Sue Grafton published ‘A’ is for Alibi in 1982, following 15 years in Hollywood as a television script writer. The Louisville, Kentucky, native was publicizing her 22nd novel in the series, ‘V’ is for Vengeance, when I interviewed her. She's been published in 28 countries in 26 languages, her books selling in the millions. She's featured in my recently released book, The Mystery Writers, from Medallion Books in print, Kindle and Nook.
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!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’s your work schedule like?
What’s your work schedule like?
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.
You can read the entire interview in The Mystery Writers along with 59 other bestselling, award-winning and journeymen writers. The advice they offer is invaluable for any genre. And you can communicate with Sue Grafton on Facebook.