William (or Bill, for short) Landay is a hot new American crime writer who has recently published
his debut novel - Mission Flats - to widespread critical acclaim.
William is currently hard at work on his second novel, which is due to be published next year.
Still, amidst his busy writing schedule, William kindly managed to take a little time out to
chat exclusively to Steve Rudd about the runaway success of Mission Flats,
and the motivation behind his life as a hard-hitting novelist amongst other things...
Hi Bill, how are things?
Just fine, thanks.
You recently released your debut novel 'Mission Flats', an exhilarating crime thriller that's been widely acclaimed the literary world over. Have you been surprised by the book's success?
If by success you mean critical success, then yes, I'm flabbergasted.
As a writer, especially a first-time writer, one is painfully aware of all the flaws in one's work.
All the blemishes, all the glue and Scotch tape.
There is an old saying (I think it is Flaubert but I'm not sure) to the effect that a novel is never finished, only abandoned, and that is precisely the feeling. So it is great to be well reviewed and well received by readers. A little surreal, but enjoyable nonetheless.
What made you bow out of your 'previous life' as an assistant D.A. for a career as a novelist?
I actually enjoyed my time as a trial lawyer.
The social and moral aspects of the job -- which is to say, the busyness and the do-gooding -
were a pleasure.
And I rather liked the stage of a courtroom, though I am basically an introverted person.
What it came down to was that I turned thirty and had been harbouring this dream of writing a novel,
and it seemed like it was time to fish or cut bait.
The window of opportunity was closing.
I now have a wife and two kids (Henry and Ted, ages 2 and 4), and it is clear that it would be
very difficult for me to take on the risks and penury of an unpublished writer now.
So I'm glad I took the chance. That said, the leap from prosecutor to novelist was not as
easy as it seems in hindsight. I wrote two unpublished (and unpublishable) novels before Mission Flats.
Do you think that it is essential for a crime writer to have worked in law prior to writing about
law, in order to achieve the levels of authenticity required?
No. Flatly, no. In fact, I think there is a tendency for people who've been in law enforcement to
feel a captive to their specialized knowledge, to make their storytelling too authentic.
When I started, I made it my goal, foolishly, to write a book that any cop or D.A. could pick up and say,
"Yeah, that could really happen."
It took me a long time to realize that the goal is realism, not reality.
It is more important to be credible than authentic, and above all it is critical to tell a good story. The awful truth is that the day-to-day reality of law enforcement is a lot less dramatic than the storytellers make it out to be, whether in books, movies or TV. So now if I have to stretch the truth a bit, I do it and cheerfully. Those looking for reality are advised to leave the Fiction aisle.
Now, having said all that, I hasten to point out that it is very, very useful to be familiar with the law enforcement system, if for no other reason than to infuse your stories with the sort of authentic detail that simply can't be invented. My cops and my prosecutors speak with a fluency that is not the product of my own talent so much as it is just me parroting the voices I've heard for many years.
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