Behind the Books: Laura Lippman, ex-reporter, mother, creator of Tess Monaghan
Spending 7 years writing a novel annually whilst working as a reporter and now a full time mum, Laura describes how she has managed to produce her 19th novel in 17 years.
Could you tell us a bit about your new novel, After I’m Gone?
It's the story of what happens when a man disappears, leaving his wife and daughters with no way to provide for their once quite nice lifestyle. The wife suspects the girlfriend might know where both her husband and his money went, a suspicion that becomes more urgent when the girlfriend turns out to be dead. A retired cop who works cold cases decides to look into the homicide and what he discovers surprises almost all those who are still living.
After I’m Gone focuses more on the effects Felix Brewer’s disappearance has left on the women in his life than on solving the crime, which is more typical in your previous novels. Was this a conscious decision?
Yes, very conscious. I don't know a single person who likes the word "closure," but I also don't know a synonym for it. There are two cold cases in After I'm Gone: Julie's death and Felix's disappearance. But no one has thought about Julie since her body was discovered, whereas Felix's disappearance continues to reverberate through his wife's and daughter's lives.
What inspired you to start writing novels?
I always wanted to write novels. I mean -- always. From the age of 5. I had a bad speech impediment as a child that made me incomprehensible to almost everyone. I think a lot of words got backed up.
You continued to work as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun for seven years whilst writing a novel every year – how did you manage to do all of this?
There's an adage about saving money -- pay yourself first. I did that with time. I got up at 6, wrote for two hours, went to my job. Between that and working weekends, I was able to write a book a year.
Now you have a little more time, what do you do to relax?
I exercise a lot, I read, I cook. And now that I have a daughter, I've been playing a lot of Hide 'n' Seek.
In the early 1990s you created Tess Monaghan, how did you come up with the idea?
My job was really insecure -- there was a bad recession and I was one of the last ones hired, so if there had been lay-offs, I was going to be one of the first out the door. That didn't come to pass, but I did wonder what I might do if I lost my job as a reporter. A colleague mentioned that he had had inquiries from an insurance company that needed an investigator. It made sense to me that a young reporter might end up working as a private investigator.
For many years you’ve switched between writing the Tess Monaghan books and standalones. There must be very different approaches to writing these, do you have a preference?
I love doing both. Different challenges, different muscles.
What’s next for you? Will we be seeing more of Tess Monaghan?
A new Tess Monaghan novel has been written for 2015, but I still have to find a title for it. It's the first book that centres on Tess as a mother.