I’ve loved Laura’s novels from BALTIMORE BLUES, the very first book in her top-notch Tess Monaghan mystery series, and I’ve long considered her stand-alone thriller WHAT THE DEAD KNOW to be a damn perfect crime novel. Laura has won every major award out there for crime and mystery writing--including the Edgar, Shamus, Agatha, Anthony, and Quill Award--and I was thrilled this New York Times bestselling author took the time to answer some questions for our readers here on robbcadigan.com.
[Laura and I were going to play a game of 4 Questions, but we had so much fun, we’re sharing the whole Q&A with you.]
Hi Laura. Thanks for being here. Why don’t we start off with this: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you know you were one?
Laura: I was four when I first attempted to write a book, I was 12 when I made a run at it, but I think I knew I was going to be a writer when I took some pretty tough criticism from a workshop leader who didn't like my work. I wasn't discouraged or deflated by the experience. (It helped that her predecessor, Sandra Cisneros, had been immensely supportive.)
Who or what inspired you as a child? … as a teenager?
I had some really good teachers as a kid. Mrs. Schapiro for 2nd and third grade, who shared her love of modern art; Miss Klemm in 8th grade, who was kinder to my untamed imagination than my previous year's teacher; Lynn Collins in high school. She taught math, but she was my homeroom teacher and she kept me from doing the stereotypical girl panic at mathematics.
Does the “Great American Novel” really exist (yet)? If so, what is it?
How can there be just one? Whose America?
In moments of self doubt, how do you push through?
I look at the previous work-in-progress when it was at the same point as the current work-in-progress and am immensely cheered to see that it was even shittier than I remember.
Have you ever abandoned a creative project?
Not yet. (Knocking wood wildly.)
Can you “turn off” your creative impulses and disconnect?
The best fictional detective is …
Harriet the Spy.
Facebook: friend or foe to a creative?
Well, it's like alcohol and I don't think I have a problem with alcohol and no one's staged an intervention, yet. I actually like Facebook. It's my water cooler.
The book I can’t wait to read again is …
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR BEANY. It's the only Lenora Mattingly Weber book I don't own, so it's been a while.
The most underrated creative artist is …
I do wish more people read James Hynes. Lots do. But more should.
Which of your works comes closest to the way you heard/saw it in your head?
Closest? I think it really might be the next one, AFTER I’M GONE. I saw a series of set pieces, rituals that define lives. They all ended up in the book.
In addition to writing, how do you express your creativity?
You've heard about dancing like no one's looking? I hope no one's looking. I also love to cook.
Mike Brady, Howard Cunningham, or Eric Taylor?
None of the above. Danny Thomas! I want to be the child of a New York entertainer and live in that apartment.
What is a “guilty pleasure” creative work we probably would be surprised to find on your shelves or your Tivo?
I refuse to feel guilty. I like the “Real Housewives” of pretty much every city. And you know what? I never shame people about their choices in TV. Unless you're watching child pornography, animal torture or something that really exploits/demeans a person without that person's informed consent, what's the big deal?
Who is your favorite literary character or hero?
I'm going to go ahead and say it: Tess Monaghan. I created a character I wanted to be able to spend lots of time with, and I succeeded. She's funny and loyal.
Do you read reviews of your work?
Sure, but I don't seek them out.
The book I really should have read by now is …
written by a friend. It's hard, in a wonderful way, knowing so many talented people.
What was the best writing advice you ever received?
A big thanks to Laura Lippman for visiting the blog today. If you’re looking for a first-rate read, give yourself a treat and grab Laura’s most recent novel, AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, or any of the terrific Tess Monaghan series (I’m partial to IN A STRANGE CITY because of its Edgar Allan Poe connection and THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT). And be sure to look for Laura’s next novel, AFTER I’M GONE, coming in February 2014. You can find out more at lauralippman.net. But you’ll only hear about her affection for Danny Thomas right here.