Michael Connelly won the Edgar Award, Best First Novel, for THE BLACK
ECHO, number one in the Hieronymous Bosch series, plus the Anthony
Award, Best Novel of 1998, for BLOOD WORK, a Terry Caleb mystery.
Michael is also the winner of the Macavity, the Nero, the Maltese
Falcon in Japan, the .38 Caliber in France, and the Grand Prix, also
in France. I wanted to interview him not only because he is a big
award winner but because he is the quintessential mystery writer.
His work sells extremely well and heís known, not only in Europe and
Japan, but also the Netherlands and Korea. In no time, his books are
scooped up and optioned by a powerful star or studio in Hollywood.
Even Clint Eastwood had to get in on it and presently has the rights
to BLOOD WORK.
Michaelís glory is hard-earned. He
has a background in journalism and worked the crime beat in Daytona
Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, covering everything from cocaine
wars to airline crashes. Michael landed a position as crime reporter
for the Los Angeles Times and heís been in the city of lost angels
For those of you who are book collectors
or just diehard Michael Connelly fans, B.E. Trice Publishing is now
offering a limited edition of Michaelís next book, A DARKNESS MORE
THAN NIGHT, which will be available in late November. You can also
purchase a deluxe edition that is leather bound.
you do, donít miss Michaelís television series, LEVEL 9, an exciting
new show about a unique task force that fights cyber crime, which premiered
on UPN Friday, October 27 at 9:00PM/8PM Central. The producers and writers
of LEVEL 9, Michael is both, have a concept for this series that is
not only reality-based but also a vision of the future. A mix of FBI,
Secret Service and computer hacker personalities versus never-seen-before
techno-villains makes for unending digital possibilities.
Interviewing Michael was a real pleasure
and Iíd like to do it again because I have so many more questions.
Denise: I'm pleased to hear that we
will be seeing more of Harry Bosch and I'm quite curious as to what
trouble he gets into in your next book, A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT.
That Terry Caleb is smart but he's no match for Harry! What made you
decide to have these two do battle? How did that concept occur to you?
It's almost as if your good and bad angels have gone to war.
Michael: I think because it was my tenth book I wanted to do something
that might bring together many of the different characters I have written
about. Also, for a long time I had wanted to do an exploration of Bosch's
character through another set of eyes. In other words, every Bosch book
is an exploration of his character, but in those books the world is
seen through his eyes. So what we know about Bosch essentially comes
from him. In Darkness you get a different view, Harry Bosch through
the eyes of Terry McCaleb.
Denise: You mentioned that you were
concerned that readers might not be pleased with Harry in DARKNESS MORE
THAN LIGHT. Does that mean he does something that you don't approve
of? In my world, Harry Bosch can do no wrong.
Michael: Well, I think what makes Harry an interesting character to
write about and hopefully to read about is that he is a flawed character.
In this book his flaws are magnified because he is more or less studied
by McCaleb. Also, Bosch has always walked on the edge above the gray
area of the abyss. If you are a character like that, in real life or
not, you can slip and fall if you take your eyes away for just a moment.
In Darkness, Harry takes his eyes away for a moment and things happen.
Denise: I've noticed in a number of
your books that there are recurring characters. For instance, characters
and locations that were introduced in TRUNK MUSIC, a Harry Bosch story,
were mentioned and/or appeared in VOID MOON, a story that features a
female criminal and her spine-tingling drama. Is that part of a fun
puzzle for you? Or is that merely where the characters are living in
your mind and so they jump out in appropriate stories?
Michael: I think all of my stories and characters are moving on the
same plane of time. So when I can and where it is possible I like mixing
them together, so that one minor character in one book might show up
in another. It helps link all the work so that in my mind it is all
part of the same story mozaic.
Denise: I have to say that THE LAST
COYOTE is my favorite Harry Bosch story because we, as the readers,
get an intimate look at Harry's deeply personal emotional life. You
mentioned at the fundraiser for the Pasadena Library that your favorite
is ANGEL'S FLIGHT because of its evaluation of community and its social/political
content. This indicates a wide range of ability on your part. Do you
think this has to do with your background in journalism? Or some other
Michael: I don't know where it comes from. I guess a dedication to the
work. If I'm a good writer it is because I am a good reader. I am able
to observe the aspects of novels that make them good. I then try to
take it into my own writing. I write crime novels but the crime and
the mystery and all of that stuff is always secondary to what I want
to say about the protagonist and his or her relationship to the world.
Denise: LEVEL 9, is that in reference to
severity of crime? Where does that term come from?
Michael: The TV show I created with a friend of mine is called LEVEL
9 after the FBI's designation for cyber crime of the highest severity
Denise: Can you share with us some of
the joys and heartaches of being both a producer and writer on a television
Michael: I was executive producer on the pilot and will now serve as
a consulting producer as the show goes into production. I needed to
step back from it so that I could continue writing books. It has been
an interesting process. Seeing a story on paper become something that
is actually played out and filmed was a thrill. I guess the only downside
I would mention is the disappointment of never being able to capture
exactly what you envisioned.
