INTERVIEW WITH JOHN CONNOLLY

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE:  http://johnconnolly.co.uk/

           AUGUST 25, 2002

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

Hmmm, that's difficult.  There are elements that I like about all of them, and other things that I suppose I'm still unhappy with.  I think there's some nice writing in Dark Hollow, and Every Dead Thing is still pretty adventurous structurally for a first novel.  Killing Kind is probably the most straightforwardly thrillerish of the books - my agent likes that one a lot - while White Road is probably the most complex, in terms of narrative voices and themes.  It's funny, but when I look back on them all I see are the things that I would do differently now.  I'm a very bad - and very harsh - judge of my own work.

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

I've always written, ever since I was very young.  I just loved doing it.  I went into journalism because it was the only way I thought I could write and get paid to do it.   I've  just been very fortunate that my novels have been published, because I never really thought that that would happen.  I'm very grateful for it, probably more than anybody realizes

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

Write!  Woody Allen once said that 75 per cent of success is showing up.  So many people never even get to the point of sitting down and putting pen to paper.  It's daunting in the beginning and, to be honest, it doesn't get much easier as one goes along.  I still find writing hard, and there are
still days when it's difficult to get anything done.  The best thing to do is take it  in baby steps.  Don't think about a 90,000 page book, think about doing 100 words a day to begin with, then 200 and so on.  Don't go back over anything that you've written, because you'll get bogged down and
despair.  Take it to the finish, then go back.  And don't tell anyone that you're writing, and don't ask anyone close to you to judge your work.  Keep it quiet.


What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

I have so many favourite movies that it's hard to pick just one: Harper, Seven, Big Sleep, Maltese Falcon, Thin Man, Cat and the Canary, North By Northwest, One False Move. . .  See what you've started?

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

James Lee Burke was a big influence on me, as was Ross Macdonald.  I also admire Dennis
Lehane a lot, and my friends Paul Johnston and Julia Wallis Martin.  I think Karin Slaughter will be a name to watch in future, as will a guy named Sean Doolittle.

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

I do huge amounts of research.  I worry about every detail.  And no matter how hard I try, I still get things wrong, and somebody always writes in to point them out.  If nothing else, it's taught me about the imperfectability of the human condition.

What other types of jobs have you had?

I was a public servant, a barman, a gopher in Harrods, a waiter, a shop assistant, a journalist...  The only thing that they have in common is that I was universally lousy at each of them in some way.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

I'm about to embark on a two month tour of the United States to publicize Killing Kind.  It's going to be tiring - I know that from experience - but I still like touring.  I like meeting booksellers and readers, and I'm always flattered when anyone turns up to listen or to have a book signed.  I don't
read.  Instead, I tend to just talk for while.  I'll be at Bouchercon in Austin in October, because I've had a good time at the last two Bouchercons that I attended.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

Like I said, James Lee Burke was a huge influence.  His style is unashamedly literary, and I think he's the best mystery novelist currently working.  Ross Macdonald influenced me in terms of theme - his fascination with compassion, empathy, the sins of one generation being visited on the next is
something that I can see in my own writing.

What led you to write mysteries?

I read mysteries - US ones, mainly - and it just seemed natural to me when I began writing that I should work in that area.  The themes that interest me - justice, compassion, empathy, loss - are all ideally suited to being explored through mystery fiction.  I thought also that I might be able to
bring something different to the table, as an outsider writing about the US.   I hope so, at least.  America has plenty of fine mystery novelists of its own.  It doesn't need a pale imitation from an Irishman.

Do you read reviews of your books?

I think all writers do, even the ones who say that they don't. The trick is not to be influenced either way, to ignore the good reviews as well as the bad ones.  I'm not sure I've go to that point yet: I tend to disbelieve the good ones, and believe the bad ones.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who bought his round, didn't hurt anyone, and didn't waste too many trees.

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

Personally, just seeing my books on the shelves, or in the hands of readers, is something that I still find difficult to believe has happened.  I'm grateful too for the opportunity it's given me to meet writers whom I admire: Burke in particular.

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

If I was waiting for thoughts to come to me, I'd never have written anything.  It's easier to write your way into a book than to think your way into it.

How did you get started in writing?

I began writing a year or so after I was taught to read.  A grade school teacher would pay me money for Tarzan stories that I wrote.  After that, I worked in local journalism, college papers.  Oddly, I only ever wrote non-fiction.  My first piece of fiction, aside from school essays, was Every Dead Thing, my first book.

How do you come up with plots?

I try not to think about that.  I suppose I read things, and ideas germinate in my mind.  When I begin a book, I usually only have the barest idea of what it's going to be about, and the direction it will take.  It comes together as I write.  I hope.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

No.  I think you either have it or you haven't.  Classes can improve certain aspects of your writing, or encourage discipline, but the tiny little one per cent inspiration that writing requires comes from yourself.

Do you ever get writer's block?

Not yet, thankfully.   Writing is hard, though, and if I go for too long without writing something it takes me a long time to get the discipline back.  Go for long enough, and it might never come back,  I guess.

What are your hobbies and interests?  How do you spend your free time?

I read, cook, go to the gym, to movies.  I find, though, that I spend a lot of my free time thinking about writing.  That's kind of depressing, in one way...

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

I'm not as crazy as I may appear from my books.  Odd, but not crazy...

                                             ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.

His first novel, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999, and introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow followed in 2000 and the third Parker novel, The Killing Kind, will be published early in 2001.

John Connolly is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States, where each of his novels has been set.