaven we meet, who make her a scapegoat. People hated Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter because. . .she could have been them, and no one wants to be reminded of that. By the way, my next novel is also partly set in Lakehaven, so we’re returning.

MA: Can you describe your writing process?  Plotter or pantser?  Solitary or in coffee shop/library?  Silence or background noise?

JA: I tend to be a plotter, just because I do have to write an outline of the book for my publisher, and I like to have an idea of where I’m headed. That said, I don’t treat the outline as cast in stone, and I often get better ideas as I write, so the outline is a living thing. What often drives change is when I start writing a particular character and she or he asserts themselves more strongly than I thought they would. So that can often tighten the plot, or I realize I don’t need extra characters and give more work to those who assert themselves as stars. I write a lot at home, while listening to music: film soundtracks such as The Fountain or The Hours, or classical—I like Bach, Mahler, Mozart, most of the French composers. I also like listening to Edith Piaf, Kate Bush, Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, and Philip Glass, they’re very good for writing music.

MA: Read anything lately that you would recommend?

JA: Yes! This is my favorite part of any interview. Recently I’ve loved Meg Gardiner’s Unsub, an absolutely brilliant thriller, and I got to interview her during her signing at BookPeople. I just read Joe Ide’s two IQ novels about Isaiah Quintabe, who is a modern day Sherlock Holmes in a economically depressed part of Los Angeles and thought they were really smart and clever books. The first one, IQ, was an Edgar nominee for best first novel and the second one, Righteous, will be out this fall. Right now I’m halfway through Paula Hawkins’ new psychological thriller Into The Water, which is very ambitious and well-crafted and I’ll be curious to see how it all comes together. And I’m rereading Philip Pullman’s modern translation of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, for research, and it’s brilliant.

MA: Can you tell us what you’re working on next?

JA: I’ve been writing a television series adaptation of my novel Panic for producer Harvey Weinstein—I’ve just finished writing the pilot episode, and I’ll need to do some rewriting on that and we’ll see where it goes and if we can place the series at a network. Writing for TV is very different than writing a novel, but I really enjoyed the process. I am also finishing up my next standalone thriller, which is about a young woman investigating her mother’s disappearance and discovering two other women with similar names have also vanished.

Blame comes out Tuesday, July 18th! Pre-order a copy now. Jeff Abbott joins us here at BookPeople to launch his latest thriller on the day of the release – come by the store Tuesday, July 18th, at 7 PM, and be one of the first to get a signed copy! Jeff will be appearing in conversation with fellow Austin-based thriller writer Meg Gardiner.