Denise: Do you have a funny or ironic
story to share about your experience on Level 9?
Michael: I don't know that I do. I think that because I am fortunate
enough to have a book-writing career going well, I was able to take
the show and how things went with an open mind. This made the whole
process fun. When I would look out at the sea of trailers and equipment
trucks on a set, I actually felt very fulfilled thinking about how it
all came from a story my partner and I had put down on paper.
Denise: I understand that the rights
to all your work have been scooped up by Hollywood. Does that feel great?
Do you feel tied or constrained in anyway because of that?
Michael: That Hollywood likes my stuff doesn't in and of itself validate
anything. I think the most positive thing that came out of Hollywood
for me was the freedom its money gave me. Taking money from Hollywood
allowed me to quit my day job and concentrate fully on the writing of
my novels. To me that was a great deal and one I would make again in
a heart beat.
Denise: You mentioned that you kept
your day job all the way through to your fourth published book. Did
you ever doubt that you would be anything but a fabulously successful
Michael: Sure, there are always doubts. There are still doubts today.
I think a writer should be his own toughest critic, and if he is, then
there will be doubts.
Denise: How does it look from where
you are now? How do you feel about your journey?
Michael: The journey, no matter where you are on it--beginning or end--is
the thing. I have enjoyed every step of the way. From the first unpublished
efforts to the waiting for the first published book to come out, to
the battle through the sophmore jinx and on and on. It is easy to say
this once you've had some success, but I have liked every bit of it
because it's not about money or book sales or fame or anything else
other than the writing. All of those things are great to achieve but
they don't come close to the fulfillment that comes when you are alone
in your little room and sitting in front of the computer. That's what
it was all about for me at the beginning and that's where it's at right
now. I hope it doesn't ever change because then I'll be lost on my journey.
Rereading this answer it sounds so corny. I'd like to delete it but
I can't because, corny or not, it is the truth that all writers know.
Denise: I want to ask you more about
writing the bad guy. It's said that a story is only as good as the villain
is bad. In your book, VOID MOON, the villain is perhaps justifiably
angry about things that have gone before, he has a charming quality
and a sense of humor. In short, he's fascinating, yet still a cold hard
killer. How did this character come to you?
Michael: Jack Karch came to me because of Cassie Black. I was writing
a book with a protagonist who was a criminal. I knew that in order for
the reader to embrace her, I had to set an opponent after her who would
be totally worthy as an adversary. But I also know that no character
can be one dimensional and still be successful. I couldn't make Karch
evil incarnate and leave it at that. I had to give him layers, reasons,
motives. That's what I did and I think he serves two purposes in the
book. He is interesting in and of himself. He is also a very worthy
opponent, a guy the reader wants Cassie to best.
Denise: I've noticed in a number of
your books your bad guy has struck a chord for me. Who inspires these
villainous characters? Are they based on real people or incidents that
you have come across? Do you research them?
Michael: I don't think any of them come from real people but I try to
make them real people. The monsters that are out there, in real life
and books, are not monsters every moment of every day. They are real
people who eat cereal and pay bills and go to coffee shops, etc. etc.
We know of them or see them when they let the monster out of the cage.
Those moments can be truly terrifying. But I think the terror and the
evil is magnified if its grounded in the reality of these people being
real. So I try to layer my characters, good or bad, with telling details
of their lives. I think it makes them believable, good or bad.
Denise: Iíve noticed that there are
mystery writers that have emulated you. How does that make you feel?
Michael: I don't know of anybody who is copying my style
in particular. But I also think that everybody learns from everybody
else so we are all kind of takers and givers. The thing I try to do
is take standard archetypes and styles of writing I admire and put it
all in a blender so that when it comes out there is something original
Denise: Who are your favorite mystery
Michael: It is hard to answer because I like different writers for different
reasons. Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald and Joseph Wambaugh and
Thomas Harris have certainly been influential on me and they could not
be that if I didn't truly admire their work. Other writers I love for
what they might do with particular things, like James Lee Burke for
his lyrical writing and George Pelecanos for the telling detail and
grit he gets into his books. I really admire what Lawrence Block has
done with the evolution of his series character. The list goes on and
on. I could never pick a favorite, either contemporary or otherwise.
Denise: Who are your favorite non-mystery
Michael: Same answer basically, but straying from the crime genre I
would say writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Harry Crews have influenced
me. I continue to admire their work.
Denise: What advice would you give to
new mystery writers?
Michael: Keep your head down. In other words, keep it in the story.
Don't look up at what is going on in publishing. Forget the trends or
what stories are the focus of hot deals, etc. Just write your story,
the one you know that you would like to read.
For more information about Michael Connelly visit his site at:
Copyright © 1999 Denise