(Perhaps it was destiny that Duane Swierczynski became a writer – his name contains just about every letter in the English alphabet. Duane is the author of several sizzling fast thrillers – including the high-octane “Severance Package” (which was recently optioned by Lionsgate for a
DaRK PaRTY: What's the deal all of a sudden with comic book writers turned novelists? Are you all serious writers struggling to get discovered?
Duane: If I wanted to get discovered, I'd come up with a cure for static cling (I'm close, damnit... so, so close...). But I was a novelist first, and the comic book writing thing was a happy surprise. To
me, it's a way to satisfy my storytelling urges in two very different ways. Novel writing is a long, solitary enterprise; comic scriptwriting is collaborative and deadline-oriented. I like having both.
DP: You're also a former journalist. Is writing for a newspaper a good training ground for writing fiction?
Duane: I think so -- look at James M. Cain, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, and the other dozens of crime writers who started out as newspaper reporters or columnists. If you're lucky, you'll encounter some editors who will help you beat a lot of the bad writing out of your system. There's nothing like seeing a page of your writing covered in red ink.
DP: You recently decided to stop working a full-time salaried job to dedicate yourself to your own writing. Was it a difficult decision? Isn't it kind of like tightrope walking without a net?
Duane: Actually, I have a net -- an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. That said quitting my job wasn't exactly an easy decision. But I'm glad I did it.
DP: Your latest novel "Severance Package" is a full throttle thriller with lots of gore. A lot of reviewers have compared it to a movie. Did you visualize it as a film or a comic book first? What was the writing process like for this book?
Duane: It was always meant to be a novel. And it followed my usual pattern: I started out with a situation, then kicked around some characters who would be ideal for that situation, then came up with a vague goal in mind -- where I thought I wanted the characters to end up. But most of the writing was improvised; I plotted very little in advance; which is essential for me. Nothing worse than being bored by your own story.
DP: Who are your favorite fiction writers and which writers of the past have inspired you?
Duane: There are too many living novelists to include, and I wouldn't want to leave someone important out. But as far as dead ones -- aside from the usual suspects? Fredric Brown was a huge influence, because he knew how to inject humor into a story like nobody else. And James M. Cain for his economy and muscle. I read a lot of their work early on, and I keep coming back to them.
An Interview with Best-Selling Author Kim Harrison