Blog – a work in progess

The man with no plot: how I watched Lee Child write a Jack Reacher novel

Andy Martin spent much of the past year with author Lee Child as he wrote the 20th novel in his Jack Reacher series. Here he describes Child’s bold approach to writing. Nobody really believes him when he says it. And in the end I guess it is unprovable. But I can put my hand on heart and say, having been there, and watched him at work, that Lee Child is fundamentally clueless when he starts writing. He really is. He has no idea what he is doing or where he is going. And the odd thing is he likes it that way. The question is: Why? I mean, most of us like to have some kind of idea where we …

How to write a best-selling novel

So you want to write a novel? Of course you do. Everyone wants to write a novel at some stage in their lives. While you’re at it, why not make it a popular bestseller? Who wants to write an unpopular worstseller? Therefore, make it a thriller. It worked for Ian Fleming and Frederick Forsyth … Every now and then I come across excellent advice for the apprentice writer. There was a fine recent article, for example, in The Big Thrill (the house magazine of International Thriller Writers) on “how to lift the saggy middle” of a story. Like baking a cake. And then there is Eden Sharp’s The Thriller Formula, her step-by-step would-be writer’s self-help manual, drawing on both classic …

LEE CHILD, JONATHAN FRANZEN, AND JOUÏSSANCE ON 57TH STREET

It was typical Lee Child. Not long before he had been ranting on about how you really ought to ‘kill off all your relatives’ (speaking aesthetically, but with a definite sense that art is murder) and how much he hated all those family trees in the classic novel. He was anti-genealogy. No begats. You can’t have an XXL ex-military vigilante drifter roaming about and he has to call up his old mum every couple of weeks. Now he was saying, ‘What if his mother comes back? Madame Reacher. You know, but young. In the Resistance. A kid. Before she became a Reacher. I love that period. The Nazis marching down the boulevard. Sartre and Camus writing in the Café de …

What if Lee Child wrote “Purity” and Jonathan Franzen wrote “Make Me?”

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but there is a curious correspondence, almost an alignment, between Lee Child’s Make Me and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity, published in the same month, September 2015. Both have at their core, a murder story. I think there is only one in Purity, whereas there are approximately 200 more in Make Me. Industrial-scale. Jack Reacher has to solve that puzzle. Whereas in Franzen the murderer himself has to go and blab about it. He can’t shut up about it. So the two writers must have been in touch recently – I like to imagine – just to compare notes and pass on a few tips. JONATHAN FRANZEN RE-WRITTEN BY LEE CHILD Begin with a …

Industry Spotlight: When An Author Hits the No. 1 Spot

After observing Lee Child at work for one year as he wrote his 20th thriller, Andy Martin, a Cambridge educator and author, wrote ‘Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.’ Martin’s book was written and at the printer when that Lee Child novel hit bookstores in September 2015 and made it to the No. 1 spot on bestseller lists.  Martin was with Child on tour in Washington, D.C., when the news broke last autumn, and he shares their conversation with The Big Thrill: Lee Child was having a pizza. As a result of poor parenting, he always leaves the crusts. Followed by some kind of fudge pudding with chocolate ice-cream. And coffee. Black. Room service in …

The professor on Lee Child’s shoulder – New York Times

Lee Child, left, and Andy Martin. By LEE CHILD and ANDY MARTIN NOVEMBER 20, 2015 THE tough-guy hero Jack Reacher first appeared 18 years ago in Lee Child’s novel “Killing Floor.” On Sept. 1, 2014, Mr. Child started writing “Make Me,” the 20th in his best-selling Reacher series. But for once he was not alone in his office in Manhattan. He was being observed by Andy Martin, a longtime Reacher fan and University of Cambridge lecturer, sitting a few feet behind him and shadowing the creative process all the way from the first word (“Moving”) to the last (“needle”). While Mr. Child was writing, Mr. Martin was simultaneously writing about him writing, typically for several hours a day. The bare-bones …