Lee Child: On Trial

Lee Child

Recently, I had the pleasure of asking Lee Child a few nosy questions. Of course, Lee, being the gentleman that he is, answered in a way only the creator of Jack Reacher could.

Lee, what time of day do you prefer to write?

Nothing of value can be achieved in the morning.  For 18 years in TV I worked unsocial shift hours, so my luxury as a writer is to sleep late, have a long slow breakfast, and start work after lunch.  I usually quit around 6 or 7.  Toward the end of the process I might start another couple hours at midnight.

What’s your daily word count?

It is what it is.  Minimum might be 600, I’m happy with 1200 or 1500, a great day would be 2500, the best I ever did was 4000.

Do you like to listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?

No, I need to generate my own rhythms, and music disrupts that.  And certainly anything with lyrics would be difficult to ignore.

Do you conduct a lot of research before you write the first word?

Better to ask if I do any research before I write the last word! I don’t do any general research. I depend on things I have already read or seen or internalized, maybe years before. I ask people about specific details … like I asked you what a rural police chief might have in his trunk.  But in terms of large themes I think it’s difficult to research too close to the time of writing … research is like an iceberg – 90% of it needs to be discarded, and it’s hard to do that without perspective.

How long does it take you to write a 100,000 word novel?

I just finished my book for 2010 – 108,000 words in 69 working days, for an average of about 1560 words a day.  But those 69 working days were spread across six months – always a lot of other crap to deal with.

What is your favorite food and drink?

My favorite drink is black coffee, no sugar.  Second would be champagne.  I’m entirely indifferent to food.  Don’t really care what, when or if I eat.

Finally, what would it take for Jack Reacher to settle down?

A spinal cord injury, probably.

* Lee Child is the author of the wildly popular Jack Reacher series. You can visit Lee here.

At Crime Bake 2007, we conducted a mock trial of Jack Reacher (played by Lee Child). I played the part of the DEA agent who’d arrested Reacher for murder. The part of the prosecutor was played by Michele Martinez.

Author and former federal prosecutor Michele Martinez.

Lee and his defense attorney, Julia Spencer-Fleming, discuss strategy.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kenneth Freeman as himself.

The cast, including award winning author Hank Phillipi Ryan as the investigative reporter.

*2007 Crime Bake photos by Maureen “Mo” Walsh.

Author Rosemary Harris, jury foreman, declared Jack Reacher innocent of all charges because the defendant was HOT!

Testifying in the murder trial of Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher/Lee Child confesses to the murder in an open courtroom and still gets off free and clear.


4 replies
  1. jnantz
    jnantz says:

    Okay, that line about what it would take to make Reacher settle down was priceless. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read it.

  2. SZ
    SZ says:

    Great Q & A. Funny, but it seems a lot of writers are night people, I am an early bird and will go to sleep early on purpose. It is my best time. And on a series I too have to read in order. The library here has it set up so you can order books on line and they will let you know when they have arrived and keep them in your name for a week. It works well.

  3. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    I’m like you, Terry. I hadn’t read one until an acquaintance mentioned how much she liked the books. I haven’t read them all (I get bored with the same character one book after another – I need to break it up). Altho Jack Reacher’s a little too ‘perfect’ for me, I still enjoy the books. Lee Child is definitely on my list of ‘must-read’ writers.
    I try to do the chronological listing on any series, too, but since most of the books I read are borrowed from the libary, I usually end up with whatever’s available when I’m there.

  4. Terry
    Terry says:

    I will confess I’d never read a Child/Reacher novel until Mr. Child spoke at Sleuthfest. I normally steer away from books marketed as “thrillers”, but his discussions of Jack Reacher intrigued me enough so that when hubby said he saw a couple of Child’s books on the table at Costco, I figured it was worth a try. It turned out the first book I read was the out of order first book in the chronology, and I couldn’t understand how this character bore any resemblance to what I’d heard at the conference. I was interested enough to check it out, found a chronological listing on the web and started with book 1. I’m now waiting for the new release. (Even if the cops don’t keep a round chambered)

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