INTERVIEW WITH T. JEFFERSON PARKER

AUTHOR'S WEBSITEhttp://www.tjeffersonparker.com/

          AUGUST 22, 2002

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

      I love them all equally and differently, as you would children.  I've always had a soft spot for The Blue Hour.   

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

      I was forced to read Catch-22 by my high school Mythology and folklore teacher, Miss Page.  When I'd finished that book I was hooked.  I couldn't believe how hip and funny and subversive it was.  I made up my mind to be a writer, and thought that if I could bring readers 1/1000 of the pleasures that Joseph Heller brought me, I'd be happy. 

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

      Read lots of good books and write plenty.  Pay attention to the world around you.  There's really nothing else you have to do.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

      "Chinatown"

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

       Elmore Leonard to Thomas McGuane; Jim Harrison to John le Carre; Barbara Kingsolver to Michael Chabon.  I enjoy non-fiction very much: Carl Safina, John McPhee, Kevin Starr.  You name it.  Anything that's good.

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

       Just enough to get what I want.  Sometimes I've done too much; sometimes not enough.

What other types of jobs have you had?

       Oh, man -- boxboy, janitor, busboy, dishwasher, waiter, animal hospital night attendant (worst one ever), library dude, landscape guy, door-to-door salesman for a cutlery company named CutCo (see The Blue Hour for what I did with that experience), reporter, technical writer.  Then Laguna Heat was published and I never had another job.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

       Yes.  I enjoy them for the most part.  Great to meet your readers. 

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

       Mom and Dad.  Mr. Tossey at Columbus Tustin Middle School.  Mr. Sims, Miss Jones and Miss Page at Tustin High.  Larry Carlson at OCC and Al Wllecke, Frank Lentricchia and Bob Peters at UCI.  Don Stanwood, the first young writer who befriended me.  And of course, every good writer I am able to read.

What led you to write mysteries?

       I started reading Chandler and John D. MacDonald when I got out of college.  I liked them because they were concise and funny and capable of elaborate but believable stories.  I wrote a young man's literary novel first, but never got it published.  An editor at Delacourte Press, Morgan Entrekin, told me I had talent and to write something that everyone would care about.  I figured murder was something everyone cared about.

Do you read reviews of your books?

       Sure.  I believe the good ones.

How would you like to be remembered?

       As a good mystery writer with a literary flair.

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

       Winning the LA Times Book Prize and the Edgar Award in one week, that will be hard to beat.       

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

        I work everyday from 7 or so until 5 or so.  It's not all writing but a lot of it is.  You can't really wait very long, can't wait until you have all the answers.  You have to go out there and find out what's worth writing about for you.  There's always something that you're curious about, something that's gotten under your skin, something that's mystified you.  Those are the things you write about.   

How did you get started in writing?

        By copying my heros.  Hemingway, Borges, Chandler, Joseph Wambaugh.  Finally you realize you can't be them, so you settle for being yourself.  That's called finding your voice.  That's where it all starts.

How do you come up with plots?

        You make them up as you go.  Sometimes you understand a lot of the story ahead of time; sometimes you have to finish to realize what it is you're trying to write.  It's a puzzling process sometimes.  You need faith and stubborness and hopefully a little good humor to do the work.         

Did you take any classes on how to write?

        A few.  Mostly poetry in college.  I was too shy to write a story for anybody.

Do you ever get writer's block?

        Writer's block, to me, is another way of saying you don't know what happens next.  So yes, I get it sometimes.  There's always some fairly rational, often mundane reason you can't figure out your own story.  It's hard.  I mean, for a movie they'll get three writers to adapt something that's already written down -- that's how much brainpower it takes to get a story told sometimes.  A single little author?  There's some head-banging.  It can take time.  Then the light goes on and you say, "why didn't I think of that earlier?"  Live and learn.

What are your hobbies and interests?

        Tennis, fishing, hunting, reading.  I love to travel. 

How do you spend your free time?

        Mostly with my family, doing what everybody does.  I enjoy my boys' athletic events.  I enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant with my wife.  I like watching the World Series and the U.S. Open.

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

       No -- I'm not a message guy.  I hope you enjoy my stories, and thanks for reading them.


                                        ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jefferson Parker was born in Los Angeles and has lived all of his life in Southern California. Parker was educated in public schools in Orange County, and took a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976. He was honored in 1992 as the Distinguished Alumnus.

His writing career began in 1978, as a cub reporter on the weekly newspaper,
The Newport Ensign. After covering police, city hall and cultural stories for the Ensign, Parker moved on to the Daily Pilot newspaper, where he won three Orange County Press Club awards for his articles. All the while he was tucking away stories and information that he would use in his first book.

Laguna Heat
, written on evenings and weekends while he worked as a journalist, was published to rave reviews and made into an HBO movie starring Harry Hamlin, Jason Robards and Rip Torn. The paperback made the New York Times Bestseller list in 1986.

Parker's next seven books--all dealing with crime, life and death in sunny Southern California--were published to uniformly good reviews and appeared on various regional bestseller lists. His writing has been called "potent and irresistible"
(L.A. Times) and "resonant, literate and powerful" (Kirkus). The New York Times wrote that "T. Jefferson Parker is a powerhouse writer." Writing in the Washington Post, reviewer Carolyn See called The Triggerman's Dance "a masterpiece." Where Serpents Lie and The Blue Hour appeared for five weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Red Light was number one on that list in May of 2000. As was his next novel, Silent Joe, in May 2001. Silent Joe won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller, and has been nominated for the Hammett Award by the International Association of Crime Writers. Jeff's new novel, Black Water, was released by Hyperion in April 2002.

When not working on his books, Parker spends his time with his family, hiking, hunting and fishing, and haunting the public tennis courts. He enjoys diving, snorkeling, and travel. He escapes to a trailer in the desert in the spring and fall, to hike the country and not answer telephones.