One of my favorite thriller writers, Thomas Perry, gave an interview to Robert Birnbaum in 2003. It opens:
Robert Birnbaum: You’ve written how many Jane Whitefield books?Read the entire interview.
Thomas Perry: Five.
RB: I must confess I lost interest in series, and so I probably have read only three of them. Why did you stop writing the Whitefield series?
TP: Because you were losing interest in the series. (both laugh) Writing the series is fun. It’s a situation that almost feels like having a job. A real, legitimate, honest job, because you know when you are sitting around thinking of some idea or something — what you are going to do with it? And you know when you are finished with this book— then you have a million wonderful things that you are thinking that you know that you can’t possibly fit into this plot, you’re going to have another chance at it. When you are writing stand-alone novels, if you know something great about a character and it just doesn’t fit in because it doesn’t allow the pages to keep turning, you know that you are never in your life going to be able to tell people. It’s over. It’s the wasted by-product of thinking of a book. And so it’s fun to do a series, but it’s [too] comfortable. I don’t think being comfortable is necessarily the thing that’s going to make you a better writer. And I think that’s the most important thing that a writer does — is try to get better. So at a certain point, with a series, your main character is a fully developed, free-standing human being and she’s not going to change a whole lot. At that point what you are writing about is not necessarily the development of her character. It’s about putting her into different situations so that you can show her off. So that’s what you find yourself doing—and I’ve noticed this with other people who have written series, your villains get better and better and better. And more frightening. And your major character is exactly the same. That is probably something you shouldn’t do. What I am doing in the case of Jane Whitfield is giving her a chance to have a little vacation from me and maybe get a little bit older. So that when she comes back she is more — let’s say that there will be developments to report about her and her family and about everything. I was just in Western New York and in the Buffalo area. One of the things that has happened is that the Allegheny Senecas and the Seneca Nation have managed to open a casino in what used to the Niagara Falls Convention Center. That was an issue with Senecas, and it’s a big deal, and it will be interesting to see if there will be changes to report because of that.
Thomas Perry applied the Page 99 Test to his latest novel, Nightlife. The test results will be reported in the coming week.