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--> How many rejection slips did you get before your first novel was published?
I lost count. If you include screenplays, short stories, and novels, it's in the hundreds. If you include just novels, it's only a dozen or so.
--> Have you ever thrown away a book that you just couldn't make work?
I threw away my very first draft of The Baker Street Letters, because I'd written it in the wrong voice, and with the wrong plot line, and--well, just about everything. I never showed that draft to any publisher, and I didn't keep anything from it. I started from scratch, wrote a new first draft that had some elements worth keeping, and then another revision after that, and then another.
--> Is it still exciting to publish a new book even after all this time?
It's always a thrill. A nervous thrill, because while I always get into a writing mode where I think the current book is the best one of all, I always then start worrying that maybe nobody will get it at all.
--> Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind when you need one?
I almost never write an idea down for later use. The few times I have, I've always lost the cocktail napkin or the back of whatever used envelope I wrote the note on. I keep ideas in my head, and I let them develop and connect with other things.
--> Do you have entire the story arc mapped out when you began this series?
Partly. I knew at the start that the relationship between Reggie Heath and Laura Rankin would evolve in major ways over the course of the first four novels, and that has happened, very naturally. I constructed the plot lines of each individual book to fit that evolution.
--> Do you know how a book/series is going to end when you begin it?
This is my first series, and no, I don't know how I'm going to end it. I have a couple of ideas in mind for a major transition that might take place at book six or seven, but I haven't decided yet. As to individual books--yes, I always know, or at least think I know. I don't begin writing until I know the beginning, at least one major plot point, and the ending. Or at least one possible ending. I'm not above changing my mind, and I have done.
--> Would you consider writing a screenplay for your books if asked?
The series began as a screenplay, which I shopped about in Hollywood in the early 1980s (yes, that long ago). When I published The Baker Street Letters in 2009, a production company finally got interested and bought an option--and then renewed it--and then renewed it again, while they hired someone else to write the screenplay. I didn't object, because that first novel was a little more introspective than the others, and I thought it would be a challenge to bring it to the screen (and it was). But the three novels since are much more cinematic, and it would be great fun to adapt them into a feature and sequel.
--> Have you considered writing something that is non-Sherlockian?
Yes. I may find time to do that between books five and six.
--> Is there any surprise you've got planned in upcoming books that you're willing to leak?
Yes, there's a surprise. Or two. No, I won't leak them, because I reserve the right to change my mind.
--> If you could change anything about your writing career, what would it be?
I suppose I would have spent less time pushing scripts in Los Angeles in the 80s. Hollywood is a hard nut to crack, and you can come tantalizingly close without actually making a living at it. My advice to any writer is to write the novel (or the stage play) first, and turn to the screen only when the opportunity presents itself.
--> If you could have written any single work – novel, screenplay, stage play, poem, history, biography – that you most admire and adore, what would it be?
I know I should name something Sherlockian. Or at least a mystery. Or something that I studied in my college lit courses. But I really wish I had written The Princess Bride (both the book and the movie). Of mystery novels, my favorite of all time is The Thin Man.
--> Is there anything you’ve always wanted to be asked about your writing but no one ever has?
I keep expecting someone to ask who the characters are based on, especially the Laura Rankin character, who, in my mind anyway, is really the center of attention in the first four novels. Even in the first novel, which I wrote entirely from Reggie's point of view, when Laura was not on screen, Reggie was thinking about her. I give Laura all the best lines. But since no one ever asks who she is based on, I guess that spares me the risk of naming any names.