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Timothy Olyphant (b. May 20): “I’m attracted to roles that are unpredictable…”

20 May


“I’m attracted to roles that are unpredictable, and if I can get my hands on something like that, I’m thrilled. I like performances where you don’t know what’s coming, moment to moment.”

~ Timothy Olyphant, b. 20 May 1968

Ian Rankin (b. April 28): “Most writers are just kids who refuse to grow up.”

28 Apr

Ian Rankin, born 28 April 1960, is a Scottish crime writer. His Rebus books have been translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He has won four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, an Edgar Award, and many others. Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, and Edinburgh.


  1. I still think most writers are just kids who refuse to grow up. We’re still playing imaginary games, with our imaginary friends.
  2. I don’t have many friends. It’s not because I’m a misanthrope. It’s because I’m reserved. I’m self-contained. I get all my adventures in my head when I’m writing my books.
  3. I think writers have to be proactive: they’ve got to use new technology and social media. Yes, it’s hard to get noticed by traditional publishers, but there’s a great deal of opportunity out there if you’ve got the right story.
  4. I’ve always written. At the age of six or seven, I would get sheets of A4 paper and fold them in half, cut the edges to make a little eight-page booklet, break it up into squares and put in little stick men with little speech bubbles, and I’d have a spy story, a space story and a football story.
  5. A lot of writers, especially crime writers, have an image that we think we’re trying to keep up with. You’ve got to be seen as dark and slightly dangerous. But I’m not like that and I’ve realised that I don’t need to put that on. People will buy the books whether they see a photo of you dressed in black or not.

On Writing:

I can’t write a novel when I’m travelling, but I can revise or edit, send emails and resolve plot problems. I’m envious of writers who can work on their books when they’re travelling, but I need my home comforts and certitudes – coffee, music, biscuits. I need to be in my office. It’s where I get to play God.

I’ll start with coffee and the papers, then maybe move on to emails. But eventually I’ll knuckle down. I have an office of sorts in my house. There will be music on the hi-fi, and I’ll sit on the sofa (if mulling), or at one desk (if writing longhand notes) or the other (if typing on to my laptop). My writing computer isn’t exactly state of the art – it can’t even access the internet – but I’ve written my last seven or eight novels on it, and it seems to work fine. 

10 Rules:

  1. Read lots.
  2. Write lots.
  3. Learn to be self-critical.
  4. Learn what criticism to accept.
  5. Be persistent.
  6. Have a story worth telling.
  7. Don’t give up.
  8. Know the market.
  9. Get lucky.
  10. Stay lucky.


Sue Grafton (b. April 24): “Ideas are easy. It’s their execution that separates the sheep from the goats.”

24 Apr

Sue Grafton, born 24th April 1940, is an American crime writer. She is best known as the author of the ‘alphabet series’, starting with “A” Is for Alibi. The books feature private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, California. Grafton is the daughter of detective novelist C. W. Grafton. She wrote screenplays for television movies before she became a novelist.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.
  2. I focus on the writing and let the rest of the process take care of itself. I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and I’ve also learned to take risks.
  3. I write letters to my right brain all the time. They’re just little notes. And right brain, who likes to get little notes from me, will often come through within a day or two.
  4. We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying.
  5. I started writing seriously when I was 18, wrote my first novel when I was 22, and I’ve never stopped writing since. Of the first seven novels I wrote, numbers four and five were published. Numbers one, two, three, six, and seven, have never seen the light of day…and rightly so. The eighth novel I wrote was ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI.
  6. I’m a writer by default. I think it is in my blood and in my bones. As I was growing up, women could be secretaries, nurses, ballerinas or airline stewardesses and I’m squeamish so there went my nursing career. I started writing early in my life as a way of surviving and my way of processing rage, grief and confusion. Now it is just what I do because I love it.
  7. I think with the mystery novel you have to know where you’re going, but not in any great detailed sense. I generally know whodunit, who died, and what the motive for the crime was. Then I have to figure out what I call the angle of attack. In other words, how do you cut into the story? Where does the story begin? What’s relevant in that first line or paragraph from the reader’s point of view? And I have to figure out who hires Kinsey Millhone, and what she’s hired to do.
  8. For one thing the mystery novel is a very elegant, delicate, highly structured form. You need to know how to plot, how to structure a story, you need to understand how to make a character work. People who start writing and think they can start with the mystery novel are often defeated before they put that first word on the page. So my advice is to learn your craft with mainstream fiction, where you’re not as stringently challenged and then come to the mystery when you’ve acquired some of the proficiencies that you need.
  9. I’m usually at my desk by 8:30 or 9:00. I like a tidy office because I find messes distracting. Being disorganized wastes time. I keep journals for every novel I write, and I start my workday by logging in, talking to myself about where I am in a novel and how I feel. I focus on the scene or story moves coming up. I worry about pacing and suspense. I revise. I stop sometimes and consult my research library, which is packed with books about crime and law enforcement. If I’m stuck, I call on the small army of experts who assist with each book. I break for a brief lunch and then work another couple of hours. Most days, I walk three to five miles when I’ve finished writing. I need the stress relief and fresh air.

