Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cashin in on New Acclaim

Hey, it’s not like Australian novelist Peter Temple really needs any more publicity, having already picked up his fifth Ned Kelly Award and won this year’s Duncan Lawrie Dagger for his novel The Broken Shore. Yet Bob Cornwell provides him with excellent exposure in a new interview at the Tangled Web site. My favorite responses are those that show Temple’s idiosyncratic approach to writing.

On the annoyance of deadlines: “I’m deadline-driven so I usually have to wait until someone threatens me to get on with it. And I’m endlessly tinkering. So I can never say I’m halfway. I’m not halfway, I’m halfway going back to have another stab at it. And [The Broken Shore] took exceptionally long because I was losing interest, in writing generally and existence as such, and I put it away. It dragged on and on and on and eventually my publisher rang me: ‘we need a publication date for this thing.’ So then I put my back into it. But at that point I’d been at it so long that I had no opinion left of it at all.”

On turning one-off protagonists into series leads: “It’s a form of imprisonment, a form of slavery. You shackle yourself to these people. I wrote Bad Debts, the first Jack Irish, with no intentions of writing a series. I thought it would be nice to write a book. I had a two-book contract and [HarperCollins] said, when’s the next Jack book coming out. I said, it’s not a Jack book, I’m writing something else. We’d never discussed the second book. They said hang on, you can’t write something else. So we had a polite disagreement and eventually I prevailed. So I wrote An Iron Rose, and then I wrote Black Tide, Jack No.2, and then I wrote another standalone, Shooting Star. That said, I became more attached to [Joe] Cashin [the protagonist in The Broken Shore] than my other standalone characters. But also it began to dawn on me that because I had left so many threads dangling, there was the possibility to go on. But I didn’t want to go on with Joe. Readers can bear just so much pain ...”

On why he writes crime novels: “I still don’t know how people settle down to write a literary novel. I would always drift towards something dramatic quite soon. I’ve always liked crime, and I’ve always been very critical of crime. A lot of it is very sloppy, very badly written. I liked the Americans, a lot of British writers. But I always thought: I could do that. And if I bring my editing skills to bear, I could do that better. I didn’t really choose crime, that was always what I was going to do.”

On the concept of outlining stories first: “Couldn’t bear it, that’s writing by numbers. If I was capable of sketching a plot out on a white board, I’d take the whole board down and send it the publishers and get someone else to write it.”

Temple adds that his next novel, due out from Quercus in 2008, will be called Truth, and will feature Inspector Villani, Cashin’s superior from The Broken Shore.

You will find all of Cornwell’s interview here.

READ MORE:The Languid Throwing of a Line,” by Jenny Davidson (Light Reading).

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