WN: Your second novel featuring ex-pat journalist-slash-detective Ray Sharp ("Grave Imports") comes out in September. How and why did you decide to do a series of books?Read the entire interview.
STONE: Actually, in the second book Ray has given up journalism and taken a job with a corporate investigations firm. I figured that would give him greater scope for getting involved in, rather than simply reporting on, the sort of investigations that might lead to interesting stories. It allows him to be an immediate participant, rather than simply trying to affect change through reporting his observations.
As a reader, I've always loved series books, at least to a point. I like seeing how the characters develop and change from book to book. If I like the character, or even if I don't but I find them interesting for some other reason, I want to know what's going to happen to them next. People are more interesting to me than the specifics of a crime or whatever tale they get caught up in. I'm mostly interested in crime or politics or economics or anything else, from the standpoint of what impact it has on people, or on a specific person.
As a writer, a series is a real challenge of my skills to try and keep it fresh. I want my characters to learn from their experiences and be affected by them as the continuing personal saga progresses. There's nothing worse than a static series character, or one who is bogged down by all the baggage they bring along from previous books. It's a juggling act to give a series character a personal life - which is important in order to give them context - but not have that get in the way of the story. I might have to kill off some girlfriends or colleagues along the way. I don't know if I'd be capable of doing that after a dozen or so books, but I'd be happy to find out. I figure that people buy series books because of the character, but they like each book in the series because of the story and how it affects the character.
As for how the series came about, the first three books (I just finished the first draft of the third one) and the planned fourth book in the series are all based on true stories that I covered as a journalist, or know well from my work as a journalist, in Asia from 1986 to 1997. I wanted to fictionalize the stories in order to better show the impact of these big, real events and issues on regular people. Making them a series, with a central character to act as the eyes and ears of the reader, gives them a continuity and focus that I think makes them more accessible and entertaining to a broad range of people.