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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


Cara Black (b. November 14): “I’m an eavesdropper” & other quotes on writing

14 Nov

Cara Black, born 14 November 1951, is a best-selling American mystery writer best known for her Aimée Léduc novels featuring a female Paris-based private investigator.

Quotes on writing:

  1. Write what you are passionate about – that’s the best advice I ever received.
  2. I wanted to tell a story. Crime fiction is a great framework, a structure to hang a story.
  3. Research is the BEST part of my job. It means I must go to Paris, as I tell my husband.
  4. I’m an eavesdropper, bad habit, but invaluable in my line of work. I think writers do that all the time. 
  5. The past informs the present. Memory makes the map we carry, no matter how hard we try to erase it.
  6. To me a gripping story is about the characters, how crime impacts them; the victim’s world and forensics and technology are tools. 
  7. Maybe mysteries help us deal with the frustration and unresolved situations we encounter in daily life. When I read a mystery I like to experience some sense that justice is served. Not that all the loose ends are tied up but that good in some form triumphs.
  8. A line of dialogue or a mannerism can put a character onto the page. The challenge is to keep the character speaking more dialogue, being memorable and intrinsic to the plot and storyline. Especially in crime fiction and mysteries, everything happens for a reason, every detail could be a clue, a red herring, a false lead or a key to a sub plot and a suspect.
  9. I like to think that Paris is a character in my books. Sense of place, that unique part of Paris that speaks to me drives the story. Paris is really a collection of villages, twenty arrondissements or districts that each have a flavour. I try to think why crime would occur here in this quartier of Paris, what crime would happen here, who lives here, what is the distinct taste of this quartier of Paris and then the story comes
  10. My writing group meets twice a month and we critique each other’s work in progress. I’m an equal member and receive comments like everyone else. I’m always looking to make my story better. It’s important to listen to the comments, take what makes sense or would make the story clearer, deepen or enhance it. Or even delve more into the character, strengthen what would be more organic to the plot. If several people make the same comments, I listen.


Martin Cruz Smith (b. November 3): “The research is the most interesting part…”

3 Nov


“The research is the most interesting part… That’s how I work. I go some place and I walk it and I talk to people until I find what I’ve come for. Or not. Fortunately, I tend to find what I’m after.”

~ Martin Cruz Smith, b. 3 November 1942


Lee Child (b. October 29): “Writing is show business for shy people” & other quotes

29 Oct

Lee Child, born 29 October 1954, is a British thriller writer best known for his Jack Reacher novels.

10 quotes on writing:

  1. Don’t get it right – get it written.
  2. Writing is show business for shy people.
  3. It’s a kind of Zen question: if you write a book and no one reads it, is it really a book?
  4. The way to write a thriller is to ask a question at the beginning, and answer it at the end.
  5. Read, read, read. You can’t get anywhere unless you’re an obsessive, continuous reader of other stuff.
  6. Writers become writers because they love words and language, and attempting a non-native style is all part of the fun.
  7. I have the ‘thing’ worked out – the trick or the surprise or the pivotal fact. Then I just start somewhere and let the story work itself out.
  8. Male authors always take care to make their heroes at least one inch taller than they are, and considerably more muscular. Just as female authors give their heroines better hair and slimmer thighs.
  9. I write in the afternoon, from about 12 until 6 or 7. I use an upstairs room as my office. Once I get going I keep at it, and it usually takes about six months from the first blank screen until ‘The End’.
  10. So, how to stay inside the world of entertainment without actually getting another job? I felt the only logical answer was to become a novelist. So I wrote the first book – driven by some very real feelings of desperation – and it worked.

Alafair Burke (b. October 16): “The best crime novels are based on people keeping secrets.”

16 Oct

Alafair Burke, born 16 October 1969, is an American crime novelist, professor of law, and legal commentator. She is the author of two series of crime novels — featuring Detective Ellie Hatcher and prosecutor Samantha Kincaid. She is the daughter of novelist James lee Burke.

Quotes on writing:

  1. I was the weirdest kid: I wanted to see the police file – in grade school! I was convinced I could crack the case if I just had that file.
  2. The best crime novels are all based on people keeping secrets. All lying – you may think a lie is harmless, but you put them all together and there’s a calamity.
  3. I strive to make my books appear effortless. For readers to lose themselves in a book, they should be able to believe that story, characters, and settings exist in a parallel world.
  4. The horrible things people do to each other – and the ways those acts can bring out the best in others – is tremendously fertile ground for a writer. I wrote a book a few years ago where every single character was motivated by love. We tend to think about people as good or bad, but I think crime fiction challenges those simplistic assumptions. 
  5. I was downright obnoxious. In second grade, we had some program where we kept a public list of all the books we’d read. I think it even included the number of pages. In my nerdy mind, having the longest and most impressive list was somehow going to make up for the fact that I couldn’t climb a rope or do a backwards somersault in PhysEd.


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