There's a joke in Hollywood that a producer is always looking for a story to turn into a movie that's been very successful in the past and that no one has ever seen before, says blockbuster author Jeffery Deaver.
Deaver, whose latest novel XO is out today, reckons there's some truth in it. "I'm always looking to give readers the characters they're familiar with and yet arc the story differently and introduce new types of conflict."
XO is the third in his series about Kathryn Dance, a kinesics or body language expert with the California Bureau of Investigation. Dance is trying to stop a stalker pursuing Kayleigh Townes, a beautiful and popular country singer. Typically for a Jeffrey Deaver novel there are multiple plot twists, but this time there may (or may not be) clues in the lyrics to Kayleigh's songs, printed at the back of the novel. Dedicated fans can even download the album of the same name, featuring 11 songs co-written by Deaver and recorded in Nashville by singer Treva Blomquist.
Here Deaver talks about the inspiration behind one of those songs, planning those plot twists and what's so interesting about body language.
Q: Tell us about the song Your Shadow which features in the novel.
A: The idea occurred to me years ago when I first heard the Police do Every Breath You Take. Certainly in one way it could be a love song but the performance turned it into an eerie, quasi-stalker song. I knew that someday I wanted to write a book about a stalker and write a song that could be taken both ways. Your Shadow describes several incidents in the life of my heroine, Kayleigh Towne, who - as the daughter of a hard-living country western superstar (like Johnny Cash) - had a difficult life growing up. She wrote the song to herself, in effect, as if to say, somebody is looking out for you.
Q: This is the third book in the Kathryn Dance series, a kinesics or body language specialist. What interests you about kinesics?
A: I love writing my Lincoln Rhyme books about forensics and science in solving crime-which is how much murderers are caught and convicted nowadays. But there's much more to crime solving that CSI stuff. The interpersonal action between the investigator and the criminal is fascinating and so I wanted to create a character whose skill is not scientific but psychological. Kinesics lets us see the outward symptoms of inner evil and to get to the truth, even with subjects who are expert liars. This gives me a chance to explore the darkest souls of killers.
Q: How do you research criminal behaviour and motivation?
A: I've spoken to a lot of police and national security people over the years (a few criminals too) but most of my research is online and through books and journals. My novels aren't treatises in criminology and psychology. What I write is accurate but the most important thing in crime fiction is structuring a fast-paced story, not detail after detail after detail.
Q: Of the villains you have created, do you have a favourite?
A: That's a tough one. Probably Daniel Pell in The Sleeping Doll, who was modelled after Charles Manson. Or The Watchmaker from several of my Lincoln Rhyme books.
Q: Your crime novels typically have a surprise ending. At what stage in the writing process do you plot the ending?
A: I spend eight months outlining (and researching) my books before I write a single word of the prose itself. It's during that eight months that I sort out the twists; yes, that's plural because in addition to the reversals in the story, I have at least three twists at the end. I never write the book itself until all the plots are planned out - and the clues have been properly seeded into the story along the way.
Q: Who are your favourite crime writers?
A: I like John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, John Gilstrap, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs, to name a few.
Q: What's your next project?
A: I'm publishing a new collection of short stories, called Troubled in Mind later in the year or early next year, and I'm writing a stand alone and a new Lincoln Rhyme novel, both of which will be published in 2013.