An Interview with Jeffery Deaver

SOLITUDE CREEK by Jeffery Deaver is a riveting mystery. He is definitely the Master of Suspense with the many twists and turns throughout the novel. It is an understatement to say he manipulates his readers as he sets them up for one course of action and then abruptly changes it. This latest Kathryn Dance novel is no different. What makes this plot so gripping is that any person can see themselves in the victim’s situation. Whether in an elevator, at a music club, a book signing, or an amusement park, the antagonist is able to manipulate a situation to cause chaos and panic, something he thrives upon.

Elise Cooper: In your books there are “small” twists and turns. Why?

Jeffery Deaver: I like to camouflage clues but the surprises must be grounded with a reference somewhere. Twists are definitely my trademark. I think it is better to create suspense than depict gore.

EC: Why did you make Kathryn Dance a body language expert?

JD: Lincoln Rhymes, my other main character, is basically Sherlock Holmes, a scientist. He only gets involved in a case because of the forensic evidence. I wanted to create the compliment to Lincoln, a people cop. Kathryn as a detective should have as a specialty, something non-scientific that would allow her to go one-on-one psychologically with the villains. I came up with the idea of kinesics after watching this special where a jury consultant used it to analyze jurors. I used it as a springboard for Kathryn’s profession.

EC: How did you come up with the story line in SOLITUDE CREEK?

JD: I had a story like this in my mind for many years. In the book I refer to the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, where in 1989 at a FA Cup semi-final 96 people were crushed to death. I came up with this quote in the book from a personal experience, “when the crowd takes over. You become a helpless cell in a creature whose sole goal is to survive, yet in attempting to do that it will sacrifice some of itself…” I remember feeling like that during an incident in Greenwich Village. There was this parade and the streets were completely packed. A scuffle ensued and the crowd started to move. I lost control and the crowd was moving me. I thought if someone or I fall we would be completely crushed.

EC: You also have video game violence playing a small role. Why?

JD: Many of these types of games serve no purpose other than to score points by killing people. The only downside is when you run out of ammunition. I would vote to censor these games until someone is of the age of at least twelve.

EC: Kathryn’s dogs are named Dylan and Patsy. Are you a big country music fan?

JD: I was a folk singer a long time ago. I love that era of Dylan and Cline with “Nashville Skyline” being one of my favorite albums of all time. Kathryn is a bit like me, a failed musician. In the last Kathryn book, XO, I wrote an album of country music songs and the lyrics are clues in the book, which Kathryn uses to track the antagonist down. The story is about a stalker of a Taylor Swift type singer.

EC: How do you choose your settings for the books?

JD: The next Lincoln Rhymes book will be set in Italy. The Italians gave me the top crime-writing award last December. It was such an honor and I wanted to find a way to thank them so I chose Italy. Since most of the Rhymes’ books take place in New York I decided to make the Kathryn’s books set in the Monterey Peninsula area. My sister lives there and it is the antithesis of New York, much calmer and quieter. My editor asked if there is enough crime to write stories and my answer, ‘there will be when I get done with it.’

EC: Can you tell us about your audio book projects?

JD: Six years ago, the International Thriller Writers approached me to head up a project. Since they do not charge dues it was a way for them to make money. It was a serial novel where a number of authors are involved in the writing. I came up with the title, The Chopin Manuscript, the main character, the first chapter, and the last chapters. It is a collaboration of fifteen writers, where the protagonist, Harold Middleton, and his team tracks down war criminals, warlords, and individuals responsible for atrocities. I edited it without changing the other author’s voice. I just wanted to make sure the book flowed properly and that there was continuity. But I also decided to put in more twists and turns with the OK of the other authors.

EC: What about The Starling Project?

JD: I was asked to write an audio play by It has the same characters as The Chopin Manuscript and stars Alfred Molina. There is dialogue, sound effects, and music. One of the reasons I did it was to hopefully get more readers hooked. I found out it is easy to get points across when writing prose but much harder when you only have sound and dialogue. I had to use my imagination to find ways to do this. For example, before a sex scene you hear kissing and wine glasses being put down. Or when the characters landed in France instead of using clunky conversation I had a speaker welcoming people in different languages.

EC: What do you want the readers to get out of your books?

JD: I want to grab readers with the story. I look for incidents that could scare the heck out of them. It is important to get that balance where the reader is horrified but not repulsed, which is why I cut away with the sex and violence scenes. To make my books resonate I raise different questions, but never preach.