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Interview: November 21, 2003

November 21, 2003

Jonathan Kellerman has brought his expertise as a clinical psychologist to a number of his bestselling suspense novels, including those that feature psychologist Alex Delaware. His latest effort, THE CONSPIRACY CLUB, introduces readers to a new character --- a dedicated young psychologist named Jeremy Carrier.

In this interview with's Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight team (Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub, and Wiley Saichek), Kellerman talks about his decision to depart briefly from Alex Delaware, the working relationship he has with his wife Faye and a memorable encounter he had with one of his fans.

BRC: While Alex Delaware is your best-known character, you have never been reticent to break from the Delaware stories and explore other directions, as you have most recently with THE CONSPIRACY CLUB and Jeremy Carrier. Why did you decide to write about someone new?

JK: I'm always led by the story, and a particular story and set of characters came to me. Actually, this was the rare case of "inspiration." I was relaxing after finishing A COLD HEART, staring out at the Pacific and the idea for what I thought was going to be a short story floated into my mind. Somehow, it became a novel.

BRC: What are your plans regarding Carrier and Delaware? Do you plan to alternate novels involving the two characters?

JK: No specific plans for alternation. I've completed another Delaware, as well as another novel featuring Detective Petra Connor of Hollywood Homicide. I certainly intend to write more Delawares --- in fact, I'm just about to begin one.

BRC: One of the more interesting elements of your novels is that your protagonists seem to be involved in complex emotional relationships that provide an edgy undercurrent to the main plot. They're very real, certainly not the "Nick and Nora" stereotype one frequently encounters. Are the occasional problems that your characters encounter in this regard based on individuals you know, or are they entirely the result of inspiration?

JK: There are two types of crime series protagonists: the Agatha Christie hero, e.g. Poirot, a psychologically static conduit for solving puzzles, or what I prefer --- a dynamic, evolving individual. No disrespect to Dame Agatha. It's just that one of the things I enjoy most about writing fiction is character development.

The characters emerge from my rather twisted mind. That's another enjoyable part of the job: making stuff up.

BRC: What is the most difficult part of writing a non-series title? What is the most rewarding aspect?

JK: The difficult part about writing any novel is transforming ideas into a coherent written communication that engages the reader. I try to create a hypnoidal (hypnotic-like) sense of place that draws the reader out of his/her daily routine. Each novel is harder than its predecessor because I must work harder at not repeating myself. However, I enjoy the challenge. This is the greatest job in the world.

BRC: How much time do you spend researching the book? Do you conduct all of your research before you begin writing, or do you continue researching as you are writing?

JK: Time spent researching varies from book to book. Some novels require months, even years of research, others very little. I try to do most of my research before I begin but inevitably questions emerge during the writing.

BRC: This year saw you publish two books --- THE CONSPIRACY CLUB and A COLD HEART. Was it difficult writing this much in such a short amount of time?

JK: It didn't feel difficult at the time because I was so charged up about both books. Afterward, however, I was pretty tired. In a good way, like after a great workout.

BRC: Have you ever considered writing a book with your wife Faye where Delaware and Peter and Rina Decker meet up?

JK: No imminent plans for a Delaware/Decker hookup. However Faye and I are collaborating on two volumes of a novella series entitled "Double Homicide." It's our first collaboration and it's turned out to be great fun.

BRC: At what point do you and Faye share your work with each other? Do you feed possible storylines for your series characters to each other?

JK: Faye and I share 100-page segments of our books. Fortunately, each of us really admires the other's work, which helps maintain marital harmony. The only problem is I get into her story, and then I have to wait months for the next installment. I do welcome Faye's comments. Having a successful and brilliant novelist around for support and counsel has been a real luxury for me. We don't share storylines, though it's not uncommon for us to read or observe something and to offer it to the other (e.g. "That would be a great Decker/Delaware story.") After 31 years of marriage, raising four great kids, our novels are just about the only pockets of privacy we have left.

BRC: Many bestselling authors have written holiday books about the Christmas season. Have you ever considered doing one that weaves in a story of Hanukkah into the plot line?

JK: No Hanukkah stories in the pipeline. I think Adam Sandler covered that pretty comprehensively.

BRC: Can you share a particularly memorable encounter with a fan?

JK: Since I'm a psychologist I do encounter some eccentric fan mail and the like. One of my most pleasurable fan experiences was signing a book for a quiet, courteous gentleman who turned out to be Warren Zevon, the brilliant songwriter/singer. Subsequently, Warren and I became friends. Sadly, he passed away this year. His loss is significant.

BRC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect to see it?

JK: The next Delaware, THERAPY, will be published this summer. The Petra Connor novel, TWISTED, will be published in November 2004.