Interview: Jeffery Deaver

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“Technology is everywhere: it makes our lives easier, our connections faster and journeys quicker. But in the hands of someone smart enough, every piece of technology can be a murder weapon.” So reads the blurb of the latest Lincoln Rhyme thriller from the pen of popular crime writer Jeffery Deaver.

The award-winning author of 33 internationally best-selling novels, including the 2011 James Bond novel Carte Blanche, Deaver is best known for his Lincoln Rhyme books. The Steel Kiss is number 12 and finds Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs battling a formidable opponent… a killer who has unearthed an innovative way of murdering people from a distance. Expect devilish plot twists galore in a novel that will keep you guessing.

Jeffery Deaver was born near Chicago in 1950. Before becoming an author, he was a journalist, folk singer and attorney. He started writing suspense novels during the long commute to and from his office on Wall Street and in 1990 he started to write full time. Jeffrey took a break from his busy promotional schedule to chat about Rhyme, writing and what lies ahead.

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to crime fiction writing in the first place?
I’ve always wanted to write commercial fiction. I was never into sports as a boy; I loved to read Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Poe, Tolkien, Ian Fleming and Ray Bradbury. I liked crime stories best – it was more impactful than fantasy – and set my sights on that goal.


The last Lincoln Rhyme book came out almost two years ago. Why did it take so long?
I write a book a year, along with other projects and short stories. Since the latest Lincoln Rhyme, The Skin Collector, I wrote a Kathryn Dance novel, Solitude Creek, several short stories and a radio play, staring Alfred Molina.

With two successful series running in tandem, do you have to reacquaint yourself with the main characters before beginning work on a book?
Yes, I generally go back and re-read portions of my other books in the series that I’m turning to next. I hate it, though! I always see something I’d like to edit or change.

Have you ever regretted making Rhyme quadriplegic? Is it difficult to get into his mind-set?
No, Lincoln’s strength is in his disability. As he says, his condition helps him focus more intensely on crime scenes. I’m very lucky that it’s pretty easy for me to step into the shoes of my characters. I’ve ‘been’ a 16-year-old African American student, an elderly Asian immigrant, women, police snipers and… yes, a quadriplegic. One of the best things about being a novelist is the joy that comes from stepping into other people’s shoes.

The hi-tech world we live in is at the heart of The Steel Kiss – what prompted you to follow this storyline?
I love to scare people. No, I LIVE to scare people! I’ve written about the threats of the online world several ties (The Blue Nowhere, Roadside Crosses, The Broken Window), and I decided that this new phenomenon of smart products – those household items that can be controlled remotely – would be a very fun way to make readers cringe. After you read The Steel Kiss, you’ll never look at your microwave or your oven the same way again!

Do you meticulously plot the story before you begin work or is it something that develops as you write? Are you sometimes surprised at where the narrative takes you?
I am a devout outliner. I spend eight months planning a novel. The outlines are generally 150 pages along. It can be a very arduous process, but the plots of my books must be perfectly choreographed, since they take place over a short period of time and have four or so subplots going on at the same time. There are insights and inspirations during the outlining process, but once it’s done, I never vary the structure much.

Was there always going to be a Rhyme series? Has his popularity surprised you
No, I never thought he’d be as popular as he’s become. In fact, I considered killing him off in the first novel, The Bone Collector. But – I’m glad – I thought better of it!

Denzel Washington played Rhyme in the 1999 film The Bone Collector.
Denzel Washington played Rhyme in the 1999 film The Bone Collector.

It’s a long time since a Lincoln Rhyme movie was made, is there anyone in the current crop of actors who you would love to see play the role?
I’d love Russell Crowe.

Do you already have a plan for future books in the series? How do you keep the characters fresh for readers?
Yes, I’m working on the next Lincoln right now. It will be set partially in Europe.

Will we be seeing more of Rhyme’s new intern, Juliette Archer?
Oh, yes. She’s a fun character and I enjoy writing about her.

How do you write? Do you need a set time and place to work comfortably? Daily word count or just see where the muse takes you?
I spend about eight hours a day writing, and I write anywhere – kitchen, office, hotel, cabs, airplanes. It’s a job and I treat it just like a plumber or lawyer looks at his or her profession.  Because I do an outline first, word count is deceptive. For instance, recently I wrote 9000 words in one day, because I knew where the story was going to go.

Do you enjoy reading crime fiction or is it a busman’s holiday? Whose work do you enjoy and why?
Well, it’s hard for me to read fiction because I tend to absorb others’ styles. But I do get in a read now and then. I love John Connolly, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Peter Robinson and Kathy Reichs.

What’s next for you?
Working on the new Lincoln Rhyme book and writing three short stories. Phew . . . I better get back to work!

The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 22 March. Watch for our review.

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