Thomas Harris (b. April 11): “Fear comes with imagination…”

11 Apr

Thomas Harris, born 11 April 1940, is an American author and screenwriter. All of his works have been made into films, the most notable being the multi-Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.
  2. Problem solving is hunting. It is savage pleasure and we are born to it.
  3. Writing novels is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including digging irrigation ditches.
  4. You must understand that when you are writing a novel you are not making anything up. It’s all there and you just have to find it.
  5. The intimacy of the detail – why The Silence of the Lambs is quite possibly the Thriller Writer’s bible.

Reginald Hill (b. April 3rd): “You’re never alone with a novel. “

3 Apr

Reginald Hill, born 3 April 1936 and died 12 January 2012, was an English crime writer, and the winner in 1995 of the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. He is best known for his crime novels about Dalziel and Pascoe, which were adapted for BBC television.

Quotes on writing: 

  1. You are never alone with a novel. The characters become as real to me as real people.
  2. Writing is like painting: a highlight here, a touch of colour there, can suggest more than an album of photographs can show.
  3. If you’ve got something to say or a good story to tell then the greatest problem is writing to the end of it. If you can do that, then even if it’s not that good you have got something to work at.
  4. When I get up in the morning, I ask my wife whether I should write a Booker prize-winning novel, or another best-selling crime book. We always come down on the side of the crime book.
  5. I had a kid brother who was five years younger than me and when he was left in my tender care, I would entertain him by making up stories. They were stories full of sudden death, blood, violence and narrow escapes.
  6. The only bit of advice I would give is: when you finish that first manuscript and send it off to a publisher, start your second immediately. It will be infinitely better and you will have it finished by the time you get a reply about the first.
  7. I’ve got ideas scattered around; I write them in my notebook and keep them on my computer. Even as I am coming to the end of one book, ideas for the next are rolling around in my mind. I’ll pick up a few threads that I’ve sown before and see where they lead.

Jo Nesbø (b. March 29): “It’s impossible to write anything without being political.”

29 Mar

Jo Nesbø, born 29 March 1960, is an Edgar Award nominated Norwegian author and musician. He is well-known for his crime novels featuring Inspector Harry Hole. He is also the vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre.

Writing quotes:

  1. I read. And I read. I basically put off writing as long as I could, that was until I was 37. Then I started writing like a madman.
  2. For me, the best places to write are on planes, trains and at airports. I’m really happy when I’m waiting for a plane and the message comes that it’s three hours late. Great, I’ll get to write!
  3. Music for me is more like releasing tension, I don’t really have a method. Writing is about dreaming things up, using your imagination and instantly knowing whether you’re onto something. Writing music has taken the back seat to writing fiction now.
  4. It’s impossible to write anything without being political. You have to make political choices in description. You make choices about what to write and what not to write and those choices are bound to be political. But I see myself as an entertainer. I don’t start with a political agenda. I start with something human, whether evil, love, hate. I’m a vulture. I will use anything to drive the story forward.

James Patterson (b. March 22): “If you want to write commercial fiction, it’s story, story, story…”

22 Mar


“If it’s commercial fiction that you want to write, it’s story, story, story. You’ve got to get a story where if you tell it to somebody in a paragraph, they’ll go, “Tell me more.” And then when you start to write it, they continue to want to read more. And if you don’t, it won’t work.”

~ James Patterson, b. 22 March 1947

For Patterson’s interview with the Telegraph:

Mickey Spillane (b. March 9th): “Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.”

9 Mar

Mickey Spillane, born 9 March 1918, and died 17 July 2006, was an American author of crime novels, many featuring Mike Hammer. More than 225 million copies of his books have sold internationally.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn’t. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but still… you look at all this stuff with a grain of salt.
  2. If you’re a singer you eventually lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. But a writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.
  3. Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.

Elizabeth George (b. February 26): “I have to know the killer…”

26 Feb

Elizabeth George, born 26 February 1949, is an American author of mystery novels set in Great Britain. 11 of her novels have been adapted for television by the BBC as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.

Quotes on writing:

  1. It is the job of the novelist to touch the reader.
  2. I wish that I’d known back then that a mastery of process would lead to a product. Then I probably wouldn’t have found it so frightening to write.
  3. I find it both fascinating and disconcerting when I discover yet another person who believes that writing can’t be taught. Frankly, I don’t understand this point of view.
  4. I have to know the killer, the victim and the motive when I begin. Then I start to create the characters and see how the novel takes shape based on what these people are like.
  5. Essentially and most simply put, plot is what the characters do to deal with the situation they’re in. It’s a logical sequence of events that grow from an initial incident that alters the status quo of the characters.
  6. Plotting is difficult for me, and always has been. I do that before I actually start writing, but I always do characters, and the arc of the story, first… You can’t do anything without a story arc. Where is it going to begin, where will it end.
  7. Lots of people want to have written; they don’t want to write. In other words, they want to see their name on the front cover of a book and their grinning picture on the back. But this is what comes at the end of a job, not at the beginning.

Mary Higgins Clark (b. Dec 24): “The first four months of writing the book, I’m scratching with my hands through granite…”

24 Dec


“The first four months of writing the book, my mental image is scratching with my hands through granite. My other image is pushing a train up the mountain, and it’s icy, and I’m in bare feet.”

~ Mary Higgins Clark, b. 24 December 1929


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