Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interview With a Best-Selling Author

I've been reading Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels my entire adult life. Since he has written thirty-six Spenser novels over the last thirty-six years, his writing history is actually longer than my entire adult life.

By now the Spenser novels are like pasta y fagioli soup to me. For those of you not fortunate enough to be Italian, pasta y fagioli is macaroni and bean soup. It's my #1 comfort food. Lots of carbs. Carbs boost serotonin levels. Believe me, after a bowl of pasta and Great Northern bean soup, you can't help but feel better.

The Spenser novels are pasta y fagioli soup for my soul. Are they formulaic? Yes. Is Parker phoning them in? Yes. BUT . . . for these uncertain times, Spenser is a moral touchstone. He's a Boston private investigator who hates authority (something he and I share in common), who flouts rules, but who has a very strict personal code. Spenser's world is black and white, good and bad, and he's always on the side of the angels (bedraggled though their wings may be).

AND, Parker is one of the masters of dialogue. Reading the dialogue in one of his novels is the equivalent of taking a writer's class on the subject.

I say all this because Monday's Wall Street Journal (WSJ) offered me a rare treat. My favorite WSJ columnist (Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg) interviewing Robert B. Parker.

The most interesting exchange of the interview for me was this one, which only reinforced my belief that Parker was not expending vast amounts of effort on the newer novels:
WSJ: You'll publish three books this year. What's your daily schedule like?

Mr. Parker: I write five days a week unless there is something I have to do instead. I normally write seven to 10 pages a day, which means I generally finish a new book every three months. It comes easily, and I don't revise because I don't get better by writing a new draft. Indeed, I sometimes get worse. When you reread, you never like it as well, which means I won't like the second draft either. So I don't do it… If I were single and childless, I'd probably write fewer books and venture off to more exotic fields. But I'm content. It's not a grind.
Read the entire interview here.

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