Q&A With Chris Pavone

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Q&A With Chris Pavone 

Today I’m doing my latest Q&A with New York Times Bestselling author Chris Pavone. Chris is the author of “The Expats,” “The Accident,” “The Travelers,” “The Paris Diversion,” and his most recent novel “Two Nights in Lisbon”. 


 Q: So at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

 A: I was in college when I got the idea. But writing fiction is famously a very low-odds career choice, and almost no one earns a living doing it. I was worried that I wouldn’t be good enough, or lucky enough, and that by the time I realized I was not going to succeed, it would be too late to do anything else. So instead of putting all my eggs in that one basket, I pursued a career in publishing. If writing never worked out, being a book editor could be an immensely satisfying career in its own right. And for nearly two decades I loved it, until I didn’t. 


Q: What advice do you give to anyone who wants to be a writer, especially someone who wants to write mystery thriller books that take place in another part of the world? What advice do you give to those who struggle with writer’s block?


A: I think the most important thing to accept is that professionals write for the benefit of readers; writing for publication is, by definition, for the public. If you’re writing just for yourself, that’s what a diary is for.

As for setting books abroad, I think it’s crucial to go there, not only to ensure verisimilitude, but for the sake of getting ideas. I’m the most inspired and most creative and most productive when I’m sitting at a café in another country.

And writer’s block is something I tackle by setting aside the manuscript and instead writing about the book—I write an unnecessary back-story episode, or a pitch for a film adaptation, or a sketch of an extremely minor character, anything to pull me into the story, to trigger my imagination. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure to face a blank page with “Chapter 39” at the top. On the other hand, it’s very liberating to know that whatever I’m writing is definitely not going to be in the book, so it doesn’t matter how bad it is, how irrelevant, how slow, how sloppy. Invariably as I’m writing this other material, something occurs to me that I want to write in the manuscript itself, and I dive back in. 


Q: If you had to choose, out of all the novels you wrote, which one was your favorite one to write?

A: The most energized writing I’ve ever done was for my most recent, Two Nights in Lisbon, which is the book of mine that’s most tied to real-world events and concerns, most relevant to the way we live, most important, and most urgent. I felt a real sense of purpose writing this book, and the complicated plot came together with ease, because the plot itself parallels my inspiration for writing it. 


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels? 

 A: Yes, all of them. Two of the books are currently in development for series, two others have repeating characters so are tied up, and the fifth is the new book, for which we’re currently weighing offers.

 Q: What were your favorite novels you read this year so far?


A: Jennifer Haigh’s Mercy Street is one of my favorites of the past few years, a bighearted, devastating novel about the abortion wars that’s paradoxically also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read; there’s a page in the middle that I’ll read again and again whenever I need a smile.


Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it?

 A: I am, and I can’t. Sorry. I really don’t like to reveal anything about books while I’m writing them. 


 Q: I read somewhere that you briefly lived in Luxembourg. What was it like living in Luxembourg? I hear it’s a beautiful country. 

 A: When I was 40 years old, my wife got a job in Luxembourg, so we moved abroad, and I became a trailing-spouse expat, taking care of our 4-year-old twins, and our household, trying to become a new sort of person in a country where I didn’t have a single friend, didn’t really speak the language, where I no longer had my career as a book editor, nor my identity as a lifelong New Yorker, where I didn’t know how to do any of the everyday things, didn’t know how to take care of little kids, didn’t know how to build a whole new life from scratch. Luxembourg was indeed beautiful, but this was all hard. The experience was the basis for my first novel The Expats, which I started writing on the very first day of our kids’ second schoolyear in Luxembourg, at a café on a cobblestoned street in the center of the old town. For me being an expat was never truly fun, but it’s what got me the career I’d always wanted, and my real-life challenges were definitely integral to creating that fictional story. Sometimes what looks at first like a problem is in fact a solution. Which, as it happens, is the premise of Two Nights in Lisbon.