Technique Talk is a weekly online Alive feature that spotlights the process of a Columbus (and sometimes beyond) artist. Know someone we should talk to? Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Yorker Chris Pavone’s stay in Luxembourg for a time as his wife worked a job there built the backbone of his first novel, “The Expats," the tale of a retired spy who becomes stay at home mom when her family moves to the European country. Pavone is coming to Columbus this Wednesday for Thurber House’s excellent Evenings with Authors series. He briefed Alive on what advice he’d give to writers, where he works best and how his own life provides much inspiration for his stories. Perhaps Pavone is a spy himself? Dun-dun-duuun!
What kind of writing do you do?
An international espionage thriller about expats called “The Expats,” because I was an expat, in Luxembourg, and I love complex plots packed with surprising revelations.
When do you write and why?
In the morning, before I get distracted by other things.
How often do you write?
Every weekday, from 9 a.m. until I run out of energy or get hungry, whichever comes first.
Where do you write?
After I drop my children at school, I proceed immediately with my laptop to a members’ club near my apartment in Greenwich Village. I’ve never been very successful working at home, where there’s always a dinner to cook, or a room to repaint, or any number of things to do besides write.
What has been inspiring your work lately?
My hometown. Europe played a major role in “The Expats,” and New York is important in the book I’m writing now, “The Accident.”
What advice would you give a new writer that you've found invaluable?
Edit yourself as much as possible. Then have other people edit you, and allow them to help you by really listening to their advice. I think all writing gets better with editing, sometimes immeasurably.
What do you do while you work?
Nothing. I work in a fairly busy place, with people coming and going all day, and staff serving drinks and food, and in summer a swimming pool on the roof. That’s sufficient sound and vision. I can’t stand being in a quiet empty room, but I’m also not very good at passive intake of media. It’s a roomful of people that helps me concentrate.
Do you do a lot of research for your novels?
So far, my life has been my primary research. I don’t particularly want to regurgitate other people’s experiences onto my pages.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?
Yes. So I start writing notes—character sketches or short scenes or plot ideas that aren’t meant to be the prose for the manuscript, which takes the pressure off. Which is to say, I start writing about the book instead of writing the book. And these notes inevitably lead to a new idea that I want to implement immediately. Problem solved.
Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party.
Peter Hoffer, Richard Silver and Henri Matisse, whose works are hanging in my living room.