Lawrence Block Interview

Lawrence BlockLawrence Block is a best-selling novelist and multi-award winner including the Edgar Grand Master Award, Best Short Story Collection Anthony Award and Best Character Award for Matt Scudder in the 2009 Shamus Awards. In addition to this he has written a number of ‘how to’ books on the craft of writing including Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, Write For Your Life and The Liar’s Bible.

Many of your novels are set in New York, a city where you have lived most of your life. Can you elaborate on how the changing atmosphere of New York has affected your writing?

LB: I don’t really know that it has. I suppose the books reflect the city, or at least my perception of it, at the time of the writing.

You have won numerous awards for your writing, how highly do you regard them and are they something you aspire to?

LB: Awards are certainly gratifying, but I don’t know that they’re important.  It’s the same book whether or not one gets a little statue for it.

In terms of your books about writing, what inspired you to write the first one? Was there a particularly terrible novel that served as a catalyst?

LB: No, nothing like that. I started writing a column for a magazine, and one thing led to another.

You have had an incredibly prolific career, how have you been able to keep your writing discipline over the years?

LB: I’m lazy. This leads me to do things efficiently and finish them as quickly as possible.

What is your writing routine, do you treat it like a day job and work core hours or do you work to a word limit?

LB: I don’t have a routine. The pattern varies from book to book.

Some authors have books that they really toil over, was there a particular book that you struggled to write or enjoyed writing less than the others?

LB: Not that I can think of.

At the risk of sounding cliché your books are often described as ‘gritty’, what parts of them do you enjoy writing the most and is there anything that you purposefully shy away from?

LB: I’ve never quite understood what “gritty” means, so I won’t address that. I enjoy writing when it’s going well and I’m pleased with what I’m doing; that’s pretty much irrespective of content.

Having produced various books for writers do you ever hear any success stories from people that have read them?

LB: In the past couple of years, Open Road brought out The Liar’s Bible, The Liar’s Companion, and Afterthoughts, all as eRiginals. And I’m frequently heartened when a newly successful writer lets me know that something I wrote played a role. I still hear from people who took my seminar, Write For Your Life, a quarter of a century ago, and am glad the seminar’s now available in book form under that title.

You have written under the pseudonym Jill Emerson, how did writing under a female name change your approach to books such as Getting Off?

LB: I don’t know that it did. A third or more of the book was written, and several of the chapters published as short stories under my own name, before I made the decision to put Jill’s by-line on the book.

You have written huge numbers of novels and short story collections, you also wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of My Blueberry Nights, which form of writing do you prefer and how different is your approach to each one?

LB: My Blueberry Nights wasn’t my story, it was Wong Kar-wai’s. I’ve adapted a couple of books of mine for the screen, but they never got filmed. Screenwriting is interesting and demanding, and has its own satisfactions, but I don’t care if I never do any more of it.

Do you think it is important for a writer to have at least some first-hand experience of what they are writing about?

LB: No, of course not. All a writer needs is imagination.

Over the years you have repeatedly said that you try to get things right first time rather than editing later. Does this cause conflicts with your publishers?

LB: No.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers, apart from to buy one of your books on writing?

LB: I don’t know that I’d steer anyone toward one of my books. They’ll find their way to them if they’re supposed to. And my advice to any writer would be to write to please yourself. Period.

 DAN HOWARTH

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