Saturday, May 16, 2009

Janet LaPierre Interview

Janet LaPierre, longtime Mystery Readers International member and Mystery Author, was our guest at an At Home (Literary Salon) in Berkeley a few weeks ago, but for the extended community out there--people who couldn't attend--I thought you might want to read the answers to a few questions I asked her.

Betty Webb wrote a great review of Janet LaPierre's latest novel, Run a Crooked Mile, for Mystery Fanfare. Read here.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The moment I discovered that the stories my mother was reading to me were made up by real people.

What are the attractions of writing series novels? The problems?
In writing a series, a writer has a chance to expand and better define her protagonist, and watch him/her grow. And readers like the familiarity of a series. The main problem for the writer here is the threat of boredom. I manage that in my Port Silva books by adding new characters to the town of Port Silva, mingling them with older ones, perhaps permitting a formerly minor character to become more important.

In your new book, Run a Crooked Mile, you’ve left Port Silva Behind behind, or have you?
Probably not. I have a new story in mind for each of those settings. Which will prove to be most workable—which one I’ll actually finish—is not yet clear. Perhaps both?

Do you ever plan on merging the two series?
I can imagine a bit of overlap, but not a full merger.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
A. Finally getting a character, or a scene, or a chapter, just right.
B. Spending long stretches of time in another world with people I’ve created.

The town of Port Silva is the central character in your mystery series. Did you set out to make the town the main character?
Port Silva is a very specific kind of place, based on an actual area: the Mendocino Coast; and I’d say the town has character, rather than being a character. It’s the kind of place that draws or holds on to the kinds of people I’m interested in writing about.

You often develop minor characters in your books. How important do you think they are to sustaining your books and the series?
I believe carefully-developed minor characters are important to any novel; and as I said above, sometimes it works out to let a minor character in one novel grow into a major one in the other; in fact, occasionally a character simply thrusts himself forward and refuses to stay minor.

Why did you choose a fictitious town for your series and a real town for this latest book?
I live in and love coastal northern California, and have done a lot of camping and vacationing north of my Berkeley home, particularly around Mendocino and Fort Bragg. But as a beginning writer, I decided I’d have more freedom and be less likely to give offense to locals if I turned, say, Fort Bragg, into a fictional place: thus, Port Silva.
For the new book, Run A Crooked Mile, I intended to do the same. But Trinity County and its main town, Weaverville, proved to be so distinctly themselves that I found I couldn’t come up with a fictional overlay. So I took a chance and went with reality only slightly modified.

Has writing for you become easier or more difficult as the years progress?
More difficult in the sense that I have become a more demanding judge of the craft, my own and that of others. Easier in that I now can begin a book with at least a modest expectation of finishing it, and enjoying the process.

What do you think has changed in your own work over the years?
The main characters are older; and I’d like to think the writing is smoother.

Do you have any wild and crazy hobbies or interests that would surprise your readers?
If I had, I wouldn’t talk about them.

Your house is on fire and you can save only two books: one by yourself, one by another author? Which would you choose? And why?
Right off the top of my head: My first book, Unquiet Grave, because I still like the story and the characters. And Anne Tyler’s Searching for Caleb because I remember how much I loved it. Its paper cover is all tattered.

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