Interview with Lawrence Block

As the Plot Thins (ATPT): Thank you so much for your time! Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

Lawrence Block (LB): It varies. Most often in recent years I’ve gone off somewhere—a writers colony, a hotel room—and isolated with the work, writing the book in a month or so. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons was written during a five-week Holland American cruise of the North Atlantic.

ATPT: What would you be doing if you had not dedicated yourself to writing?

LB: No idea. But I probably wouldn’t have lasted this long.

ATPT: You have been writing crime fiction for well over 50 years now, how is it that you are able to continue to produce fresh ideas and how do you stay interested in doing so?

LB: Well, I don’t write much these days. And it’s not hard to come up with an idea. The question is whether or not one winds up being sufficiently engaged by it to stick around and write the book.

ATPT: To bookend off that last question, what’s your opinion on authors that consistently pump out five to ten books a year, assisted by other writers or co-authors?

LB: I don’t know that it’s my place to have an opinion, or to share it if I do. It’s a growing trend, certainly, and a clear response to market conditions, and must be (or appear) advantageous to the writers concerned.

ATPT: Over the years you’ve written under many different pseudonyms, why did you choose to do that?

LB: Looking back, it sometimes seems to me as though I must have been trying to avoid building a following. But things change, as age pays homage to ego and avarice, and virtually all of my early work has been republished in recent years under my own name, or with a transparent pen name—e.g., “by Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson.”

ATPT: Are there any particular novels or pieces of writing you’re more proud of than others?

LB: Three series—Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr, and Keller—get the most attention, and probably deserve it. But I have a special fondness for two non-series books, Small Town and Random Walk. And, too, for the eight novels I wrote as Jill Emerson.

ATPT: What’s the best piece of advice you have for aspiring authors?

LB: (a) Write to please yourself. (b) Don’t expect too much.

ATPT: Lastly, what’s the best book you recently read and what are you currently reading?

LB: The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis, which I recently read for the fourth or fifth time. And Field of Prey, John Sandford’s latest Lucas Davenport novel, which I expect to reread a couple of years down the line.

Lawrence Block’s Borderline is currently out on Hard Case Crime. It’s a republishing of a novel from 1962, originally titled Border Lust, originally written under a different pen name. You can find it on Amazon or by finding a local bookseller.

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