Monday, April 25, 2011

MIchael Connelly- Part Five NINE DRAGONS & Q&A

This is the conclusion to the series I have run featuring Michael Connelly. There are two parts to this blog. The first interview is the formal NINE DRAGONS (Kindle edition) interview with Mr. Connelly. This was done in front of a live audience. The second part is a live Q&A on the writing process that took place after the NINE DRAGONS interview.

The interviews took place on October 14, 2009. Mr. Connelly drove from Tampa to Orlando to spend the day at my school. He taught two of my classes, had lunch with students that attended his reading in 2008, and then stayed after school for the interview. My school (The First Academy in Orlando, Florida) rolled out the red carpet. We had Mr. Connelly's name painted on the wall in the lobby, the school library looked like a Michael Connelly bookstore, and my students prepared posters for the visit.

Mr. Connelly was gracious with his time, patient with the students, and tired by the time he left. He answered a lot of questions. My students still talk about the visit. When THE LINCOLN LAWYER hit the big screen they went to see it and were able to tell their friends that they met the writer. That is what makes teaching such a joy. Michael Connelly touched many lives that day. Who knows what students met him and said to themselves, "I can do that too."

He told the story of the librarian in Fort Lauderdale who put a book in his hand and made him read. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale and played baseball in the summertime. As I have learned since my move to Florida three years ago- it gets hot down here in July. While cooling off in the library the librarian handed Connelly a copy of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; and he was hooked. He eventually tried to find out the lady's name, but could never find her. He dedicated one of his books to her as a tribute.

My favorite story of that day is a small event, but it touched me deeply. My school allowed 7th and 8th graders to attend the interview (it was held in a large auditorium). The students attending were the top readers in their class. They had reserved seating up front. Their teachers wrote their names on a piece of paper and put it on their folding chair.

One little girl, I do not know her name, asked me, "Mr. Kowars, I'm not old enough to read Mr. Connelly's books, but do you think he'll sign my piece of paper?" I was a bit concerned, I had told Mr. Connelly that I would limit the number of signings that he would be asked to do. I also knew that he had a daughter about this girl's age. I said, "Sweetheart, why don't you just ask him and see what he says." She said, "I'm too nervous."

I smiled, remebering the awkwardness of youth and the fear of approaching celebrities. I said, "Well let me introduce you to him." I walked over to where Connelly was standing and introduced them. She said,"I'm not old enough to read your books- but if you sign this paper I promise I'll read all of them when I'm old enough." Connelly smiled and reached for the paper, and soon there were 40 students lined up with their papers in hand. I cringed, but he smailed. "Don't worry, Kacey," he said, "it's a pleasure." He proceeded to make eye contact and sign every one of the students' papers.

Successful authors work hard. The demands on their time are non-stop. This simple act of kindness showed me the other thing I admire about Michael Connelly. He is a nice guy. He appreaciates the success he has acheived. He is arguably the hottest writer in the world today. And I truly believe the best is yet to come.


LISTEN TO the Student Q&A:

Next week we'll move on to another author.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

MIchael Connelly Part Four- THE OVERLOOK

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Michael Connelly Part Three- ECHO PARK (Harry Bosch)

In Part Three of my series of interviews with Michael Connelly we focus on ECHO PARK. (Kindle Edition) After writing THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Kindle Edition), Mr. Connelly returned to Harry Bosch in ECHO PARK. The story is about the disappearance of a young woman, Marie Gesto. Her case was never solved and her file ended up in the "open-unsolved' division of the LAPD, where Harry Bosch takes it on, revisiting the crime scene with the advantage of new technology that had been developed since 1993, the year Marie disappeared.

The case also gets under the skin of Jerry Edgar, Bosch's partner. Together they re-interview the suspects and the families and work hard at solving the case.

During the interview Mr. Connelly discusses the break from Harry Bosch that THE LINCOLN LAWYER provided him. He also discusses the motivating factors that make Harry Bosch tick. This is one of my favorite interviews I have done with Mr. Connelly. ECHO PARK is also one of my favorite Bosch novels.

I hope you enjoy the interview!



