En poursuivant votre navigation sur ce site, vous acceptez l'utilisation de cookies. Ces derniers assurent le bon fonctionnement de nos services. En savoir plus.


Interview with David Liss

After we have published a chronical about his novel,  The ethical assassin,   lastly translated  in French language, David Liss answers to our questions.

Vous trouverez ici la version française de l'entretien.


Jacques. How would you introduce yourself to French readers who don't know you yet, and are about to discover you as the author of " The ethical assassin" ?

 David Liss. I am primarily a writer of historical fiction, and most of my work deals with aspects of financial history.  I also write comic books and the occasional horror short story. 

 J. How did it happen that you got the desire to write, and especially to be fond of writing thriller books, mystery and suspense?

 David Liss. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write stories.  I’ve always love narrative, and for most of my life I was trying to figure out how to construct narratives myself.  Fortunately, I eventually figured it out – more or less, anyhow.  I don’t see myself as being more interested in thrillers or mysteries than other forms of writing, but I do think that all traditional fiction is suspense fiction.  Readers want to know what will happen next and why, even if the mystery is who a particular character will marry or whether or not (or how) they will find happiness.  In my own writing, I like to put together stories where the stakes are high and the character face serious problems.  It is simply how I like doing things.

 J. Who are or have been the writers who influence(d) you?

 David Liss. I think I am influenced by every book I read, good or bad.  I always tell aspiring writers that every time they read, they should reverse engineer the material.  If a book is good, figure out what makes it work.  If it is bad, figure out what it is doing wrong.

 J. Your first two novels published in France: " A Conspiracy of Paper " and " The Coffee Trader" targeted the financial world, but " The ethical assassin", all the while being a remarkably well made suspense novel, offers here and there a philosophical twist. Why this new orientation of your writing?

 David Liss. I’ve always believed I should write the book I want to write when I want to write it.  I’ve always enjoyed contemporary fiction, and I loved the idea of writing a caper novel based on my own experiences as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman.  It’s not a new orientation in the sense that I’ve gone back to writing historical fiction.  However, it is something I enjoyed and hope to do again.

 J. Against all expectations, you turned Melford Kean into a both sympathetic and passionately interesting character, is this a literary challenge that you assigned to yourself?

 David Liss. Yes, I knew he was going to be the spokesperson for a position most readers would find disagreeable, so I set out to write him so he would be both charismatic and strange.  He was a very fun character to write, so I hope readers enjoy him.

J. Are animal rights and animal causes activists, whom you met while researching data and whose names you quote in acknowledgements and thanks, such radicals as Melford? Are they, too, capable of violent actions, even to the point of killing people in order to save animal's lives?

 David Liss. No, I think most animal rights activists would find Melford’s methods extreme and abhorrent.  Again, the trick with this book was not to preach to the reader, so I had to make Melford so outrageous that no one would ever accuse me of advocating his actions.

 J.  Do you share all, or only some of their view points?

 David Liss. I share many of his points of view.  I have been a vegetarian for over ten years, and I do think Marxist philosophy is a useful tool for looking at the world.

 J. Another very well researched and important subject matter in your novel is drug. How did you go about researching and putting together data related to drug? Is this type of work time consuming?

 David Liss. I am a fairly unadventurous person in real life, so I neither used nor manufactured my own drugs in the researching of this novel.  Mostly I did library research – always exciting! – and interviewed some police officers.

 J. Your description of sales methods as used by encyclopedias salesmen and your knowledge of customers psychology are so precise that your readers come to the point of wondering if you experienced this type of job, just like your character Lem. Could it really be that you have done this job? Are encyclopedias vendors as cynical as you depict them?

 David Liss. I did have this job – one summer while I was in college.  Other than the drug dealing and murdering, the work and the workers are exactly as I’ve written about them.  It was a crazy experience, and I was very happy to have the chance to writer about it.

J.  It is quite unexpected to find in a thriller book a murderer who is able to quote Michel Foucault, the structuralists and Louis Althusser, however it does fit the main character in your novel. Are animal rights and animal causes activists whom you have met also such theorists?

 David Liss. No, that was just me having fun.

J. Humor belongs to your way of writing. It is with lightness of touch and irony that you relish painting the darkest sides of society. Why did you choose to thus proceed, quite differently from James Ellroy, Michael Connelly or Henning Mankell?

 David Liss. All of my books, even the serious historical financial ones, have humor in them.  I’ve always seen humor as an important part of life.  People always express themselves through humor – even on serious occasions.  I’ve heard people who are genuinely mourning cracking jokes at funerals.  I enjoy reading and writing comic fiction, so making this book humorous felt like a natural choice to me.

J.  You refer to other subjects such as paedophilia, male chauvinism, racism, police violence and jail. Do you plan to write future novels about other similar social problems?

 David Liss. I don’t have any specific plans, but it is certainly possible. 

 J.  "The ethical assassin" has been published in France in january 2012. When shall we be able to enjoy French translations of your last novels ?

 David Liss. Honestly, I have no idea.  My agent handles the business decisions, but I would hope all of my novels might soon be available in France.

 J. Now, lets talk about it, are you fond of hamburgers?

David Liss. I gave up eating meat because I couldn’t reconcile myself to how food animals are treated, not because I don’t like it.  I’ve always enjoyed the taste of meat, and I miss it.  I just can’t convince myself to go back.  I do enjoy a good soy burger now and again, however. 

Les commentaires sont fermés.