This week we are delighted that Lawrence Block, the incredibly prolific, endlessly successful and thoroughly engaging writer of books of all hues, has spared a few minutes to chat with our own Cadell Blackstock. And if you want to know how many novelists it takes to change a lightbulb, read on….
Larry, thanks very much for sparing time to stop by allonymbooks for a chat. You’ve been really busy lately issuing your earlier novels in e-book form. What has direct publishing offered you, as an already experienced and highly successful print novelist?
Direct publishing to Amazon, Nook and Smashwords has given a new life to quite a few of my out-of-print titles. I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and my backlist is enormous, and I’m delighted that my early work can reach a new audience.
And I’ve also self-published some new work. A collection of columns for stamp collectors, “Generally Speaking,” struck me as having too small and specialized an audience to interest a print publisher, but worth making available as an eBook. So I published it, and every month a few people pick it up. Similarly, I’m planning to ePublish a pair of collections of my assorted non-fiction.
You are renowned for your excellent advice on writing, so what have you learned from the direct publishing process and your forays into social media that you wish someone had told you early on?
Hmmm. I don’t know that anyone could have told me this, or that I could have taken it in, but I’m struck constantly these days by the pace at which the whole world of publishing is changing. (I’m sure that’s no less true of the world outside publishing, but it’s particularly noticeable here.)
What’s it been like getting reacquainted with some of the characters from your early years as a writer? Had you remembered them better or worse than they are?
I don’t spend a lot of time revisiting early work. And, in fact, I’ve learned not to judge what I wrote years ago. For many years I tried to disassociate myself from early pseudonymous work, and was in fact sustained by the thought that the books had not been printed on acid-free paper. (God speed the acid, I was apt to say.) But who am I to say which of my books a reader ought to like?
As you know, my central character Crash Cole is a bit of a rake, a bit of a cad, a man no father would want his daughter (or granddaughter) to date. Who among your characters would you prefer stayed well away from the ladies of the Block family?
I think my daughters and granddaughters can take care of themselves.
In Don Giovanni, the opera that Crash Cole is loosely based on, Don Giovanni is invited to dinner in hell by the man he has killed. Who would be at your ‘dinner party from hell’?
As age turns me increasingly antisocial, I’ve come to regard all dinner parties as infernal in origin.
Crash is also a collector of sexual conquests, much as Keller is a collector of stamps, and you are a collector of countries visited. Is there anything else you would start collecting now (other than more royalties!), were money no object?
I don’t think so. Age, I’m sure, is a factor here. It undercuts the urge to possess. My wife and I discovered some years ago that our admiration of an object no longer embodied the urge to acquire it.
Lastly, a quick word on the upcoming film of A Walk Among the Tombstones. I blogged a few months ago about the adaptation, and on the experience of watching novels one loves turn flesh on film. Are there any of your other novels you would like to see made into film or TV?
I have high hopes for the film, and enjoyed my several visits to the set. Liam Neeson is brilliant in the role of Matt Scudder, and of course I hope the film’s enough of a hit to lead to further installments. Of the Scudder books, I’ve always that A Ticket to the Boneyard is particularly filmable.
As for what else might work, well, the most important factor is the enthusiasm of the filmmaker. Writer/director Scott Frank got interested in A Walk Among the Tombstones a good fifteen years ago, and stuck with it until it finally happened. I’d like to see Keller on the screen—ideally, I would think, as an edgy cable series, but possibly as a feature. I’d like to see someone do right by Bernie Rhodenbarr.
Ultimately, though, I’m most interested in my books as books. And, through the miracle of eBooks, virtually everything I’ve written over the years is now eVailable. Neat, innit?
Neat indeed! And I think everyone who has enjoyed Bernie Rhodenbarr would like to see someone do right by him. Anyway, Larry, thank you so much for sharing a few minutes of your time with us.
By the way, how many novelists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Novelists never want to change anything.