Jason Starr discusses The Follower
What is your typical day like as a full-time writer?
I try to write for at least several hours a day, almost always at coffee bars around Manhattan. To avoid monotony, I try not to go to the same place too often, though at this point I think I'm pretty well known at the ones near my apartment. I'll usually write a page or two, then take a walk, and go someplace and write a page, and then go someplace else and write a page. The only downside is I wind up over-caffeinated. I've gotten used to writing in public and now I actually prefer it to writing in private or in total quiet. I tried to write in the library a few weeks ago and I couldn't focus at all.
Sometimes I work on multiple projects at once so I try to split my writing day. For example, when I was writing my graphic novel, I made sure to work on my novel and graphic novel at different locations to help keep them separate in my mind.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
It changes all the time. When I first started writing I was into Hemingway and Cheever and a lot of the more minimalist playwrights, like Mamet, Pinter, and Beckett. When I started writing crime fiction I read a lot of the classic American crime writers like Willeford, Thompson, and Highsmith. I still go back and read the classic stuff, but I mainly read a mix of contemporary fiction and crime fiction and thrillers. Over the past several years I've read a lot of Ian McEwan, Bret Easton Ellis, Elmore Leonard, Ken Bruen, Joseph Finder, Alison Gaylin, Harlan Coben, Sara Gran and Lee Child. One commonality is I've always been attracted to spare, concise writing, and/or writing with satire and humor and edge. I also love writers who take risks, who try to do something different from the norm even if it's within the confines of a genre. I recently read Alan Glynn's new book Winterland and loved it.
Can you talk a little, about your background in theater and how that influenced you as a writer?
When I started writing, I figured I'd try writing plays because my early short stories were almost entirely dialogue-driven. I had a few plays produced at Off-Off Broadway companies in New York and I learned the difference between dialogue and conversation, and how in theater you have to hold your audience's attention from the get-go. If there's a dull moment, the audience can't skip to the next chapter--they get up and leave. So now when I'm writing thrillers I'm very aware of how important it is to maintain the reader's attention, to keep the story constantly moving forward.
Your observations about the lives of twenty-something New Yorkers in The Follower are dead-on, particularly those told from the point of view of the protagonist, Katie. What was the most challenging thing about writing from the female prospective?
Thanks so much for saying that. For me, one of the most enjoyable things about writing is being able to pretend I'm other people. I'd be bored to death if I only wrote about people who are similar to me. Katie was my first major female protagonist and the challenge was to pull it off, to make her as believable as possible. I knew I had to get all the details right--make sure she was wearing the right clothes, etc.--but it all starts with the attitude. After I wrote her first few lines, and got her attitude down and the way she spoke, she seemed very familiar to me, I felt like I knew her, and everything else fell into place.
If The Follower were to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the lead characters--Katie, Peter, and Andy?
For Peter, Ryan Gosling or Tobey Maguire or Jake Gyllenhaal or Cillian Murphy would be great. I think Peter has to be someone who's good-looking, but who can have an oddness at the same time. Much of the tension and suspense in the novel comes from how the reader knows much more about Peter than Katie does and I think that would have to come through in the performance. For Katie I think Anne Hathaway would be perfect. Andy's harder to narrow down. I think there are a lot of good, young actors who could play a self-centered wannabe investment banker really well.