INTERVIEW WITH LEE CHILD

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE:  http://www.leechild.com/

           AUGUST 25, 2002

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

Writing is a very forward-looking job - the main interest is in what's coming next, not what's in the past.  So, in terms of the completed books, I tend to think, what, those old things?  But I'm proud of them all, in different ways.  Maybe the third, Tripwire, would get my personal vote.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

Probably about 5 years before I actually started.  I figured that I could probably do it without embarrassing myself too much.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

Read a lot.  Or really, if you haven't already been reading a lot for years and years, forget it.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

Seven.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Any good, hard-working commercial writer who realizes it's his job to keep me thoroughly entertained.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

I certainly call on a lot of research, but generally it's stuff I've already internalized out of general
interest, sometimes years earlier.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Apart from a few temporary weeks on wrecking crews, in supermarkets, and in factories, I've always worked in entertainment - music, theater, television.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Yes, as often as I can.  I enjoy them.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

Clint Eastwood, for his directorial approach - on time, and on budget.  John D. MacDonald, with his Travis McGee series.  A theater impressario called Mike Parslew who taught me my first and last
responsibility is to my audience.

What led you to write mysteries?

I think the mystery/thriller/suspense genre answers a core human need for narrative.  We need
that arc - danger, uncertainty, fear ... and then resolution.

Do you read reviews of your books?

Usually.  But they don't tell me anything.  Writers live with a book for a year or more - they already know its strengths and weaknesses.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a guy who made a living without exploiting or hurting anybody else, or the planet.

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

The first time I saw somebody reading my book on a beach.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

I use a fixed schedule.  A book-a-year needs consistent focus.

How did you get started in writing?

I was downsized from my previous job and figured writing would be my first choice for keeping food on the table and a roof over my family's head.

How do you come up with plots?

A writer would ask, how do you not?  Every day's newspaper contains a few great stories.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

No, I didn't have time, and I'm not sure they'd work, anyway, at least for me.  I prefer a completely
instinctive approach.  I don't want to risk theory getting in the way of pure storytelling.

Do you ever get writer's block?

Does a nurse get nurse's block?  A coal miner?  A truck driver?  It's just a job.  Nothing too mysterious about the process.

What are your hobbies and interests?

Baseball and music.

How do you spend your free time?

By watching baseball and listening to music!

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Thanks for reading my books, keep doing it, and keep giving new writers a chance.

                                             ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LEE CHILD ...
... was born in the exact geographic center of England, in the heart of the industrial badlands. Never saw a tree until he was twelve. It was the sort of place where if you fell in the river, you had to go to the hospital for a mandatory stomach pump. The sort of place where minor disputes were settled with box cutters and bicycle chains. He's got the scars to prove it.

But he survived, got an education, and went to law school, but only because he didn't want to be a lawyer. Without the pressure of aiming for a job in the field, he figured it would be a relaxing subject to study. He spent most of the time in the university theater - to the extent that he had to repeat several courses, because he failed the exams - and then went to work for Granada Television in Manchester, England. Back then, Granada was a world-famous production company, known for shows like Brideshead Revisited, Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect and Cracker. Lee worked on the broadcast side of the company, so his involvement with the good stuff was limited. But he remembers waiting in the canteen line with people like Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Natalie Wood and Michael Apted. And he says that being involved with more than 40,000 hours of the company's program output over an eighteen-year stay taught him a thing or two about telling a story. He also wrote thousands of links, trailers, commercials and news stories, most of them on deadlines that ranged from fifteen minutes to fifteen seconds. So the thought of a novel-a-year didn't worry him too much, in his next career.


But why a next career? He was fired, back in 1995, that's why. It was the usual Nineties downsizing thing. After eighteen years, he was an expensive veteran, and he was also the union organizer, and neither thing fit the company's plan for the future. And because of the union involvement, he wasn't on too many alternative employers' wish lists, either. So he became a writer, because he couldn't think of anything else to do. He had an idea for a character who had suffered the same downsizing experience but who was taking it completely in his stride. And he figured if he brought the same total commitment to his audience that he'd seen his television peers develop, he could get something going. He named the character Jack Reacher and wrote Killing Floor as fast as he could. He needed to sell it before his severance check ran out. He made it with seven weeks to spare, and luckily the book was an instant hit, selling strongly all around the world, and winning both the Anthony Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel. It led to contracts for at least nine more Reacher books, which currently extend all the way to the year 2006.

Lee moved from the UK to the US in the summer of 1998. He lives just outside New York City, with his American wife, Jane. They have a grown-up daughter, Ruth, and a small dog called Jenny. Lee fills his spare time with music, reading, and the New York Yankees. He likes to travel, for vacations, but especially on promotion tours so he can meet his readers, to whom he is eternally grateful.