'Room' to write
Superstar author Jeffery Deaver talks about ‘The Kill Room’ at Vroman’s Monday
By Carl Kozlowski 06/06/2013
With nearly three dozen bestselling thrillers to his name, it would be easy to assume novelist Jeffery Deaver jumped into writing books while fresh out of college.
But, much like most of his novels except for his latest, “The Kill Room,” about the ethics of the assassination of US citizens in the hunt for terrorists, nothing could be further from the real world.
Now 63, Deaver took journalism courses at the University of Missouri, and then acquired a law degree at Fordham. His goal was to write about business law for such high-end newspapers as The New York Times and the Washington Post. But, instead, he wound up working as a lawyer on Wall Street. Feeling as though he had sold his artistic soul for the price of a fat-cat salary, he pulled together the time and effort to write his first novel, “Manhattan is My Beat,” at age 35.
In the 28 years since, Deaver has rarely looked back, creating two popular series of crime novels built around the characters of Kathryn Dance and Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic forensic scientist whose adventures include “The Bone Collector,” which was later adapted as a Denzel Washington movie.
His latest Rhyme novel, “The Kill Room,” is riding high on the charts now, as Deaver skips back and forth between US and European tours that will bring him to Vroman’s Bookstore at 7 p.m. Monday.
“It was my intention to go to law school, get a degree and write journalism about law, but I did surprisingly well in law school and got a job with a big Wall Street firm in corporate and banking law,” recalls Deaver in a phone interview from his North Carolina home. “I didn’t hate it but it really interfered with my ability to write fiction because of working 10 hours a day. That postponed my writing career, but every once in a while I’d sneak in a weekend day. Then I started writing on the commuter train on an early laptop with a half-hour battery, little by little, until I eventually finished, and I was an overnight sensation after 35 years.”
Deaver loved writing fiction as a child, even creating a book at age 11 from an extended short story. But at an early age, he came to understand that few, if any, famous writers were prodigies.
“There are really no writing prodigy fiction writers — like in music where Mozart was 4 and composing symphonies, and Jackson Pollack started dripping paint as a kid. In writing, you usually have to do something else and start later to gain the life experience to write about,” he says.
Although an eclectic reader who counts a broad range of writers from Ray Bradbury and William Gibson to Stephen King among his own favorites, Deaver chose crime fiction as his genre because he wanted to create books that were “impossible to put down.” He felt that the conventions in other genres, even among J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic “Lord of the Rings” books, moved too slowly.
“My goal as a writer is to have the most emotional experience I can and share that with the readers, so they wind up saying ‘Oh, my gosh, I missed work for that,’” says Deaver. “All 35 of my novels take place in a very short time frame, with a terrible deadline for my hero to stop a threat and a big surprise ending with multiple twists. I thought crime novels let me do just that and bring in another level of emotion, the soap opera level of personal relations of cops having problems with wife and family.”
This time around, Deaver has expanded his focus by making the Lincoln Rhyme novel “The Kill Room” touch on current affairs, namely the debate over the Obama administration’s use of drones against suspected terrorists, including US citizens. It follows Rhyme’s investigation of the death of a US citizen in the Bahamas — an assassination sanctioned by the US government, with many nefarious levels of involvement.
“I’m very lucky, because I enjoy writing very much with a very low boredom tolerance, so the idea of kicking back on a beach is pure hell to me,” explains Deaver. “I put in 50 to 60 hours a week and write every day. I do a book a year, at least, and three or four short stories, and for ‘The Kill Room’ I spent eight months, eight hours a day planning the book out with charts and graphs until I’d mapped out three or four plots so interrelated that readers will be shocked to find a twist pay off in Chapter 20 that’s rooted in a tiny clue from Chapter 4. Then I write it, the year is over and we start all over again.”
Jeffery Deaver will discuss and sign his novel “The Kill Room” at 7 p.m. Monday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit vromans.com.