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Interview: November 22, 2006

November 22, 2006

Each with a slew of international bestsellers in their repertoires, husband and wife Jonathan and Faye Kellerman are two of the world's most popular suspense/thriller authors today. They recently combined their talents to write CAPITAL CRIMES, a pair of novellas in which their respective signature protagonists, Alex Delaware and Peter Decker, make an appearance. In this interview with's Carol Fitzgerald and Joe Hartlaub, the Kellermans reveal why they chose to collaborate at this stage in their careers and describe the methods they use to keep the writing process fruitful and harmonious. They also talk about the accomplishments of their son, author and playwright Jesse Kellerman, and share what future projects are in store for each of them. I love the concept behind CAPITAL CRIMES and your previous collaborative volume, DOUBLE HOMICIDE. You have both been writing for over 20 years, yet your collaborative efforts started only recently. Who originally thought of the idea of the two of you collaborating? Is it an idea you've considered for a while?

Jonathan Kellerman & Faye Kellerman: In the past, we considered writing our sole "alone time" --- preciously private. After all, we've been together for 36 years, married for 34 of those, and have collaborated on just about everything in life except writing --- including raising four kids. However, a few years ago the notion of writing police procedural novellas set in interesting cities came up during a conversation, and it grew in appeal as a means of stretching creatively. These books were intended to supplement rather than to substitute for our novels, and, of course, we wanted to see how smoothly we worked together. Turns out, it was a wonderful process, without a cross word, and we were quite pleased with the results.

BRC: "Her Sister's Keeper" and "Music City Breakdown," the two short novels that comprise CAPITAL CRIMES, are much darker in tone and content than "In the Land of Giants" and "Still Life" in DOUBLE HOMICIDE. Was there any reason for the change of style?

JK & FK: Once again, we're talking about stretching creatively. The novella form was new to us, and though we were pleased with DOUBLE HOMICIDE, we found ourselves wanting to dig deeper into the characters' lives and internal thought processes. In a sense, that brings these books closer to our novels, so perhaps we've veered toward "familiar territory." However, the combination of our two voices has produced a new voice that can't be replicated by either of us working alone. Quite fascinating, really, to see what emerged.

BRC: This book, unlike DOUBLE HOMICIDE, features your signature characters, Alex Delaware and Peter Decker. We know that fans have been looking for this kind of a collaboration for years. What made you decide to include them in this book?

JK & FK: The fun, here, was being able to view Decker and Delaware from the perspective of an outside observer --- really the first time these two men have been categorized as outsiders rather than as stars of the show. We say "fun" because we don't feel that's an undignified concept when applied to writing fiction. We write the kinds of books we enjoy reading, and we feel that if we're stimulated --- and entertained --- the reader will be as well.

BRC: How does your collaborative process work? Does one of you begin with a first draft of a story and pass it to the other, or are you both part of the process of each story from the beginning? How do you manage to work on these shorter novels while maintaining your respective writing schedules on your more established series?

JK & FK: We used email, which perhaps contributed to the harmonious working relationship, in that it avoided verbal discussion. Unlike our respective novels, over which we're quite protective, we needed to start out with a different mindset: this was to be a collaboration involving total surrender at each step of the way. That is, when one of us wrote a draft, he/she needed to relinquish it to the other for undebated modification. Kind of like surrogate parenting, except the baby kept returning for more care. We kept emailing drafts back and forth until we were both satisfied. Happily, we admire each other's writing skills and found nothing with which to quibble. It really went quite seamlessly.

BRC: What is the easiest part of the collaboration process for each of you? And what is the hardest?

JK & FK: Honestly, this was easy. A lot easier, in fact, than writing a novel alone, which can be quite isolating, even lonely. The buck kept getting passed from hand to hand, which relieved some of the crushing pressure writers can feel, particularly in the middle of a book, where conundrums and creative challenges arise. Here, someone else was available with a life-jacket. And someone we trusted.

BRC: I was extremely impressed by the way in which you captured the flavor of Berkeley and Nashville, the cities where the short novels in CAPITAL CRIMES are set. You display a knowledge of those cities --- particularly Nashville --- that was obviously acquired by much more than an overnight visit or two. What attracted you to those cities as settings for "Her Sister's Keeper" and "Music City Breakdown?" And how did you go about researching the nooks and crannies of each city?

JK & FK: Thanks for saying so, because we really strove for authenticity and regional flavor. We picked cities with strong identities and spent time traveling and talking to those in the know. Research is always part of writing a crime novel, and this research was fun --- that word, again. The police departments of Nashville and Berkeley couldn't have been more helpful, as were various other contacts we've cultivated over 20 years. That's one of the advantages of a long career; one acquires credibility and a body of work that can be "investigated." Our bodies of work make it clear that we respect what law enforcement does, so perhaps that helped. In any event, we took our time researching before sitting down to write, striving to get it right.

BRC: You have both written books outside of the mystery/thriller genre. Do you have plans for collaboration on a work in another genre, or even a nonfiction work?

JK & FK: We've just finished taping separate episodes of Court TV's new series, "Murder By The Book." Faye's show will air 11/27, Jon's 12/4. It's likely we'll collaborate on other film/TV projects, as well as on other CAPITAL CRIMES-type books. Primarily, though, we'll be concentrating on our novels. Jon's next Delaware, OBSESSION, will be published in April 2007 and Faye's new Decker/Lazarus novel, THE BURNT HOUSE, in August. We each have multiple book contracts for our respective series.

BRC: Your son, Jesse, published his first novel, SUNSTROKE, in 2006 and has a new novel, TROUBLE, scheduled to be published in January 2007. It may be premature to ask this, but has the topic of a collaboration between Jesse and either --- or both --- of you been raised?

JK & FK: We're so pleased with the success of SUNSTROKE --- rave reviews and appearances on several bestseller lists. TROUBLE is, to our mind, an even stronger book --- immensely powerful --- and the industry buzz has been strong. Jesse's publisher, Putnam, was smart enough to purchase several more novels from him, so he'll be busy for a while. If the three of us do collaborate, it will be on a film/theater/TV project, as Jesse is also a published playwright with strong scriptwriting skills.

BRC: What will we see next from the team of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman? And what can we expect from you individually, as well?

JK & FK: As we just noted, several more Delaware and Decker novels are in various stages of planning, writing, etc., and we're always open to stand-alone projects that inspire us. Both of us love our jobs and a good part of that is due to our readers, who've been so loyal and supportive over more than two decades.