From Soraya: Interview with Jeffery Deaver

Crime author Jeffery Deaver at Waterstone’s, a bookstore in England. Courtesy of Garry Knight.

Today I have another interview from my friend, Soraya Murillo Hernandez, from Spain. Soraya speaks Spanish, and I only speak English, so our friendship has leaned heavily on technology and Google Translate.

Soraya has so many amazing interviews that I’ve created a category for her work. This time she shares her interview with Jeffery Deaver, an American mystery/crime writer.

Deaver has been awarded the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Nero Wolfe Award, and he is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader’s Award for Best Short Story of the Year and a winner of the British Thumping Good Read Award.

His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including The New York TimesThe Times, Italy’s Corriere della SeraThe Sydney Morning Herald, and The Los Angeles Times.

You can find all of Soraya’s interviews here.

Soraya—What recollections you have of your years of journalist? Do you remember any interesting anecdote to tell?

Jeffery Deaver—I was a business journalist, not an investigative reporter. What I remember most was that I have always been a curious person and it was a delight to me to be able to meet and interview people and learn something about them. As a novelist now, those skills at journalism are very helpful to me in researching my books.

One anecdote is a lesson for all journalists. I wrote a story about a young man who had worked his way up from nothing and became a success story as a businessman. I was very inspired and I wrote a profile of him in some depth. It turns out that he was fake. It was all a scam and he was being looked at by the police for fraud. I was so inspired I didn’t dig as deeply as I should have.

I never made that mistake again.

Soraya—Of all your characters, I have special affection the quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme. What is your favorite character, and why?

Jeffery Deaver—I think Lincoln is my favorite character—because I was tired of the typical hero who shoots the bad guy or karate kicks him. I wanted a character who outthinks the villain. We all are our minds before we are our bodies. And I like an intelligent hero too, and Lincoln certainly is that.

Soraya—In the year 2010, you were chosen to write James Bond’s new novel. Was that more of a challenge?

Jeffery Deaver—I had read the original Bond books years ago and so I was delighted to be able to write the new Bond novel a few years ago. It wasn’t any more challenging than any of my own characters but I had to make sure that Bond was true to the original character because fans are so much in love with him. I was pleased the book did well.

Soraya—Do you consider yourself a writer of Best Sellers? What do you think about this?

Jeffery Deaver—Yes, I write best-sellers. Because I spend a lot of time thinking about what my readers will want, and I give them that. I don’t write for myself. I write for readers. Any author who thinks about himself or herself first will have a tough job in the business of writing.

Soraya—What do you think about the classics? Do I have to read them to write well?

Jeffery Deaver—I love the classics. And I think, yes, everyone should read them. Of course, classics are not esoteric complex literary fiction that is hard to understand. Classics are good stories: Dickens, Victor Hugo, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, not to mention Greek and Roman poetry and plays. We can learn language and style and good, solid plotting from them.

Soraya—Once I read that your prominent figures were of your own imagination, however for the readers and I they seem to be real. Would it be easier to handle the plot that if they were taken from real life?

Jeffery Deaver—No, I don’t take much from real life, though I’m occasionally inspired by current events (like data mining in The Broken Window). But I find it easier to create my very twisty plots if I rely on my imagination mostly.

Soraya—In your novel “Carte Blanche” you created a very intelligent villain. I have the feeling that you enjoyed creating this personage. Do you enjoy creating villains? Is it necessary for a good final that the villian finishes badly?

Jeffery Deaver—Oh, yes, I love my villains. For one thing, they’re colorful characters whom readers enjoy reading about. For another, it’s important for the hero to be up against a very complex, smart bad guy. Otherwise when they prevail (if they do), we don’t think much of them. Also, all books should be an emotional experience and we need our villains to be real people. Otherwise we get bored with the story.

Soraya—What was your inspiration to create “Ironside?”

Jeffery Deaver—Sherlock Holmes was the inspiration for “The Bone Collector” and the Lincoln Rhyme books. I wanted a hero who had to out think the villain, who couldn’t out-fight him.

Soraya—I’d like you to tell me about your way of writing. Explain how it is a typical day when you’re writing a book.

Jeffery Deaver—I spend eight months outlining my books and doing the research. The outlines are over a hundred pages long. This is important because my stories are very plot driven. I don’t write a single word of the plot until the outline is finished and the research completed. Then I can write the book in about two months. And I spend two months revising it. I work eight hours a day, usually six days a week.

Soraya—What writers do you admire? What is the last book you’ve read?

Jeffery Deaver—I mentioned the classics. Also some literary writers: Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Jane Smiley, Annie Proulx, Saul Bellow. Thriller writers: Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, John Gilstrap, Harlan Coben.

Soraya—Might you stop writing? Or is it the writing an addiction?

Jeffery Deaver—No, I’ll never stop writing. It is indeed an addiction.

Soraya—For your novels, which of your former professions have helped you more— the journalist or lawyer?

Jeffery Deaver—Both were helpful. Journalism taught me how to research and interview; law taught me how to organize and plan the stories ahead of time.

Soraya—You are also a folk singer. What is some of the music you have enjoyed?

Jeffery Deaver—…a download of The Civil Wars (an American folk group).

Soraya—Has the e-book helped you? What do you think of Amazon?

Jeffery Deaver—I don’t really care about the media through which people read my books. I sell about half e-books and half paper books. I think in general it’s helped. I’m happy with Amazon, now that they’ve come to an agreement to work with publishers and authors. I buy many, many things on Amazon.

Soraya—What motivated you to start writing novels?

Jeffery Deaver—For some reason I fell in love with stories when I was a little boy, and I never got over that. I also thought, after reading an author back then: I can do that!

Soraya—When you begin a novel, do you imagine a beginning and develop the action without knowing the result or do you imagine an end and develop the plot of agreement with this end?

Jeffery Deaver—I plan everything out before hand, often with the end in mind from the very start. I never begin writing until all is planned out.

Soraya—And finally, what advice would you give to new writers and writers in general?

Jeffery Deaver—Always write the kind of book you enjoy reading. Plan your book or story ahead of time. Always write with the reader in mind. Remember that rejection is merely a bump in the road, it’s not a brick wall. And keep writing!

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit
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