Â A Continuing Interview with Agent Pendergastâ€™s
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Last month, we continued our interview with the haunting visionaries of Agent Pendergast and his blood-curdling mysteries, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.Â As the launch of their new book, White Fire, is right around the corner on the 12th, we conclude our interview with them on how they work together and what things we can expect in the future!
DGM: Another reader-based question is about how you guys write your novels, since Doug, you live in New Mexico, and Linc, you live in New Jersey.
What is the creative process for your stories with this sort of long distance relationship? Do you work jointly on the story making process or do you each concentrate on different tasks?
D: We work jointly, bouncing ideas back and forth. Once we have a story nailed down, one of us takes the lead. We each write sets of chaptersâ€”sequencesâ€”and then rewrite each other. That is often a stressful process, especially when Linc starts messing with my brilliant, Shakespearean level prose.
L: Yeah, right. Iâ€™ve often said I take the lump of coal that Doug gives me and, using great intellectual force, turn it into a diamond.
DGM: Have you two thought about taking your show on the road? I see standing room only at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel in your future! And, if you incorporate that Pendergast is also an Elvis impersonator, you can lock in a six month stint there, easy!
That actually brings me to my next question.Â After writing together for awhile, you both currently have â€œsoloâ€ projects, as well.Â As such, you know what it’s like to be the sole â€œauteur,â€ as well as being part of a dynamic duo. Â What is a failing, either real or perceived, in your individual writing style that the other person keeps you grounded on
when you work together on projects?
D: We both massacre each others little darlings, to paraphrase Lawrence Block. Iâ€™m strong on descriptive scenes and action scenes, while Linc is strong on character development scenes and chapters from the sick, twisted point of view of a serial killer. (Heâ€™s so good at that, that I find it a little disturbing…)
DGM: So, what youâ€™re saying, Doug, is that we should consider a future article with the following title: â€œLincoln Child Suspected of Being Serial Killer by Collaborator?â€Â Got it.Â And your thoughts, Linc?
L: Itâ€™s hard to nail down any particular failing. There are times we overwrite or underwrite, or put words in a characterâ€™s mouth that donâ€™t belong there, or allow the POV to get hazy, and in such cases the other writer seizes on these shortcomings andâ€”with churlish satisfactionâ€”immediately rectifies them.
DGM: Excellent points, Linc.Â (And good job on avoiding the serial killer question, as well.)
I believe strongly that we learn more from our failures than we do our successes. Â Would each of you mind telling us a FUBAR story based on miscommunication between the two of you in the early years and what you learned about one another and the writing process through it?
D: I recall arguing with Linc over a particular scene in Riptide. We were at loggerheads. Finally, we threw up our hands and decided to jettison both our ideas and see if we couldnâ€™t come up with a third way. We found that third wayâ€”and it was even better. Since that time, weâ€™ve often used this technique to solve difficulties.
DGM: Thatâ€™s really cool.Â So often it seems that when you remove options, it actually causes more impressive creations to be born.Â (Coming from an Indie film background, Iâ€™ve seen that happen many times since budgetary limitations are always such a concern on Indies.)
L: It isnâ€™t really a miscommunication, per se, but when I received the first few chapter drafts of RELIC from Doug, based on an outline Iâ€™d put together, I noticed that the two NYPD officers they described were rather alikeâ€”both Italian, I think. I told Doug that I felt these characters were too similar and stereotypical and that the reader would confuse them; one should be made quite different. Dougâ€™s typically defensive, sarcastic retort was: â€œOh? Like what? An albino from New Orleans?â€ Rather than taking offense, I thought about it and decided maybe we could work with this. And that was how Pendergast was born.
DGM: I love that.
Itâ€™s really a cool way to have shared the birthing process for a character thatâ€™s taken on such a life of its own.Â
Now letâ€™s get into the personal sides of your lives. When youâ€™re not writing, whatâ€™s the hobby you are most passionate about and whatâ€™s so compelling about it to you?
D: I like mountain climbing, skiing, and scuba diving. Danger and beauty is what I seek.
DGM: I come from Washington state originally, so I can definitely understand the power and beauty you can only find in the wilds of nature.Â How about you, Linc?
L: I donâ€™t seek danger. I traded in my 1100cc motorcycle for an overpowered convertible years ago. I prefer collecting rare books, hiking, and playing a variety of musical instruments.
DGM: As we conclude the interview, what’s one thing that you’ve never been asked in an interview that you’ve always wished someone would ask you? Â First one to raise their hand gets to answer the question.Â
Wow, you are fast, Doug!Â Take it away.Â
D: What is your favorite piece of music?
DGM: Very nice.Â Now, whatâ€™s the answer for each of you?
D: Beethovenâ€™s piano sonata #32, Opus 111.
L: Good question. Chopinâ€™s Ballade No. 3.
DGM: Thanks, guys!Â Iâ€™ve really enjoyed chatting with you and I think our readers are probably just as Â excited as I am to crack into White Fire when it comes out in November.Â
Whatâ€™s your team facebook page our readers can follow for continuing updates?Â And whatâ€™s the official website youâ€™d like them to check out?
Keep up the great work! Iâ€™d love to chat with you guys again when the next one comes out!
(We'd also like to give a special thank you at DGM to the Pendergast readers who supplied questions, especially Thom Jankowski who provided multiple questions and thoughts as we prepared for this interview!)