March 4, 2012

Author Q&A: Tail spinner

David Rosenfelt wanted a new job in a different place, and found both in Maine, where he writes books in the company of his wife and their 28 rescued dogs.

By TOM ATWELL / Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram

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"Heart of a Killer" is Maine author David Rosenfelt's latest mystery novel, and the fourth of his stand-alone books.

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David Rosenfelt and one of his 28 rescued dogs.

Courtesy photo

If you were to die and come back as a dog, our house would be a good place to come to live. Now, if you were a person, I'm not sure I would advise it. 

Q: Time to get to the book. "Heart of a Killer" is really two plots woven together: The Sheryl Harrison story and a computer-terrorist thriller. Is it tough to weave something like that together?

A: It's harder for me than for most writers. It's about the way I work: I can't plan a book in advance or do an outline. I just start writing, and I don't know how it comes out. It just goes where it goes. The more complicated it is, if two separate things are going on, the more difficult it is. It was sort of a challenge.

 Q: How is this different from your Andy Carpenter books?

A: Very different, although the main character in this book is not that far off because for the first time in one of the stand-alone books, the main character is a lawyer.

The Andy Carpenter books have a lot of humor in them, probably too much. The editor has to go through these books with a sieve to take things out. This one is more of a thriller, and has serious issues that people really care about.

Q: How does the process of swapping them off go?

A: I do one a year of each. Next year, I will have three books, including that one about the dogs.

The Andy books are told in the first person and present tense. Andy is me, a younger, thinner version of me. It is easy because I write like I am talking with people I am just friends with, and the 10 or so characters are like old friends. The trick is to give all this background information to new readers in such a way as the regular Andy readers aren't bored to death.

The others are harder for me to write. The first one is called "Don't Tell a Soul," and I set out to make it as unfunny as I could. I sent it to my editor, and she reads it and says how much she loved how I blended the humor and the mystery. I just can't help it, I guess. The hard thing for me as a writer is how to not have the humor be inappropriate. In one book, I have a really funny scene with a father and son at a baseball game, and at the end of it, the father has as heart attack and dies. So I have these books with murders and all this serious stuff and the humor, and I worry at the end that it seems inappropriate. But I think I have handled it pretty well. 

Q: People think of the movie business as glamorous, but you gave it up to write books. How did that come about?

A: It's nothing complex. I was president of marketing for TriStar Pictures in New York, and Sony bought us and was going to move us to California, and I didn't want to move. So I wrote a screenplay and sold it, and all of a sudden I am a writer. A director friend of mine had seen some of my work in advertising and liked it, so he coaxed me through the process.

I sold a bunch of movie scripts, and sold a bunch of TV scripts, and one day I was waiting to get a script back from CBS, so I decided to write a novel, and got about 50 pages done when the script came back and I went to work on that.

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