Storming the Castle: Interview with Richard Castle

Absolute Blank

By Amanda Marlowe (The Bellman)

The Toasted Cheese editors spent some time in the Hamptons this summer trying to wrangle an interview with Richard Castle, author of the the popular Derrick Storm series and, more recently, the best-selling Nikki Heat series (the first Nikki Heat book, Heat Wave, reached #6 on the New York Times Best Seller List). Our plans to waylay him at his Hamptons home were stymied by his publisher, who claimed he was too busy finishing his latest novel, Naked Heat, to talk to us. Luckily, one of the locals clued us in to the fact he was actually off solving the mystery of the fallen angel. By following him on Twitter, we were able to stalk… er… follow him and catch him in a quiet moment.

Toasted Cheese: We understand you have been hard at work on your new novel, Naked Heat, which will be available on September 28, 2010. Tell us a bit about it.

Richard Castle: Writing Naked Heat was a tremendously gratifying experience. It allowed me to relive some of my favorite memories from the past year of doing research with the NYPD.

TC: Is it different writing about a female police officer instead of a male detective?

RC: Well, unlike Derrick, Heat’s not always trying to get into bed with everyone she meets. The difference is more psychological. Derrick considered himself a man of action, an agent provocateur, so to speak. He’d walk into the bad guy’s lair without a plan. Heat’s much more methodical. She works from evidence, not from her gut. In a lot of ways she’s smarter than Derrick, though Derrick was more charming. There’s a hint of Derrick Storm in Jameson Rook, although Derrick’s much manlier.

TC: Where did you get the ideas for your Derrick Storm novels? Any plans for Black Pawn to reissue them?

RC: Derrick Storm grew out my desire to cross the traditional detective with the kinds of protagonists you’d find in a spy novel. What if James Bond had become a P.I. instead of a secret agent? I wanted to try to capture that kind of cool and sex appeal within the structure of a detective story.

No current plans for Black Pawn to reissue them, however I am currently in discussions with a comic publisher to turn them into a series of graphic novels. I’ll keep you apprised, or maybe I’ll keep you guessing.

TC: What was the first piece of writing you used to pick up a girl? Did it work?

RC: It was a Shakespearean sonnet. Yeah, it worked. I was nine. We held hands.

TC: Tell us about your history as a writer. Are you mostly self-taught, or did you take classes or workshops?

RC: My mother was an actor and spent a lot of time at the theater, and instead of getting me a babysitter, she’d drop me at the New York City library. I spent hours and hours reading mystery books—Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Nero Wolfe. And then when I was a teen I took a Learning Annex course: “How to Become a VIP Matchmaker” (the course on mystery writing was full). After I successfully matched over a hundred couples, I sat down and wrote my first book, In a Hail of Bullets. I love the Learning Annex. I’m taking a class now called “How to Talk to Your Cat.” Now I don’t have a cat, and I’m not particularly interested in getting one. No, what I want to do is talk to other people’s cats. How cool would that be? “Hey Cleopatra, you know whose head you should jump on next?” Or maybe tell their cat a joke and it starts laughing and everyone’s like, why’s that cat laughing? Dude, what’d you say to my cat? And maybe cultivate my own feline army…

TC: Wait a minute. Wasn’t In a Hail of Bullets inspired by the soap operas your mother parked you in front of?

RC: Yes, well… that’s my mother’s version of events.

TC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?

RC: I eat more fiber.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re too embarrassed by what you’re writing to continue. But if you do continue, something strange and wonderful happens. After a few pages your drivel becomes interesting drivel and often times you find solutions naturally emerging for whatever problem you were facing.

TC: What do you consider the most important element of a mystery novel? Why?

RC: The most important element of a mystery novel is mystery. I know it sounds like I’m being flip, and usually I am, but not now. The question the reader is always asking themselves, whether they know it or not, is “Why should I keep reading?” If the writer’s done his job, the answer is usually pretty simple: “Because I want to know what happens.” Any good writer creates multi-level mysteries—mysteries of plot, mysteries of characters—to keep the reader engaged.

TC: What advice would you offer to people who want to write mystery novels?

RC: Stop talking about it and start doing it. And make peace with the prospect that at first it’ll probably be really bad. That’s okay. The first draft is just clay to sculpt. Keep working it until it’s good.

TC: A lot of people view you as an extension of Nathan Fillion, the actor. How do you deal with this?

RC: An extension? Like I’m somehow .nfil? (That was a computer joke. Not a particularly good one either.)

I know Nathan pretty well. Handsome fella. People say we look alike, but I think he looks more like Jason Bateman.

TC: And our editor Lisa Olson asks: I haven’t seen your mom since graduation. How has she been? Does she still play her Beatles albums backwards?

RC: Yes. It drives me crazy. And apparently Lisa borrowed a pink sweater that was quite flattering. My mom would like it back, along with the boy Lisa stole from her.

TC: We’ll send Lisa along with the sweater sometime, but we’re not sure she kept the boy…

We shouldn’t keep you from your writing any longer, so we will let you get back to your, uh, research. Thank you so much for your time.

You can watch Richard Castle gain his inspiration for the third Nikki Heat novel on Mondays on ABC at 10:00 pm ET (9:00 CT).

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