UKA/WABD Interview with Jeffery Deaver
Jeffery Deaver is the author of twenty suspense novels, including the New York Times bestsellers THE BLUE NOWHERE, THE EMPTY CHAIR, THE DEVIL’S TEARDROP, and THE COFFIN DANCER, as well as THE BONE COLLECTOR and SPEAKING IN TONGUES. His latest novel, THE VANISHED MAN, is coming soon in hardcover from Simon & Schuster. As William Jefferies, he is the author of SHALLOW GRAVES, BLOODY RIVER BLUES, and HELL’S KITCHEN. He is a four-time Edgar Award nominee, and his books have been translated into twenty-five languages. Deaver was born in Chicago, attended the University of Missouri, and received a law degree from Fordham University in New York. He has residences in California and Virginia.
Q: When did you first decide to write?
A: I wrote my first book when I was eleven–though it only had two chapters!
I grew up in a very creative family, so it’s not surprising I turned out to
be a writer. My mother was an artist, my father was an advertising writer,
and my sister, Julie Reece Deaver, writes novels for young adults. It was
sort of natural that my sister and I grew up to be writers.
Q: What was your first success?
A: I published several books before I hit on the genre I am now known for.
I’d say my first real success was a novel called “A Maiden’s Grave”.
Q: What comes first – idea or character?
A: Because my books are so plot-driven, the idea comes first. I spend almost
a year outlining each book and the outlines run several hundred pages long.
It’s essential for me to work out all the twists and turns in the plot in
advance so I know exactly where I’m going before I begin writing the book
itself. Writing the outline is the hardest part of creating a book. Writing
the book itself is a pleasure.
Q: Are your characters based on real people?
A: Once in a while they will start out being based on people I know, but the
story changes the characters, so they end up being their own people, so to
Q: Why did you choose to write for this genre?
A: I’ve always loved reading thrillers, so that genre was what I was drawn to
when I started writing novels.
Q: Before your ‘big break’ how many hours a day did you spend writing?
A: Even when I was working twelve hours a day as an attorney, I would come
home at night and spend several hours writing. I now spend about eight to ten
hours a day writing, but because it is something I love, it doesn’t seem like
work at all.
Q: And now?
A: See above.
Q: Do you plan?
A: Yes, see earlier answer.
Q: How many drafts do you complete?
A: Generally three to four.
Q: Are they hand-written or do you write straight on to a computer?
A: Straight on to a computer. I wrote my first few manuscripts on an
old-fashioned typewriter and I can’t even imagine using one of those ancient
Q: How long does the process of writing a novel take from the initial idea to
final polished typescript?
A: About ten to twelve months.
Q: What struck first for you, a publisher’s acceptance or being taken on by
A: An agent offered to represent me and I’ve found that having an agent frees
me from having to worry about the business aspects of writing. I can
concentrate all my time on the work itself.
Q: As a successful author, what do you now know, that you wish you had known
before you gained success?
A: That rejection slips aren’t the end of the world! Every writer is
rejected. You just have to keep trying.
Q: How can the beginning writer gain the edge when seeking publication?
A: I’d start by checking the reference section at your local library for
books on literary agents and publishers. You can usually find a wealth of
information at the library on what editors and agents are looking for. These
days many publishers have their own websites, too.
Q: Should securing the services of an agent be a priority or are publishers
still willing to sift the proverbial slushpile for the next best seller?
A: I think it’s probably easier if you can secure an agent. Many publishers
don’t like to read unsolicited manuscripts, but check the publisher’s
website. Most of them tell how to go about submitting manuscripts
Q: How do you authentically create the police procedural, crime scene, FBI
technical details etc.
A: I do a lot of research. I read extensively on the subject I’m writing
about, but I also interview law enforcement officials, including the FBI, to
make sure I get everything as accurate as possible.
Q: How many rejections did you have before success?
A: I have had plenty of rejections over the years and so has every writer I
Q: Who chooses the book title?
A: I choose my own book titles, but that doesn’t mean they are the titles the
publisher likes. My editors and I try to compromise on a title that I like,
but will also sell books
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The fourth in the series of books about Lincoln Rhyme. The new Rhyme novel
will be published next May
Q: How do you organise your writing day?
A: I begin by rewriting what I have written the previous day. Some of the day
is devoted to meetings about books and calls to editors, but I always make
time to write.
Q: Do you have any nuggets of advice for the prospective writer?
A: I would tell prospective writers not to be discouraged. It’s the person
with perseverance who is most likely to achieve success in the writing field.
We all know talented people who write in journals but never seem to write a
story or novel. It’s the people who actually complete work and send it out
who eventually get published.
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I just finished rereading Silence of the Lambs. I’ve read it many
times–it’s one of my favorite thrillers.
Q: What book do you wish you had written?
A: That’s a hard question! When I was a teenager, I was an avid Ian Fleming
fan, so I suppose I would have been happy if I’d written one of the James
Bond books. Goldfinger, perhaps!
Q: The phrase ‘Write about what you know’ worries many beginning writers,
what is your opinion?
A: If I wrote about what I know, the books would be very boring! You should
really write about what most interests you. If you’re excited by an idea,
chances are your readers will share that excitement.
Q: Do you know the ending to your books before you get there?
A: Yes. As I mentioned before, there are so many plots and subplots and
twists and turns in my books that I have to know precisely how the book will
end before I begin writing it.
Q: What is your view on the writer and the Internet?
A: I use the internet all the time for research. It’s a wonderful tool.
Thank you for talking to us, Jeff.
Thanks for inviting me to participate in your website. I wish all the
beginning writers out there much success with their careers.
Jeffery Deaver’s official website: www.jefferydeaver.com
© UKAuthors.com 2004