"ACCESS AND DECEPTION": AN INTERVIEW WITH BAD INFLUENCE'S ALISON GAYLIN
Alison Gaylin is a favorite of mine, as well as fellow crime fiction fans and writers. Her characters are compex in emotion, her style direct and clear, and her stories are often engaged with the times. This made her perfect to take over Robert B, Parkers private eye, Sunny Randall. In her first Sunny book, Bad Influence, she helps out two media influencers who are being threatened. Alison was kind enough to take a few questions.
SCOTT MONTGOMERY : How did you get chosen to take over Sunny Randall?
ALISON GAYLIN: The offer to try out for the job came through my agent, after Mike Lupica opted to stop writing the Sunny books in order to take over for Ace Atkins, who was leaving Spencer. I was asked to write 20 pages of a Sunny book, and this scene, involving a couple of influencers in Spike's restaurant, just came to me. It was great fun to write, and I was thrilled to find out I'd gotten the job!
S.M. : What attracted you to the character?
A.G. : Her humanity. Sunny is tough and very smart, but she is also a real, flawed human being who isn't afraid to admit those flaws. She has a great sense of humor about the world and about herself. Plus she has an adorable dog (as do I) and wonderful friends (ditto.) Her best friend Spike is one of my favorite characters ever.
S.M. : Going in, did you decide to get as close to Parker as you could or make it as much as as your own?
A.G. : I tried as best as I could to stay loyal to Parker's style, which is very distinct. But I did find that in exploring the character, some of my own style seeped in. I do hope I was able to capture it. (Next time around I'm aiming for even shorter chapters!)
S.M. : The story involves influencers. What drew you to that subject?
A.G. : The world of influencers is fascinating to me because the job involves both unprecedented access and deception. You're letting followers into your (supposed) home, your vacations, your life -- and yet you're trying to make it all look so much more glamorous than it actually is. Everything is filtered and photoshopped and perfected... I've also noticed that Sunny doesn't have a lot to do with social media -- which seems unusual for somebody her age. I think that in exploring why she isn't interested in social media and taking her into the world of influencers, I was able to find out some interesting things about her as a character.
S.M. : Is there anything you learned by taking over Parker's character?
A.G. : I think I learned a lot about pacing and dialogue. He was a true master in both of those areas. Also, writing fight scenes. I don't usually do that an awful lot, but it's fun!
S.M. : Many always talk about the clarity of your writing. Do you have any method of achieving that?
A.G. : Thank you! And all I can say is you should see my first drafts. Actually, you shouldn't. My first draft is always like feeling around in the dark for a light switch. I write it just to get to the end of the story and figure out what happens and it's often clunky and overwritten. I take revisions very seriously and rewrite a lot in order to make the writing as clear and seamless as I can. I do a lot of rewriting even in the copy edit. I take advantage of every opportunity I have to improve what I've written.