George Pelecanos is a screenwriter, independent film producer, award-winning journalist, and the author of bestselling novels set in and around Washington, D.C.
From his Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:
You’ve had a number of jobs before writing: woman’s shoe salesman, line cook, dishwasher. How do these various jobs color your work as a writer?Learn about the fictional character which Pelecanos thinks most resembles him.
I started working in my dad’s diner at 11, so I had 20 years of blue- and gray-collar work experience before I wrote my first novel. I had fun. It wasn’t like I was an undercover artist masquerading as a worker. I was paying the bills. I mine those experiences for my fiction to this day. But I think the greatest influence those jobs had on me was that they gave me my work ethic as a writer. I treat this as a job. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I say, “I’m a professional writer.” In a way, I think of myself as a small business owner. My office has doors on it, and I open my business every morning, just as my dad turned the key on his diner each and every day.
Your work has been described as quintessential of, and about, D.C. What do people mean when they say that? Did you set out to chronicle your hometown, or did it happen organically?
I realized from the beginning that there was a hole in Washington fiction. I had no interest in the political novel or the spy thriller, or the Georgetown novel set in the milieu of Washington society. Others could do that better, because I was not of that world. Washington is a city with its own language, culture, music, style, and racial politics. As a young Greek American straddling many different quadrants here, mainly because of work and sports, I thought I might write about the city from a different perspective than had been done before. After awhile, I started to see the chronicling of this city as my life’s work. The crime novel gave me...[read on]