Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Lee Goldberg

  What is your newest book about? Randy Disher is perfectly happy living with Monk's old assistant Sharona and working as the new police chief of Summit, New Jersey. But when the city's leadership is arrested for fraud, he suddenly finds himself appointed acting mayor and overwhelmed by the dual responsibilities...especially when the town is hit by a wave of robberies. In desperation, Disher calls on Adrian Monk to put things in order. 

As deputized officers, Monk and his assistant Natalie are ready to make Summit the cleanest city on earth—until the burglaries escalate to arson and murder. Now it's time to get down and dirty, before someone sends Monk and Natalie home in pine boxes. 

Where is your book available? It will be available everywhere in January.

Where did you get the idea for your book? From the corruption scandal in Bell,California. I thought it would be funny if Randy Disher, now police chief of Summit NJ, found himself running a town where all of the other officials are behind bars...and has to ask Monk and Natalie to help him run the police department. Once I started thinking along those lines, I thought it might be fun to actually make Monk and Natalie uniformed police officers. 

When did you begin working on TV shows and movies? Back in the early 1980s. I wrote an episode of "Spenser for Hire."

Is it hard writing for multiple shows? It must be hard to grasp the characters in a short amount of time. I've never written for more than one series at a time. And when I am writing a series, it's very easy for me to get wrapped up in the characters and the world they inhabit.

What is your favorite show and book you’ve worked on? Diagnosis Murder was my favorite TV show to work on....and my favorite book is probably "Watch Me Die."

Who designed the cover?  The covers for my MONK books are designed by the Penguin/Putnam art department.

Do you have to travel a lot for your books? No, not really. Most of my books are set in San Francisco or Los Angeles. The few that haven't been were set in places where I've either worked (like Germany) or where I have spent many vacations (like France and Hawaii)

When did you write your first book and how old were you?  I was nine. It was called "Tomorrow's Warrior" and was about a guy from the future who came to present-day to catch a bad guy. It was never published. My first published book was ".357 Vigilante," which I wrote when I was 19. I had a journalism advisor at UCLA who wrote spy novels. We became friends and talked a lot about mysteries, thrillers, plotting, etc. One day in the early 80s his publisher came to him and asked him if he’d write a “men’s action adventure series,” sort of the male equivalent of the Harlequin romance. He said he wasn’t desperate enough, hungry enough, or stupid enough to do it…but he knew someone who was: Me. So I wrote an outline and some sample chapters and they bought it. The book was called .357 Vigilante I wrote it as “Ian Ludlow” so I'd be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum and had plenty of Letter-to-the-Editor-of-Playgirl quality sex in it. 

The West Coast Review of Books called my literary debut "as stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort," singling the book out as "The Best New Paperback Series" of the year. I ended up writing four books in the series. Naturally, the publisher promptly went bankrupt and I never saw a dime in royalties.

But New World Pictures bought the movie rights to .357 Vigilante and hired me to write the screenplay. I didn’t know anything about writing scripts…luckily, I had a good friend who did, William Rabkin. We worked together on the UCLA Daily Bruin. So the two of us teamed up. The movie never got made, but we had so much fun that we were writing partners for over 20 years…and remain best friends to this day. 

How long does it normally take to finish your novels? About four to five months.

What are the differences when you write for a TV show, and when you write for your novels?  In scripts you have to show, not tell. Character and story have to be revealed only through action and dialogue. A screenplay is a blueprint, a working document for other professionals, like costume designers, location managers, and of course actors and directors. A book is very different. You can go into people's heads to tell stories and reveal character. You have to set the scene in great detail all the time. You are the director, the location manager, the actor and the director. You're creating a complete world with no limitations all by yourself. That can be exciting and daunting at the same time. I've encountered many screenwriters who simply can't write a book and many authors cannot write scripts. I've only met a few who can do both. They are different ways of telling a story and also different ways of thinking of story. 

 What is your favorite book? I have so many,but I think "Lonesome Dove" is probably at the top of the list.

About Lee GoldbergLee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award nominee whose many TV writing and/or producing credits include Martial Law, SeaQuest, Diagnosis Murder, The Cosby Mysteries, Hunter, Spenser: For Hire, Nero Wolfe, Missing and Monk. His many books includeSuccessful Television Writing, The Walk, Watch Me Die,  the Diagnosis Murder and Monk series of original mystery novels, and Amazon's The Dead Man series of monthly horrorAs a TV development consultant, he's worked for production companies and broadcasters in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America and is the co-founder of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.


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