Q & A with John Sandford

Best Selling author John Sandford has another winner with his recent book, Field Of Prey. It is an intense mystery thriller that explores the world of serial killers. The suspenseful plot moves along at a fast pace with the cat and mouse game between the BCA detective, Lucas Davenport, and the serial rapist-killer.



Elise Cooper: How do you come up with your great fresh story ideas?


John Sandford: This is what I do for a living. There is the basic set-up of having a cop who must solve a case. The hard part is coming up with the villain. I have to make sure of not creating a villain that has come up in the past. Will these be impulse murders? Is it going to be someone who has a psychotic break? Then I assign the villain certain characteristics, which are mostly taken from people I didn’t like in the past. I have a year to work on the storyline between books. As a former journalist I look at newspaper stories all the time. “The Daily Mail” in England is essentially a round up of everything from what happens to celebrities to murders to drug stories. All I have to do is read the by lines and possibilities pass before my eyes.


EC: Do you plan on making any changes?


JS: Mattsson might become a regular character since she is going to work for BCA. Maybe a new job for Davenport with a new setting. I also have to think about Letty’s career decision.


EC: There is this great quote in the book, “The worker bees take care of the work, the manager bees take care of themselves.” Your thoughts?


JS: That is a generalization for life. I used to work for two very large newspapers. The higher you went up in the administration ladder the more difficult it was to figure out what they did. If you were going to get rid of people the administrators should go first. The ones at the bottom are doing all the work. I never wanted to be a manager. I was always a reporter, working like a dog. Without people like me there would never be a newspaper; yet, I was getting paid a lot less that the ones higher up. Another analogy is the teachers/administrators. If all we had were administrators there would not be any schools.


EC: You seem to incorporate in your books some social commentary. Do you agree?


JS: Originally I thought not to put the social stuff in a thriller novel because it would slow the story down. But now I have decided to put some stuff in because I think it is important. I will write about street people, needy people, military veterans, and animals that are disadvantaged.


EC: In this book you talk about a character with mental health issues. Was it based on someone?


JS: I know a guy like that who is very smart. He is schizophrenic and cannot keep a job. I feel bad for him. My wife and I give him regular amounts of money every month so he could keep his head above water.


EC: What about your commentary on the media?


JS: This is a developing attitude of mine. As a newspaper reporter I took my job seriously. Today a lot of newspaper reporters feel they need to add their voice. The problem is most reporters are idiots without much knowledge. I am not saying they are not smart, they are. But they are trying to express an opinion when they do not have enough facts on hand. They simply do not have enough time to learn things as they cover different issues on different days, such as business one day and the school board the next. They are no longer reporting what is happening but are reporting what they think is happening. I am very discouraged by our state of the media. We don’t want the reporters opinion we want to formulate our own.


EC: Do you ever get emotional when you write the graphic scenes?


JS: I tried very hard not to go into great detail with the graphic scenes. I had to walk a thin line not to make it too graphic. I intentionally did not put in a description of the rapes themselves. Remember I am not reading this like you are, over a short period of time. I write it over a few weeks so I see it in bits and pieces, fragments.


EC: What do you want your readers to get out of Fields Of Prey?


JS: I am going for good entertainment. I also try to weave in some kind of commentary that is going on in the world without preaching. I hope people do not want to put the book down and also think about the issues for a little bit.


EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books?


JS: Due out this July will be a young adult novel, a series of three, entitled Uncaged. The plot has a boy with Asperger Syndrome, a computer genius who is socially retarded, becoming an animal rights radical. He joins a group that raids an Oregon animal laboratory and finds that there are criminal elements involved with this lab. The boy goes on the run to save himself with his sister who is trying to help him.


The other book due out in the fall will be another Virgil Flower’s novel. The story has a school board ripping off its school district of millions of dollars. After a drunken reporter finds out the school board decides to kill him. Flowers is initially investigating those involved in stealing dogs and selling them to medical facilities for research, but then works on both cases. I hope this is a fun book.