Interview Regarding Shooting Crows At Dawn and
By David Grace
--How did you get the idea for the [Shooting Crows] story?
I've always liked heroes. Real heroes, not drunks or depressed whiners pining for a lost love. I might start with a hero with a problem but I need to have him or her heal by the end. When I think of heroes, one sort that always comes to mind is the old-time lawman. I can still see Gary Cooper telling Grace Kelly that he just can't run from those killers heading for town in High Noon.
For this book I knew I wanted an heroic sheriff but I didn't want to write a period piece. I wanted my sheriff living in contemporary times. And it was too much of a stereotype to make him look like a movie star or James Bond. Most people, most heroes, aren't like that at all. The more I thought about Jubal Dark the more I saw him as a man in his late fifties, a bit overweight, maybe his hair is starting to thin a little, but a man with the heart of a warrior if not the appearance of one.
Once I knew who my hero was, Jubal Dark, then I asked myself what his life would be like. I realized that he might have lost his wife, his only wife, to cancer and that with CSI on TV the voters might be wondering if he wasn't too old and out-of-date for his job. So there would be a challenge there. But what would the story be?
It had to be from "bad guys" menacing his town. Jubal is the shepherd who has to protect his flock, so who would he be protecting it from? Escaped convicts immediately came to mind. And the story grew from there.
--Which [Shooting Crows] character would you most/least like to have dinner with?
I think you mean which character from this book, correct? If so, Jubal Dark is not a conversationalist so he probably would not be the best choice. I think I would enjoy talking with Holly Sharps who is still full of life and energy, plans and dreams.
--What are some of your favorite books?
I think you mean favorite books I did not write. The Godfather, December 6 by Martin Cruz Smith, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, The Blue World by Jack Vance, The Silence Of The Lambs.
--Do you still have much time to read?
I read every single day. I usually read crime novels but also some science fiction. I usually read from 11:00 p. to about 11:30 or midnight. Right now I'm reading The Closers (terrible title, good book) by Michael Connelly, a very good writer.
--Do you have any other works in progress? Any teasers or release dates?
Yes, I have just finished what I think is my best book ever. I don't want to mention the title until it is released which should be in about two to four weeks -- by July 15th if not a little earlier. It is very emotional. I tell people that if at least half the women and many of the men who read it don't cry at least once then I will be surprised and disappointed. It has several heroes not just one. I love one of the female characters, Jessica, who is twelve when the book begins and seventeen when it ends. She is moderately autistic and I have several sections where the story is told from her point of view. I absolutely love those sections which explore how she sees the people who love her, an emotion, like many emotions, which she finds difficult or impossible to understand.
--If a fairy godmother told you your life could be like a favorite book for 24 hours, which book would you pick and why?
Because most of the books I read involve murder, kidnapping, interstellar war and the like I probably would not want to be thrown into the middle of such a situation. But if we can assume that the fairy godmother would also give me the powers and abilities of the character I would assume, then I might enjoy being Kirth Gersen in Jack Vance's The Face. Gersen is very wealthy, extremely physically talented and obsessed with killing the arch-criminals who enslaved his family. Wealthy, talented and with a noble mission in life is not such a bad way to spend a day.
--Do you need anything to write (music, coffee, etc)? Are there any songs on your playlist- songs that inspired you or that were playing while you wrote?
I start every morning with a cup or two of Twinings Prince of Wales tea (loose not tea bags) but that's about it. I find that music helps me think but distracts me from writing. I have to hear the words in my head. Prose has a cadence to it if you do it right and a dull thud if you do it wrong. Music interferes with my ability to hear that cadence.
--If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
Power is often a curse. My inclination is to want more intelligence but super-intelligent people are not necessarily happier ones. Sometimes the opposite. I would like to be able to paint really, really well. I cannot draw a good picture of a dog. I'm hopeless that way, so, I would like the ability to be able to paint like Rembrandt.
--Besides writing, what do you like to do in your free time?
I cook, take pictures, hike, travel, spend time with friends.
--Is there anything else you want to add or say to your readers?
Yes. Every time I start a book I want it to be "better" than the last one. What is better? For me, better is more emotional. I want to write books that make your heart beat faster, that make you desperate to get to the next chapter. It is a long, long road learning how to do that well. If I had a time machine I would go back to some of my earlier books and write them differently or write a different book in their place, but no one has a time machine so I just have to apply those efforts to the next one. Success is a relative thing, just a point on a continuum, never an absolute result. And I know that no matter how well I think I may have done, I will never succeed with everyone.
People like different things. I know I will never write a book that everyone likes. I think that if The Silence Of The Lambs had never been published and if you gave a copy of it to a thousand people who said they loved crime novels, at least 20% of them would rate it a 7 or less on a scale of 10. I think at least 10% would rate it as a 6 or less. I would give it a 10. One of my favorite books and when asked about it, lots of people would say, "It was all right, I guess." That is a hard truth to accept.
As a novel Moby Dick was a failure. It was panned. The critics hated it. It just about ruined Melville's career. Moby Dick!
Van Gogh never sold a single painting. People thought they were no good. Van Gogh!
I hated Angels and Demons. I couldn't get past about page fifty. I thought it was a terrible book. I would rate The Da Vinci Code a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. What does that make me? Clearly, millions of people disagree with me. Maybe Dan Brown is right and I am wrong. These are difficult possibilities to accept.
In the end writers can only do what they think is a good job. The rest is beyond our control. Not having control is difficult for everyone. It certainly is for me. Reading a bad review of one of my books, if I think the reviewer got it wrong, makes me crazy. If I have to admit that the reviewer got it right then I'm embarrassed. But that is something I signed up for. No one made me become a writer. As Hyman Roth said in The Godfather II, "This is the business we've chosen."
Easy Target Answers
--How did you get the idea for the [Easy Target] story?
I saw the movie, Capote, and I was fascinated by the stark scenes of Kansas in the dead of winter. I started thinking about setting a story there, one that started around Halloween and continued through spring.
I had two choices, either write a story centering around a local person or one with an outsider hero. I liked the "stranger moves to town" idea because he could see things differently from a local. But who would that be? Because I write crime novels I decided to make him a retired cop. Since I have friends on the NYPD I decided to make him a retired New York City detective. Then I started building the personality and history of Greg Webster. I didn't want some bitter loner. I wanted a three-dimensional person with a good marriage and a friends and a real life, but not a perfect life. Real people don't have perfect lives.
The story grew organically from there. When I finished the manuscript I asked my friend who was at that time the Commander of the Internal Affairs Division of the NYPD to check it for police-department accuracy and he was a great help in that regard.
--Which [Easy Target] character would you most/least like to have dinner with?
While I like the hero, Greg Webster, I think his friend, Dr. Terry Singleton, would be a more interesting dinner companion. He's clever, witty, and a little bent so I think he would be fun to talk with.