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Walter Mosley – Diamond Dagger winner 2023
What is the first crime story you remember reading?
In my early years I read the kids’ mysteries written about The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. These didn’t have a lasting effect. Later on, in my late teens, I started reading Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. Something about the prose, and even the poetry, of the language of these books sunk deeply into my mind.
What led you to write your very first novel?
The feel of this language stayed with me for many years. And then, in my mid-thirties, I was working, as a consultant computer programmer, at Mobil Oil in Manhattan. After some hours I tired of writing code and began jotting down sentences. One such was, “On hot sticky days in Southern Louisiana, the fire ants swarmed…”
This sounded good enough to begin a story. I knew it was fiction because I’d never been to Louisiana, nor had I ever seen a fire ant. From that day on I made it my business to learn how to write.
A few years later I was taking a fiction class at the City College of New York. My workshop teacher was Edna O’Brien. One day she told me, “Walter, write a novel,” and I did.
What did you buy with your first royalties cheque?
I bought a new life with the first money I received from writing. Quit my job and spent the last 34 years trying to become a better writer.
At what point in your life did you start to describe yourself as an author?
At the very beginning of my studies, I wrote a story called Voodoo. This got published in a little literary magazine. From that day on I called myself a published writer. (A year after publication, an editor at the magazine found the typed ms of the story, read it, and then sent me a rejection letter. That is still the most devastating moment of my writing career.)
What have you found is the best thing about being an author?
Writing is its own reward.
How has your own life experience affected the novels you write?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Of course, I’m writing the stories so, they come from my experience. I might be given course-corrections from an editor now and again, but the great majority of the work begins and ends in my mind.
That said, I believe that consciousness is a very small part of who and what we are. So much occurs in my writing that surprises me. Unexpected passions, metaphors, names, and places that I’ve never been – all of this and much more comes from a place of mystery.
How do you write? Do you aim to do the research first? Are you a planner, and do you set yourself daily/weekly targets? Do you work to a set routine?
Don’t like research. Sometimes I have to do it. Now and then I’ll write an outline but once I start writing I lose my way. In the wilderness I find the story.
As far as routine… I write every morning, every damn day.
What are you writing now? What would you like to write next?
At the moment, I’m writing a new Easy Rawlins novel – Farewell, Amethystine. After that? Who knows?
As a crime writer, what would you like to be remembered for?
I am all genres of writer – literary, short story, erotic, science fiction, crime (of course), and young adult. I never plan to stop so I will never stop changing. So, to be remembered properly I’d have to be dead. And I have no interest in posthumous regard.
If you were asked to advise someone who was starting out as a crime writer now, what would you say?
Write from your heart, not for your pocketbook. Write because you mean it, you believe it, because you can’t do anything else. Write as an explorer looking for something that has always been there but no one has ever seen.
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