Every month, Daneet Steffens uncovers the latest goings on in mystery, suspense, and crime fiction. See previous columns on the Criminal Fiction archive page
Daneet is taking a much-deserved break during May, but will be back next month with more great coverage of the best books to hit the crime scene.
That gives us the opportunity to spend a bit of time with her past columns — and believe it, there is some gold there.
In the past year, besides reviewing fifty-four (!) books, she's also interviewed twelve authors in the one-and-only "Quintessential Interview". It's remarkable to see what the same questions posed to different authors result in.
So, for fun, we decided to poll one question from the last year of writers. So here is how the following writers answered the same question. We also recommend clicking through and seeing the rest of the interviews, and books reviewed, from the past year. No doubt, unless you're Daneet, you haven't read all of them, have you?
Laura Lippman, from May, 2018.
The contract, the deadline, the deadline in the contract, the world, the idea currently uppermost in my mind.
Spencer Kope, from June, 2018.
To answer this, I have to go back to a time when computer screens were small and monochrome, and processing speeds were measured in kilobytes, because it was the early eighties when I discovered the macabre but fascinating world of Stephen King.
I began with Skeleton Crew and Night Shift, after which I was hooked and devoured everything I could find: short stories, novellas, books, things he scrawled on napkins….Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the point. Of all the King stories I read, The Stand remains my favorite. I even liked the miniseries.
Other writers who inspire me are those who persevered: Richard Adams and his opus Watership Down come to mind. The book was repeatedly rejected before being picked up by a one-man publishing house in London; the rest is literary history. Vince Flynn is another example. He self-published his debut, Term Limits, and went on to launch the incredibly successful Mitch Rapp thriller series. Among my collection of first editions are two signed copies of this rare book.
Mick Herron, from July 2018.
Need, curiosity, excitement, guilt, habit.
John Straley, from August, 2018.
I’ve been inspired by the people I met working as a criminal investigator, and by listening to stories in bars and jail cells.
I love jokes and poetry and traveling by boat.
I like talking to strangers who are reading big fat books while sitting alone in noisy cafes.
I often get my best ideas for wild action scenes while sitting in poetry readings.
Stuart Turton, from September, 2018.
It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as being inspired, because I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I remember. My book is very much an Agatha Christie novel and I’ve wanted to write it since I was eight, so let’s put Agatha up top. After that it gets a lot more prosaic. I write everyday because I’d go mad if I didn’t; because I’d have to get an office job if I didn’t; because the electricity company doesn’t take ‘following your dreams’ as payment; and because I can’t do anything else.
Valentina Giambanco, from October, 2018.
- Human relationships – always a never-ending source of surprising material.
- Good people doing bad things and bad people doing good things.
- Outsiders and all those who don’t quite fit in.
- The small details of everyday life – you’re sitting in the bus and you see someone doing something and go, “Oh yeah, I’m stealing that tiny gesture.”
- Wilderness and the way that, in the wild, human beings reveal who they truly are.
Lou Berney, from November, 2018.
Chilly, rainy weather always gets me going. Reading a great novel will often temporarily crush my spirit but then a few hours later I’ll be all jacked up to hit the laptop. Driving through my hometown of Oklahoma City, watching an amazing sunset split open the sky – that’s when good ideas often come to me.
Katrina Carrasco, from December, 2018.
I love writing complex, unpredictable women; once the characters gather critical mass it feels like I’m in conversation with them and they’re showing me the way, which is an amazing process. I want a bigger canon of queer literature and I want to be part of creating it. Same for happy stories about queer people. The Pacific Northwest is a great character in itself, and time in the mountains, in the forest, or by the sea recharges me. I’m fascinated by sentence-level sound and syntax: how every line can be a poem, and how those poems can coalesce into paragraphs, and eventually accrete into a book.
Taylor Adams, from January, 2019.
I’m fascinated by storytelling momentum – that driving, can’t-stop intensity that catapults you into the next scene, and the next – so any novel that can give me that euphoric sensation is high on my list of inspirations. Film structure, too, is a great blueprint that I always keep in mind. Take the structural perfection of a movie like Die Hard, for example, for cultivating and maintaining that level of intensity. Aside from books and film, other inspirations that give me the “fuel” to put in the time writing every day are music, the encouragement of my family, and coffee. Definitely coffee.
Don Winslow, from February, 2019.
History. The news. Shakespeare. Jazz. The writers who came before.
Elisabeth Elo, from March, 2019.
Sober people. Particle physics and quantum mechanics because they remind me that there’s a great deal more to this world than we can see. My own deepest experiences because I can’t express them, which makes me, paradoxically, want to express anything I can. Fairytales for their perfect narrative structure and blunt acknowledgment of evil. Any genuine smile.
Hanna Jameson, from April, 2019.
Things and emotions that scare me. Anything David Lynch makes, says, writes, or does. Fear of being broke. Reading history. The idea that the only meaning we have in this life is in the good that we do with whatever superpowers we arrived with, and my superpowers happened to be writing and having awesome hair so I’m gonna carry on doing that.