Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Carl Hiaasen
The Barnes & Noble Review: What is your earliest memory of writing a story?
Carl Hiaasen: I can remember back to about four or five years old, writing in a small, lined notepad. But I can't remember the stories I think they got thrown away with all my baseball cards when I went off to college.
BNR: When and where do you write? What does your workspace look like?
CH: I write at home, in the office, down in the Keys, and even in Montana during the summers. In each location, my computer screen and keyboard face a blank wall, away from the windows, so I won't get distracted. Mornings are when I do most of my writing; by about 2 P.M., I'm pretty much tapped out.
BNR: In Skink No Surrender, you've pulled off an interesting maneuver: taking a beloved character from your adult novels and casting him in a book aimed at teens. Did your approach to Clinton "Skink" Tyree change in this book, or does he speak and behave as he would in a novel aimed at a more mature audience?
CH: I was worried about unleashing Skink on the youth of America, as he would say. But in the new novel he's paired with a very bright young man, who edits Skink's outbursts in the recounting of the story. Skink's actions, however, are pure Skink. That I can't control.
BNR: Skink is a character who travels with large quantities of books. Are you two alike in this way?
CH: Unlike him, I don't travel with a pile of books. Then again, I don't live out of a car, or under a bridge. He's a nomad.
BNR: What has been your proudest moment as a writer?
CH: Every writer's proudest moment is when you get your first book published by a real publishing house. In my case, it was a thriller called Powder Burn, set in Miami, which I wrote with Bill Montalbano, another reporter at the Miami Herald and a close friend. The next major high for me was Tourist Season, which was the first novel I wrote by myself. Very twisted and seditious, as far as the Chamber of Commerce was concerned. That was back in 1986. They're used to me by now.
BNR:Who are the funniest writers, in your estimation?
CH: Martin Amis can be brilliantly funny, even when the subject is bleak. Gary Shteyngart is hilarious. So is Christopher Moore incredibly clever. I'd also have to include my friends Tom McGuane and Jim Harrison, who are still hitting home runs. Karen Russell makes me laugh, and there are passages in Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn's blockbuster, that are just savagely funny.
BNR: You've worked for the Miami Herald since 1976. Does writing fiction and newspaper columns differ for you? Are there unique rituals, methods, and procedures, or is writing simply writing?
CH: Writing newspaper columns and novels both require an eye for small detail, the ability to tell a story with pace, and the discipline to sit down at the keyboard and work, even when you're not in the mood.
BNR: What makes Florida prime real estate for fiction?
CH: I've said it before: Florida is a 24-hour freak show. If you're a writer, inspiration rains down from the headlines every day. I've lived here my whole life, and I'd probably go into withdrawal if I moved somewhere normal.
BNR: What do you do to relax?
CH: To relax, I go fly-fishing. Being out in the middle of the Everglades is like going to church, for me.
BNR: Aside from your own, who are your favorite detectives of fiction?
CH:Travis McGee, Philip Marlowe, Spenser, and the Hardy Boys.
BNR: What haven't you done yet that you want to achieve as a writer?
CH: I want to finish the paragraph that I'm stuck on in the manuscript I'm working on.
September 24, 2014