A Few Quick Questions With…Joe Klingler

I posted about Joe Klingler‘s novel, Missing Mona last week (if you didn’t read it, take a moment now — or skip what I said and go get the book). Klingler was kind enough to participate in a Q&A with me. I asked some Missing Mona-specifc questions and then a couple of generic questions. I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather he work on his next book than take too much time with me, y’know? It could’ve been a little shorter, but he insisted on providing thoughtful answers (I really appreciated the last one)

Where there challenges in writing someone going through a “technology reallocation phase” that you didn’t expect? I’ve often thought Sue Grafton’s books would be at least 1/3 shorter if Kinsey had a cell phone — there are so many things she has to do to make a call/get messages/get information/etc.
One of the challenges was how to keep Tommy connected to a grid that he wasn’t a part of, since all of the other characters had smartphones, and used them constantly. He was already an outsider from another town, but his lack of a phone also made him an outsider in the virtual world as well. He had to constantly figure out how he was going to solve problems without technical assistance—which wasn’t always even possible. However, his interaction with paper messages, meeting times, and just showing up places unannounced provided experiences that would have never happened if he had just sent a text.

The other challenge he immediately faced was how to fill all the alone time created by not being constantly connected to the stream of text and images most people interact with all day long. This gave him time ponder and appreciate his new experiences, plan his next step, and even practice his guitar.

Seeing the references to Martin Caidin on your website warmed my heart — I was afraid I was the only one who remembered him. Describe some the influences on Missing Mona beyond the initial inspiration from Crais (whether or not you think they’re on display in Missing Mona).
Caidin’s The God Machine started me thinking long ago about the perils of power concentrated in one place (or person, or corporation), which we see in the character of LaRuche. Hammett and Chandler helped me understand how to describe experience as it happens, without much attention to the past or future. John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee is a masterwork on how to construct a long series, and build story around a single character with enough depth to carry many novels. Lee Child has his character Jack Reacher arrive in a new town on a new adventure in each book, much the way cowboys did in old westerns. His approach inspired me to have Tommy start out on a road trip with only a vague destination.

I also drew on some of my own experience riding an R75/6 BMW motorcycle along the east coast and down the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Smoky Mountains, seeking only to experience different people and places (yes, I rode to Chicago on a number of occasions.)

If you’ve decided, when we next meet Tommy is he going to be on Route 66 (or en route to it), or will he have returned to Chicago? Are we going to see Marvin, Lizzie, Penny and the rest again?
Tommy will likely begin his next mystery in Chicago, right where he left off. He has made new friends, and found a place to play guitar. Will he stay? How does a traveler ever know when it is time to stop, or if it’s best to keep moving? He finally has himself in motion after years at Walmart, and will struggle with the idea of stopping. That said, his new friends might show up at any time in the future, wherever he may be.

(Phew! That’s what I wanted to hear)

Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I read widely, though I prefer writing mysteries and thrillers because they integrate the way people, events, social customs, personal decisions, and technology are all interconnected. I’m a big fan of science fiction, and would like to try it at some point. A horror novel would be very difficult for me to write; I’m not sure I could sleep at night while writing one, though I like reading them on occasion.
I’ve often heard that writers, or artists in general, will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
I definitely remember the positive ones, so please keep them coming. In an interview Stephen King said that if one person says something about your book, you can usually safely ignore it, but if ten people have the same criticism, then perhaps you should look at your work and see how you might improve in that area. So, when I read reviews, I look for the same topic to come up (often in different guises). I like to tell a story from many different perspectives (which some people don’t care for), and I have to be careful with how, and how often, I change point of view. One of the reasons Missing Mona was told in the first person is because I wanted to experiment with using a single point of view.

The worst thing is hard to measure, but being misunderstood is way up there on my list. One person hated the name Qigiq because she couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it, another considered RATS not good enough for an airplane ride, and one thought there were too many floozies in Mash Up. Every reader comes to a book with their own background and set of expectations. About the only thing a writer can do is describe the book clearly in their marketing materials, get as many reviews as possible, and trust that the book will find its readers while he or she sets off to write the next book as well as they possibly can.

Another challenge is that some readers try to infer things about an author from their fiction. Stephen King also wrote to never try to figure out his beliefs from his books. Characters in fiction have their own biases and beliefs and are created to fill the needs of the story. What they think has nothing to do with what the author thinks.


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