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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Author Interviews - BRYAN GRULEY

I've heard from a handful of authors whose books I've reviewed since starting this blog in February, 2010. Recently I exchanged emails with Bryan Gruley, author of STARVATION LAKE and THE HANGING TREE.

Bryan very graciously agreed to let me interview him for one of my Five Minute Conversations. Since we did the interview by email, it seemed more fitting to just start a new section; hence Author Interviews will be a new segment on my blog. The following is basically word for word from our emails. My questions are in italics and his responses are bold regular font. Please bear with me as Bryan did; I'm not a journalist and this was my first author interview so I hit him with the first questions that popped into my head. Hopefully as I do more of these interviews, I'll become more sophisticated with my queries.

As background, Mr. Gruley is the Chicago Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal. His first book, Starvation Lake, was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America and is currently in it's tenth printing. He's a hockey enthusiast and you can read more about him on his blog at Let him know you found his books on Monarch Book Reviews! Be sure to check out his books. I've read them both and loved them.

Lynn: How did you segue from newspaper work to writing mysteries? Was it because you always read mysteries?
BRYAN: Actually I'm not a mystery maven, per se. I read Hammett and Chandler, Connelly and Harris, but I read widely. I've wanted to write novels since I was a kid. I finally wrote one. I didn't set out to write a mystery. I just wrote a story. The publisher told me it was a mystery.

Lynn: When you wrote your books, how much of your own newspaper experience defined Gus Carpenter's job on a small town struggling newspaper?
BRYAN: Not many specific experiences, but a lot of the inside culture and circumstance I've seen working at newspapers helped me draw Gus and the Pilot.

Lynn: Many of us think we could "write a book"; how did you decide that you really would? And how did you find the discipline.
BRYAN: I got out of bed early and started writing. As the words finally began to pile up, I realized I might actually wind up writing a book, which gave me more incentive. It was good as well to have a few friends--especially the non-fiction book writer, Jonathan Eig--reading my stuff and encouraging me along the way.

Lynn: So many times writers inject some parts of their friends or families into their characters. Is this the case with you and do you feel comfortable letting family and friends read your books? Does their opinion affect your writing?
BRYAN: My characters are not direct analogs for friends and family, so I don't have to worry about showing them my work. I frequently use names of family and friends for minor characters or places; for instance, Enright's Pub, Fortune Drug, Evangelista Drywall, and hockey-playing Linke twins are all named for people I know.

Lynn: Why do you write? Does it make you happy? Does it feel like "work"?
BRYAN: Writing is what I do. It's what God put me on earth for, so it's who I am. There are days when it feels like "work," of course, but overall, it's as much a part of my life as eating or laughing.

Lynn: Did you always want to write?
BRYAN: Since my mother gave me the Hardy Boys' mystery, THE CRISSCROSS SHADOW, I have wanted to be a writer. I'm lucky to have made a great living at it.

Lynn: Do you think your characters and/or subject matter would have been different if you hadn't had a full career already?
BRYAN: Undoubtedly.

Lynn: What's your ritual? (A glass of wine, an old typewriter, jelly beans, your favorite baseball hat, windows XP, a pack of cigarettes, a bologna sandwich?)
BRYAN: Get up early, look at email, skim the papers, make coffee, procrastinate, look at email, finally sit down and write for an hour or two. If I get 500-800 words in, that's a pretty good day.

Lynn: How does it feel when you see your book for sale in a bookstore?
BRYAN: Great, especially when it's right there at the FRONT of the store.

Lynn: Are the characters from STARVATION LAKE and THE HANGING TREE going to return in your next book? When is your next book going to be published?
BRYAN: The third Starvation Lake book, THE SKELETON BOX, is in the works. If all goes well, it'll come out in the fall of 2011. Gus Carpenter will return as our guide, along with several of the standing characters as well as some new ones.

Thank you, Bryan, for exchanging emails with me and for allowing me to interview you. It was a pleasure to meet you and I can't wait to read THE SKELETON BOX!

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