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Academy Awards Week- "Winter's Bone" is the dark horse

Next Sunday we will know who has won the Academy Awards. The year produced some remarkable films, a fine year for Hollywood. "The King's Speech" will probably take home several of the top prizes and deservedly so.

Lost among the also rans could be "Winter's Bones", the adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's fine novel. The film, a small independent production, was quickly in and out of theaters; but it managed to garner four Academy Award nominations. And they are major nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly), John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I loved the novel when it was published in 2006 and interviewed Mr. Woodrell in August of that year. I began featuring the interview on my website this summer after I saw the film. It is encouraging to see a writer like Daniel Woodrell receive some well deserved acclaim. He has been writing wonderful novels for many years.

In fact, Mulholland Press will be re-issuing three of Mr. Woodrell's novels in a collection titled "The Bayou Trilogy" on April 28th. I highly recommend it.

Even if the movie does not win any awards --it should give all of us hope that good writing can still find a place in the market. I encourage you to listen to our August, 2006 interview prior to the awards show.

I have an excellent line-up for the spring. Here is my schedule of upcoming interviews (subject to change).

March- Andre Dubus lll (TOWNIES)
April- David Baldacci (TBA)
April- Michael Connelly (THE FIFTH WITNESS)
May- Lawrence Block (A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF- A Matt Scudder novel).



MICHAEL CONNELLY- Part One (The Closers Interview)

Michael Connelly is arguably the hottest living writer in the world right now.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a successful film, his new novel THE FIFTH WITNESS, will be in stores on April 5th, and he will have another novel out in the fall.  

I am lucky and privileged to have interviewed Mr. Connelly seven times over the past six years. He came to my school, The First Academy, in Orlando, Florida in October 2009 and spent the day with my students. He taught two of my AP English Language and Composition classes (an experience my students will never forget). Mr. Connelly is a generous man, always encouraging aspiring writers. He deserves the success that he now enjoys.   

I am doing a multi-part series of blogs featuring our interviews. The first novel Mr. Connelly and I discussed was THE CLOSERS (May 2005). The interview is 45 minutes long and in it Connelly discusses the genesis of Harry Bosch. I am also posting the introduction below to the interview that I wrote in 2005. Next week I'll feature THE LINCOLN LAWYER interview and discuss the screen adaptation. I saw the film yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. But that's for next week. In the meantime enjoy this interview.



May 18, 2005 Interview with Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch novel, THE CLOSERS, will be released this week.  It was a pleasure for me to interview Michael because of my long fascination with the mystery fiction genre.I was twenty-eight years old when I discovered the world of mystery fiction. Richard Kitchen, a good friend of mine, was my first mentor. The year was 1985. 

Richard introduced me to the work of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Ross Thomas, James Crumley, Jonathan Valin, John D. MacDonald, and many others. I soon discovered the masters; Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiel Hammett. I fell in love with the work of Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar). I became fascinated with the world Lew Archer, Macdonald's protagonist, created. 

These three masters all set their stories in California, providing them an ever-changing landscape that reflected the best and worst society had to offer Twenty years have passed, and my love of the mystery novel has grown and deepened. The genre has achieved a credibility it previously lacked. Best seller lists are filled with crime novels of all types; legal thrillers, serial-killer novels, police procedurals, and many novels involving cats.

Michael Connelly burst onto the mystery scene in 1992 with the publication of THE BLACK ECHO. His protagonist, Harry Bosch, is a member of the LAPD. Michael  Connelly has now joined the list of the masters. 
Harry Bosch has become one of crime fiction's best developed characters, and he continues to get better with each book. Michael Connelly is a young man.  Raymond Chandler began his publishing career late in his life. It will be interesting to see how far Michael Connelly takes Harry Bosch, he is already in rarefied air. 
Michael writes stand-alone books as well the Bosch series; novels like THE POET. One reason he does this is to give Bosch a break between books. 

