ThrillerFest 2013: An Interview With Bestselling Thrill Writer Michael Connelly

Master of the thriller genre, former journalist turned bestselling author Michael Connelly uses his experiences from working the “crime beat” for the Los Angeles Times in order to craft iconic characters — ahem, Harry Bosch, we are talking about you! — and gritty plots. With legions of fans, Connelly has transcended the written word and become part of popular culture (we love his appearances on the TV show Castle). As a Spotlight Guest at this year’s ThillerFest, Michael Connelly was interviewed by author Jon Land. Today we are pleased to bring you highlights from the discussion where the authors talked Bosch, Los Angeles and a TV deal in the works.

Michael Connelly and Jon Land at the 2013 ThrillerFest Conference

On Heroes

Connelly told the audience that there is a simple formula for crafting an engaging protagonist. If you want to keep readers coming back for more, make sure the protag has a “deep well” to draw from. This includes past experiences, current relationships, hopes, dreams, hurts, motivations … everything. This well needs to be so deep that “you [and your reader] are never going to get to the bottom of it.” In his explanation, Connelly used his most famous character, Harry Bosch, as an example of a fully realized character. He said that when he started writing the LAPD detective in the late 1980s, he didn’t know everything that went into this character, which left him room to grow develop the ever-evolving Harry.

On Social Issues

According to Connelly, entertaining his readers is always his top priority, however, within the framework of a novel a lot of things can be accomplished including offering a “larger picture” of social issues like class and race. He said that being an author is an “amazing position” and he aims to “stay challenged and reach for higher levels.”

On Uniting Two Series

The decision to team up characters Bosch and defense attorney Mickey Haller was not difficult for Connelly because he said that he sees all of his books as a part of the same series. Connelly considers his writing as almost an “anthropological” study of Los Angeles with his different characters showing different parts of the city and that his work as a whole will “hopefully [be looked at as] one story when it ends.”

On The Lincoln Lawyer Adaptation

Connelly joked that he had “zero” to do with the 2011 film The Lincoln Lawyer based on his book by the same name. He did admit to putting a lot of energy into picking the right producer for the project, finally choosing one who had been a trial attorney so that the adaptation would be true to his world. What Connelly wasn’t expecting was actor Matthew McConaughey to be cast as Mickey. When he was writing the story, the author said that he had imagined this character as half Mexican with dark, slicked back hair in a ponytail (think Andy Garcia). But while he hadn’t pictured McConaughey, after seeing the actor in his role as Rick Peck in Tropic Thunder, Connelly realized that Matthew had what it takes to embody the role. 

On Bringing Bosch To The Small Screen

After years of production limbo, Connelly said that he is finally ready to see Harry Bosch adapted for audiences. But rather than being made into a movie franchise, he is in the process of inking a television deal. With two hours being “not enough time to do justice” to his character, Connelly has decided that a TV series, with each season following one novel in the series, is the only way to go. Now comes the “scary” part for Connelly, looking for an actor to play Harry. The panel ended with the author promising more news about the TV adaptation in about three weeks.

While waiting to hear more Bosch news, make sure to catch up with RT’s coverage from this year’s ThillerFest on our Everything Mystery/Suspense/Thriller page.



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