Saturday, 10 August 2013

Special Guest: Lee Child

This was the main event for my Mum and I at the Festival, as we are big fans of Jack Reacher; as you can see, my Mum even got a photo when she got her book signed.

Lee Child was interviewed by Sarah Millican and she started by finding out that Lee's mother was from South Shields originally and that he worked as a TV producer before he was a writer.  He feels that TV business is a blood-filled money trench where pimps and thieves go to die.  He misses the group of people he used to work with, but not the business.  He was in Theatre prior to TV, so he sticks to watching sport as you don't know what's going to happen.  He became a writer because he was fired from his proper job.  He admitted that until he was 35, he never really thought about where books came from. 

In 1995 he had a job as Centre Warehouseman in Kendall, so he decided to write a book.  It took him 5 months to write and then he had 7 months of mortgage payments left, but it was picked up with 6 weeks to spare thanks to his agent.  It then took a long time for it to appear on the shelf - he admitted going to bookstores to turn them spine out!

To write the book, he sat at his dining room table with a pencil and a pad of paper and wrote his first book - a pencil, so he could rub out.  He revealed that Esquire magazine were obsessed by the pencil, he Fed Exed it to them so that they could photograph it.

He always gets to the end of a book, he is not one of those writers who get to 10k and then throw it away, he would rather kill himself than do that.  He believes that writing is rewriting and he hates revising, so he just emails it off and forgets about it as he believes the first draft is the best draft.  His copy editors go through it, so he gets changes like car colours changing mid book.  He loved writing the film script as he took 11 days.  He stars on September 1st (back end of August to get the idea).  He usually gets the gem of the idea about 15th of August, then elevator pitch by the end of August.  Then turns a 10 second pitch into a book.

He agreed that 'Reacher said nothing' is used a lot and he jokingly revealed that if Reacher has a cup of coffee, you know how well the writing went.  He feels nothing of value is achieved in the morning.  His writing day is get up at 11, start at 1, then work for 4-5 hours.  He drinks 36 cups of coffee in one day and smokes - 'he just balances on the edge of having a stroke.'  He feels that you learn to spot when you hit the wall and then stop because if you keep going, you will only edit it all out the next day.

With his middle novel, he took a journal and jotted down how many words he wrote a day and he believes it is 80-90 per working day.  He always has a thing towards the end to head in the direction of and he loves the first sentence ('nothing better than a good sentence') as he then has to think where it will lead.  The only research he will do is things like the name of a gun, but he will stop writing until he has the information and then carry on - he can never go back and finish a hole.  For example, in Bad Luck and Trouble he needed a helicopter name, so he wouldn't go back and fill something in, even the small stuff, so he checked and waited and then wrote the rest.  He writes a book a year and he thinks the research will be too fresh.

Sarah asked what advice he would give to himself if he could go back and it would be not to make Reacher's Mum French because he is published in 96 countries and he does worse in France.  He feels the hardest thing to write is a love scene.  The Affair had a lot of sex in it, so it was harder to write, but he admitted that the train rumbling through the town at midnight was a line he stole from the film My Cousin Vinnie.  He revealed that he was living in Kirby Lonsdale when he wrote the book and he had never been to Georgia.  He was amused that the book was nominated for the bad sex award.

He feels that writing is a fun fantasy day dream and making up of stories means that he is constantly in a fantasy dream world.  The first business part of writing it in coherent fashion, promotion etc. and the second part is procedural, so he would not miss the second, but would miss the first as 'it's better than digging at ditch.'

He and Reacher (main character partly autobiographical) have similar quirks, eccentricities, mental capabilities but not the violence.  He is pretty minimalist as he lives in a white minimal apartment in L.A. where nothing is on view.  When a button comes off a shirt he throws it away.

Lee revealed that he was going to kill Jack off, but he has just got a 3 book deal.  Die Lonely was going to be the last book where he was going to bleed out on a hotel bathroom floor. 

He reads hundreds of books a year and he loves solitude, but worries about being a lonely man.

Tom Cruise bought the film rights and he was originally just going to produce the movie.  Christopher McQuarrie wrote the script and sent it to Cruise and then he wanted to do it.  Lee had no contractual control over it and as there were 14/15 books out by then, they wanted his opinion and to be on side with the movie.  Don Granger, Line Producer, took him to lunch and if Lee had not approved, they would have dropped the movie.  Lee believes that a book is a book and a movie is a movie - it's sequential, somebody else's version.  He revealed that following the 12th book a thrash metal band from Poland wanted an album featuring the book lyrics and he said yes because it is a different project.

Sarah asked a question from Twitter in that who would win in a fight between Reacher and a shark and Lee said that it had not been tested.  Following other questions he revealed that he loves sagas like A Woman of Substance and this is his literary guilty secret; Jack will never have a long term relationship, unless you consider 2/3 days long; The character gets more fan mail than Lee, mostly from women and he has received toothbrushes and knickers; In the 10th book The Hard Way, Reacher comes to Norfolk, but now there has to be a good reason for him to leave the U.S. as his passport has expired; It is easier to be 100% into an invented world as it makes it more enjoyable/coherent; Movie contracts are longer than the books themselves and that the dramatic production of an audio book has to have a single reader; Reacher may go through a book and not kill anyone, Never Go Back; He prefers first person because that's the way we do it, but it is difficult to plan a first person thriller, but you need a third now and again; He listens to albums on hi-fi and reveals that he used to read Practical Hi-Fi and Ian Rankin was the technical writer on the magazine.

Lee does not believe in writers block, it is a job the same as any other - does a truck driver have truck drivers block?  There is no such thing, just you being lazy.

At the end of the event Lee signed copies of his books and posed for photo's with fans.


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