Tough Guy: An Interview with Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan’s new novel, Crazy Dangerous, is the story of complicated characters in a complex world.  Not necessarily the story you’d expect from a Christian author these days, but then not much about Andrew Klavan fits the Christian author stereotype.  He grew up in a Jewish home, and his writing–from screenplays to editorials in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to his gritty fiction–reflects his intellectual journey to Christianity.  He also happens to be a talented storyteller, and you can see my review of Crazy Dangerous for more details on that.  But for now, let’s welcome Andrew to Redeemedreader!

1. I love what you said in an interview with WORLD Magazine a couple of years ago: “Becoming a Christian actually made me less likely to use Christian symbolism and structures in my work because now I see Christ’s presence underlying all of life—I don’t have to place Him there artistically. . . . I trust reality to express Christ’s presence, because I think that’s what it actually does.” How does Christ show up in Crazy Dangerous? Or is that a question for every reader to decide for himself?

Yes, it is a question for each reader to answer — or not — just as it is in life. It’s not that my stories don’t raise issues of faith and spirituality and even specifically Christian faith. Of course they do. People ask those questions and think about those things, so characters in books should ask and think about them too. In Crazy Dangerous, Sam runs into some very basic questions about the nature of reality and whether there is anything “magical” or supernatural in it and how that works. But if God answered our questions definitively in life, he would deprive us of our freedom to choose – the freedom that gives our choices their legitimacy. And likewise an author deprives his readers of the freedom to read his stories as they see fit when he limits the possible ways in which the story can be understood.

2. Until the publication of The Last Thing I Remember, you were known for adult thrillers. Aside from expletives deleted, what’s different about writing for young adults?

For me, it’s all about the point of view. Once I determine that I’m telling the story from the point of view of a younger person, a lot of the issues and observations just naturally change. Yeah, I delete some expletives but there are also some natural differences in the way a younger character would experience a situation. That’s the important thing. If your character is real – a big if – the rest will follow without much effort.

3. It’s almost Father’s Day, which makes me wonder: How does being a Father influence your writing for teens, or does it?

Sure, it does. In the most basic way, it gives me some freely available young people who can tell me when I might get a piece of dialogue or language wrong. But more than that, when you have kids, you care about them so much, you’re actually able to share their point of view in a very visceral way. It’s not that you stop seeing things as an adult, it’s just that you learn to experience things as a young person again as well. I’ve watched a movie with my kids and felt that it was boring — then rewatched the film alone and enjoyed it. Why? Because the film was paced for adults, and I was seeing it through my kids’ eyes the first time. That happens in a bigger way with almost everything in life. It’s very educational — and it makes you a better writer, no doubt!

4. Most writers write the kind of books they’ like to read. What were some of your favorite titles growing up?

I loved books about tough guys with guns who rescued dames from danger! I loved books about guys who lived by their own code and who went after the truth no matter what. Raymond Chandler’s detective stories affected me deeply: The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye especially. And there was a western novel called Shane that my brother led me to. I must’ve read that five times over. A good example of what we were talking about before: Shane was a shoot-em-up western with nary a mention of God in it, but a definite parable about Christ.

5. I like the straightforward mottos your protagonists find to guide them, such as “Never give in. Never give in. Never never never never . . . .”  (from Homelanders).  Have any of your critics derided the simplicity of such words? What’s your response?

Yes, I’ve gotten attacked for my politics, my religion, and the moral underpinnings of my stories – even by people who admit they couldn’t put the book down! But you know what? It’s the simple ideas that are the most complicated. “Love your neighbor.” Well, look, what does that even mean? I love my wife. I love my kids. I hardly know my neighbor! You have to think a lot harder to get to the point where you understand “Love your neighbor,” than you do to comprehend a lot of more intricate theology or psychology. In Crazy Dangerous Sam sees a motto that says, “Do Right. Fear Nothing.” Well, okay, do right, that makes sense. But fear nothing? How on earth? That’s what Sam has to figure out.

6. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel the villain in Crazy Dangerous had sufficient motivation to do what he did. Do you think evil has to be explained and accounted for, or is it just there?

Well, if I may be allowed to put the case for the defense: the villain in Crazy Dangerous has a very specific motive — it’s just not a motive that would be sufficient for you, because you’re not a psychopathic narcissist. I hope. This is what makes evil mysterious. One guy is abused as a child and he grows up to be an abuser; another guy is abused and he grows up to be gentle and kind because he doesn’t want anyone to suffer like he does. One person is poor and wants money so he works hard and builds a business that delivers services people want; another person wants the same thing and he robs banks. People sometimes parse an evil person’s motives as if that gave the villain an excuse or explained his behavior away. But there are always those elements of character and choice that are impossible to disentangle.

Thank you so much—and thank you for your books!

My pleasure Janie!

For those of you waiting to hear who won our giveaway of Andrew’s Book, Crazy Dangerous, check your emails!  We’ll choose someone tonight and then announce tomorrow!  And for more father’s day posts, see our round up in Dad-Lit: Views and Interviews.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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  1. Redeemed Reader Interview on June 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    […] part of the Crazy Dangerous blog tour just ending, I gave this interview to Redeemed Reader. Came out pretty well I think. Here’s the […]

  2. Shannon Dittemore on June 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Love this interview! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. emily on June 19, 2012 at 7:29 am

    You’re so welcome, Shannon. Thanks for reading!

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