Before we arrive at John Lescroart's Launch Party for his new book The Ophelia Cut, which will be held in Davis at the Odd Fellows Hall on 2nd Street, Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30pm, I thought it would be fun to have him answer a few questions about his writing and about the new book. While going over the questions and answers this week, I realized that sometimes, art imitates life, and sometimes it's the other way around. With the news dominated by the bombings in Boston and the subsequent death and capture of the suspects, we are also seeing reactions from the alleged bomber's family. I think we are all questioning, to what extent family will go to help one of their own? Can their public reactions be trusted to be the truth? Without giving you any spoilers, please enjoy the next part of my Q&A with John Lescroart and don't forget to SIGN UP HERE to come to this fantastic party.
V.L.: This novel, The Ophelia Cut, talks a lot about the difficult decisions families have to make to protect one another. How did you come up with this idea andwas it difficult to write about your characters, knowing they would face difficult times?
J.L.: Basically, I'm always on the lookout for the next story, and the next story can't really just be adequate; it has to be great. I, at least, have to think that I'm starting to grapple with important issues and interesting people who are going to matter to my readers.
So when I started in on the book that became The Ophelia Cut, I didn't have much in the way of story. I liked the idea of having a kind of "wild card" guy in the person of a protected witness, and so the first scene I actually wrote was when Tony Solaia, the protected witness, says hi to Dismas Hardy at the Dolphin Club -- now this is around page 30 of the finished book, so you can see how things turned around somewhat. Then I liked the idea of Hardy spending more time with his daughter, who'd been away at college for the past few books. I missed Rebecca, and I thought my readers would like to see her on the page, too. Finally, I had to have some conflict in Hardy's life, and the history of The Dockside Massacre which I wrote about in The First Law seemed to provide a nice opening into something in Hardy's here-and-now that could cause grief to him and his pals Moses, Abe, and Gina.
I knew I wanted to have Hardy and Tony Solaia become friends (I still didn't know why he was a protected witness -- was he essentially a good guy or a bad guy?), and that led to Tony being busted for serving drinks to minors -- hardly more than an administrative hiccup if the guy was not in the Federal Witness Protection program. Still, nothing was happening in terms of real plot. I just had some pieces moving around the chessboard. Then, purely fortuitously, I thought it would be nice to bring Moses McGuire's daughter Brittany back from college as well, and to have her be friends/confidants with Rebecca. And what would they be confidants about, as cousins, if not boyfriends/dating/etc.? And of course things on that level would need to be complicated and . . .
BAM! Rick Jessup enters the picture as a very bad force in Brittany's life.
And suddenly, probably close to a hundred pages into the actual writing, I found that I was at critical mass, and the celestial bodies started moving on their own. Really, it was a dramatic moment in the creation of this book. Suddenly, against my inclinations (and since they are so hard to get right), I realized that it was going to be a trial book, that the man on trial was going to be the unreliable alcoholic Moses McGuire, and that he was going to be charged with killing his daughter's rapist. This was a plot that would bring all of the elements I'd introduced into their point of greatest pressure, and both the balance and the heft of the actual story was more than going to compensate for what I was going to put my characters through. I didn't know how bad it would get for any of them, although I knew that by the end, it wasn't going to be pretty.
There comes a point in the best stories where the author isn't really directing events, and that's what happened in The Ophelia Cut. Your characters start to live and do what they're going to do, and all we poor scriveners can do is try to capture the moments as they unfold in front of us. I hope I caught most of 'em.