Jeffery Deaver: I want to write a book that scares the hell out of you, makes your palms sweat…

by |August 4, 2017

They’re questions we’ve all asked ourselves: Are crime and thriller writers’ twisted individuals who dwell in a pit of despair? Must they have psychopathic tendencies to be able to write so intimately and convincingly about serial killers, rapists and psychopaths?

When we asked crime writer Jeffery Deaver these same questions, he referred us to a fellow crime writer’s response when asked the same question, “It’s a job. Five o’clock I close the computer, go get a beer, hang out with my wife and that’s really what it is. This is our imagination.”

So no psychopathic tendencies my friends. Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief.

Jeffery Deaver visited us recently to chat about The Burial Hour, the 13th instalment in his bestselling Lincoln Rhyme thriller series, which began with The Bone Collectora book which was, in 1999, adapted into a major Hollywood film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Remember it?

Signed copies available of both The Bone Collector and The Burial Hour

Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling with Jeffery Deaver

As a writer, is he a plotter or pantser? How does he edit his work?

In our podcast with Deaver he reveals that as a writer, he’s what’s considered a plotter, a person who outlines their book before writing it. “I have to plan everything ahead of time, mostly because I don’t have a lot of time [because of the fast moving plot]. I have to work three subplots in the space of three days.”

However that wasn’t always the case. In his early days as a lawyer, his lengthy commute to and from work afforded his time to write, resulting in him penning between six and seven books during this time. These early books, which he considers to be “more mystery orientated” than his current thrillers, were not originally plotted. He simply “opened” his mind “and wrote”. When he saw these books were not performing well commercially, he went back, outlined, rewrote and then reissued them. And now he’s a firm plotter.

Deaver reveals it took him eight months to outline and plan his latest book, The Burial Hour, the 13th instalment in his bestselling Lincoln Rhyme thriller series. This outline included a 150/160 page summary of the book. That’s the length of some books!

When it comes to writing, Deaver has revealed that “I can write very quickly.” He can write a 135 thousand word manuscript in two months because the entire schematic of the book has already been outlined. However, “because I write very quickly, my first drafts are 1. too long…. and 2. they’re kind of sloppy.” So revision is vital at this point.

When it comes to editing, Deaver has revealed that he has “to print the book out and read it on paper. And edit on paper because… I’m not a scientist, I’m not a cognitive psychologist, but I guarantee that there is some sort of physiological reason we experience a book more deeply on a printed page… I will see mistakes in the printed version in the same passages that I’ve read 100 times on the screen and missed completely… on the printed page it just stands out.”

What is Deaver’s aim when writing a book?

“I don’t want to write an interesting book. I want to write a compelling book. I want to write a book that scares the hell out of you, makes your palms sweat…

I don’t want anybody to close the book and fall asleep. You start a book of mine at 11 o’clock at night and you’re on your own. You’ve got to finish this. I want to make sure they [readers] turn pages and finish it at 7 or 8am…”

Signed copies available of both The Bone Collector and The Burial Hour

Signed copies available of both The Bone Collector and The Burial Hour

Can he tell which of his students will be successful writers?

In the seminars that he teaches and speaks at, Deaver has developed a keen sense of who will be a writer. Those students who lament that they don’t have time to write are considered non-writers. Those students who reveal that they do nothing but write, who are neglecting their families and jobs, and who are failing their other classes – these are true writers.

Deaver’s advice to these ‘true’ writers: keep doing what you’re doing.

Any plans to collaborate with another author?

Deaver is friends with James Patterson, an author who has no qualms about collaborating with fellow crime writers. He recently released Fifty Fifty with Australian writer Candice Fox, and has released a series of BookShots, – short, fast-paced, high-impact stories – with various authors.

“I don’t have the ability to come up with an idea and give it to somebody else to do. It isn’t my kind of thing,” says Deaver.

What has Deaver been up to?

This year he released a book, The Burial Hour, is on track to completing eight short stories, and just finished a movie script.

Listen to the full podcast with Jeffery Deaver here. Discover the Lincoln Rhyme series here.


For a very limited time, order either The Bone Collector or The Burial Hour and you’ll receive a signed copy! Also, if you order by July 31st, you’ll automatically be placed in the draw to win a $600 RRP crime book pack!

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About the Contributor

Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.

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