An interview with Paul Cleave


I reviewed Trust no One, on Tuesday, and here is a follow-up interview with author Paul Cleave:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Boy – that was a long time ago. Pretty much when I was a kid, I guess. But it’s like that dream job you never thing you can have – like being an astronaut or president of the world. I think I was nineteen when I had a friend at the time ask if I could do anything, what would it be. I said a writer. They said ‘well why don’t you do it?’ It was such a simple thing – but until then I hadn’t tried because it felt like the impossible dream. So I sat down with my first blank page, my first chapter one, and twenty-one years later I feel so lucky to be doing what I love.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. Sometimes I get really stuck, and can’t finish one. That’s always a real shame when that happens. Usually a first draft, if things work out okay, is between two and four months.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I tend to write all day. Maybe ten or twelve or sometimes fourteen hours in the office – I want to get everything down while the momentum is rolling.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have my stereo cranked really loudly and I tend to sing along. The stereo is loud because I don’t want to hear my singing – nobody does.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I try to play a lot of tennis. Or golf, if I can stomach the idea of spending five hours zigzagging across a fairway looking for my ball in the trees. Of course I travel a lot too – I like to throw my Frisbee in cool locations around the world.

What does your family think of your writing?
My parents were always pretty cool with the idea – but I don’t think they ever really thought it would pan out. Now they couldn’t be more thrilled…

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Trust No One?
I knew how dementia could affect people’s lives – but I didn’t realize just how cruel the disease really is. It breaks my heart knowing what some people have to go through. Now, after having written that book, every time I forget a name or misplace my keys it frightens the hell out of me.

Do you have any suggestions for amateur or aspiring writers? If so, what are they?
Read lots. And lots. And lots more. Also – you gotta just keep honing your craft. Rewrites are key.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Not too much. Maybe an email every week or two. You’ll get the occasional one or two really weird ones – where people will say they screamed into their pillow because the book had American spelling instead of British spelling (they didn’t realize there were editions of each), and I had one a few days ago where a guy here in NZ gave me some writing advice, and told me I had to stop writing. But 99% of them are brilliant. It’s the sweetest thing when people take the time to let you now how much they’ve enjoyed your books – especially when English isn’t their first language, so they’ve used google translate or done their best to reach out to you. It’s one of my favorite things. I also one had a women send me photographs of her in her underwear reading my book – I have no problem if that’s how readers want to let me know they enjoyed it.

What other fiction influences your work?
It used to be just horror – but these days I read mostly crime. Probably the only horror authors I read are Stephen King and David Wellington – aside from that, I stick mostly to crime. My new favourite is Michael Robotham – he’s a really good friend of mine, but whenever I read his new book, it makes me realize just how much I still have to learn.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Trust No One?
No – and sometimes with books you do think that way. Often you get too close to your books, especially with all those rewrites, and with editing – and you can get sick of them, the same way you’d get sick of any book if you read it six times in a row, or if you watched your favourite movie every day for a week. But with Trust No One – well, to be honest, when I had the idea for that book two years ago I was excited about it. When I wrote it I was excited about it. You always hope for the best going into a novel – but this thing came out just how I wanted. I love those characters, and I couldn’t be more proud of that book.

What project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m still recovering from Trust No One. That thing really took it out of me. I’m trying to get back into shape because I’m travelling again soon, so am running a little, and playing more tennis – and I have a friend I play tennis with in London who I can never beat, so I’ve been working hard on stepping my game up from really awful to just awful. I’ve been reading a lot and binging watching Star Trek episodes at night… but other than that, there’s not really a lot going on right now…

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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