This morning at BookCon, 10–11 a.m., Room 1E07, two literary stars from south of the Mason-Dixon line, Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham, are in conversation with each other for the first time. Hiaasen will be discussing his first young adult novel, Skink—No Surrender (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Sept.), while talking with Grisham about his latest novel, Sycamore Row.
“I can’t remember how many times I’ve gotten lost in the Javits Center,” Hiaasen tells PW. But today’s interaction with Grisham at BookCon marks a first for Florida’s favorite author. “I’ve never interviewed John before. He stays pretty low on the media radar, which is cool.” When it comes to his personal favorite Grisham book, Hiaasen notes, “I like Sycamore Row because I’ve seen firsthand what happens when lawyers smell a big case and swoop into a courthouse like vultures. Miami back in the cocaine heyday had some fabulously overcrowded trials, so I really enjoyed the way John captured that sort of feeding frenzy.”
While Hiaasen doesn’t follow a particular writing recipe when he whips up his novels, he does have a motto. “When I’m writing, I go by the Jimmy Breslin credo: never be boring. I don’t work from an outline, so it’s pretty much of a high-wire act until I figure out exactly where the story is going. Usually I’m just chasing my characters around, trying to get a leash on them.”
Hiaasen’s first YA novel introduces Skink, a character who first appeared 25 years ago in Double Whammy, to a new, younger audience. In a plot that will resonate with teens, when Malley takes off with a guy she met online, it’s up to her cousin Richard and one-eyed Skink to track her down and bring her home.
For more than 30 years, Hiaasen has been entertaining readers with his articles and column in the Miami Herald, and bestselling novels such as Lucky You, Hoot, and Bad Monkey. While some may say it’s a job he was born to, he quickly points out there’s more to it than natural talent: “I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a born writer. I think there are seriously driven people who don’t know what else to do but write, and if you’re lucky enough, normal people want to read your work. I’ve been writing for the newspaper so long that it’s pretty easy to flip the switch and set aside the book manuscript on column days. In fact, during some tough weeks, the column is what keeps me going. If I turn out a good one, the energy spills over and helps the momentum of the novel.”