Mystery Writers Key West Fest: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise!

Interview with Author Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver is a master of psychological suspense and exquisite plot twists; an A-list international bestselling and global multi-award winning author with more than thirty novels to his name and nearly every literary award and nomination that you can think of.   Several of his books have been adapted to films. His mid 1990’s The Bone Collector, featuring quadriplegic protagonist Lincoln Rhyme, is considered one of the best thrillers of all time and became a box office hit featuring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington.
Soon to headline a Who’s Who of mystery writers and true crime experts at the upcoming Mystery Writers Key West Fest, today Deaver sheds some light on how he keeps his readers up all night and why writing in the dark is where it’s at.  


Q&A with Author Jeffery Deaver

Q: Tell us about dark rooms and how they impact your process of writing psychological thrillers.

JD: I am a very visual person (though I have no talent for art or drawing). I picture the scenes I write very vividly. So when I write, I will sit in a dark room and visualize, and hear, exactly what happens. I simply describe it. I can also do this in better-lit rooms by closing my eyes. Don’t try this at home, though, unless you position your fingers on the correct keys, otherwise you’ll write the scene in code!

Q: You describe your books as having “one strong character, a story with a short time frame, sick and twisted bad guys, surprising plot twists and plenty of cliffhangers.”  How did you come upon this framework and do you ever find yourself veering towards something else?

JD: I learned this the hard way because my first books did not sell well. They were solid detective stories (one Edgar nominated), but they meandered. They didn’t make the pulse pound. I went back and reread them and decided I needed to hit the accelerator. The next book (Praying For Sleep) sold ten times better. Readers seem to like this formula, so I’ll never write anything else.

Q: You have two series currently in action: twelve Lincoln Rhyme suspense thrillers, starting with The Bone Collector (1997), and five in the Kathryn Dance series, beginning with the 2006 novel, The Cold Moon - so you cultivate ongoing relationships with your heroes. Can you describe some of what it takes to keep them consistent as characters, yet express individual growth and change over time?

JD: The two characters have such different personalities that it isn’t hard to keep them separate. Rhyme is cold, distant, a curmudgeon, analytical, though with a wry sense of humor (acerbic at times). Dance is a family person, more intuitive, less interested in forensics than psychological aspect of crimes. Writing about two forensics experts, for instance, would be much more difficult.
Q: How do you invent and keep track of your many, many plot points? Does your background as a lawyer and journalist come into play here? 

JD: I outline extensively. Eight months is generally how long it takes me to do an outline. The outline for Solitude Creek was about 140 pages. All the details of the plot and characters and clues are incorporated into the outline. Because the books take place over such a short time frame, it’s necessary to organize like this. And, yes, being a lawyer was very helpful. You never run a business deal or handle a trial without prepping to the n’th degree.

Q: You are quoted in an interview saying that you “love your villains.”  What makes them loveable? 

JD: Villains are the driving force in all crime stories. They define the character of the protagonist. The more complex and real and intelligent the villain, the more the reader is engaged—and the more we cheer for our heroes to succeed.

Q: Your 2011 novel, Carte Blanche, is a James Bond adventure. How does one infiltrate the Bond story-telling franchise? How did writing Bond differ from writing your own originally created characters?

JD: I was invited by the Ian Fleming estate to write a continuation novel. I was thrilled. I’ve never been a huge fan of the movies (too much of everything, at least in the later films), but I loved the original books, and have reread them over the years. And that’s who my Bond was—even though set in the present day it was a reimagination of the original James Bond. Writing the book was no different from writing any of my other novels, and I’m pleased that it’s got lots of good twists and turns, and three big surprise endings.

Q: Denzel Washington famously played Lincoln Rhyme and Angelina Jolie his close associate Amelia Sachs in The Bone Collector film. Any thoughts on who you might visualize as an embodiment of Kathryn Dance?

JD: I always wanted Cate Blanchett.

Q: Do you have any advice for writers coming into the industry?

JD: Try with all your heart to publish traditionally.  Organize your books ahead of time (outline!!!). Never accept rejection. Write the sort of book that you enjoy reading.

Q: Are there any maxims you live by?

JD: Write every book as if it were your first (stay humble) and as if it were your last (the one future generations will remember you for).

Q: What’s next for you?

JD: I’m finishing my new Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Steel Kiss, to be published in March of next year.

Jeffery Deaver is to appear at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest, set for August 14-16 in Key West, Florida. Produced by Key West Writers Bloc and sponsored by the Key West Citizen, the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, for a full Fest schedule, online registration, and links to accommodations visit

To Contact Mystery Writers Key West Fest

Please write to: Mystery Writers Key West Fest,
926 Truman Avenue,
Key West, Florida 33040
or Email Us