Excerpts from the interview by Gary Warren Niebuhr in the December/January 2004 issue of Mystery News
When I am in my fan-boy disguise, wandering the halls of mystery conventions, I often wonder about what it would have been like if these fan gatherings had existed when the Golden Age authors were alive. What would it have been like if Agatha Christie had high tea at a Malice Domestic or Raymond Chandler was found drinking in the bar at Bouchercon?
Who would argue that Sara Paretsky has established herself as a modern benchmark author in our genre? With her accomplishments as the creator of V.I. Warshawski, she has created a series of works that will stand the test of time. The themes she has integrated into her stories will continue to speak to the human condition far into our future. I have heard the author refer to those who have preceded her in the genre -- ranging from Dorothy Sayers to Mickey Spillane. I wondered if it ever seems strange to Sara Paretsky that her writing is now guaranteed to be remembered forever as iconic in the mystery genre. How does it feel to be today's Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler?
"Thank you for your generous assessment of my work," Sara responded. "I don't know how to respond to it -- I'm narcissistic enough to hope my work will endure -- but, as Mort Sahl put it, the future lies ahead. Some negative critics of Blacklist have said its involvement in contemporary social concerns will make it an ephemeral novel; others that people in the future will turn to my books for a look at our life and times. it's exciting to think that might be so, but I think it's more important to focus on the stories you want to tell than to imagine yourself writing for posterity."
So where does this icon come from? Kansas, in this case, where Sara attended a two-room school, played third base on her team, wrote and had her first work of fiction published in The American Girl magazine. After college at the University of Kansas, she moved to Chicago because she liked the city while doing community service work one summer as an undergraduate. A PhD in history followed by an MBA from the University of Chicago led to a career as a marketing manager for CNA Insurance.
Inside this white collar businessperson lurked a fiction writer crying to get out. While taking a writing course from mystery writer Stuart Kaminsky, his advice to write-what-Sara-knew led the fledgling novelist to create a P.I. who concentrates on white-collar crime. Sara admits that her first novel did not come easy, and she wrote seventy pages in nine months trying to get it completed. So, eleven novels, and a collection of short stories later, Ii wondered if it was any easier to be a writer...
...so when an icon is not cloistered in her room writing her next novel, what does Sara like to do for fun?
"I like to hang out with my friends. I run, train my dog, and try to study French. And I like to read."
If she were never to write another word, the success of her works we have enjoyed insure that Sara Paretsky's work will still be meaningful to generations to come because they speak about our times in their themes while entertaining us within the mystery genre.
Read the complete interview in theDecember/January 2004 issue of Mystery News