Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. I hope you're enjoying the series - it has only been going for a few months, but we've been building up a remarkable list of participants already.
Today, for the 23rd in this regular series of quickfire author interviews I fired the 9mm questions at youthful crime writing star Michael Koryta, author of the award-winning Lincoln Perry series, as well as some acclaimed standalones - including the recently released supernatural thriller SO COLD THE RIVER. Koryta is one of the 'young lions' of crime fiction, so to speak. His first novel, TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE, an Edgar finalist, was published when he was just 21 and an undergraduate at Indiana University (I feel so old). He has also been a private investigator and award-winning newspaper reporter. He now divides his time between Bloomington, Indiana, where he teaches at the Indiana University School of Journalism, and St. Petersburg, Florida. You can see a cool little YouTube video of him talking about his upcoming book SO COLD THE RIVER, below.
I was fortunate enough to interview Koryta recently, for an upcoming feature in Good Reading magazine (likely the September 2010 issue), and we had a great chat for an hour, about everything from private eye novels, to the state of newspaper journalism, the increasing parochialism of the media, and much more. It was a lot of fun. I will post more about any feature articles based on the interview in due course.
But for now, Michael Koryta stares down the barrel of 9mm...
Harry Bosch, Connelly’s Bosch would be up there. Going back farther than that, I would say Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was probably the ultimate favourite. It’s interesting, I don’t know LA very well at all, but I’m definitely a fan of those LA-based characters.
What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was a book called The Crow and the Castle by a writer named Keith Robinson, and I read that when I was eight years old. It was a childhood favourite of my father’s actually, and he remembered it, and he went to the library and was looking for some of the books he remembered, and they had a copy of that, and it was the first mystery I ever read, so as you can see it had a pretty profound impact.
Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I actually had three unpublished books. There was one unpublished adult crime novel, a Lincoln Perry novel, which to me is the first one. And then when I was at high school I wrote two young adult novels, and I count those, even if nobody else does (chuckling), because they showed me how to write books from beginning to end, and that’s a really huge part of the writing process; to just develop the discipline to stick with a story over how many weeks or months. So I’d written three novels, and I was working as a journalist. I’d covered everything from police beat to sports reporting, and about everything in between.
Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I read, and work out a great deal - and that’s my coping mechanism in a lot of ways. When I’m stuck on a plot issue, or any aspect of a book, usually what I do is head out for a run or hike … it’s kind of by heading in the polar opposite of sitting at a desk, I can sometimes stir up some good things. And [I’m] a bit movie fan, as I think most or a lot of writers are.
What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I would say that [that part of Indiana, around Bloomington] is quarry country, limestone quarry and mining area - the scenery was featured in a film called Breaking Away, so getting out to see that part of the area outside of the town. Most people would generally go to the University, which is really the heart of the town, and I certainly wouldn’t discourage that. But I’m certainly fond of the country outside of the town...
If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
(chuckling) Wow, there’s no way to answer that without sounding self-flattering I think. I think Guy Pearce is wonderfully talented, so that would be an honour. I don’t resemble Guy in any way, but that would be an honour.
Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
SO COLD THE RIVER would be my favourite because it represented more of a leap for me. I’d obviously written in the traditional detective novel fashion for the first five books, and going into the supernatural thriller realm was not something I really anticipated doing. And maybe because of that, it was an immeasurably fun book to write, so I’d pick that at this point.
What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
The day I found out I was going to be published, I actually had to go to class, because I was still in college. I got the phone call in the parking lot of the newspaper where I worked, and obviously it’s a really great moment. It felt pretty strange, and I didn’t have much time to enjoy it, because I was running late for class. So I went straight to a Swahili class - that was to get my foreign language requirement out of the way. And the first time I saw it on the shelves, when I wasn’t signing, was actually a particularly great day, because it was in Boston at a Barnes & Noble, and it was the first day I got to meet Dennis Lehane (who has been incredibly generous to me), so I was riding on an emotional high from that, and I had a little time to kill before I went back to New York, so I wandered into this bookstore in Boston, and it was the first time I saw it in a bookstore that wasn’t hosting me for an event. And so that day has stuck with me, for a lot of reasons.
What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Well, I get a lot of unusual requests because I’m on the younger side for writers. I did one signing where a woman immediately raised her hand during a Q&A period, she clearly had a very urgent question, and I anticipated it was going to be something about the book, but all she wanted to know was if I cooked, because she’d read an article that said a lot of young men didn’t know how to cook.
Thank you Michael Koryta. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.
So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read Koryta's Lincoln Perry novels? Or his standalones ENVY THE NIGHT or SO COLD THE RIVER? What do you think of his writing? Of the fact he's already achieved so much, and isn't even 30 years old? Thoughts and comments appreciated.