New York Times Bestselling author John Sandford’s latest novel from the Virgil Flowers series comes out on Tuesday and the writer behind 30-plus mystery and suspense thrillers will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes & Noble.
A story about the writer’s move from journalism to novelist, “Mad River” and what’s next appears in Tuesday’s News Tribune. Here are some outtakes from the interview.
Q. Sandford’s novels are set in Minnesota. So what happens now that you are living in California and New Mexico?
A. I still have a cabin in Wisconsin, where I was this weekend. It will still be focused on Minnesota. I’ll be back here all the time.
Q. What’s your approach to writing and what does your writing space look like?
A. I write every day. It’s actually somewhat set up like a newspaper office, where I spent the first half of my life. It’s a regular space, not particularly large. I just sit there and work for three or four hours a day. Usually at night. I work best when there are no alternatives. I found that it seems to work best from 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
I write very quickly. The one thing that has changed since journalism: I’d write quickly and then make sure it was right and make adjustments. The big change with writing novels, I’m constantly rewriting. On any given day, I might write 1,000-1,5000 words. Then I got back and I will work over it until I’m happy with it. … That changes things pretty substantially.
The book I’m writing right now, I wrote the first chapter four months ago. Then a few weeks ago I had to throw the entire chapter out and re-do it because it was no longer holding up as the first chapter. That happens a lot. After you’ve done this as long as I have, you don’t panic because something is bad, you fix it.
Q. How does the collaboration with Joe Soucheray work on this novel?
A. (The Virgil Flowers books) I write with friends of mine. All of these people are writers, except one. We’ve done this because it was fun and it enabled me to write two books a year.
(Soucheray) is a friend of mine. He had a manuscript he hadn’t finished. I remodeled it. A lot of the setups are his, basic ideas are his. I threw out what I couldn’t use and invented stuff I needed to make the book work right.
Q. Are there characters you feel closer to than others?
A. For me, the characters are really engineering projects. They’re carefully crafted to make people like them. They don’t surprise me. They aren’t like children who surprise you and do different things. These guys are put together very carefully. I’ve thought about them a lot.
Davenport is tall, tough, good looking, sort of a chick magnet. He’s rich, drives a Porche. He brings justice to the world. He’s also a clothes horse. He likes to talk fashion. I did all that to make him likable to people. I think that’s one of the things that allows the books to sell. This isn’t some guy I pulled out of my butt.
Q. What will you do after writing?
A. I’ve had a long-standing interest in art. I’d like to spend a few free years without thinking of anything else, just painting. I’ve never had the time to indulge myself.
Q. Is it true that you have a huge female following?
A. Yeah. I think most of my readers are women. I have no research on that. On Facebook, 70 percent of the comments come from women. It might be more likely that women are more likely to be on Facebook.
It’s also true that when I go to book signings, 3/4ths are women. It might just be women are more likely to go to book signings.
I cater to (women). I try to create interesting women characters. Characters who are strong and don’t take a lot of guff. Virgil is essentially abused by women. A lot of women find that charming. I think they might be more interested in reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found out that women are the biggest readers in all genres.