Q: Why did you choose the name Hieronymus Bosch for your ongoing series character?
A: The main reason is that when I approached the creation of this character I didn’t want to waste anything. I wanted all aspects of his character to be meaningful, if possible. This, of course, would include his name. I briefly studied the work of the real Hieronymus Bosch while in college. He was a 15th century painter who created richly detailed landscapes of debauchery and violence and human defilement. There is a “world gone mad” feel to many of his works, including one called Hell — of which a print hangs on the wall over the computer where I write. I thought this would be the perfect name for my character because I saw the metaphoric possibilities of juxtaposing contemporary Los Angeles with some of the Bosch paintings. In other words, I was planning to cast my Bosch adrift in a hellish landscape of present-day Los Angeles. I should point out that this is a fictional conceit. I do not consider Los Angeles to be hellish. It can be in certain places and under certain circumstances — and this is where I place Harry Bosch. But overall I love Los Angeles and love writing about it. In naming my character after a real historic figure I was to a small extent continuing literary tradition. Many writers, including Raymond Chandler, drew the names of their characters from literature and art.
Q: Is Harry Bosch based on any cop in particular? How much of him is based on you?
A: Harry is not based on one cop in particular. He is an amalgamation of several real cops I knew as a police reporter, plus aspects of fictional detectives — from both books and movies — that I have loved. I think and hope there are parts of Philip Marlowe in him, as well as Lew Archer, Dirty Harry Callahan, Frank Bullit and many others, to name just a few. I think that starting off Harry had very little in common with me, other than left-handedness. Over the course of the books I have written with him, though, I think that my “world view” and his are becoming more closely aligned. This probably was inevitable. The more you write about a character, the more you look inside for attributes and thoughts to give him.
Q: Which of your books is your favorite?
A: I probably don’t have a definitive favorite. I like different books for different reasons. I like the character resonance in The Last Coyote and Angels Flight. I like the plotting and tension in The Concrete Blonde. I like The Poet a lot because it sort of tweaks the expected standards of the thriller genre. I like Blood Work quite a bit because it did not use a standard archetype of the thriller protagonist yet I think it still provided the thrills and payoffs that genre requires. I like Lost Light because it was my first time writing Harry Bosch in first person. I think I can find something about each of the books that make it my favorite, so I guess that means that I don’t have an overall favorite.
Q: What is your work schedule like?
A: I work in the mornings. In the afternoon I take care of busy work. Then I like to work again at night. On the weekends I try to work a little bit in the morning, then take the rest of the day off.
Q: What books do you like to read? A: I read less than I use to. When you are writing this stuff you don’t want to read it, so I read more non-fiction now. But mysteries? Anytime I list writers whose work I enjoy I run the risk of annoying fellow writers who I forget to mention. So, suffice it to say that I share many of the same favorites that readers of my work have. I’ve kind of become a collector, so I try to collect first edition L.A. crime fiction. I also like to read autobiographies.
Q: Are you inspired by current events when creating your plots?
A: Yes, all the time. In most of my books there is what I call a grain of truth at center. What I mean is that I use a real crime or incident that I have heard about or maybe wrote about as a reporter. Or in the case of Blood Work, the story was inspired by a friend of mine who had a heart transplant. I essentially took his medical and emotional journey and dropped it into a thriller story — with his permission, of course.
Q: How much of Harry Bosch’s life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go with him next?
A: Not a lot is planned ahead. I usually have a few loose threads dangling from one book that I can then take to the next or even one further down the line. But I don’t think a lot ahead. I think that by not planning his future out I have a better chance of keeping him fresh and current and more reflective of the moment.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being a writer?
A: The main thing is being able to do what you want to do — and just having to walk down the hallway to do it. The least favorite is knowing there is no one to blame but yourself when it’s not going well. Somebody once said “writin’ is fightin'” and I think that is very true. It is not easy. You have to fight to get what you want to say out. So this means that when it is going well, the feeling is almost euphoric. It also means that when it is going bad, the feeling is proportionately opposite. So there are lots of highs and lows.
Q: Do you read your reviews, good and bad, and do they make a difference to you?
A: I read them, good and bad. They rarely affect my writing because I don’t think anyone can fully understand what I am trying to do but me. Good or bad, it is hard to take a review to heart unless the intelligence of the reviewer is evident to me either in the review itself or by other means such as personal knowledge or association. In other words, I don’t know whether to take praise or criticism to heart if I can’t figure out anything about the reviewer. Because just like book writers, reviewers are good and bad and bring everything they know and have read to the plate with them. There are a lot of amateurish reviewers out there who bring personal agendas to their task and there are many who bring thoughtful and unbiased comment. I have had both types praise and slaughter me. So in the long run I am always curious to see reviews but don’t get too worked up about them, good or bad.
Q: What are your long term goals as a writer?
A: I just want to keep on keeping on. I want to grow as a writer and get better. I want to keep the Harry Bosch series fresh and alive. I want to keep filling in the portrait of Bosch so that when I am done with him he is a fully realized and understood human being, a person that the readers who have gone the distance with him know like a brother.
Q: Will you ever come to my city for a signing?
A: The publishers plan my tour schedule, not me. But they try to send me to new cities on each tour. I would like to get to every state in the USA and every country where I am published before I am through. You can check the Events page on the web site for all confirmed events. Join the site’s Mailing List to be notified about my tour schedule.
Q: I plan on attending your book signing. Will you sign paperbacks and your older books too?
A: I will sign anything you put in front of me. Some bookstores have their own policy about what you can bring in to their store, so it is always a good idea to check with the store first. It is also a nice idea to wait at the end of the line if you have a big stack of books so you don’t slow it down for everyone else.
Q: Can I send you my books to get them signed?
A: No, I am sorry but I would never have time to write if I said yes to this. I get too many requests. But I tour every year in different places around the world. Hopefully, I will have a signing at a bookstore near you someday. I also attend many fundraising events and book conferences every year. I am happy to sign books on any of those occasions.
Q: I have a great story idea for you. How can I get it to you?
A: Sorry, but for legal reasons, I do not read or accept story ideas.
Q: I have written a book. Will you read it and tell me what you think?
A: Once again, I can’t. I just get too many requests like this to keep up with them and get my own work done.
Q: What is the best way to find an agent or publisher? How do I get published?
A: There is no best way and no magic answers to these questions. You should consider joining the Mystery Writers Of America or another writer’s organization like it. These organizations exist to help writers. They offer symposiums and conferences annually. They offer e-mail lists for writers to discuss subjects like getting published, finding an agent, etc. They are a great resource. There are also numerous web sites available for writers.
Q: What is the best advice you would you give another writer?
A: Write every day even if it is just a paragraph.