Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Visit with Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton published ‘A’ is for Alibi in 1982, following 15 years in Hollywood as a television script writer. The Louisville, Kentucky, native is currently on tour to publicize her 22nd novel in the series, ‘V’ is for Vengeance, released on November 14. She has been published in 28 countries in 26 languages, her books selling in the millions.

Sue, does ’V’ is for Vengeance differ significantly from your previous novels?

It does, indeed, differ from the other novels in the series. In writing these books over a span of some twenty-eight years, I’ve kept detailed charts, which denote the gender of every killer I write about, the gender of the victim, the motive for the crime, and the nature of the climax. I also keep a set of log lines for each novel, describing the set-up for each book.
In ‘A’ . . . Kinsey’s hired to prove the innocence of a woman just out of prison after serving seven years for the murder of her husband.

In ‘B’ . . . Kinsey’s hired to find a woman whose signature is required on a minor document.

In ‘C’ . . . Kinsey’s hired by a kid to find out who’s been trying to murder him.

And so on. This way, I can be certain I’m not inadvertently repeating myself. In ‘V,’ Kinsey witnesses a shoplifting incident and alerts a sales clerk who notifies store security. The shoplifter is arrested and two days after her fiancé makes bail, she dies from a leap off a 400 foot high bridge. While it appears to be a suicide, the woman’s fiancé is convinced she was murdered and hires Kinsey to look into her death. Kinsey’s investigation uncovers an organized retail theft ring with which the shoplifter has been working. There are two other subplots woven into the overall storyline and all connect at the end.

How do you and Kinsey Millhone differ and which characteristics do you share?
As for Kinsey, I think of her as my alter-ego . . . the person I might have been had I not married young and had children. We’re like one soul in two bodies and she got the good one. The ’68 VW she drove (until ‘G’ is For Gumshoe) was a car I owned some years ago. In ‘H’ is for Homicide, she acquires the 1974 VW that was sitting out behind my house until I donated it to a local charity that raffled it off. That car was pale blue with only one minor ding in the left rear fender

I own both handguns she talks about and in fact, I learned to shoot so that I would know what it felt like. I also own the all-purpose back dress she wears. Like Kinsey, I’ve been married and divorced twice, though I’m now married to husband number three and intend to remain so for life. I’m much more domestic than she is and I cuss just as much, if not more.

What’s going to happen to Kinsey when you‘ve finished ‘Z’ is for Zero?

It’s going to take me another eight to ten years to complete the series at the pace I’ve settled on so I have close to a decade to decide what I’ll do after ‘Z’ is for Zero. I may well continue to chronicle her adventures, but I’ll do so as stand-alone novels. No more linking titles!

What’s your work schedule like?
I usually arrive at my desk at 9:00 am, check e-mails and Facebook, and then log into the current working journal for the novel I’m in the process of writing. I use these journals to talk to myself about the story, the characters, the pacing, problems I foresee, and any scene that worries me. Any research I do is recorded in the journal as well. I break briefly for lunch and then return to my desk and work until mid-afternoon when I stop and do a walk of three to five miles. My guess is that on a good day, I work productively for two hours. The rest is writer’s block and Free Cell. I’ve been known to work by page count and on that theory, I consider two pages a day a good run. In fact, I consider page count a better way to operate. It’s way too easy to claim you’ve worked for six hours when in reality you’ve talked on the phone, cleaned your desk drawers, and dawdled the time away.

What do you want your readers to experience from your novels?

I’d like for my readers to experience an entire range of emotions, from laughter to fear, to suspense to anxiety to tears depending on where they are in any given book. I want them to feel connected to Kinsey Millhone, to see the world as she sees it, and to come away from a story understanding how it’s affected her. These are the same emotions I look for in any book I read. I want to be touched and moved and I want to come away from a writer’s work feeling renewed and refreshed.
Thank you, Sue.

You can communicate with Sue Grafton at Facebook.

39 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Sue. It's great to have you join us here.

Anne K. Albert said...

Kudos on a great inteview, Jean!

Sue, I'm a huge fan, love the series, and looking forward to 'V'.

I'm also thrilled to learn you're human like everyone else when it comes to writing. I've been beating myself up for accomplishing two hours of writing on a good day, but no more!

