Aging on a Sliding Scale

July 15th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Another one via Sarah Weinman (we can only believe it’s much cooler where she is — lots of cool stuff on her site this week). As mentioned, oh, a billion times, we love meaty author interviews. When the author sets aside any pretense of political correctness and tells the truth. In this interview, Loren D. Estleman is refreshingly honest about his talent (well, honest and confident — both were cool to read about) and his work. Since Sarah nabbed the killer (no pun intended) quote, we’ll add a few that caught our attention.

Estleman on writing to formula:

Of course, there must be a murder mystery. Walker has to stumble over at least one corpse, dance his tightrope ballet between the cops and the crooks, and undergo a certain amount of physical punishment. Every writer follows some kind of formula, going back to Shakespeare, who had to please Queen Elizabeth and the groundlings at one and the same time. It’s what you do with the formula that counts, and how far you can subvert it without overthrowing it entirely.

On making certain choices and living with them when a series becomes popular:

I foresee a time when I’ll regret having established Walker as a Vietnam vet. When I wrote Blue, I was 28, he was 32. Now I’m 51 and he’s somewhere in his 40s. Heroes age on a sliding scale, but unless the earth decides to stop revolving around the sun, as a former GI with a tour in Southeast Asia, he’s going to wind up having to pack an oxygen tank with his .38.

On conventional wisdom:

No real writer ever said protagonists must be sympathetic. Some critics have, but being paid to put words on paper doesn’t make you a writer.

On his readers:

The good is not a result of how many new crime novels are out there, but in their popularity. It means job security, but it also indicates there is a large intelligent readership that’s fed up with Nicholas Sparks and the other tree-killers who live on the national bestseller lists.

And, oh yes, Edith Wharton. We’re about to inflict Edith Wharton on people we love. We have already rhapsodized about this and warned them not to cheat by seeing the movie (the depressingly awful House of Mirth):

Wharton wrote with splendid sardonic insight about a place and a people that had vanished during her lifetime. Hemingway, London and F. Scott Fitzgerald owe much to her eye, her voice and her precision of language, and so do I. She doesn’t date, while so many writing so many years since her death have managed to become unreadable. It isn’t what you write about, but how you do it, and what conclusions you draw from your reader.

There’s lots more in the interview. Trust us.

File Under: Square Pegs