The Word Nerds are pleased to welcome Sean Doolittle to the blog today. For those you hoping we mean the pitcher for the Oakland A’s… sorry to disappoint. We’ve got the Sean Doolittle that’s the author.
DOOLITTLE: It wasn’t until my third book that I started setting novels where I live. When I was a younger writer I had the idea that crime novels had to be set someplace glitzier or more interesting. At some point I realized that the Midwest may not be glitzy, but it’s as interesting a place as anyplace else. In fact, it’s the very lack of glitz that makes this soil so fertile the kinds of stories I like to tell. Outside perception, it must be said, can be entertaining at times: my first big national review came as part of a roundup in the Wall Street Journal titled “Mysteries from the Far Corners of the Globe.” I wouldn’t trade that anecdote for anything (and I’m still enormously grateful for that review).
I like the freedom that comes with knowing that I can set any story anywhere in the world if an idea requires. But I also rest easy in the knowledge that I can always find my way home.
WN: Which character is most memorable to you? Why?
DOOLITTLE: Every character is memorable. . .and every character is subject to the same passage of time as a person you once knew very well but haven’t seen in years. I don’t write a series with a recurring protagonist, so I’m not hanging out with these folks regularly. I love them all, but I do lose track of what they were up to last time we spoke. What makes this an interesting, rather surreal phenomenon is that all those characters are me in some way or other–the good guys, the bad guys, even the bit players (even when we seem to bear no clear resemblance to one another). They couldn’t have come from me if they weren’t. So looking back sometimes feels like opening a scrapbook. They’re all still in there. But the most recent photos tend to feel the most familiar.
WN: Tell us about your writing habits – spaces, places, food, drink – whatever makes it work for you?
DOOLITTLE: My habits used to be very specific, but they seem to have evolved (or devolved) over the years. I used to write only in my office on a fixed, planted, reassuringly stationary desktop computer. Now I migrate with a laptop all over the house. I used to write mostly in the wee hours; as I get older, I find myself less and less effective (and ambitious) after 10 pm. One thing I’ve never done is write with music playing–it seems too distracting. But for some reason I often write with a television on low or muted in the background. Usually I much prefer solitude, though I have occasional periods when the anonymous clatter of a coffee shop seems to help drive my concentration inward. I still love writing in hotel rooms if I’m on the road alone; there’s something about that time that seems like too much of a shame to waste. In short: my writing habits seem to be all over the place these days. The most important habit is the writing itself.
WN: What advice to you have for writers?
DOOLITTLE: Write a lot, read a lot, and always strive to push yourself to the next level. Finding the next level may require a change in direction; it may mean staying the course through daunting terrain. But there is always, always a next level. Write stories you’d want to read. Write them in a way only you could write them. Try to get enough sleep. And never, under any circumstances, listen too closely to advice from other writers.