Here's a blast-from-the-past that I stumbled on tonight… Tod and I interviewing each other for Beatrice.com back in 2005.
Tod: How is it that we both grew up in the same house and yet we both write such dramatically different things? People always ask me if I see similarities in our work, but I rarely do, other than that we are prodigious killers of fictional people and that we’ve both set novels in the same exact place (Loon Lake, WA). Why do you think we write such different kinds of books?
Lee: I’m still trying to figure out the Loon Lake thing. It’s like our family’s collective unconscious (our uncle also set part of his novel at Loon Lake). You don’t know this, but I also have fifty pages of a torrid, James M. Cain-esque novel set at Loon Lake that I started writing three or four years ago and never finished. Before I gave up on it, I scrawled the key plot points on a napkin in case I ever wanted to get back to it. It was as if I knew I was going to abandon it even before I did. Well, I didn’t entirely abandon it. I think about it every few months and I lifted a paragraph or two from it for The Man With the Iron-On Badge, so those fifty pages weren’t a complete waste.
But to answer your question, we write different books because we are different people. Given a choice between reading a literary novel or a thriller, I’ll choose the thriller most of the time. You’ll choose the literary fiction. That’s not to say I don’t read non-crime/non-genre novels…I do. We share some of the same favorite authors. But I love thrillers, mysteries, and westerns—basically, escapist fiction—with a passion that you clearly do not.
Maybe it has to do with TV. I was a voracious reader as a kid, but I also grew up watching a lot more TV than you did and developing a true love of the four-act structure. Maybe watching all that TV shaped what I expect from a story…a kind of narrative engine, conflict, and personal stakes that aren’t always found in literary fiction. Or I’m just superficial.
As it turns out, I pulled out that napkin the other day and am actually thinking about tackling that book now.