Sunday, October 10, 2010

Big Read Mystery Panel, part 1: John Lutz

At The Big Read in Clayton, MO on October 9, I took notes as four mystery authors shared their inspirations, insights, and information about their writing process.

Photo is from the author's website
John Lutz is the award-winning author of forty-plus novels, including two private eye series--the Nudger series, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Carver series, set in Florida. His novel entitled SWF Seeks Same was made into the hit movie Single White Female. Another of his novels, The Ex, was made into an HBO movie, for which he co-authored the screenplay.
  • When asked what inspired him to write mysteries, Lutz said he always knew he wanted to write, but was especially inspired as a young teen by Ray Bradbury's short story, A Sound of Thunder. As for writing mysteries, that was what was selling when he started out.
  • Lutz is not overly concerned about the effect e-books will have on publishing. He feels that e-readers will drop in price, and may eventually be given away as promotions to encourage customers to buy e-books. Television did not bring about the end of radio and the movies, and e-publishing won't bring about the demise of publishing. Books will adapt, even if no one knows yet exactly what that will look like.
  • Asked his opinion on bestsellers such as Stieg Larsson's, Lutz says that blockbuster successes by other authors are good news for all writers, not cause for resentment. Reading a good book naturally makes a reader want to read more good books, and that is good for the publishing industry.
  • When planning a new book, Lutz looks for the hook and writes his synopsis first, so he knows where it's going.
  • Lutz writes about serial killers. Although he has read factual studies about serial killers, he is more interested in readers' perceptions of them than in the reality.
  • He feels that characters are primary. Readers may forget the details of a plot, but they will remember the characters. Plot must be character-driven.
  • Lutz thinks of his novel scenes in visual terms, as if filming a movie.
  • Authors he likes include Joseph Conrad and Saki (H.H. Munro). He has been rereading older PI and thriller authors such as Ross MacDonald and Geoffrey Household.
  • To write a good mystery, Lutz says, first of all you have to write a good novel.
  • In his 1995 book, Death by Jury, private investigator Alo Nudger, goes to the Maplewood Library, and Lutz mentions Terry--by name--when Nudger checks out his books. Yes, it's true--my husband has a cameo in a John Lutz novel! (According to Terry, Nudger never did return those books. If I'd known, I could have brought it up during the question-and-answer part of the presentation.)
In part 2, I'll tell you what Claire Applewhite had to say.

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