"How far afield do you tour? Do you go to England and Germany and Japan and Australia for the books each time they come out?"
"Each territory has a separate publisher. Therefore, there's no global coordination. I always do the U.S., I always do the United Kingdom, and then I will do maybe just one other territory. This time around I'm doing Italy in between the U.S. and the U.K."
"Has the reception been pretty uniform across the globe?"
"No, it's been actually an illustration of how things happen and nobody understands why. Some nations went crazy about it early, like New Zealand. And Bulgaria. Certain nations are just inexplicable. The book will come out. It goes to number one and stays there until the next book comes out. Other countries take longer and are harder to penetrate. Like the U.S., frankly, because this is now the tenth book before we've had the really solid-gold success. A long, hard process. Other countries are somewhere in between."
"That's got to be much better and more gratifying than, say, what [John] Grisham experienced, which is start at the top [with The Firm ] and watch your sales fade with each succeeding title."
"Grisham did it with his second book, and it's always difficult when you do it too early. It sounds really tempting, but you're forever on a downward slide rather than an upward climb. I feel better about having done it step by step."
"I read movies are in the works, but you're having trouble casting your hero, Jack Reacher?"
"Yeah, I mean the way the movies work now without a strong studio system, you need basically three people interested at the same lunch: a producer, a director, and a star. They will get interested based on the quality of the script and the buzz. Many, many times we've had two out of the three committed, yet it's a question of getting all three."
"And at the same moment."
"Yes, literally at the same moment, and that's a bit of a lottery. As for casting, if there's a big-name director committed, he will cast somebody he likes. If it's a star who likes the script, he will pick out the director. It's all up for grabs still at the moment."
"With your experience in media, are you going to stay involved when the movie is made or are you going to keep distancing yourself, like many sane writers?"
"I'm going to distance myself, not because I have a problem with Hollywood at all. I like Hollywood. But I learned an interesting lesson over the winter, when I wrote a screenplay for Harvey Weinstein. He had a project that he liked the concept of, but he did not like the way it was written. So, he asked me to rewrite it. And because I had no personal investment in the original script, no emotional investment, I was able to attack it with something that really amounted to callousness. And that triangulation, the distance of the screenwriter from the original project, I think is incredibly valuable. So that's what I'm hoping for, for my books -- a screenwriter who has nothing invested in it, who would be able to look at it with a clear eye and make a great movie out of it."
"After a decade of the series, are you still getting along with Jack Reacher or are you finding yourself in the position of Conan Doyle and wishing he would take a short hike on a --?"
"Down a steep waterfall? Well, I certainly understand why Conan Doyle felt the way that he felt. I've noticed that with all my contemporaries and friends. It's a love/hate relationship with the character. But when I get down to writing a new book, I'm still very friendly with him. Partly because he's so versatile. Conan Doyle, you know, that's clearly the classic series of all time, but it was limited in its scope because Sherlock Holmes was who he was, living where he was living, doing basically the same thing in every story. Whereas, Reacher is completely versatile because he's not tied to a location or a job or anything like that. He's really just a sort of wandering metaphor who can show up anywhere, doing anything. That keeps me from getting bored."
"Your friend, Michael Connelly, who has authored a very successful series himself [starring Harry Bosch], boxed in his character in L.A. Homicide for a long time and then finally got smart and had him retire. That sort of freed him. And now the detective has rejoined the force on a cold case squad, which travels all over to investigate."
"That's right. That's a great series, but it does show that even a writer as talented as Michael must have felt a little weariness to have the guy in the same job."
"How do you get in touch with Reacher? I mean, you're working away at the top of the house, six and seven hours a day. In America if you want Batman, you send a signal into the sky using a searchlight, but when you retire to your room, how do you reach him? Is there a talisman, is there a piece of music, a photo, some way that you conjure him up?"
"Well, in terms of his emotional responses to things, Reacher is largely autobiographical. So, I just try and dream up a scenario that's going to engage him. And I just sort of write it as if this was me. What would I be doing, how would I conduct myself?"
"But he doesn't love jazz, he doesn't drink heavily, what does he do for fun?"
"There's a little clue here and there. He likes some kinds of music; he likes baseball. But, largely, instead of finessing a character by supplying him with various likes and dislikes, I'm trying to leave him vague, because then he turns into what is in fact a historic paradigm, that character who has been around forever. He showed up in westerns a hundred years ago. You can definitely see him in the Middle Ages, in the chivalric sagas of knights errant, wandering the land performing good deeds. You can see him in Norse sagas, and all the way back to the Greek myths. If I were to put in jazz or beer or whatever things other writers are bolting on, then that would tend to obscure the fact that he's an empty vessel, ready for readers to pour their own desires and ambitions into."