Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Lee Child Does BEA

In association with this week’s BookExpo America convention in New York City, Kirkus Reviews today posted an interview I conducted recently with best-selling British-born thriller writer Lee Child. He is scheduled to speak at BEA this afternoon, along with authors Debbie Macomber and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), at an event hosted by the Audio Publishers Association.

During our interview, Child talked about his efforts to keep his fiction fresh, actor Tom Cruise’s movie version of One Shot, his history of participation at BEA, and his forthcoming Jack Reacher novel, A Wanted Man. You’ll find the results of that conversation here.

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As is frequently the case with interviews I do for Kirkus, I wound up with much more material from my discussion with Child than I was able to fit into the allotted space. Not wanting to let it go to waste, I shall offer that excess here for your delectation.

J. Kingston Pierce: Last year you wrote a short story, “Second Son,” especially for Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. Is that something you’d like to try again, or would you prefer to stick with print books?

Lee Child: Stories are stories, and the delivery system doesn’t matter to me. They could hire an actress to come over and whisper it in your ear, and that would be fine with me. “Second Son” was two things: a snippet of Reacher’s youth that readers wanted to see, and an experiment in terms of how the digital landscape is changing things. It became the best-ever-selling Kindle Single, so something worked.

JKP: You once told our mutual friend, British critic Ali Karim, that “it’s possible I’ll never get [a Kindle], as, personally, a paperback book is a perfect delivery system.” Have you stuck with that conviction?

LC: I blame the airlines. I think the mass-market paperback is indeed one of those perfect industrial products that really can’t be improved ... like the paperclip or the windshield wiper. But 15 or 20 of them for a vacation or a book tour means a checked bag, which a) they lose, and b) they charge for, so I did get an e-reader, and I like it fine, but--without any ideological issues upfront--I use it only on the road, not at home.

JKP: Do you have a favorite among the 16 Jack Reacher novels you’ve written over the last decade and a half?

LC: No. For me it’s all about the next book ... maybe that will be the one that really works like I hope it will.

JKP: As far as I can tell from the BEA Web site, your principal involvement in that convention this year is to speak about audio books. What stories on that subject can you tell your audience?

LC: What interests me is that there’s relatively little crossover between print and audio ... audio listeners are a group all their own, and for them the voice-over guy is the “voice,” more so than the author. In my case, I’m lucky to have [narrator] Dick Hill, so I’m in safe hands ... or vocal cords.

JKP: Do you, in fact, have other obligations during BEA?

LC: There are a couple of anthology launches I’ll be dropping in on, one being Love Is Murder from the International Thriller Writers, to which I contributed a story, and the other is Vengeance from Mystery Writers of America, which I edited.

JKP: You’ve been good about not criticizing the casting of 5-foot-7-inch actor Tom Cruise to portray 6-foot-5-inch Jack Reacher in a movie version of One Shot. But if you had been asked to cast the role instead, would you have gone in a different direction?

LC: Don’t forget I worked 20 years in TV drama, which is the first cousin of movie production, so I was always realistic about the process. I was thrilled to get Cruise, and beyond thrilled when I saw what he was doing. Book fans with preconceptions are going to be weirded out for the first few minutes, and then they’ll love the next 120 to death.

JKP: There’s plenty of violence in your books. Yet they’re popular with women. Those two facts don’t seem to jibe. Can you explain?

LC: I think they jibe just fine. Women love to see a bad guy get what he deserves, just like men do. Maybe more.

JKP: Your real name is Jim Grant. Why did you decide to adopt the nom de plume Lee Child? And if you had to do it all over again, would you have gone without a pseudonym?

LC: I’ve always been in one type of showbiz or another, and I always used professional names. The only people who use my birth name are the aforementioned airlines.

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