Award-winning author and master of the Whodunit Laura Lippman talks about crime, books and her heroine Tess for our “Mysterious July”…
Hi Laura and welcome on Veronika Asks! Could describe yourself with three words?
Tall, well-intentioned, neurotic.
Tell us about What The Dead Know, your latest release…
It was inspired by a real-life case that was very much in the news when I was a teenager. Two sisters went to the mall — and never came home. Their fate is unknown to this day. I found myself wondering what would happen if a woman showed up who claimed to be one of those sisters, how police would handle it, how the claim would be investigated.
Could you tell us more about your Tess books?
I’m working on the 10th. Tess started as the “accidental detective,” someone who fell into this line of work, but I think she’s gotten better and better. She makes fewer mistakes. Which, interestingly, makes the books harder to write.
Who were you before starting to write? How did you start writing mysteries?
Tall, well-intentioned, neurotic. I started writing mysteries because I had an idea for one.
How do you write (where, when, how)? How do you react to the writer’s block?
I write almost every weekday morning for up to four hours. I choose not to believe in writer’s block — it’s akin to a small child plugging her ears and chanting to block out some unpleasant fact. I think it helps to think of a novel as an unruly wagon that you need to pull across a difficult terrain. If a wheel falls off, and you spend the day fixing it, or if you need to find a way to fashion some kind of tracks across a muddy swamp, then you haven’t stopped your journey, you’ve just stopped going forward for that day. I’m used to the wheels falling off, and I think I’ve learned a lot of techniques for getting moving again.
You write a book a year and also work at The Sun. Isn’t it too difficult to deal with both jobs?
My online bio is way out of date — I left The Sun several years ago. But it was enormously difficult and there are some costs to working that much.
Do you have some advices for aspiring authors?
Read as much as possible.
Do you sometimes have a hard time with the puzzle while writing your novels?
Yes. I have trouble breaking them down, but the real challenge is making sure that people are acting out of recognizably human motivations and impulses, not doing things just because the plot requires it.
How do you imagine your readers?
I think they’re pretty diverse – male, female, young, old. I also assume they’re read more crime novels than I have, so I don’t try too hard to fool or trick them. In fact, I count on them to use the text interactively — to examine every possibility, to consider every plausible resolution. In books where the reader has all the relevant information — and in my books, they tend to have more information than any single character — I don’t think it’s possible to offer a stunning twist. The determined, analytical reader will figure it out. So I withhold the one thing I’m within my rights to withhold — the why of things.
What do you think about eBooks? Would you consider writing one?
Some of my books are available in eBook form, I think. I don’t really think too much about format, whether it’s eBook or audiobook. They can publish my books on playing cards.
What will your next novel be about?
Tess collides with Hollywood — literally, running into a shot while rowing. It’s called Another Thing to Fall and it’s about how proximity to the film business makes people a little nuts.
Which books would you advise for a perfect beach read? Have some favorite authors to feature?
First of all, I think anything can be a beach read. I read Crime and Punishment on the beach. But I do think the work of Mary Kay Andrews — breezy, funny, with great characters — is particularly good on the beach.
And now the famous Nothing-To-Do-With-Books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
This sort of happened recently — I emptied all the banks in my house (I have several small ones) and came up with about $180. I spent a good portion of this on dinner at a local restaurant, Charleston. A friend and I walked around the harbor and found seats at the bar, then ordered three courses each, so we got to taste six. (The plates are quite small, which I love.) We had cocktails and wine as well.
Would you like to add something, Laura?
Just that I’m sorry this took so long?
No trouble, it’s Summer!
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Going out.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Mountains. I like to escape the summer heat.
Country or City ? City.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedies at home, more serious fare when we get out.
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny ? Funny.
Traveler or not ? I’m a homebody who likes to travel.
Sporty or not ? Semi-sporty.
The Leader in the group or not ? Not a leader, but not shy about voicing my opinions.
TV show: The Wire/Project Runway
Movie : Miller’s Crossing
Book : Mildred Pierce
City : Baltimore
Food : Pizza
Music : Jazz
Favourite place to write in : My local coffeehouse
Quote or motto : Moderation in all things, including moderation.
Thank you, Laura!
You can pay a visit to Laura on her website: http://www.lauralippman.com