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John Lescroart is a New York Times bestselling author known for his series of legal and crime thriller novels featuring the characters Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky, and Wyatt Hunt. His novels have sold more than 10 million copies, have been translated into 22 languages in more than 75 countries, and 18 of his books have been on the New York Times bestseller list. Please visit him at www.johnlescroart.com.

Now on with our interview!

Question:

 

Answer:

1. What is the most difficult part by far about your craft? 

 

Strange as it may seem after having published 28 books, I find that the hardest part of being an author is actually sitting down and writing the pages, knowing that I am always working without a net and that the ideas that felt so viable and even beautiful when I first started any particular work might actually be no good.  Trying to keep myself in what I call "genius mode," where I try to fool myself that because I'm such a genius I never could make a mistake or write a bad page (an essential part of my creative process) is by far the biggest day-to-day struggle that I have.  It's like a new and never-ending chore every single day, fighting those demons and believing, believing, believing -- sometimes with no apparent rationale -- that what I'm putting down is interesting, entertaining, possibly even profound.

2. What's the one thing about being an author you wish you did not have to do?

 

Like most successful authors, I am inundated with requests for promotional quotes ("blurbs") in support of new books.  I try to get to as many of these as I can, but because there seems to be an endless supply, I never exactly feel as though I'm catching up.  Nevertheless, because my early career initially attained lift-off because of positive blurbs from some of my colleagues (notably Jonathan Kellerman, Richard North Patterson and Digby Diehl), I feel a moral obligation to give back to others who are just starting out.  Unfortunately, some books simply, and in my own subjective view, do not make the cut.  Not being able to offer even a few positive words is extremely upsetting to me and constitutes the one thing that really, given my druthers, I'd prefer to avoid.

3. On the flip side, what is the best part about what you do? That one thing that makes the answer to that last question worth every minute?

 

Easy answer on this one.  Here is an email I got just today:

"I love your books and have read the complete Dismas Hardy series.  I... love that all (most) of your books take place in San Francisco!  I also read your first books about Sherlock Holmes's son and I'm on the third book in the Hunt Club series.  I just can't seem to get enough of you!  Looking forward to reading Fatal when it comes out in a few weeks.  I'm sure you've read similar emails but I really wanted to let you know you have another devoted fan!"  

When you get an email like this, it's pretty hard to imagine that many other jobs provide this kind of feedback and emotional support.  To realize that your words are reaching out and enriching the lives of real people in the real world is tremendously gratifying and definitely makes up for the few negative moments that inadvertently creep into my daily work.

4. Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers just how much work is required, even as a traditionally published bestselling author, to maintain your level of success?

 

Well, the main thing to keep in mind is that if you aspire to be a bestselling author, you have to treat it as that most non-glamorous of entities -- the day job!  It's not about just writing a book.  On the writing side alone, it's about putting out a story that is compelling and that people will want to read.  That's the sine qua non, of course -- without a great book, you've got nothing.  But beyond that is the promotion, which includes such moments as this and hopefully several other interviews, going on the road to bookstores and libraries and other venues (either on your publisher's efforts and dime or on your own), keeping up on your website and your Facebook and Twitter pages.  If you let it, promotion can eat up your life, so there's a bit of a learning curve about how much you should agree to do.  And guess why else?  Because as soon as you've gotten that last book nicely launched and out there in the world, you've got to be ready to at least start writing the next one.  The job doesn't end with one book.  I've got twenty-eight of them now, and I don't remember ever quite deciding that this was my goal.  I just finished one and then, fortunately, my publishers wanted another one, and then another.  This is a good thing, believe me.  But it's also a real job -- day-in, day-out, put down good pages and show up every year or more with salable product.  Luckily, as the old saying has it:  those who love their "work" never "work" a day in their lives.  So, for me the work is not a burden, but it does require diligence, passion, and a great deal of energy.

5. Why do you think your books are so successful?

 

I'm very lucky that after a "literary" start and a background in the capital "N" novel as an English major in college, I made the decision to incorporate plot into the stories I knew I wanted to tell.  I fell in love, early, with Hemingway and Arthur Conan Doyle and Rex Stout, PD James and John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard.  Something about all of these narrative voices strongly appealed to me, and the stories they told seemed to encompass as much or more of what interested me than the "often nothing really happens" school of literature.  In short, I became attracted to the crime novel and, after a couple of Sherlock Holmes' pastiches, found myself drawn to the reality based suspense thriller that has become so large a part of American culture over the past thirty years or so.  

That's in a general way why I have found myself writing books that became successful, but more specifically I try to write about normal, appealing people who find themselves in extraordinary and/or challenging situations that have their reflection in the real world.  There is always a mystery and a crime involved, and so a fun puzzle for readers to work with.  And, I think, most importantly, I try to have my novels revolve around characters that readers come to care deeply about -- real people with real marriages and children and jobs and problems.  This stuff is universal and compelling, and when you load your stories with these attributes, you can't really get too far off base.

6. How much work do you personally put into promoting your books and events? And how long before do you start promoting?

 

My publisher expects me to do a lot of my own promoting. I'm on twitter, but I prefer my Facebook Author page, which I think of as a salon about books, movies, music, and the arts in general. Readers come to that page for recommendations and literary discussions. They also visit my page for news about what I'm doing. They seem to welcome my remarks about what I'm working on, so I often start promoting a project when I'm halfway through it, telling readers how many pages I write each day and whether the work is coming easily or not. I make this sort of remark occasionally. I show a new cover. I quote from early reviews. The only time I do a "hard sell" is within a month of publication. Readers understand why I need to do that. But I never forget that they visit my Facebook page because of the discussions about books, movies, and music, etc.

7. Have you ever been to a book signing event and had no one show up?

 

You must be kidding.  I've been to not just one, but several.  I think all authors must have had this moment, and I must say, it's not a favorite.

But if you want to hear my all time worst signing, I went to a bookstore on one of my scheduled book tours (i.e. arranged by my publisher at the time) and they had a wonderful stack of books to sign after my talk.  Unfortunately, because my name (John Lescroart, pronounced Less-kwah) is apparently so darn close to John LeCarre, all of the books on sale were Mr. LeCarre's!  This was after a two thousand mile flight to get to the "event."  Sometimes all one can say is "Yikes!" and move on.

8. Did you ever feel like giving up as an author? How did you fight through it?

 

Well, since I didn't start making a full-time living as an author until I was forty-five years old, I have to say I often felt as though I wasn't author enough to give it up to begin with.  Even in the low-to-no salary days, though, I always thought, perhaps ridiculously, that it would someday work out, and in the meanwhile, I was writing and even publishing and hopefully learning and getting better at the craft.  I don't know if I'd call it "fighting" through the despair, but the spark of loving the actual work of it never really went out.  I'm pretty sure, since I'd done it for years for no pay anyway, that I'd keep writing whether or not I "made it," and then the fact that I actually did start to make a living as a writer was immeasurably sweeter.

 

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for more from John Lescroart and other bestselling authors!