Meeting Lee Child: The Man Behind Jack Reacher
Yesterday, I went to New York City to meet Lee Child, author of the famous Jack Reacher novels. I took off from work and enjoyed a beautiful day in NYC before stopping by the Barnes & Noble where Child would be speaking and signing copies of A Wanted Man, his newest Reacher novel; the 17th in the series.
Upon my arrival, I bought a copy of Child’s new novel and went upstairs with the dinner I bought at Artie’s Delicatessen – you can’t go wrong with chicken fingers and french fries. Going into the event, I was a little nervous because, up to that point, I had only read three of the 17 books. And I didn’t want anything in the series spoiled by Child or the fans.
While I waited for Child to arrive, I listened to the last few chapters of Running Blind, the fourth novel in the series, and chatted with nearby fans. Before I knew it, it was 7 p.m. and Child was being introduced.
Decked out in khaki’s, an open-collar button down shirt, a blue blazer, and a beautiful pair of shoes, Child walked to the stage and was greeted with a warm round of applause from the room full of fans. The photos may not do him justice, but Child is 6-foot-5 and very slim. Not only that, but he’s a handsome man with an English accent, so, naturally, women adore him. During the Q&A portion, one woman asked, “Are you married?” To her dismay, he responded, “Yes.”
Child started off by telling us how he became an author. For nearly twenty years he worked for Granada Television in the UK, as a Presentation Director, where he wrote thousands of commercials, news stories and trailers. Then he said, “My boss told me something that prevented me from doing my job. He said, ‘you’re fired.'” This sudden unemployment, which came as a result of corporate restructuring, made Child write his first novel Killing Floor out of necessity. “I had to eat,” he told us. “And in the first 10 books, I made my former bosses the villains.”
According to Child, “60 percent of adults in the UK have never read an entire book.” They may have read magazines or parts of a book, but adults across the pond aren’t nearly as well read as Americans. Therefore, he made sure Jack Reacher and his first novel was targeted towards a U.S. audience. Clearly, it worked.
When it comes to writing he told us he never outlines a book. He has an idea and then starts writing. If he knew how the book was going to be laid out, from start to finish, he’d “get bored and not want to write it.” To him, writing should be like reading. “I’m just as excited to see what’s going to happen next as you are,” Child told the audience. “I give Reacher a problem and then make it worse,” he continued. His unique style involves introducing a variety of wild, but believable, situations in the first half of his books, and then in the second half, “I have to try and make sense of it. My plots might seem like a great deal of planning went into them, but that’s just an optical illusion. If you have an ink blot on a piece of paper, it looks like an amorphous mess. But if you hold a mirror up to it, it starts to look symmetrical.”
Child also talked about the controversial film, Jack Reacher, which is scheduled to come out in December. It’s been hotly debated by fans because Tom Cruise is playing Reacher. Since the character is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, this put off many Reacher Creatures. Child told the audience, “There aren’t any actors that are 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. I was flown out to Hollywood to see this movie, and it’s spectacular. Trust me, Tom Cruise does a fantastic job. You’ll leave the theater feeling as if you’ve just witnessed Reacher moving and talking in real life.”
I adore the audiobook versions of the Jack Reacher novels, so I asked Child if he had heard them and if he chose Dick Hill to be the narrator because, to me, Hill is the voice of Reacher. Surprisingly, he told me that he doesn’t care for audiobooks because Child feels they keep to once pace, and he likes to vary how quickly or slowly he reads. However, he did say, “Dick Hill has brought a lot of fans to the series, and when I switched audiobook publishers I did it under one condition: they keep Dick Hill as the narrator.”
Another interesting thing he spoke about was the two recent, digital short stories he’s written in between Reacher novels. He said the publisher likes him to release these as a way to figure out which version of the upcoming novel people will be buying (i.e., digital or print). And it encourages people to pre-order his novels sooner than usual. However, Child is still undecided about whether or not he wants to continue writing them because fans get confused by their brevity and end up giving them bad reviews.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at the book signing. Child is a terrific author and a charming man. Since he lives in NYC, Child always has a book signing in the area. That said, I’ll be sure to stop by in 2013 when the next Reacher novel is invariably released. Whether or not I’ll have finished the remaining 13 books in the series by then is another story.