Jeffery Deaver admits to being in the dark a lot mostly because it's how he writes. Instead of staring at his keyboard or computer screen, Deaver closes his eyes, zones out in a dark room and types.
"I don't know that I have any particular talents in this business," he says, "but I was given a good imagination and I can picture the scenes quite clearly when I write and hear the dialogue of my characters."
The process has served him well.
Deaver, a charming, quirky interview, has written more than 20 books and several short-story collections en route to becoming a bestselling fiction author. Currently, he churns out a novel a year, alternating between his two crime-thriller series, which feature characters Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance, respectively.
Rhyme, a New York Police Department forensic scientist who is injured on the job and ends up quadriplegic, appeared as a lead character in the 1997 novel The Bone Collector; he was played by Denzel Washington in the film version two years later. Deaver has written a number of successful follow-ups, including the 2006 novel The Cold Moon, which introduced Dance, an expert in the art of interrogation and kinesics.
Deaver says he easily stepped into Dance's character.
"The Lincoln Rhyme books are quite technical," he says. "There are many, what I consider to be, harrowing scenarios that just don't involve evidence it has more to do with the psychology of crime. Kathryn is quite empathic, and I thought this would give me more of an opportunity to write about the human side of policing."
As part of the Pikes Peak Writers annual workshop series, Deaver will run a seminar in which he'll pass along his knowledge about putting together a commercial novel. Beyond typing in the dark, Deaver's method stands out for its emphasis on pre-writing he spends around eight months conducting research, writing the structure and outlining scenes.
"I write a very elaborate, highly woven-together story that requires me to spend a lot of time making sure that all the pieces are in place," he says. "For [my] types of books, a very plot-driven thriller with many twists and turns and surprises, you have to do that. You cannot let the story amble where it will go."
Though his books center around murders and other disturbing crimes, much of the violence in Deaver's stories takes place behind the curtain. He prefers using, in his words, "the suggestion or hint of violence," since gore tends to simply repulse many people.
It's all about holding people in suspense, after all, and for Deaver, that comes across best when he writes about more nuanced human-to-human contact.
"What we care about is the connection we have with another human being that we have let into our life in some way or another, even if it's nothing more than holding the elevator, and then there we are with them," he says. "And that, to me, is the most frightening."