Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Author Interview: Meg Gardiner

If you read our blog with any regularity, you know that Jenn and Julie are huge Meg Gardiner fans. We even got Alice to read her first Evan Delaney book China Lake. Needless to say, when Ms. Gardiner agreed to do a Q&A with us we went a little "fan girl". We can't thank her enough for taking time out of her schedule to answer our questions. Enjoy!

GJR:  We both found you through the Stephen King article in Entertainment Weekly a few years back. Were you aware that Stephen King was going to write about your work or was it a surprise? Have you ever spoken to him?

Meg Gardiner (MG): Entertainment Weekly had contacted me to fact check the article, so I knew it was in the works. But I was still blown away. Stephen King is my favorite author, so it was incredible to learn that he likes my books so much. Even more wonderful has been his support and encouragement. And yes, I’ve met him. He’s great—thoroughly engaging and genuine.

GJR: So many authors, even some or our favorite mystery thriller writers, fall into a formulaic trap. How do you keep your plots so fresh and unpredictable?

MG: I try to write the kind of books I want to read: books that enthrall and surprise me. That means I have to look past the first ideas that occur to me—because ideas that occur off the top of our heads tend to be familiar and clichéd—and dig deeper into the story’s possibilities. I keep a piece of writing advice in mind: Give readers what they want, but not the way they expect it.

GJR: It always takes us by surprise that you can (and do) kill off your characters so easily. We have to ask, does it hurt you as much as it hurts us?

MG: It’s not easy at all. It’s terrible. But I write thrillers. This means the characters will find themselves in danger, facing life and death situations. And if they always survive, where’s the suspense? When I first started writing, I protected my characters, because I liked them. Though I put them in danger, I knew in the back of my mind that they’d be okay. I never truly put them at risk, and that meant that I never truly took a story as far as it could go. I stunted its possibilities from the beginning. Besides, if a writer knows the characters are safe, at some level so does the reader. And that inevitably drains a story of tension. A book becomes a theme park ride instead of a gripping adventure. So I got out of the protection racket. I made the characters live without a safety net. And it’s only when the characters face uncertainty—when their choices have permanent and potentially fatal consequences—that they’re called to heroism. And when good guys die because of a courageous decision, or to protect others, it means something. Though sad, it resonates.

GJR: Julie and Jenn were both anguished over where we left Evan at the end of Kill Chain. (WHY?!? *sob*) What made you decided to leave things so open ended?

MG: Kill Chain is a culmination of many threads in the series. It’s about currents in Evan’s life coming together turbulently. A cozy ending was never in the cards. But I don’t intend to leave the series hanging. The big question is: what happens next?

GJR: Please tell us there is more to Evan’s story... and that you’re going to continue the Evan Delaney series! (We know she makes a cameo in Jo Beckett’s Nightmare Thief -Jenn has held off on reading it until she caught up with the Evan Delaney series so as not to be spoiled)

MG: Evan’s story is not over by a long shot. In fact, I’ve written an Evan short story, a prequel, which will be published later this year. Details soon.

GJR: How do you decide whose book, Delaney or Beckett, you are going to write next? Does the fact that the Delaney series was first published in the UK and the Beckett series in the US affect this?

MG: Once I started the Jo Beckett series I knew I would write several books, so the series could develop and readers could get to know Jo. US versus UK publication hasn’t affected this. The thing is, I have a lot of stories I want to tell. Some fit Evan, some fit Jo, and some fit other characters with their own lives. In fact, my next novel is a stand alone thriller.

GJR: Evan is a strong character that has become broken and Jo is a broken character who has become strong. Was that planned, or was that how they came to you?

MG: A bit of both. Evan and Jo are both resilient women who have a core of inner strength. Life has thrown a lot at them and their loved ones. The two series have joined them at different points in their lives. In particular, the Jo Beckett series starts not long after her husband has been killed in the crash of a medevac helicopter. It was always going to be about how she faces the world in the wake of such a loss.

GJR: When you write, do you have to have background noise or total silence?

MG: Half the time I want silence. The other half I crank up the Foo Fighters or the Inception soundtrack. The loud half usually comes when it’s time to write an action scene.

GJR: What is the strangest, coolest and scariest thing you’ve researched for a book?

MG: Strangest: apocalyptic survivalist cults. They live in a parallel mental universe and some of these folks are truly salivating for violent confrontation in the name of God. Just browsing their web sites is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies.

Scariest: nanotech. I researched it for The Memory Collector. My brother-in-law is a physicist, and when I asked him how to craft a story where experimental carbon nanotubes contaminate people and cause disastrous memory loss, he spent an hour getting more and more wound up about the possibility that such a disaster could actually happen, until he blurted, “These things could get loose in your head and really f*** you up!” Just what I wanted to hear. Except not.

Coolest: Search and rescue with the pararescuemen of the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard. They took me on a tour of their facilities at Moffett Field (in a corner of one of the enormous hangars sometimes seen on Mythbusters) and generously talked to me at length about their work. These are guys who willingly throw themselves into the worst disasters on land, sea and air, who get paid very little to do extremely dangerous work for almost no public recognition—and they do it to save the lives of people like you and me. I can’t tell you how much I admire them.

GJR: You’re having an author get-together, dinner party. Who’s on the guest list, which recipe would you grab, and why?

I’d invite authors I love and whom I know would make me laugh all evening long: Stephen King, Laurie R. King, Jeff Abbott, Sharon Kendrick, Kathryn Fox, Zoë Sharp, Brett Battles, and Harlan Coben. I’d make a plate of nachos the size of my kitchen table and let everybody dig in.

So, now that Jenn and Julie will be anxiously waiting for the Evan Delaney short story and the new stand-alone novel, we will be digging back into the Jo Beckett series (Jenn is further in than Julie).

So, if you haven't read Meg Gardiner, what the heck are you waiting for?!!

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