An interview with David J. Walker:
1. Does the writing of series novels present any special challenges, or benefits, you don’t find in stand-alone fiction? What advice would you give an aspiring writer about writing series fiction?
One challenge of a series is that the author is locked into whatever he/she has said about the characters in the past. For example, if the hero’s mother is dead in book one, she’s not around to be of service to the plot in book three. All series writers I know say that there are things they wish they hadn’t done early on because they’d like things a little different now.
A large benefit, to me at least, is that I don’t have to create a whole new set of characters for each book. When I begin a new book I already have the principal characters and know how they deal with life and with whatever problems I put in front of them. Of course, the fun thing is to have them change their approach and try something new (like get divorced, start drinking, find out their mother is not dead after all, or whatever).
Also, publishers like mysteries that come in series. I think it might be easier to break in with a series.
2. If you didn’t live in the Chicago area would you still find it a good setting for your books? What about the city appeals to you, and what qualities does it have that work well for your fiction?
I think Chicago is a great city in which to set crime novels. I can’t go into great detail on why (I’ve written whole articles on the subject), but for one thing the city already has a reputation (for gangsters and political corruption and such) that is known around the world and can be taken advantage of.
3. What writing projects are you working on currently?
I am writing on a stand-alone suspense novel that is set partially in Chicago, but involves Latin America and the CIA and attempts to bring about “regime change” in a country that is hostile to the U.S. It is so much different than the eight private eye novels I have had published that it is a challenge…but also a lot of fun.
4. Do you practice any writing rituals?
I write as early in the day as I can drag myself out of bed. As for rituals, I have recently taken to starting each session by reading some brief article about writing. Usually it’s something motivational for authors to keep me going, but sometimes something about technique. Novelists Incorporated, a national organization for published “pop fiction” authors, has a great newsletter full of inspiring things.
5. What have you been reading lately? Is there anything you’re reading now, or have read recently, that’s impressed you?
Nothing has impressed me in a long time as much as the Harry Potter books. I am also reading a lot of thrillers (which the Harry Potter books are, come to think of it). Recent favorites are: Derailed, by James Siegel, and Citizen Vince, by Jess Walter. I like stories about (more or less) ordinary people who are suddenly caught up in dangerous situations and find the often surprising capacity to survive and beat the odds.
6. Aside from writing and reading, what else do you feel passionately about?
I feel passionately that we create our own lives, that taking responsibility for our lives is a great step toward discovering happiness, and that the culture we live in tends to foster a sense of victimhood and dependence. I am a big believer in affirmations and visualizations and am not at all deterred by the fact that these techniques are often disparaged as “New Age” B.S. As far as politically and socially, I am a liberal through and through. I could go on and on, but who cares…?
7. Do you have a favorite quotation, or perhaps just a few words, you feel sums up your philosophy on life?
I have had all sorts of “sayings” that I have used at various different times in my life. Sometimes I stick them on my computer. A recent favorite is: “How I do anything is how I do everything.”
8. If you were marooned on an island, stuck in an elevator, or otherwise cut off from society, what one book would you have with you?
What book would I want on a deserted island? Maybe The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. Or ask me next week.
9. What memories do you have, from your childhood, about your experiences in public libraries? Did they play a role at all in your love of books and reading?
My first public library was in the small country town where I grew up. It consisted of a few rooms on the first floor of what had been a farm house, and was full of children’s adventure books and biographies.. My brother and I would go there about once a week, take out as many books as they would let each person take, and then trade them with each other as we read them. I remember exactly (I think) what it looked like, felt like, smelled like (although the librarian is a blank to me).
The second one was the old main branch of the Chicago Public Library (now the “Cultural Center”). I remember it as dark and gloomy (way different than it is now) and full of strange books. At the time I was in my first couple of years of high school on Chicago’s near north side. I never had a card and never took one book out, just wandered around the place about once a month, wondering who wrote all this stuff and thinking they must be important people. (Now I’m one of them, and I know better.)
David J. Walker’s website: http://www.davidjwalker.com/