Michael Connelly won the Edgar Award, Best First Novel, for THE BLACK
ECHO, number one in the Hieronymous Bosch series, plus the Anthony Award,
Best Novel of 1998, for BLOOD WORK, a Terry Caleb mystery. Michael is
also the winner of the Macavity, the Nero, the Maltese Falcon in Japan,
the .38 Caliber in France, and the Grand Prix, also in France. I wanted
to interview him not only because he is a big award winner but because
he is the quintessential mystery writer. His work sells extremely well
and heís known, not only in Europe and Japan, but also the Netherlands
and Korea. In no time, his books are scooped up and optioned by a powerful
star or studio in Hollywood. Even Clint Eastwood had to get in on it
and presently has the rights to BLOOD WORK.
Copyright © 1999 Denise Baton
Michaelís glory is hard-earned. He has a background in journalism
and worked the crime beat in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
covering everything from cocaine wars to airline crashes. Michael
landed a position as crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times and
heís been in the city of lost angels ever since.
For those of you who are book collectors or just diehard Michael
Connelly fans, B.E. Trice Publishing is now offering a limited edition
of Michaelís next book, A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, which will be
available in late November. You can also purchase a deluxe edition
that is leather bound.
Whatever you do, donít miss Michaelís television series, LEVEL 9, an
exciting new show about a unique task force that fights cyber crime,
which premiered on UPN Friday, October 27 at 9:00PM/8PM Central. The
producers and writers of LEVEL 9, Michael is both, have a concept for
this series that is not only reality-based but also a vision of the
future. A mix of FBI, Secret Service and computer hacker personalities
versus never-seen-before techno-villains makes for unending digital
Interviewing Michael was a real pleasure and Iíd like to do it again
because I have so many more questions.
Denise: I'm pleased to hear that we will be seeing more of Harry
Bosch and I'm quite curious as to what trouble he gets into in your
next book, A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT. That Terry Caleb is smart but
he's no match for Harry! What made you decide to have these two do battle?
How did that concept occur to you? It's almost as if your good and bad
angels have gone to war.
Michael: I think because it was my tenth book I wanted to do something
that might bring together many of the different characters I have written
about. Also, for a long time I had wanted to do an exploration of Bosch's
character through another set of eyes. In other words, every Bosch book
is an exploration of his character, but in those books the world is
seen through his eyes. So what we know about Bosch essentially comes
from him. In Darkness you get a different view, Harry Bosch through
the eyes of Terry McCaleb.
Denise: You mentioned that you were concerned that readers might
not be pleased with Harry in DARKNESS MORE THAN LIGHT. Does that mean
he does something that you don't approve of? In my world, Harry Bosch
can do no wrong.
Michael: Well, I think what makes Harry an interesting character to
write about and hopefully to read about is that he is a flawed character.
In this book his flaws are magnified because he is more or less studied
by McCaleb. Also, Bosch has always walked on the edge above the gray
area of the abyss. If you are a character like that, in real life or
not, you can slip and fall if you take your eyes away for just a moment.
In Darkness, Harry takes his eyes away for a moment and things happen.
Denise: I've noticed in a number of your books that there are
recurring characters. For instance, characters and locations that were
introduced in TRUNK MUSIC, a Harry Bosch story, were mentioned and/or
appeared in VOID MOON, a story that features a female criminal and her
spine-tingling drama. Is that part of a fun puzzle for you? Or is that
merely where the characters are living in your mind and so they jump
out in appropriate stories?
Michael: I think all of my stories and characters are moving on the
same plane of time. So when I can and where it is possible I like mixing
them together, so that one minor character in one book might show up
in another. It helps link all the work so that in my mind it is all
part of the same story mozaic.
Denise: I have to say that THE LAST COYOTE is my favorite Harry
Bosch story because we, as the readers, get an intimate look at Harry's
deeply personal emotional life. You mentioned at the fundraiser for
the Pasadena Library that your favorite is ANGEL'S FLIGHT because of
its evaluation of community and its social/political content. This indicates
a wide range of ability on your part. Do you think this has to do with
your background in journalism? Or some other aspect?
Michael: I don't know where it comes from. I guess a dedication to the
work. If I'm a good writer it is because I am a good reader. I am able
to observe the aspects of novels that make them good. I then try to
take it into my own writing. I write crime novels but the crime and
the mystery and all of that stuff is always secondary to what I want
to say about the protagonist and his or her relationship to the world.
Denise: LEVEL 9, is that in reference to severity of crime? Where
does that term come from?
Michael: The TV show I created with a friend of mine is called LEVEL
9 after the FBI's designation for cyber crime of the highest severity
Denise: Can you share with us some of the joys and heartaches
of being both a producer and writer on a television series?
