Jeffery Deaver: THE STEEL KISS Interview

The plot of The Steel Kiss begins with New York City detective Amelia Sachs chasing a suspect through a busy mall. As she is about to apprehend him an escalator malfunctions with horrendous consequences, someone is mangled to death. It becomes evident that a person is using consumer products to kill people and appears to enjoy watching the suffering, either physically or emotionally. Amelia enlists the help of her boyfriend, famous forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme to assist in solving the crime. They must race against the clock to catch the perpetrator before he hacks into more appliances and the victim count becomes greater.

Elise Cooper: You feed right into the reader’s fears. Do you do that intentionally?

Jeffery Deaver: Yes! I do not consider myself an artistic, literary writer with very moving, but slow scenes. Part of my prototype is to make people wonder what will happen next to the characters.

EC: You have a killer who turns common products into murder weapons. What research did you do?

JD: I participated in some product liability cases as an attorney. These devices, microwaves, baby monitors, and escalators, affect everybody. I hope people will understand the terror of these consumer products. They should not disregard the warnings.

EC: These appear to be very dangerous machines. Did you want to send a warning?

JD: Paraphrasing Hemingway who said if you as a novelist want to send a message, go to Western Union. But, today he would have substituted in Facebook. The point is that novelists should tell stories about human beings that are involved in dynamic situations. Yet, I do think plots can touch on broader issues to give readers a richer and better experience. I do like to bring into my books issues relevant to human society.

EC: You put in your book about the warnings on baby strollers: do not fold up with a baby inside. Is that true?

JD: Yes. Unfortunately, we cannot protect people against themselves. The California Supreme Court established a street products liability, which shifted the burden from injured consumers to the manufacturers. But, the courts are also realistic about individual responsibility so plaintiffs will not abuse the system. For example, if someone misuses a car there are consequences. That is different from someone hacking into the control system of a car to cause an accident. I thought about all this and realized how wonderful and what a great way to terrify readers.

EC: How did you come up with the Lincoln Rhyme’s character being a quadriplegic?

JD: I wanted to do an anti-action hero. I needed a character that only has their intellect as a weapon, having Sherlock Holmes skills. This became the book the Bone Collector. Lincoln had to use his mind and intuitive skills, because as a quadriplegic he had no other resources. I had no idea he would be so popular. At first, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down, but after some surgeries he regained certain movements of his right arm and fingers.

EC: Can you describe Juliette Archer?

JD: She is also a quadriplegic. I decided to give Lincoln someone he can help and mentor. She is quite charming, interesting, and self-confident. She also likes to work with riddles.

EC: You put into the book both humor and riddles. Why?

JD: To give Juliette some quirkiness. I could not solve the riddles because my mind does not work that way but thought the readers might find it interesting. Regarding the humor, I love to laugh. I love comedies like Seinfeld and Veep. I am currently working on an original comedic half hour TV series. No one has bought it, but I will write it anyway. Although my books are about serial killers, I do add humor to enhance the story.

EC: What would you say your style is?

JD: My formula is to have a story take place over a short period of time with lots of internal reversals. I like to have an opportunity for three or four endings. Because I outline my plots sometimes I run the risk of making them too complicated. I tend to be a little too pyrotechnic during the outlining process. After re-reading I make sure I did not put too much material into the sub-plots. I do like to create a world where the killers appear somewhat sympathetic and are complicated characters that have interesting elements; yet are despicable.

EC: You gave a shout out to Kathryn Dance in this book. Would you ever have her work with Amelia Sachs as a team?

JD: They have worked together, kind of. A scene in the book XO had Lincoln and Amelia in Fresno, California for a conference and they helped Kathryn out. But, they actually did not literally work together. She and Amelia are people cops. It might be interesting to write a ‘buddyette’ book. I can tell you this; my next book will not be with Kathryn.