I recently interviewed Meg Gardiner, author of multiple best-selling thrillers. I was sent a free copy of her novel The Memory Collector, which I will review on the site when I’ve finished it.
Hi Meg, and welcome to fringescientist.com!
MG: Hi. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Firstly, I know you from your Evan Delaney novels, which I really enjoy. Your novel China Lake was mentioned by Stephen King on the EW site one day a few years ago, and he couldn’t praise your writing or the book enough, and that’s how I got to know of you and start reading your books. How did you come up with the character of Evan and how do you come by the ideas for her adventures?
MG: I wanted my thriller heroine to come from a world I knew, so I could write her from the inside out. Evan is a lawyer from Santa Barbara, California—and so am I. But she’s braver, funnier, and faster on her feet than I am. We’re different. I’ve never found an FBI agent tied to my bed, stark naked. And I’ve never chased a killer down the street while dressed as Diana Ross, or hidden a heat seeking missile in my car. Evan can be impetuous, which sometimes gets her into trouble. She says what she thinks, and she goes to the edge to protect the people she loves. The stories come from headlines, the human heart, and my deepest fears. They come from the inner voice that says: if it scares you, it’ll scare readers too.
I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the Jo Beckett books yet, so can you tell us a little bit about Jo and the sort of scrapes she finds herself in – and a little of what makes her different to Evan?
MG: Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist. She’s a consultant to the San Francisco Police Department. She performs psychological autopsies in cases of equivocal death—that is, when the police and medical examiner cannot determine whether a victim’s death is natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. Jo evaluates victims’ lives to find out how they died. She’s a deadshrinker.
She investigates tough cases that stump the cops. In The Dirty Secrets Club, she must find out why San Francisco’s elite are committing suicide and taking others with them. In The Memory Collector, she must track a mercenary with short term memory loss who may have stolen—and been contaminated by—a deadly nanotechnology experiment. In The Liar’s Lullaby she has to determine whether a singer’s death in front of a stadium crowd is suicide or murder.
And in The Nightmare Thief, she joins forces with Evan Delaney when a gang of kidnappers abducts a group of college students on an adventure weekend.
What are you working on at the minute?
MG: A secret project. Okay, I don’t mean I’m building a thermonuclear device in my garden shed. It’s a new novel. A thriller set in southern California. That’s all you’ll get from me for now. Except it’ll be thrilling.
To budding writers out there, what would you say are good practices for a writer to adopt? I mean things like plotting before writing, having a specific time of the day for writing, etc. I suppose I’m asking what your habits are as a writer – what you’ve found works and what doesn’t.
MG: Vital: Write, and read, every single day. It doesn’t matter where, or what time—whatever works for you and your schedule. I plot my books before I start to write them, because that’s the only way I can write stories that get from A to Z and hold together coherently. The point is to write. Put your butt in the desk chair and type. If you write a page a day, you’ll have a book in a year. And you must read. You have to read good writing, to see how it’s done, to understand how good books work, and to discover exactly why bad writing is bad.
My overall advice is: be patient, and ruthless. Patient, because authors must learn to write well, and this takes years. Ruthless, because you have to edit your work mercilessly—you can’t fall in love with your own words. And you have to grow a thick skin, because you’ll face rejection. Over and over. Finally, make it up, but tell the truth. Your story can break the laws of physics, but must be emotionally and morally honest.
I recently brought a Kindle, and I love it. I asked author Russell Brooks the same question when I interviewed him: do you think that ebooks truly are the future of the publishing industry? Are traditional paperbacks headed for extinction?
MG: E-books have a huge future. Digital publishing is going to change the face of the industry significantly, worldwide. But paperbacks will not go extinct. Readers will be able to get hold of an author’s work on paper as well as their Kindle or iPad. And that’s the way it should be.
Some established authors have started to bypass the traditional publishing route, with some turning down multi-book deals in order to publish their books themselves. Would you ever do this? Do you ever see yourself releasing something independently just to see what the process is like? Alan Dean Foster recently released a long-unpublished novella of his onto the Kindle, for example.
MG: Who knows? Currently my novels are published around the world in 21 languages, by Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House and others. And I’m happy with that. At the moment, I don’t want to become a publisher myself. I’m busy enough just writing the books.
Coming back to the routines of writing, how do you split your time between writing, and taking care of your family? Is it a difficult juggling act?
MG: Writing is in many ways a great job for people with families. I don’t commute. When my kids were small, I could put them on the school bus and work until they came home. I can write at night or on weekends. I’m extraordinarily lucky.
Meg, I’m going to ask you five questions!
1. Favourite Book/Series of Books
MG: The Stand, Stephen King. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Any Dave Robicheaux mystery by James Lee Burke.
2. Who would play you in Meg Gardiner: The Motion Picture?
MG: Ha! Uma Thurman, in Kill Bill mode. Or Sandra Bullock, in klutzy comedy mode. Or the crazed monkey from Toy Story 3.
3. If you could stipulate an inappropriate song choice for your own funeral, which would it be?
MG: “DOA” by the Foo Fighters.
4. Which website(s) would you say you visit the most on a regular basis?
MG: I’m online constantly. But Guardian.co.uk is the first news site I check every morning.
5. This is the last question, I swear! Where do you see yourself in five years time? Or what do you see yourself doing.
MG: Writing. Since this is my fantasy, may I include a yacht so huge it would make an oligarch blush, anchored off Tahiti?
As I’ve asked you who you would see playing you in a movie of your life, I have to ask if you’ve ever been approached about a Hollywood adaptation of Evan Delaney’s adventures. Is a studio working away at a Delaney movie as we speak? Also, who do you see in your mind playing her? Myself, I think of a younger Jodie Foster – but that’s me!
MG: If Hollywood calls, I’ll let you know. And I hate to offer my vision of who should play Evan, because readers each have their own picture of Evan in their head. Sarah Michelle Gellar? Reese Witherspoon? Hilary Swank? Young Jodie Foster would also be great.
Before we go, is there anything you’d like to say to your readers who might be reading this? Or any people in particular?
MG: Thank you for supporting my work. Keep reading.
And we’re at the end! Thank you Meg for agreeing to this interview. It’s been a delight! I’d like to say a thank you, too, for entering me into your little competition for a free copy of The Memory Collector. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I will be sure to write a review when I’ve finished it.
The Nightmare Thief is out June 9th.
Her books on her site HERE
You can find out all about Meg, and her wonderful books at MegGardiner.com