Michael: I was executive producer on the pilot and will now serve as
a consulting producer as the show goes into production. I needed to
step back from it so that I could continue writing books. It has been
an interesting process. Seeing a story on paper become something that
is actually played out and filmed was a thrill. I guess the only downside
I would mention is the disappointment of never being able to capture
exactly what you envisioned.
Denise: Do you have a funny or ironic story to share about your
experience on Level 9?
Michael: I don't know that I do. I think that because I am fortunate
enough to have a book-writing career going well, I was able to take
the show and how things went with an open mind. This made the whole
process fun. When I would look out at the sea of trailers and equipment
trucks on a set, I actually felt very fulfilled thinking about how it
all came from a story my partner and I had put down on paper.
Denise: I understand that the rights to all your work have been
scooped up by Hollywood. Does that feel great? Do you feel tied or constrained
in anyway because of that?
Michael: That Hollywood likes my stuff doesn't in and of itself validate
anything. I think the most positive thing that came out of Hollywood
for me was the freedom its money gave me. Taking money from Hollywood
allowed me to quit my day job and concentrate fully on the writing of
my novels. To me that was a great deal and one I would make again in
a heart beat.
Denise: You mentioned that you kept your day job all the way through
to your fourth published book. Did you ever doubt that you would be
anything but a fabulously successful writer?
Michael: Sure, there are always doubts. There are still doubts today.
I think a writer should be his own toughest critic, and if he is, then
there will be doubts.
Denise: How does it look from where you are now? How do you feel
about your journey?
Michael: The journey, no matter where you are on it--beginning or end--is
the thing. I have enjoyed every step of the way. From the first unpublished
efforts to the waiting for the first published book to come out, to
the battle through the sophmore jinx and on and on. It is easy to say
this once you've had some success, but I have liked every bit of it
because it's not about money or book sales or fame or anything else
other than the writing. All of those things are great to achieve but
they don't come close to the fulfillment that comes when you are alone
in your little room and sitting in front of the computer. That's what
it was all about for me at the beginning and that's where it's at right
now. I hope it doesn't ever change because then I'll be lost on my journey.
Rereading this answer it sounds so corny. I'd like to delete it but
I can't because, corny or not, it is the truth that all writers know.
Denise: I want to ask you more about writing the bad guy. It's
said that a story is only as good as the villain is bad. In your book,
VOID MOON, the villain is perhaps justifiably angry about things that
have gone before, he has a charming quality and a sense of humor. In
short, he's fascinating, yet still a cold hard killer. How did this
character come to you?
Michael: Jack Karch came to me because of Cassie Black. I was writing
a book with a protagonist who was a criminal. I knew that in order for
the reader to embrace her, I had to set an opponent after her who would
be totally worthy as an adversary. But I also know that no character
can be one dimensional and still be successful. I couldn't make Karch
evil incarnate and leave it at that. I had to give him layers, reasons,
motives. That's what I did and I think he serves two purposes in the
book. He is interesting in and of himself. He is also a very worthy
opponent, a guy the reader wants Cassie to best.
Denise: I've noticed in a number of your books your bad guy has
struck a chord for me. Who inspires these villainous characters? Are
they based on real people or incidents that you have come across? Do
you research them?
Michael: I don't think any of them come from real people but I try to
make them real people. The monsters that are out there, in real life
and books, are not monsters every moment of every day. They are real
people who eat cereal and pay bills and go to coffee shops, etc. etc.
We know of them or see them when they let the monster out of the cage.
Those moments can be truly terrifying. But I think the terror and the
evil is magnified if its grounded in the reality of these people being
real. So I try to layer my characters, good or bad, with telling details
of their lives. I think it makes them believable, good or bad.
Denise: Iíve noticed that there are mystery writers that have
emulated you. How does that make you feel?
Michael: I don't know of anybody who is copying my style in
particular. But I also think that everybody learns from everybody else
so we are all kind of takers and givers. The thing I try to do is take
standard archetypes and styles of writing I admire and put it all in
a blender so that when it comes out there is something original about
Denise: Who are your favorite mystery writers?
Michael: It is hard to answer because I like different writers for different
reasons. Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald and Joseph Wambaugh and
Thomas Harris have certainly been influential on me and they could not
be that if I didn't truly admire their work. Other writers I love for
what they might do with particular things, like James Lee Burke for
his lyrical writing and George Pelecanos for the telling detail and
grit he gets into his books. I really admire what Lawrence Block has
done with the evolution of his series character. The list goes on and
on. I could never pick a favorite, either contemporary or otherwise.
Denise: Who are your favorite non-mystery writers?
Michael: Same answer basically, but straying from the crime genre I
would say writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Harry Crews have influenced
me. I continue to admire their work.
Denise: What advice would you give to new mystery writers?
Michael: Keep your head down. In other words, keep it in the story.
Don't look up at what is going on in publishing. Forget the trends or
what stories are the focus of hot deals, etc. Just write your story,
the one you know that you would like to read.
For more information about Michael Connelly visit his site at: