PW: In Sudden Death the wickedly witty Andy Carpenter defends an NFL star accused of killing another football player. Is there a lot of David Rosenfelt in Andy Carpenter?
David Rosenfelt: I'm afraid so. We share a warped perspective on life; a complete inability to understand women; a lack of physical courage; a devotion to logic, dogs and sports; and an inability to curb our obnoxious sarcasm. Our biographies are quite different, but if I were a lawyer, and if Andy were older and fatter, you couldn't tell us apart.
PW: Why football—did you ever play?
DR: You write what you know? I'm a couch potato who watches a lot of football. I played football unsuccessfully in high school, defensive back.
PW: Why did you make Carpenter a lawyer?
DR: I've just always found the courtroom to be an amazing source of human drama. I don't think there's any moment with more tension than when a verdict is being read. Besides that, lawyer is the only job I can think of where one can be argumentative and badgering and be praised for it.
PW: Is it difficult balancing mystery and humor?
DR: My inclination is to write more humor than is probably appropriate, so my editor has to go over my manuscript with a "glib remover." You don't finish my book and go, "Hey, wait a minute, I thought Hemingway was dead." This is not great literature.
PW: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
DR: Not even close. I was an executive in the movie business [former president of marketing for TriStar] most of my working life, and didn't decide to try writing until I was tired of what I was doing. A friend and very talented producer/director, Robert Greenwald, coaxed me into writing a screenplay, and that's how it began.
PW: What authors have influenced you most?
DR: I've always loved Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly. Donald Westlake is brilliant. But the writer who's influenced me most was probably Robert B. Parker. I loved the Spenser books.
PW: Andy's faithful sidekick is his golden retriever, Tara. How did the real Tara influence the Carpenter series?
DR: The real Tara was an amazing dog, with more sensitivity in a paw than I have in my entire body. She got cancer at the age of nine, and the three months that she lived after that were a transforming experience for both my wife and me. We started volunteering in an animal shelter, but that became too passive, and we started the Tara Foundation, through which we have rescued over 4,000 dogs.
PW: What's next?
DR: This book coming out now is the most cinematic—we're probably going to try it as a TV series. I just turned in the fifth Carpenter book and owe the publisher a sixth one. I'm also in the middle of a stand-alone with different characters, and I just did a TV movie for Lifetime, Deadly Isolation.
PW: What's more difficult—writing, marketing movies or rescuing dogs?
DR: The most difficult thing is to market movies. When you market movies, you have very little influence over a project. By the time marketing people get the movie, it's either good or bad or somewhere in between. Writing screenplays and mysteries is like stealing. It's the easiest thing I've ever done.
PW: The most satisfying?
DR: Caring for dogs is very time consuming and hard work, but incredibly rewarding. [sudden sound of dogs barking in the background]