John D. MacDonald, the author of the Travis McGee series, did the same thing. He alternated McGee novels with other novels he wrote to keep the character and the stories fresh. MacDonald and McGee told us of the world of Florida, long before the state was overrun with mystery writers. Connelly and Bosch are explaining the world of Los Angeles to us. It is a fascinating world, a world that Connelly captures with a  photographer's detail. 
It is a privilege to watch a modern master at work. Too often we read an author's best work after they've died. My interview with Michael lasts forty-five minutes, and focuses on the character of Harry Bosch. 
I hope you enjoy it. Please tell your friends that read Michael Connelly about it, it is a rare glimpse into the creation of the series and the changes Michael has made as the series has matured. It was great fun for me to ask questions that have been in my head since 1992. Listen to the interview, then go buy a copy of THE CLOSERS, you won't be sorry. 

Michael Connelly Part Two- THE LINCOLN LAWYER interview

This picture was taken at Urban Think bookstore in downtown Orlando in October 2009 (an independent bookstore that is now closed- it was Orlando's last indie bookstore). The owner asked me to introduce Mr. Connelly that night; he was in town promoting THE SCARECROW. Several of my students accompanied me to the reading that night; a fact that surprised Mr. Connelly, he was unaccustomed to having high school students attend his readings.

I had introduced my AP students to THE LINCOLN LAWYER that year, and they loved it. They stayed after the reading asking intelligent questions about the novel and its protagonist, Mickey Haller. Mr. Connelly was so impressed that he told me that if he could make time the next school year that he would drive from Tampa to Orlando to spend time speaking to my students (which he did when NINE DRAGONS was published).

I interviewed Connelly about THE LINCOLN LAWYER in October 2005, shortly before its publication. I loved the novel and Mickey Haller. I was amazed that after writing so successfully about Harry Bosch that he would take the risk of starting another series (if indeed Haller became a series character). Not only has Haller become a success, but Connelly has now interwoven the lives of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller in ways not even he could imagine at the time.

To me this is the mark of a gifted writer. Connelly has written stand alone novels before and my guess is that he will continue to do so. After interviewing him seven times, and spending time with him, I am convinced that he begins each new book unsure of where it will lead him. He has no fear of taking risks as a writer, that is what makes him so good.

Now THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a success on the big screen and the movie has been a boon to Matthew McConaughey's career. The cast is impressive; Marissa Tomei, William H Macy, Michal Oena, and Frances Fisher do a fine job bringing the novel to the screen. Connelly's dialogue is used extensively in the film, a wise choice by its screenwriter, John Romano. A sequel seems inevitable given the film's success.

But that is not what excites me as a reader and a reviewer. I'm excited that Mr. Connelly has bought back the rights to Harry Bosch (after a long period of litigation) and that he now has control over what happens with the film rights to Bosch (or television for that matter).

I watch several TV series that have much better writing than most movies I see. Several years ago it was THE SOPRANOS, SIX FEET UNDER, and THE WIRE that revolutionized TV (primarily shows written for HBO). Now I watch episodes of CRIMINAL MINDS, THE MENTALIST, and BLUE BLOOD and marvel at the quality of the writing. Who knows where Harry Bosch will appear?

Connelly took a risk when he wrote THE LINCOLN LAWYER. He spent years covering the crime beat in Los Angeles for the L.A. Times (his book CRIME BEAT is worth reading), yet he had no formal legal training. In the interview he talks about how pleased he was when Scott Turow wrote a 'blurb' for the back of the novel. Here is what Turow wrote:

 “Michael Connelly is fully at home in the world of a criminal defense lawyer. All the qualities that have brought him a legion of readers are on display here: brisk pacing, clever twists, artful writing, and an atmosphere of complete authority. Another terrific book from a terrific writer.”

Nobody does legal novels better than Scott Turow, so that is high praise. The interview I did with Mr. Connelly in 2005 is the most-listened to interview I have ever recorded. I am delighted that he continues to receive the acclaim he so richly deserves.

I saw the movie last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. THE LINCOLN LAWYER is #1 on the New York Times Book e-book list (the e-book list was added a month or so ago). Not bad for a book published six years ago! Just click on the link below to listen to the interview I did with Mr. Connelly in October, 2005 on the Lincoln Lawyer.