Question 1: It has one heck of a violent opening. You clearly believe in grabbing the reader by the throat from the off.
We all have pretty limited attention spans these days (I know I can be that way), so it’s imperative to get the reader’s attention as quickly as possible. I want to set that hook right away, and hope that it’s strong enough to hold the reader well past chapter one. I think authors are not only competing against each other, but against some of the best television that has ever been made. Am I going to read this book, or binge-watch the latest House of Cards series? That’s the challenge.
Question 2: You do menace extraordinarily well. Can you break down your technique for us?
I figure if it makes me anxious, it will make the reader anxious. Anything that threatens the safety and stability of our family is pretty menacing. Fears that are closest to home, that can reach out and touch, are the fears I am interested in. We’re all worried about terrorism and global warming and having our online identity stolen, but it’s when our kids don’t come home on time that we lay awake at night staring at the ceiling.
Question 3: Stephen King, no less, describes you as ‘a suspense master’. Do you return the admiration?
Without a doubt. It was the first movie based on a Stephen King novel, Carrie, that turned me on to his novels. This was back in 1976. I’ve been a fan ever since, but perhaps never more so than now. His output is astonishing, and at this stage in his career he is doing some of his most ambitious work – his recent novel about going back in time to stop the JFK assassination in particular. He is one of the great American authors.
Question 4: You have a string of successful novels behind you. When you’re writing a new one, do they inspire you and give you confidence, or (as some bestselling writers confess) do they cast a long and baleful shadow?
You hope, with every book, that you get just a little bit better. So when you write a book that you are particularly pleased with – or at least as pleased as any author can be about his or her own work – you worry that the next one can’t be anywhere near as good. You’ve set the bar too high for yourself. But there’s ultimately nothing you can do about it. You set yourself down and get started on the next one, and even if it’s not quite as good as the last one – at least in your own mind; your readers may disagree completely – there may actually be parts of it that are much better. I’m about fifteen books in now, and I learn something with each one.