By Stacy Mantle
Laurie R. King began penning stories in 1987 when her youngest child entered school. By 1993, her first novel was published and she was well on her way to being a fulltime author. The award-winning, bestselling author has averaged a novel a year, making THE BONES OF PARIS her 23rd novel.
As a third generation Northern Californian who has lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay area, her background includes degrees in theology, managing a coffee store, raising children, vegetables, and even the occasional building.
King’s writing reflects her background—it is no accident that characters in her books spend time in the Bay Area and England (King’s other home) and are interested in theology, architecture, and travel (Her long autobiography goes into this relationship in detail.)
With six stand-alone novels, fourteen novels in the Mary Russell series, five novels in the Kate Martinelli series, and two novels in the Stuyvesant & Grey series, King has become well known in the mystery genre. THE BONES OF PARIS is the latest in the Stuyvesant & Grey series.
Private investigator Harris Stuyvesant is living the dream. His latest assignment is based in Paris, France during the year 1929, and he’s paid to troll the cafés of Montparnasse, seeking out beautiful young women. He’s an American agent with a healthy appetite for la vie Bohéme, despite years at the US Bureau of Investigation.
In THE BONES OF PARIS, Stuyvesant is hired by the family of Phillipa Crosby, a 22-year old model from Boston. He expects to find her holed up in the studio of an artist exploring the cocaine that is available throughout the city. But as he tracks her through the thriving community of artists and writers, he learns she is only one of many beautiful women missing. As the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a disturbing turn and he learns that murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to brutal effect in short, gut-churning acts.
Depravity serves as art; human nature turns savage on stage – and it’s clear that Crosby is only one missing girl in thousands.
In Paris, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grace is to be rendered in blood and gore. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.
Why select Paris as the setting of your novel?
THE BONES OF PARIS is the second in a series that takes place across Europe between the wars. TOUCHSTONE, the first, was my “9/11” book, exploring the question of why people turn to terrorist acts. That was set in southern England during the General Strike of 1926, a time of such turmoil people fully expected the country to turn Communist. 1929 Paris sees a less overt kind of turmoil, when an era of extraordinary creativity and energy is teetering on the brink of collapse: the serious artists have left, the good writers have gone home to America, and (the reader knows) the Crash is just around the corner. There’s nothing left in Montparnasse but hangers-on and grifters—and Harris Stuyvesant, searching for a missing girl.
All of your mysteries include the history of a location as well as maps and thorough descriptions of the locale. Have you visited all of these places?
Every one except for Vietnam (KEEPING WATCH.) In a number of the books, place verges on becoming another character, and because it’s real—because readers may actually know San Francisco or Sussex or Jerusalem or India—I have to have a feel for how the place works and what it feels like before I write it.
Tell us a little about Harris Stuyvesant and his skills as a private investigator. How did you come up with the concept?
In TOUCHSTONE, Stuyvesant is an agent with the Bureau of Investigation, albeit one who is not exactly in favor with J. Edgar Hoover. Three years later, in 1929, he’s out of the Bureau and on his own in Europe, picking up jobs where he can. Because his impulses are those of a cop, he is an outsider looking in, walking the edge of legality just as Paris walks the edge of catastrophe.
Your website is incredibly well-done. Did you create on your own? What do you recommend for authors, both new and established, to consider when creating a site?
Thank you! It’s very much a joint effort: most of the content I wrote, but the site—along with Mary Russell’s Twitter presence, the Goodreads book club, and occasional events like the 30-day countdown to THE BONES OF PARIS—rest on family, friends, and readers who have become friends. I quite literally couldn’t do it without them. And although I don’t feel that a writer has to do loads of social media and “extras” like the map tours and background-blogs and BoucherCon meet-ups, they’re fun, they can enrich the reading experience, and they contribute to a sense of community among one’s readers.
Which characteristic of your main character, Harris Stuyvesant, do you most wish you shared?
I’d like to be as confident as Stuyvesant. He may be wrong, and he’s occasionally down in the dumps, but he’s rarely uncertain.
Tell us about your journey to publication:
Since I began in the ’90s, it was typical of the old model: write a book; find an agent; she sells it to a publishing house. None of those three steps were quick or simple, but I was lucky to find a great agent and a goddess among editors (the late, lamented Ruth Cavin). When I moved to another superb editor, Bantam’s Kate Miciak, I found a publishing house that gave me all the support I could ask for. Would I do it differently today, and aim at self-publication? Possibly. But the books themselves would suffer: books like THE BONES OF PARIS are a collaborative effort, since Kate’s editorial eye often sees themes and shapes I’m too close to envision. She’s a demanding and perceptive, and vital to the finished story.
What is something that may surprise your fans about you or your writing process?
How little I know about the story when I go into it. I tell people that I don’t outline, but I don’t think most of them believe me.
What are you working on now?
I’m sending Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes to Japan, where they will no doubt get up to all kinds of mischief. It doesn’t have a title yet, although the file on my laptop is provisionally called TOKAIDO. It’s scheduled for early 2015.
To learn more about Laurie, please visit her website.