1. Mr. Lee, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, RUNNER, just came out today. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Runner is about a guy named Sam Dryden, who’s experienced a pretty significant personal loss in recent years, and is living in a kind of emotional limbo. Then he meets Rachel, a twelve-year-old running from people who are trying to kill her, and with a scary secret in her past that she can’t remember. She also has an ability that should be impossible, which she reveals to Dryden soon after meeting him.
2. Who is Sam Dryden and where did the inspiration for his character come from?
I thought the story needed a protagonist who was very capable, very world-weary, but not hardened and cold. I thought he was a good counterpoint to Rachel: she needs his help, and he really needs to help someone–to matter to someone, and to remember what that’s like.
3. What are your writing habits? Outline or not?
I really don’t outline, at least not on paper. I’m obviously always thinking about where the story is going, but I keep it pretty looose. The further I get into a book, the better a sense I get of how it will end, but even then I’m sometimes surprised by ideas that come along fairly late in the process. I think it makes the end result better, and though it requires in a lot of backtracking and revison, I think it still makes the writing process more fun, too.
4. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
I think the most important thing is to get your characters’ reactions to events in the story right. The way people respond to things, whether it’s the hero, or the villain, or some minor character, the reader needs to believe that this character would really do, or say, or feel that way in response. If someone in the story does something that the reader simply doesn’t buy, under the circumstances, then you start losing them.
5. A word of advice for new writers?
I’m usually hesitant to give much advice, because everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for someone else. I can say this much, even if it’s a bit cliche: only do it if you really enjoy the day-in-day-out work of writing. I don’t mean to say that it always needs to be fun. It’s work, and there are some really bad days (or weeks), but when a book is going well, the writer should feel at least some of the escapism he or she feels when reading a good book. If that’s not there to keep you going, writing a book can be just about impossible.
6. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
It’s not something I’ve had any experience with, but I know the industry is taking notice after the successes that have taken place. Generally, though, I think agents and editors are going to be part of publishing for as long as authors are. (Some future version of IBM’s Watson system may put us all out of work eventually, but in that case the world would have bigger issues to wrestle with.)
7. Why do your write? Why thrillers?
I’d say my answer to question five really hits this one, too. There’s a real sense of escapism for the writer, when a book is going well. (And when it’s not going well, the lack of that escapism is the first big clue that the story is on the wrong track.) Stephen King has described writing as a kind of playground, and I think I know what he means. Writing is very stressful at times, but the upside that outweighs that is the excitement of finding the story as you go, and surprising yourself with ideas and new directions.
8. What are your favorite pastimes?
I like reading, and I’m a bit of a movie buff. Also kind of a politics buff, as much as it drives me nuts. It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck, except we’re all on the train.
9. How do you connect with your fans? What have been their reactions to your works?
I have a website (www.patrickleefiction.com) that I should probably update more often, and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PatrickLeeFiction) that’s quite a bit more active. People have been really positive and supportive about the books.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
The next book is a sequel to Runner. Beyond the fact that it takes place two years later, I actually can’t say much about it, partly because it’s still going through some changes, but obviously it centers on Sam Dryden, and the tone is similar to that of Runner: very strange events, handled as realistically as I can manage.