John Connolly's website

Just like everybody, I have my own favorite writers. Some of them are gracious enough to answer my questions, and I want to share these with friends and visitors.

This month's interview is with John Connolly, an Irish mystery writer. He gained world fame with his books Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind and The White Road, in which Charlie Parker, an ex-policeman, is the main character. His newest book, Bad Men will appear in June 2003. John is also the one who encouraged me to try and get my own books published, and in the course of the years he's become a pal.

1. When did you start writing?

I suppose that I've always been writing. I started quite young, probably around five (that sounds horribly pretentious, I know, and makes me seem like one of those little kids with thick eyeglasses that can do complex mathematics by the age of three, but it really is the case!). A schoolteacher encouraged me to write by giving me money for little stories, so I guess I began a mercenary at about the same time. I drifted into journalism in my teens, and pretty much gave up creative writing until I began Every Dead Thing in my twenties.

2. How long did it take you to find the courage to present your first book to a publisher?

I sent out a half-finished version of Every Dead Thing to publishers after I'd been working on it for about two and a half years. I had run out of money to do the research and had some vague pipe dream that an incredibly generous - or foolish - publisher would advance me enough money to finish it. That didn't happen. In fact, the book was rejected by just about every publisher and most agents. Some really hated it. I was fortunate though to find a sympathetic reader in the man who eventually became my agent, Darley Anderson. He encouraged me to finish it, and I did.

3. Did Every Dead Thing get a good reception at first?

Well, apart from all the rejections when it was incomplete, I suppose the reception was quite positive. It's funny, but looking back it seems that there were some critics - and readers - who really liked it, and others who really hated it. I mean, the bad reviews were among the worst I've ever read of any book. It took quite a kicking in certain quarters. But the good reviews helped, particularly in the US. It's a flawed book, but I like to think that it's flawed by its ambition. I tried very hard to do something different, and it was worth failing in the attempt. As Browning wrote, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp." or what's a heaven for?

4. How do you handle criticism?

I take bad reviews to heart, and I don't tend to believe good ones. I think that's something to do with my nature, but there are a lot of writers who are always looking for the one person in the crowd that isn't clapping. I tend to feel that I've fooled the good reviewers, but that the bad reviews are written by critics that have figured out what a complete fraud I am. In the end, the good ones are a little easier to handle, but my instinct is not to believe any of them. That's probably a good thing, as they don't influence my work in any way. James Lee Burke once told me, during an interview, that a writer has to learn to ignore both the applause and the catcalls and that seems to be me to be a very sound piece of advice.

5. Why did you decide to leave Charlie Parker out of your up-coming book?

Well, he passes through the book at one point, but he's not a central character. There were lots of reasons, I suppose. I wanted to write something a little different with more of an emphasis on the supernatural. I wanted to experiment with third person narrators. I wanted to write a book that was, in some ways, more streamlined than the Parker books. Finally, I wanted to recharge my batteries. I was worried that if I went straight into writing another Parker book after White Road then the book might be weak or tired. I needed to take a step back from him for a while. The Parker books are quite hard to write. They're very intense, very draining.

6. Do you think you will ever write other books with Bird?

I think the sixth book will probably mark a return to Parker. I have a vague idea of the plot, which is as much as I ever have before I start. I feel good about going back to him now, after the experience of writing Bad Men. I'm looking forward to starting the next book.

7. Are there no plans yet to film one of your books?

I've always been reluctant to sell the rights, as it seems to me that there have been no more than four or five successful adaptations of mystery novels over the last ten years. Mystery novels are actually very hard to adapt, as the most interesting aspects of the good ones tend to lie in their introspection, which is one of the first things to be lost in an adaptation. In fact, Every Dead Thing was deliberately constructed so that it could not be filmed. I'm less uncomfortable about letting Bad Men go, assuming anybody wants it. It's a little more straightforward than the Parker books.

8. Suppose someone does want it, would you like to write the scenario yourself?

I don't think so. While it's hard to hand over something that you've created to someone else to do with as he or she pleases, I'm not sure that I want to spend time agonizing over a screenplay of one of my books. The books take so long to write that I begin writing a new novel in that time, instead of going over something that I've done before.

9. Do you work full-time as an author, or do you still have another job on the side?

No, I'm pretty much a full-time author, in so far as anyone who writes novels for a living can be described as "full time". I don't spend the entire day at my desk, but I do spend most of my day thinking about what I'm writing. I still do a little journalism for The Irish Times, mainly features and interviews. I still get pleasure out of that.

10. From the present array of mystery/detective writers, which is your own favourite?

I think James Lee Burke is the finest prose stylist currently writing, while Dennis Lehane is probably the most interesting of the under-40s. I also admire George Pelecanos a lot. He's a committed writer, with a social conscience. That's a rare thing.


© 2005 Nickie Fleming/Jansan