How much of Thieves is based on your experiences?
As a writer, editor, critic, occasional blogger, and even very occasional, uncredited freelance publicist, consultant, and book video producer, I've certainly had more than my fair share of experiences in and around publishing. Though Thieves draws on these experiences, it exists in a parallel universe located on the border between my memory and my imagination. Besides, I've been advised by my attorney to say that any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Thieves is filled with one-hit wonder authors. Are these based on anyone?
Absolutely. Every character in Thieves, every hooligan librarian, every crooked manuscript appraiser, every nefarious editor, every self-aggrandizing agent, every blowhard publisher, every wide-eyed hero, and every phony memoirist has a very specific, real-life inspiration. Oh, wait, that's my attorney on the phone again. What I meant to say was that although people may recognize or think they recognize the characters I have written, I consider that a tribute to the universality of my story. What I truly meant to say is that the characters are merely composites of numerous individuals, and as such, yes, they're completely fictional. Even the real-life editors, agents, and publishers who make cameo appearances appear in fictional contexts.
But you also pay homage to the publishing industry, don't you?
Thieves's story was inspired by two films. The Norwegian film Reprise is the funniest, most energetic movie I've ever seen about publishing. And then I saw Sunset Boulevard, and I said that I wished I could write something that could both honor and savage the book world the way Billy Wilder honored and savaged Hollywood.
Is any of the slang in Thieves real?
Forgive me if I “woolf” too fast from one topic to another, and feel free to “lish” my remarks if they go on to make a whopping “Tolstoy” out of what should be a brief interview. But my hope is to introduce a few new words into the literary lexicon. Thrillers are jam-packed with jargon, so I thought Thieves needed its own slang.
What's the strangest thing about publishing?
That sometimes it's easier to lie and get away with it, than to get away with telling the truth. Laura Albert (aka JT Leroy) and Clifford Irving, two people who've been shunned by the book industry for their deceptions, are among the most generous people, and I don't say that just because they blurbed my book. And finally, Britney Spears's “Toxic” is a really good song to write to.