This is the second part of a two part interview. The first part is here.
Just when it seems like authors are running out of new approaches to mysteries and thrillers along comes a book like this one, a writer who finds himself amid a whodunit whose only knowledge about what to do next comes from the books he has ghostwritten (vampire mysteries) and porn novels.
The story is intertwined with excerpts from some of those imaginary novels.
So let us begin the second half of our interview there.
Scott: I love the book titles you created. Was it always the plan to create fake titles and to then quote from it? I howled at the names like the Taming of the Slut and Whither Thou Goest, O Slutshop Commander
Thanks! I laughed as I thought of them. I had lists of titles scribbled everywhere. The plan sort of evolved as I went along. I knew I wanted to give Harry all these books he'd written and I had lists of titles and ideas for his stories as well as books by his ex-girlfriend, her husband, the other writers at the party and so forth. I think it was in my second draft that I decided to actually write the excerpts from them. The fun of it, and the challenge of trying to write so many different voices and styles, appealed to me, but it took awhile to see how it could work in the book. I hope it does.
I think my favorite excerpt from the other book was Double Down on the Deuce. When you did those did you figure out the whole book and just a section or just write the short part or what?
Thanks, that is a lot of people's favorite. It was tricky. For example, I did have a big chunk of a vampire book I'd almost writtten lying around, but I found that trying to find a short section that worked on its own and also fit into the larger novel was too awkward. Instead I had to come up with passages that read like excerpts from a longer work but that also sort of stood alone as little stories, with their own shapes. They had to be satisfying little tales. I also thought a lot about how to make them parodies that were true enough to the genre to amuse knowledgable readers, but at the same time I wanted them to relate to the over-all novel in more oblique, indirect ways, to heighten a mood or reflect a theme. I began thinking of them sort of as dream sequences, as playing the role that a character's dreams might play in another book.
I love the fakeout first sentence and then the REALfirst sentence and I read both to people and when I read the Real one they were like "i want to borrow that book after you're done with it"
how long did it take to finesse that paragraph down?
Really I had both of those sentences in my head from the very start, though I probably revised them a hundred times and tormented endlessly on how to arrange them. The tricky thing was figuring out how to structure that whole opening sequence. I wanted to get the reader involved, of course, but I also knew there was a lot of information to get across, so I came up with the idea of a narrator who keeps interrupting himself and takes detours on the way to explaining that first sentence.
So what are you doing next book wise?
I'm working on a couple of things. A dark comic love story set in downtown New York in the 80s, involving jazz musicians, punk rockers, criminals and junkies. Also a new thriller set in LA, about an unemployed used bookstore clerk whose wife demands he get a job. He finds work assisting a detective, then suspects the guy is just a nut and that the whole "case" is imaginary. Adventure ensues...
What's the meaning and inspiration behind the book title?
Titles are always hard, I think, because it is so tempting to just keep taking them on and off until the last minute, like a hat. I got lucky with this one. It popped into my head early and everyone liked it. Really it plays on the idea that Harry writes novel series, (a series of serieses) and Clay is a serial killer. So who is The Serialist? It also hints at some of the ways in which they turn out to be more alike than Harry wants to admit. And it sounds cool, I think.
What question do you wish you would get asked more often and then answer that question?
Hmm, let's see. Would you like some more gravy with that? Yes!