This month, I had the totally rad opportunity to throw a few questions at Luke Preston (author of Out of Exile; read my overexcited review that spawns gleeful compliments like ‘rad’ here).
1. While you’ve gained success in the thrills and blood-spills of crime, you’re also a screenwriter—do you have devious plans in other genres, or are you intending to translate Tom Bishop to the big screen? (Incidentally I would enjoy the hell out of a Bishop movie.)
The beauty of screenwriting is that it takes a fraction of the time to write a script than it does to write a novel. On the flip side to that, a screenplay takes a hell of a lot longer to find a home, be financed, produced and distributed (and that’s if it does at all). I have a couple of action/crime movies in the works, which are both almost ready to go to market and hopefully one of which will be in the can by the end of next year.
There is screenplay of Bishop’s first rampage, Dark City Blue and every month or so a producer will get in touch regarding the film rights but it is yet to find a home. It’s a dangerous screenplay that takes a few chances so I can understand the trepidation of some of the more conservative filmmakers.
As for Out of Exile as a feature film? I dare somebody to try and adapt that. The novel is huge in scope and leaves a massive trail of debris in its wake. I’m not even convinced it can be adapted but I would like to see somebody with some guts try.
2. Is the process of writing as exciting for you as the finished book is for the reader? What do you do to wind down?
Writing Out of Exile was a hell of a lot of fun to write. The words came very easy and when it was all over I was a little sad to reach the end. When you finish a long form story such as a novel or a script, there is a short period of mourning afterwards. So usually after I finish I’m at a loss and find it very difficult to wind down. I do play rock ‘n roll on an old Gretsch hollow body with dirty strings. If my neighbours complain, it doesn’t matter I can’t hear them. I spend a fair bit of time watching old movies at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne and I try to get out of the house as often as possible.
3. What Australian authors, musicians or foods inspire you?
Paul Kelly is my favourite Australian storyteller. Every one of his songs is a small insight into the culture of Australia, its values beliefs and humour.
4. Do you have any crystal ball predictions for the future of Australian and international crime writing?
The world has changed significantly the past ten years so much so that many novels that were written pre 9/11 are so irrelevant that they are almost quaint. Crime fiction is always the first to reflect the times in which we live. It dramatises the hopes and fears of the everyman and if executed effectively, can carry extremely strong messages.
Fuck literary fiction. It’s safe, conservative and does very little to help the world understand itself. Those books are written by academics for academics so they can all give themselves awards and gentle pats on their overeducated backs. The rest of the world doesn’t give a shit. And it’s not some cosmic accident that Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series sells extremely well. Reacher speaks to the public’s growing concern that their corporations and governments are not going to look after them, but that there will always be somebody out there like Jack Reacher fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. Books such as that reflect the needs and desires of the public.
In the last few years there has been a shift in crime fiction, both here in Australia and internationally toward stories that carry a bigger message rather than solving the most recent murder which is something I am looking forward to seeing more of.
5. As a fellow Melburnian, I got a kick out of the wanton destruction of my beloved city. Was it important to you that Bishop and co. trashed places you know intimately? Did you have to keep international readers in mind?
Both Dark City Blue and Out of Exile are very specific in regard to scenes being set in real places but the story is universal so it can travel across borders with ease. Occasionally there is an issue with language such as the word ‘boot’ may be confusing to readers who are used to the word ‘trunk’. Apart from that, there’s little that doesn’t translate in terms of story and character.
6. Do you have any astounding pieces of advice for aspiring crime writers?
The first book you write is bad. Burn it and go and write another. I guarantee the next one will be significantly better.
7. Did your research take you to any unexpected places, like prison cells or car boots?
Through research I’ve seen the inside of police stations, the back rooms of MC clubs and yes… the inside of a car boot. *If you are going to climb into the boot of a car, make sure the person who closes it doesn’t leave the keys in there with you.
8. Ex-cop current-fugitive Tom Bishop isn’t known for his outpourings of emotion, but do you find yourself feeling affectionately towards him? Do you miss him once you’ve finished a book?
I wouldn’t want to have a beer with Tom Bishop and I certainly wouldn’t let him borrow my car because he’ll return in it pieces. But I have a hell of a lot of fun following him on his adventures and when I’m finished, I do miss him a little bit.
9. Christie, Child or Chandler?
All three as well as Hammett, Ellory and Stark.
10. If your computer were to be impounded by the police, what would the most incriminating thing in your search history be?
Luke spent most of his twenties as a freelance writer, a private investigator and listening to rock ‘n roll. He drinks heavily on occasion, is a half decent musician and his idea of a good time involves a jukebox designed to bleed ears.Luke’s work has been recognised by The Inside Film Awards, MTV and The ATOM Awards. He writes in cafes, bars and in parking lots on the back of old fuel receipts and cigarette packets. He doesn’t believe in writers block or in the magic bullet theory and his favourite album is Exile on Main Street.Luke’s writing is as much influenced by AC/DC and Johnny Cash as it is by Richard Stark and Raymond Chandler. He has a Master’s of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts and has absolutely no intention of moving to a shack in the middle of nowhere. He likes bad traffic, noisy neighbours, cheap beer, loud bars and has been occasionally known to howl at the moon.