Interview 2017 – James Renner – English version

An interview with James Renner

How do you build the plot of a True crime book, compared to a fiction?

Actually, the preparation is very similar. I find a mystery I’m interested in – whether it’s a true crime or an idea, like time travel – and then a research it, taking notes, gathering documents and interviews until I know the subject well enough to begin writing. In my novels, I’m doing a lot of inventing and world-building, too, but I actually am more restrained than when I’m reporting on actual events. The stuff that happens in real life wouldn’t be believed if you tried to put it in a novel. 

This book, « True crime addict » is also a personal stripping, where you reveal a lot, as well as the heavy past of your family. Was it a vital need?

Yes. It was. Because I revealed so much of Maura Murray’s troubled life and her personal failings I thought it was only fair if I did the same thing to me. If I wasn’t willing to reveal my secrets why should I reveal hers? In doing so I actually learned a lot more about myself in the journey to finish this book, and I learned to have compassion for Maura as well. 

It is a dangerous addiction. Do you really think this obsession is related to the particular way your brain works (as you say)?

 I think it’s something like 60/40 split. 60% of it is hard-wired to biology, who I was when I was born, how my brain was wired, and 40% environmental – how I was raised, what happened to my family, etc. While writing this book I was told by a psychologist that I was a sociopath, not much different than the men I’ve been hunting. But I’ve come to believe I do have empathy and compassion. Or at least the capacity for it. I try to direct my obsessions toward something productive, something that provides for my family. I work hard to be a better partner and parent.

But there is something very biological going on. My body doesn’t regulate serotonin the way it should so I have to take medication to make it work right and to stay sane. Every writer I know well is on Lexapro or Cymalta or something. We have creative minds that can turn against us if we let them. I’ve been studying Buddhism, too, which helps. 

In your book, you explain to have told your wife that your inquiry on Maura Murray would be the last. Really ?

Really. At least until the kids are out of the house. One of the suspects in Maura Murray’s disappearance stalked my five year old son so I need to keep my family safe from that sort of thing in the future. But I do feel some responsibility to follow leads on the cases I’ve already worked on – especially the Amy Mihaljevic cold case murder. So yes, the last new one for a while.

I read on your blog (My search for Maura Murray) that this book will become a series?

Fingers crossed! The brilliant Richard Price has written the pilot and Johnny Depp’s company is producing. It’s going to be awesome!

And where are you in the movie adaptation of « The Man from Primrose Lane »?

Fox wants it for TV in 2018. I should have some news on that front soon. I’ve written the first two episodes and will help produce it along with Working Title and NBCU.

In our previous joint interview, about the book « The Man from Primrose Lane », you said to me: “By breaking up the narrative into different frames, you can play with foreshadowing and also the reverse of foreshadowing, Before the cause”.

With your second fiction, « The Great Forgetting », you go even further in that idea, right?

I do! I love exploring the nature of time and subjective reality. It’s in everything I write, even the nonfiction. Time is linear but we never really experience it that way. We are constantly slipping into our own memories and drifting into thoughts of the future. With the Great Forgetting I wanted to show what happens when an entire society chooses to forget our history and the damage that can do to the narrative of humanity. I never thought we’d slip that far, really, but look what’s happening in the U.S. right now. If Trump could push a button and wipe our memories of his mistakes he wouldn’t hesitate.

This is what you like to write, narratives away from the official versions (French title of your novel « The Great Forgetting »)?

 We put so much faith in what we learn from our history books. But those books are written by the winners, by people with an agenda and a desire to stay in power. Why should we trust them so blindly?

« The Great Forgetting » was released in 2015 in the United States. Some passages resonate in a different way since Trump’s arrival in power…

With the Great Forgetting I tried to imagine how secret, greedy self-important capitalists might destroy the United States for their own self-interests. I never could have imagined we’d actually elect a man to do it for them.

Even though this novel is sometimes frankly scary, you seem to have had a lot of fun writing « The Great Forgetting », right?

I had the most fun writing it. I loved watching the X-Files and the Twilight Zone when I was a kid. The Great Forgetting let me play in the same sandbox. It’s a love-letter to conspiracy theories.

Can we also see your different books, True crime books and fictions, as duties of memory, not to forget the past and the victims?

If there’s a theme growing out of my writing, it’s that memory forms the narrative of this life and if you forget it, it’s like deleting several chapters of a book – and how are we supposed to learn anything from a book with missing chapters?

Catégories :Interviews littéraires

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