Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interview with David Ellis

David Ellis’ latest novel, The Hidden Man, was one that I ranted and raved about not too long ago. I was curious about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the book, and was thrilled when I got the chance to throw some of these questions Dave’s way.

Dave, thank you for the interview!

Your latest novel, The Hidden Man, has just been released from Putnam! Congratulations! Could you tell us a little bit about the genesis of the novel, as well as the new series character Jason Kolarich? What were some of the particularly important influences on the book?

Thanks for having me here!

Jason Kolarich is a 34-year-old attorney who is on the verge of greatness in the legal community---having just won a headliner political corruption case---when he suffers a personal family tragedy that turns his life upside down. When he comes out the other end of this ordeal, he is changed. The rules don't matter as much as justice. Jason is a sarcastic, courageous, cynical but compassionate man who likes the underdog. He is someone I'm sure you'll enjoy spending time with.

As for the genesis of the novel, I wanted a ticking clock. I wanted a case that Jason had to solve in a very short amount of time, with the lives of his family and friends in the balance. I wanted to test Jason early on in the series to introduce him to the reader under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

As I mentioned above, The Hidden Man is the first book in a series of novels following Jason Kolarich. What inspired you to undertake a series character, as opposed to more stand-alone novels? Does the way you plan and write a series novel differ from the way you planned and wrote your other books?

For the first time, I began the idea of a novel not with a plot, but with a character. I wanted something particular in this character---some baggage, some attitude, wicked sarcasm---and that told me, right there, that I was building a character I wanted to spend more time with than just one book.

And yes, plotting a series novel is different, at least for me, than writing a stand-alone novel. In all my five previous books, I've put the protagonist through the ringer, such that it would be hard to imagine them in a sequel. But when you're writing a series character, you have to leave them relatively intact. You have to think about what preceded the novel in terms of the protagonist's life, and more importantly you have to set up what will come next.

Do you read other authors in the legal thriller/mystery genre? To fans of your work, particularly The Hidden Man, who else would you recommend them read, while they wait for your next novel to come out?

Because of my "day job" as legal counsel to the Speaker of the House, I don't get to read as much as I'd like. But authors I admire include Lee Child, Theresa Schwegel, Tana French and Barry Eisler.

It would seem that much of the background of the novel, rooted in the legal system as it is, would be taken from your experiences working in this system. Do you find that you pull aspects or details of your own legal work to put into your novels? Do you feel that your role as prosecutor in the Blagojevich impeachment trial has effected your fiction, including your depiction of the legal system?

Certainly, my experiences in the legal system have influenced what I write. I never write about something I have directly experienced, but the issues and the characters and the plots are often composites of a number of different experiences over my career. Many people have asked me if my experience as the House Prosecutor who convicted Governor Blagojevich has impacted my writing. The best answer I can give is, we'll see. I'm just working on my follow-up to THE HIDDEN MAN and it will be interesting to see how those experiences will influence me. An impeachment is such a unique animal in the justice system that it's hard to compare to any other case, civil or criminal. I can't wait to see how it changes me as a writer---because I absolutely believe that writers change over time.

Finally, what can we expect in the future for Jason Kolarich and David Ellis?

Well, you asked about the Blagojevich impeachment ... the follow-up novel is about a corrupt governor and a federal investigation that involves Jason. I don't want to give away too much, but I think people will enjoy it. What I can guarantee is that Jason is a guy who doesn't back down from threats and doesn't avoid danger. Nor will he lose his edgy sense of humor. Thrills and humor, or you won't see my name on the book.

Thanks again for your time!

Thanks for having me, Luke. Hope to talk again soon.

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