I “met” David Shawn Klein on line and I connected with him because of his humor and the fact that he is a fellow thriller-mystery writer, though he describes himself as a “tortured writer.” He is also a lawyer and an avid reader, which as you know, helps any writer. If you don’t read, you don’t have the tools to write, to paraphrase Stephen King.
In any case, while David is a man of few words, he makes those words count and sprinkles his humor throughout. I think you’ll like this interview.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
Sometimes an idea will intrude, entirely without invitation, that seems to demand being explored. I don’t know why the impulse to take it further, into a completed novel, any more than I understand the impulse to lie on a bed of nails.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
I guess it depends which others you’re referring to. If I had to give one answer, I’d say, my sense of humor.
What genre do you write, and why?
I’ve been writing mysteries and thrillers, simply because I’m fascinated by the form and the challenge.
Besides writing and telling a good story, do you have any other talents?
I used to be a pretty good jazz singer, and I performed all around NYC.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
I fell apart crying after finishing The White Hotel, and had to stifle weeping after The Bridge Over San Luis Rey, because I was on a crowded car of the Long Island Railroad. Bartelby is a short story, not a book, but the strange mystery making it the most compelling thing I’ve read, and at the end it sums up the why of my weeping over the novels above: Ah, Humanity!
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
I read broadly, not consistently, but I have been through a bunch of Philip Roth and Willa Cather, and I’m reading everything by Henry Green. I love Roth for his almost supernatural energy and storytelling. Cather’s control of language through her major novels is why I love her work. Henry Green can do more with a brief exchange of dialogue than most writers can do in an entire chapter.
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
My father, my grandmother, Sondheim, myself at 21, Mel Brooks. My father because he died when I was 32, before I had a chance to ask him stuff that I was, up to that point, bejeepers-scared to ask. My grandmother to thank her for being a whitewater of love. Sondheim so I can ask questions about his shows that DT Max, in Sondheim’s late interview, let get away. Myself at 21 for the usual reasons. Mel Brooks because no one has ever made me laugh harder.
What is your writing routine? When you write, do you plan or outline ahead or are you a “pantser”?
I write four hours a day, first thing in the morning, six days a week. I outline, write, and revise my outline, until I have a first draft.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I try to read every day. I’ll only read in my genre when I’m not writing, or I’ll copy.
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
I’d never assume I have a helpful hint. If someone were to ask a specific question, I’d try to answer as honestly as I could, and with much encouragement.
How do you handle a negative critique?
Ashes and sackcloth.
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
Even to write the answers to this interview is a tribulation.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
They’re close to everything. A killer plot will sell lots of books, but as a reader, I’m mainly a voice guy. The voice, for me—which is basically another person sitting close and exposing intimacies to you, the reader—even more than behavior, lays open a character in all his complexities and contradictions (though maybe that’s not true of an unreliable narrator—though some unreliable narrators do expose themselves more than they intend). You can get great plot storytelling on TV or a movie, but you can’t get that great whispered-in-the-ear intimacy of voice except through a novel.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
There’s probably a little of me in all my main characters.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
It’s funny, but no. Narrative voices, yes. Though two characters do stand out, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, and especially Mrs. Ramsay, from To the Lighthouse. Mockingbird is a great example of a novel that is voice driven, but also has a killer plot. Scout tells us so much just by reacting to people and events, rather than explaining. Mrs. Ramsay you fall totally in love with: the depth of her emotion, her wisdom, her sensitivity.
Tell us about your most recent book.
I’m trying to finish two, a mystery and a thriller. The mystery is about the murder of a popular NYC priest, and the thriller is about the murder of a young woman by a reclusive billionaire. Distinctions like mystery and thriller seem to be market and bookstore driven, as in, how to catalogue this or that novel. I’m not sure of the difference, but I’d guess that a thriller may or may not also be a mystery, and that when it is a mystery, the stakes might be higher than those in a straight mystery. But I could be wrong; I make a habit of it.
How did you come up with the concept?
Before I could stop them, each idea popped into my head.
How did you come up with the title?
No titles yet.
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
In my published novel (my first), The Money, Henry is my favorite character because, though hapless, he has a good heart.
There you have it- short and sweet with a bit of humor thrown in. I didn’t think of it at the time, but I should have asked him why he left jazz singing for the courtroom. If I find out, I’ll let you know.
Author/media contact information:
Facebook: David Shawn Klein
Link to Amazon and B & N