Interview: February 4, 2000
February 4, 2000
Michael Connelly is the successful author of many popular crime novels often featuring his famous LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch. But his latest --- VOID MOON --- has a female in the lead. A burglar named Cassie Black takes center stage in his thrilling new book. TBR Senior Writer Joe Hartlaub --- interviewer extraordinaire --- was eager to ask Connelly some questions about his new book and his old characters, namely Harry Bosch. Find out where the inspiration for "void moon" came from, how the birth of his daughter influenced the story, when we can expect the next Bosch book and more in this interview.
TBR: You weave Las Vegas, Los Angeles, astrology, parenthood into an absorbing thriller. Can you describe for us the inspiration that led to the creation of VOID MOON?
MC: The inspiration for VOID MOON came from many directions. It came initially from a police officer who told me about a burglar like Cassie Black who was operating in Los Angeles and hitting guest rooms in the Sunset Strip hotels. I wed my interest in this to another story I had heard from a friend who follows astrology. That story is about "void moons" and how they are bad luck. Finally, I took these two things and melded them with some current writing desires; one, that I write a book with a female protagonist; two, that I write an underworld story in which there would be no cops; and, three, that I use some of the feelings about being a parent that were new to me following the birth of my daughter.
TBR: Your main character in VOID MOON is a woman. Was it a challenge for you to write in a female character's voice?
MC: I didn't find writing a female protagonist to be the major challenge of the book. I think if you write a character who is good at what they do, has an interesting back story and is overlaid with a lot of telling details about their personality and world view, then it doesn't matter whether they are female or male. So as with my prior male protagonists, I concentrated on that --- making them an interesting human with their gender being secondary. The greater challenge of the book was telling a tale about different levels of criminals and making it a world the reader would want to inhabit for a few days.
TBR: In my review of VOID MOON I commented that your Harry Bosch novels have become popular enough that you could take the path of least resistance, so to speak, by writing and publishing a Bosch novel every year or two. You instead have established, at least for now, a pattern of alternating a Bosch book with a book featuring new locales, new characters, new storylines --- in essence recreating your universe every couple of years. What made you decide to take a respite, albeit a temporary one, from the Bosch novels?
MC: Actually, writing Bosch books would be the path of most resistance. I have written six novels with him in the lead and these books are becoming increasingly hard to write. It is imperative that if I write about Bosch I break new ground with his character. After six books or about a half a million words about him, that is getting hard to do. So now I only write about Bosch if I have something new to say or reveal. Writing these other books, while not apparent, actually is following the path of least resistance.
TBR: I understand that approximately two years ago you became a father for the first time. Did this experience --- certainly a benchmark in any man's life --- have any influence during your writing of VOID MOON?
MC: Being a father certainly had an influence on VOID MOON. Cassie Black operates on her maternal instincts in the book. To be able to write these sequences I simply tapped into my own paternal instincts.
TBR: Your acknowledgments in VOID MOON indicate that the surveillance equipment described therein exists and is available to the general public. You additionally go into great detail describing how this equipment can be utilized, as well as how a hotel room break-in can be facilitated. Did you, like Cassie in VOID MOON, have an "insider" with respect to how such things are done? Or do you merely have an active, if larcenous, imagination?
MC: I had both --- a lot of help and hopefully a lot of imagination. I did not use a burglar as an insider. I actually used a law enforcement officer who often performed these kind of break-ins --- with court approval --- to set up cameras and bugs to record criminal behavior. With that as a baseline I imagined the criminal side of things. Additionally, long before I wrote this book I had spent a considerable amount of time as a journalist writing a story about a professional burglar. I drew on that as well.
TBR: I have read elsewhere that your earliest influence was THE HARDY BOYS series. What was --- or is --- your favorite Hardy Boys book? Just for the record, mine is THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF.
MC: I read the Hardy Boys books so long ago that I cannot remember which would be my favorite or what the exact titles were. I just remember being totally absorbed in the stories as I read them. They were full of intrigue and mystery but they also could be scary. Most of all, they made you feel like you could be a hero. That was important when I was thirteen or fourteen.
TBR: I have also read that your main influence was Raymond Chandler. I found this interesting due to the fact that, while Harry Bosch is a private investigator, you have managed, quite successfully, to find and present your own voice to the extent that any stylistic comparison between yourself and Chandler would be difficult. How do you avoid subconsciously writing in the style of an author who has greatly influenced you?
MC: I think Chandler's style has been copied so often that it is rather easy to avoid. But the truth is I don't really think about it. I have my own voice, and whether it is derivative or influenced or unique doesn't really matter to me. I just want to be happy with the story.
TBR: You already have written the screenplay for VOID MOON --- any idea when/if this will be available to our eyes? And are there any other books of yours that you'd love to see adapted for the big screen?
MC: I don't own the screenplay so I don't think it will be made public unless a movie gets made. The movie question is tricky. I think I would like to see a Harry Bosch movie made, but by the same token if a film is made and an actor becomes the image of Harry Bosch, it may make it even more difficult for me to keep writing about him. I studiously avoid thinking about actors when I write my characters. I have my own images of them in my head. If suddenly Harry is spoken for by another image/actor it may prevent me from writing about him again. This is a gamble I took when I sold my books to Hollywood. So whatever happens it is of my own doing.
TBR: What other influences, literary or otherwise, have you had?
MC: Thomas Harris, James Lee Burke, Lawrence Block --- to name just a few.
TBR: Please tell us about your educational --- and prior to being published --- your professional background.
MC: I was a newspaper reporter specializing in the crime beat for about ten years before I was published. Many of my stories --- THE BLACK ECHO, THE CONCRETE BLONDE, TRUNK MUSIC come to mind --- have an inspiration in something I wrote then. And THE POET is a story inspired by my reporting days in terms of character, not plot.
TBR: Could you share with us a description of your writing discipline on a typical day?
MC: I try to be writing by 7AM. I am most productive from 7 till noon. I also write everyday, even if it's only for a few minutes.
TBR: What are you working on presently? And, assuming that your present pattern holds, will your next novel feature Harry Bosch?
MC: My next book is my tenth novel so I am sort of drawing in a lot of the characters I have written about before. The main protagonist is Terry McCaleb from BLOOD WORK. But Harry Bosch has a big part in it and Jack McEvoy from THE POET has a small part. Essentially I use McCaleb as a device for taking a look at Harry Bosch from another angle. I've almost finished it.
TBR: A number of authors known for a particular character --- James Lee Burke and Robert Parker, among others --- have recently introduced new, recurring characters. Do you have any plans along such lines?
MC: I think of all of my characters moving across the same plane of time. So I think they will always move in and out of my work. I will introduce new ones and drop others. I can't say for sure what I'll do next.
TBR: What are you reading now?
MC: SHAME THE DEVIL by George P. Pelecanos --- a great book by an underappreciated writer.
TBR: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
MC: Write everyday, even if only for a few minutes. To even accomplish a few minutes of writing you have to think about the story and the characters. Writing everyday keeps them fresh in your mind. When they are in your mind you are constantly working the story. A lot of writing takes place away from the computer or the pad and pencil. This little trick keeps that creative process going.