BOOK CHEWING: An Interview with Duane Swierczynski

I am a massive fan of Duane Swierczynski (see All Things Duane Swierczynski) and have been importing his books for the last few years. I am very excited about his new novel, FUN & GAMES (out now!), as he is being published locally by Hachette Australia thanks to the brilliant new imprint Mullholland Books. FUN & GAMES is the first book in a trilogy featuring Charlie Hardie and is one of those great, edge-of-the-seat books that you can’t help but read in one sitting. (read my review here)

Duane is the author of several novels including the Edgar and Anthony-nominated Expiration Date. He also write comics, and thrillers with CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker. The name’s pronounced “sweer-ZIN-ski” and you can follow him on twitter at @swierczy or check out his blog at http://secretdead.blogspot.com/.

Duane has kindly answered a few questions I have put to him:

1. Your latest book Fun & Games is the first in a planned trilogy. How would you sum the book up and can you tell us anything about where the trilogy is heading? 

Fun & Games is about an alcoholic house sitter who takes a job watching some swank pad in the Hollywood Hills and ends up in the crosshairs of some of the most dangerous killers in the world. (Hey, we’ve all been there, right?) I don’t want to spoil to too much of what lies ahead in the trilogy, but I’m playing around with the idea of the 80s action film hero and how far he can be pushed before he totally snaps.

2. Where did you come up with the idea of a professional company that stages accidental deaths? 

I swear, it was before the whole Randy Quaid meltdown where he told the world that “Hollywood star whackers” were after him. (When that news broke, I had just finished the first draft of F&G, and I kind of sat there thinking, No wayyyy…) Like most people, I dig a good conspiracy theory, and it always fascinated me that celebrities would seem to die in threes. I thought: this can’t be accidental.

3. I love the fact that you books have so many twists and are paced at breakneck speed that you don’t have time as a reader to guess where things are going. Do you plan out your books before you start writing or are you on the same wild ride? 

I do both; I’d say half of my books are plotted (with a loose outline), and the other half, I’m just winging it. Even when I do use an outline, however, I give myself the freedom to veer wildly off course if the story takes me there. The story is boss.

4. What was it like working with Anthony Zuiker, creator of CSI, on Level 26? 

Zuiker’s a creepy man. The first time we met, he kept trying to swab the inside of my cheek and spray Luminol on my laptop…

Oh, I kid. Zuiker is an amazingly creative and driven dude—and with these “digi-novels,” he’s determined to give readers a completely new reading/viewing experience. Not only do I applaud this, but I’m lucky to be along for the ride.

5. You also write comics/graphic novels for Marvel Comics. What do enjoy more, writing a novel or a graphic novel? How do the two processes differ? 

Prose fiction will always be my first love, but writing comics is a blast, too—forcing me to use different parts of my brain. It’s no secret that I’m not exactly a master of lush, visual description, but with comics, visuals are of supreme importance. So working with Marvel, and now DC (I’ll be writing the Gotham City-based series Birds of Prey starting this September), over the years has forced me out of my comfort zone and start thinking about stories in hyper-cinematic way. And that’s definitely influenced my novels.

6. You recently contributed a short story to the LA Noire collection that ties in with the new video game. Did you get to see the game before you wrote your story? What is your story about? 

We were shown parts of the game, and given detailed plot/character descriptions, but I didn’t actually play the game until long after the story was finished. My story, “Hell of an Affair,” is a direct prequel to one of the stories in the game (“A Marriage Made in Heaven”). I thought it would be fun to take the inciting incident from the game (a brutal hit-and-run) and rewind it to see what happened in the days before.

7. What do you think of the game? Should we see more video game/book tie-ins? 

To be perfectly honest I’ve been so slammed with deadlines that I’ve only had time to poke around a little (and smash up a whole bunch of cars). But I’m hoping to take some time off this summer to properly explore post-war L.A. I’d love to see more cross pollination between video games and books, because I think fans of one would have a lot of fun with the other.

8. Which of your books would you most like to see made into a movie? Which do think would be the hardest to make? 

That’s like asking which of your children you’d like to see go to college someday. All of them, of course! And all of them would be so easy to make. Do you hear me, Big Time Hollywood Producer types? A WALK IN THE PARK, my novels. They’ll practically adapt themselves…

Ahem.

Actually, I think I’d love to see an adaptation of Expiration Date, because it’s the most personal of all my books. (And I think could be done on the cheap.)

9. Which other writers inspire you? 

James M. Cain, for his style. Fredric Brown, for his crazy invention and humor and menace. Harlan Ellison, for his voice. Ken Bruen, for his heart. Charlie Huston, for his brains. David S. Schow, for the sheer muscle of his prose. I could go on and on… but sometimes I think if I built a Frankenstein monster out of the parts of my favourite writers, I’d be unstoppable.

10. What have you been reading lately? 

I’ve been absolutely loving Steve Erickson’s weird and engrossing ZEROVILLE, which is quickly becoming my favourite Hollywood novel (right up there with Terrill Lankford’s EARTHQUAKE WEATHER).

 

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