It turns out I share my birthday with acclaimed US crime writer (and now supernatural-tinged thriller writer) Michael Koryta, who was one of my favourite 'new-to-me' author discoveries back in 2009. I had the opportunity to interview Koryta by phone last year, and we had a great discussion about crime fiction, the state of journalism, and more - parts of the interview were used for a feature in Good Reading magazine (unfortunately only available online to subscribers), and other parts for his 9mm interview here on Crime Watch. Recently I read Koryta's latest novel, THE RIDGE, and really enjoyed it.
To mark Koryta's birthday, I thought I would republish his 9mm interview, for you all to enjoy.
The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Michael Koryta
Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?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Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I actually had three unpublished books. There was one unpublished adult crime novel, a Lincoln Perry novel, which to me is the first one.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.