The January issue of Writer’s Digest contains an interview with bestselling thriller author Lee Child that I found fascinating for several reasons:
- “Lee Child” is actually a pen name. People who read my blog know by now that I, too, will be selecting a pen name. My real name is far too common (and I’ve never liked being a “Debbie”). Unlike Child, whose real name is Jim Grant, I’m not “playfully” toying with various possibilities; Virgo that I am, I’m methodically trying to come up with something that’s me, something I can grow into, something that will serve me for the long haul — because I sure don’t want this aggravation again down the road!
- Lee Child debunks the myth of writing what you know. He says, “In the thriller genre, for instance, nobody knows anything that’s worth putting in.” Rather, he advises writers to write what they feel. That makes sense on a lot of levels. Shoot, I’ve never killed anybody, but my yet-to-be-sold first novel is full of murders! The Internet puts information on a wealth of topics right at our hands (just be sure you research the research!). With facts to back you up and feelings to provide the oomph, you’re steps closer to writing a story people will want to read.
- Lee Child says you don’t need vices to write. Other than admitting to being nosy and watching people, Child says he doesn’t claim the oft-mentioned writers’ habit of downing too much alcohol. Despite my Irish heritage, neither do I. In fact, I cringe when I hear of another writer battling seen or unseen demons through drugs or liquor. Or prescription pills or oversleep. I don’t have to be an alcoholic to understand one’s inability to just say “no.” Nor do I need to gain 200 lbs. to empathize with an overweight individual.
- Lee Child came to writing rather late. Fired from his job at an English TV channel just before his 40th birthday, Child turned to fiction writing. He says working all those years gave him good work habits and skills; he also had absorbed life. He explains, “I honestly believe that writing is possibly the only thing that not only can you, but you should do it later.” I tend to agree. Now I’m sure there are many young writers fully capable of telling a gripping tale (and plenty of older ones incapable of that), but for myself, I know I wouldn’t have had the courage necessary to call myself a writer if I hadn’t experienced life’s ups and downs over the years.
- The publishing industry has changed since Lee Child came on the scene. Child admits he signed with the first agent he queried and the first publisher they pitched his novel to. Amazing, huh? Especially to those writers who could paper a room with rejection letters. But as he says, “All that matters is coming up with a great original story.” Amen!
So, do you have a favorite mantra when it comes to writing? Something the rest of us could benefit from? Do share!