Detective writer Walter Mosley loves to dig deep into his characters. He wrote 11 books featuring the Los Angeles--based gumshoe Easy Rawlins before retiring him in 2007. His latest private eye, former mob crook Leonid McGill, stars in the new novel Known to Evil--the second in what Mosley hopes will be a 10-book series.
Leonid McGill goes well beyond the typical, fairly bland mystery-novel protagonist. Do you try to focus on character over plot?
With the original hard-boiled detectives, there was no connection to the world. No mother, no father, no friends, no dog. With a person like that, there can't be character development. The onus now is to create character while also moving forward the plot, the crime, the resolution.
What's your writing routine? Do you leave room for moments of inspiration?
I write every day. Every single day, in the morning. And when I stop writing, all during the day and that night, things are percolating. I wake up in the morning and there's more there. Inspiration is a charged word, like everything is beautiful. When you're having a character brutally murder another person, does that come from inspiration?
How much of a character's life do you know at the outset when starting a new series?
I just finished the first chapter of the third Leonid McGill book. And I'm still learning about him. And I will be learning about him until I come to the last book, which I think will be No. 10. If you know everything from the beginning, it's hard to write.
Was it hard to stop writing about Easy Rawlins?
No. The books still exist. They are still there. But they would have gotten boring. One thing I know is that if I kept writing about Easy, it would have been a big mistake. I was finished. The story was over. It was time to move on.