If you’ve ever set foot in a bookstore, you know author Sue Grafton’s work. Did you know she’s a Louisville native?
Lucky you, dear reader! She agreed to an interview. Let’s see what Sue has to say about books, reading, The ‘Ville, and the state of publishing today.
Welcome, Sue Grafton!
Welcome! Tell us about your latest project.
‘V’ IS FOR VENGEANCE was published in November of 2011. I hardly know how to characterize it because mentally I’ve put it on cancel/delete to make room in my poor beleaguered brain for the next book. I use multiple points of view to tell a story where all the strands come together as the narrative proceeds. I deal in part with organized retail theft…shoplifting, in other words. Kinsey becomes embroiled in a very nasty situation when she spots a woman stealing in the lingerie department where she’s gone to buy underwear. She alerts store security and she’s thrilled to hear the woman has been arrested. Then two or three days later, she reads in the paper that the woman has thrown herself off the side of a bridge…
And so it goes.
After attaining such success in your field, how do you keep it fresh and exciting?
I ignore my so-called success and focus on the job at hand. Since each book I write is harder than the one before, I’ve got enough on my mind. I don’t want to repeat myself so I keep elaborate charts of the stories I’ve done: the overall subject matter, the set-up for the case Kinsey’s hired to work on, the motive for the crime, the gender of the victim, the gender of the killer, and the nature of the ending. You’d be surprised how often I come up with an idea that seems new, fresh, and different only to discover…on close analysis…that it’s something I’ve done before.
Where do /Southern Indiana readers know you from, outside of your books? Do you get recognized about town?
Occasionally someone recognizes me, but not that often. If I order merchandise on-line, the telephone salesperson on hearing my name will often ask, Are you THE Sue Grafton?! When I modestly confess that I am indeed THE Sue Grafton, we stop and have a chat. I’m sure I get better service.
So that’s the secret!
Do you ever regret the alphabet series of titles? I’ve read some reviews that weren’t so kind. Ever wish you could have just dropped the line, at, say, letter L?
Never. I’m sure every writer suffers unkind reviews. What does that have to do with anything? I love my work and I’m happy being challenged. I really didn’t think the series would take off, but that’s been a happy form of astonishment. I think we’d all be well-advised to ignore the opinions of others. There’s always someone who wants to tear you down. Most of them haven’t written even one book, let alone 22 so who cares about their point of view? It’s easy to be judgmental and critical; hard to be steadfast, conscientious, and inventive.
What comes after “Z”?
Party, party, party!
Do you have any words of wisdom for young writers?
Quit worrying about publication and master your craft. If you have a good story to tell and if you write it well, the Universe will come to your aid. Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.
In light of our neighbor John Locke’s blockbuster indie sales, and the growing percentage of each best-seller list being filled out by “indie” writers, do you still feel that advice is solid? I know it was the standard advice a few years ago, but is it still good advice?
If so, what hard work are indie success stories too lazy to complete?
Is it possible that indie publishing is more effective than querying agents & publishers, for the new writer? More and more agents and publishers seem to be treating indie books as the new slush pile.
Good questions. Obviously, I’m not talking about the rare few writers who manage to break out. The indie success stories aren’t the rule. They’re the exception. The self-published books I’ve read are often amateurish. I’ve got one sitting on my desk right now and I’ve received hundreds of them over the years. Sorry about that, but it’s the truth. The hard work is taking the rejection, learning the lessons, and mastering the craft over a period of time. I see way too many writers who complete one novel and start looking for the fame and fortune they’re sure they’re entitled to. To me, it seems disrespectful…that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. Learning to construct a narrative and create character, learning to balance pace, description, exposition, and dialogue takes a long time. This is not an quick do-it-yourself home project. Self-publishing is a short cut and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall. Don’t get me started. Oops..you already did.
Fair enough! I believe many indie authors resent the stereotype that they haven’t spent years honing their craft. Thank goodness sales numbers & reviews are so easily accessible now. Bad books have a way of weeding themselves out of the marketplace.
Who are your favorite writers from the local area?
From the local area? Don’t know many if any. Overall, I love Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly in the field of crime writing. My reading habits are eclectic. I’d never belong to a book club because I wouldn’t be able to tolerate someone else telling me what to read.
Tell us about your favorite bookstores/coffee shops/writing haunts. What makes them special? (If you don’t buy into the stereotype of the writer surrounded by books and coffee, then tell us more about where and how you write.)
I write in my office at my desk surrounded by files full of newspaper clippings and shelf after shelf of research books, texts, and technical manuals. I couldn’t write in a public setting. To me that always looks like a form of exhibitionism. (Sorry ‘bout that for those of you who love to toil away in coffee shops…) I can’t concentrate in strange surroundings. I can’t write on a lap top and I can’t write when I’m on the road.
What’s next on the writing slate, for you?
“W” IS FOR…. which should be published in the fall of 2013.
Sue Grafton, you are a jewel in the crown of the literary scene. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me online! Much continued success to you.
Readers, if you know an author who deserves to shine in the Local Author Spotlight, please get in touch. Either side of the river is fine–we speak Southern Indianaese, too! Books about relevant local subject matter are encouraged, as well. Email RedTashBooks@gmail.com and please put “KY.com Author Spotlight” in your email subject. Thanks!
Leslea Tash is a Southern Indiana journalist-turned-novelist. Formerly a freelancer best known for Guerilla Mothering, she now writes dark fantasy, horror, fairy tales, and other fun stuff including the 5 star, Amazon “Hot New Release” Troll Or Derby under the pen name Red Tash. She always welcomes your feedback on this column on the KY.com site, on Facebook, on her websites or twitter. Just about anywhere works. Get in touch!