Ken Bruen, interviewed by Reed Farrel Coleman
Over the years, the NorCal East Bay chapter of Mystery Readers International has had many "At Homes" -- intimate evenings with favorite mystery writers. We've hosted Anne Perry, Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Janet LaPierre, Sharan Newman, Laurie King, Rochelle Krich, Carolyn Hart, James Ellroy, Steven Saylor, Janet Evanovich, Eddie Muller, Taffy Cannon, and many others.
These events are held in private homes, and they're similar to Literary Salons. Since so many of our cyber members and friends aren't able to attend these intimate evenings, I thought it would be fun to have a "visiting" author each month interviewed by another "visiting" author. This month we feature Ken Bruen, interviewed by Reed Farrel Coleman.
Ken Bruen is an Irish writer of hard-boiled and noir crime fiction. His works include the well-received White Trilogy and the Shamus award-winning The Guards. Other works of note include the Macavity-winning The Killing of the Tinkers, The Magdalen Martyrs, The Dramatist and Priest, all part of his Jack Taylor series, which began with The Guards. Set in Galway, the acclaimed series relates the adventures and misadventures of a disgraced former police officer working as a haphazard private investigator whose life has been marred by alcoholism and drug abuse. It chronicles the social change in Ireland in Bruen's own lifetime, paying particular attention to the decline of the Catholic church as a social and political power. Themes also explored include Ireland's economic prosperity from the mid-1990's onwards, although it is often portrayed as a force which has left Ireland as a materialistic and spiritually drained society which still harbours deep social inequality.
Bruen was educated in St. Joseph's College in Galway city and later at Trinity College Dublin, where he earned a Ph.D. in metaphysics. Bruen traveled extensively, teaching English in many countries. His travels have been haphazard at times, including a stint in a Brazilian jail.
Reed Farrel Coleman: If you could select only one and earn equal pay for either endeavor, would you choose to be a poet or a novelist? Why?
Ken Bruen: I'd kill to be a poet and remember when we did the panel, you, meself and Pete and we thought, no one would appear, the people showed up and we had a ball... as a poet, you understand why we love the sheer cutting edge of language, the grabbed image, the damn sheer joy of it and to read aloud, novels don't have that same true beauty, that, je ne said quoi......... that magic
RFC: Which is the more difficult task, writing good poetry, good drama or good detective fiction?
KB: You know bro, in an ideal world......... yeah......... right, I know........., all three would merge effortlessly, as you did in The James Deans, but to blend the holy trinity, it's a tough station
RFC: You studied metaphysics at college. Was that good training for a writer? Why? Why not? If you replace all the parts to a toaster over the course of several years, at what point does that toaster cease being the toaster you... Just joking.
KB: Well, it made me more obscure than usual, was it a good training for a writer......... I hope so, taking the original meaning of Metaphysics, I WANT TO KNOW......... isn't that what we hope mystery writers would want......... and truth to tell, I did it, too, to piss off me Dad, Lord rest him......... then he could really ask, and he did......... when are you going to get a real job?
RFC: Why is Daniel Woodrell so revered by other writers and so under appreciated by readers?
KB: Simple, he is such a wondrous poet, stunning writer, you seriously think, Walmart is going to stock him?
I tell young writers, read......... THE ONE;
'S YOU DO, WINTER'S BONE, and they ask......... is he like John Grisham?......... am......... No
RFC: I've often said to you that I feel your work should be taught in college. If you could choose five other writers working today (mystery et al) who should be taught in school, who would they be and why?
KB: Finally, an easy question
1......... SJ.ROZAN......... the sheer power of her writing and her love of architecture
2......... you......... cos you are a hell of a poet and a great mystery writer and for young people, fun to REED
3......... Laura Lippman......... she is so damn smart and young teenage girls would really relate to her
4......... Jim O Born......... they'd be fascinated he's the real deal......... a cop, his magical energy for writing would make anyone want to write and best, they'd love him
5......... Jim Fusili......... he's beyond smart, his love of music is legendary and a you teach and know your music, they will listen and he has that rare to rarest trait......... he cares, students know that
RFC: For you, has writing become easier or more difficult as the years progress?
KB: Harder, of course, you learn techniques and so on but the bar gets higher and higher, else, what is the point
RFC: I hold that artists are artists on almost a molecular level and that their experiences serve only to shape their work, not make their work. Do you agree? Why? Why not?
KB: I agree, you take all our life experiences and put them in the mix, but the real magic is to see how it transcends your own initial world view.
RFC: How do you determine that a series has run its course? Can you envision a series that could go on indefinitely that would still be fresh?
KB: Well, that's a tough one, my own 2 series, Brant, the very last one is AMMUNITION, OUT IN JULY FROM SMP and Jack Taylor, I'm working on no 7......... also the end......... I want them to end on a blast and a What if.
John Sandford, Larry Gough seem to be able to keep their series up to 17, 18, etc......... me, I'D GO MAD
RFC: I've collaborated with you and worked with other authors. You've written two novels with Jason Starr. Do you feel writing lends itself to collaboration? Is it something that other authors should try? Why? Why not?
KB: For me, it's like singers dueting, and why not? You only have to do the half the work, you deepen a friendship, you learn so much, and most of all, it's fun, and if you get to promote the book, you get to play off each other.
RFC: You have a fierce attachment to the United States, one that often gets you in trouble back home. Can you explain your love of the States? Is it worth the trouble?
KB: It was even worth the broken jaw. The States have treated me like a writer from the word go. All my influences have been American and my best friends are there......... so, they give me a real rough time over here cos of my of love for THE USA......... you know......... fookem......... I have your amazing Flag over me desk, makes me proud and happy every damn day.
RFC: Look, we all have our preferences, but do you think writers should publicly criticize the work of other writers? Do you think that authors should do book reviews?
KB: No, I don't. Any ejit can criticize and diss someone, heresy to me.
RFC: On the whole, do you feel that the internet and the blogosphere has been beneficial for writers? Or do you feel that much of the time people spend blogging would be better spent doing work?
KB: It's here to stay. I blog on Murderati twice a month purely to stop the evil vile shite the blogs are currently pushing, and I took the gig to put it back to writing, books and all of that.
What the rest do......... way I see it bro, you need to thrash somebody and you think doing it publicly on a blog is the way, God freakin help you.
RFC: Who looks better in boxer shorts, me or you?
KB: Coleman wins that one....Will never forget you showing up at the Mansfield, me in me shorts drinking coffee......... Your laugh will stay with me forever.........
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