Thank you, ladies!

john M. Daniel said...

Wonderful interview, Jean. And Sue, it's always a pleasure to hear (or read) what you have to say. You're practical, personal, and witty. You're an inspiration to all of us writers.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Wonderful interview! Years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a really small mystery conference (about 30 people if that) up in the mountains near the CA coast (Aptos/Soquiel area) and Sue Grafton was one of the speakers. She was great. (Met Mary Higgins Clark at the next one.)

Marilyn

Sunny Frazier said...

It's been so long since I've seen Sue at conferences, it's good to catch up. Sue asked me for MY autograph on my first published story. Does it get any better than that??? She also asked to visit my narc unit, but the sheriff nixed the idea. I have always been a fan and will remain so until well after "Z."

Timothy Hallinan said...

GREAT interview, Jean, with a wonderful writer and a wonderful person. And some real insights into her writing process, too, which I'll probably reference (with credit, of course) in my new book on how to finish a novel.

Marja McGraw said...

Great interview, Jean. Sue, I'm also one of your fans and have read all of your books (music to a writer's ears?). I appreciate that you can relate to your character and that you've taken things from your real life, like the cars, and added them to your stories. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts.

Patricia Gligor said...

Sue, I've read your series from A to U and look forward to reading V. Kinsey is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. I even tried her famous peanut butter and pickle sandwiches; they're actually very good!

M.M. Gornell said...

Good interview!

Madeline

Pat Browning said...

Sue, I met you at the Boise conference about 2003 or thereabouts, and made extensive notes of your talk. They disappeared during my several moves and I would dearly love to see again your 10 ways of dealing with rejection.

The one I remember is: The free world does not hang in the balance; you are only writing a book.

I think of it often! How about sending me the other nine??

Pat Browning
Author of ABSINTHE OF MALICE

williamdoonan said...

Great interview! Three years ago when my agent told me it wouldn't be a good idea to write an 84 year-old detective because it would be impossible to turn the book into a series, I told her to tell that to Kinsey Millhone. That was all it took, and Henry Grave stayed 84.

William Doonan
www.williamdoonan.com

Jackie King said...

Wonderful interview, Jean.

Sue, I've been a huge fan ever since I read "A Is for Alibi" years ago. I have all of your books except "v" and that's on my TBR list.

Thanks for the hours and hours of pleasure you've given me as a reader.
Jackie King

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Jean,

Great interview! I've been a fan of Sue Grafton's mystery novels for many years. My husband and I are going through the alphabet with Kinsey.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm not the only one then who doesn't write all day. Interesting to catch a glimpse of how a bestseller organizes her writing day.

Thanks,
Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

ff94e5fc-1342-11e1-9693-000f20980440 said...

hello..did everyone hear my interview with SUE GRAFTON? it is on WWW.DAVIDSBOOKTALK.COM..hope you can all listen and spread the word..i had a blast

Augie said...

Jean and Sue, I enjoyed the interview. 2 hours writing...interesting and most practical. Augie

Mollie Bryan said...

Great interview, Jean. I admire Sue so much. I'm just starting to write a series and am in awe of anybody who can do it so successfully.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Sue is on tour and will probably not have time to stop in to respond to comments. Thank you from both of us for your kind and generous comments.

Susan said...

Wonderful interview. Details about her writing schedule & goals were especially appreciated--and reassuring!

June Shaw said...

Thanks for sharing with all of us, Sue!

WS Gager said...

Jean: What a great interview. If I was given the honor, I would be too tongue tied to ask anything. Sue, you are one of the reasons I write mysteries. I listened to most of your books while running my children to sporting events. During that time my daughter got hooked on Kinsey and now I give them as gifts that I get to read too!
Wendy
W.S. Gager on Writing

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Yeah, can't wait for V.

Lubna said...

Jean: Thanks for hosting a fab interview.
Sue, you sure follow a disciplined writing schedule. I'm so inspired by that. I haven't had the chance to read your books, but it was lovely learning about them.
Cheers
Lubna
lukathewriter (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

I loved this interview, love the series! It is fascinating to hear more about how the books develop. (In answer to David of David's Book Talk's question: I also greatly enjoyed David's interview with Sue Grafton and I intend to listen to it again soon.)

Brenda W.

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