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No Love Lost In Crime Authors' New Story


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

"Heads You Lose" is a witty and engaging crime novel, but you might find yourself flipping through the pages furiously to get to the stuff in between the chapters. Lisa Lutz and David Hayward decided to write a crime novel together. Ms. Lutz is the best-selling author of the "Spellman" comedic crime series. Mr. Hayward is a poet. They used to be a couple. They decided to alternate chapters.

They've created a kind of parallel book within the book by sharing the email exchanges between the two of them, as they fling japes, zingers, and even the occasional compliment back and forth as they write "Heads You Lose." And you thought murder was tough.

Lisa Lutz and David Hayward join us from NPR member station KQED in San Francisco.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. LISA LUTZ (Co-Author, "Heads You Lose"): Thanks for having us.

Mr. DAVID HAYWARD (Co-Author, "Heads You Lose"): Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Now, let's you - you, according to the email traffic you so thoughtfully published here - you approached David Hayward with this idea. May I ask why?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: I ask myself that every day. Well, I liked the idea of exposing the beams in collaborative novel. And there are many - especially in the crime world - there are many people working together: James Patterson and his stable of sub authors; and then there are like Ken Bruen, and Reed Farrel Coleman, and Jason Starr.

But I always felt like conflict was inevitable that I wanted to see what would happen if you exposed the conflict as you were progressing through the novel. And the person Im...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: ...the most adept at fighting with his Dave.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: So he seemed like the right person to ask.

SIMON: Well, Mr. Hayward, let me turn to you. Now, you didn't have more poems to write?

Mr. HAYWARD: I consider myself more of a retired poet. I kind of fizzled out as a poet about 10 years ago.

SIMON: The fast-paced, high-priced world of big-league poetry?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAYWARD: Yeah, that's right. That's right. The money went to my head and I had to get out of that game.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I hear you. I hear you. Now, let's try and set the story a bit. Paul and Lucy Hansen, they are brother and sister, typical Northern California family. They grow marijuana.

Ms. LUTZ: Right.

SIMON: And one day, they find a headless body on their property. But since they grow marijuana, of course they can't call Law and Order: Sonoma County. So they just move the body and someone moves it back. So the body becomes their mystery.

Ms. LUTZ: Exactly.

SIMON: Now, David Hayward, you cautioned early on that you and Lisa Lutz shouldn't, as the authors, you shouldn't start taking sides with your characters.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAYWARD: Right. And that immediately starts to happen. And we sort of knew I think that that was going to be inevitable, that Paul would become kind of my stand-in and Lacy would become Lisa's stand-in.

SIMON: And you keep it safe at the brother and sister level, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: Well, we've become very sibling-like since...

Mr. HAYWARD: We fight a lot like brother and sister.

Ms. LUTZ: Yeah, we are competitive. And yeah.

SIMON: Now, among the differences that Paul and Lacy have, they live in this town called - very small town in Northern California called Mercer. Lacy wants to get out and Paul says: Why do you have to go anywhere, you can just watch everything on the Travel Channel these days.

Does that nearer any kind of difference that the two of you ever had?

Ms. LUTZ: I think that Paul's sort of laziness in the book more reflects what I think of Dave's laziness in terms of trying to address the murder.

Mr. HAYWARD: Well, I felt that Lisa was advancing the plot so rapidly in her chapters that it was my job, just for the sake of the reader, to spend more time rounding out the characters and that kind of thing.

SIMON: No time to smell the marijuana leaves.

Mr. HAYWARD: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAYWARD: Exactly.

SIMON: Aside from, you know, some personal differences, I mean your - the recurrent argument in here is that Lisa Lutz, you seem to think that David is neglecting plot for character.

Ms. LUTZ: Absolutely. I mean, you know, we start the book with a dead body and I was truly, truly shocked at how little Dave wanted to address that issue. It made me wonder how he would react in real life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAYWARD: And, of course, the moment she complains about that, the further I go into back story.

SIMON: Now, it's interesting because, I mean I wrote down these - forgive me -beaux mots, if you please. At one point, Lisa, you say there is way too much drinking and talking in the script, reminds me of our whole relationship.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: And, Dave, let me set you up for what you said. Do you recall?

Mr. HAYWARD: I think I said that I remembered it as mostly drinking and listening.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: That' so not true. Dave can yak away.

SIMON: Did there ever come a point in the creative process when you wondered why you were doing it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: I actually was, you know, the cheerleader of the book. Like I had the idea, I knew it could be done. And Dave was the hesitant one. So I think he struggled with it a lot more than I did. And I was, you know, kind of a drill sergeant with him on getting his chapters done.

Mr. HAYWARD: But I never questioned why we were doing it exactly. Like I was so engaged in the one-upmanship that I never would've considered quitting the project. And every time we had a genuine disagreement about where the story should go or what should happen to a certain character, we always asked, can we use this? So a lot of our real disagreements became sort of the exaggerated comedic disagreements in the book.

SIMON: David Hayward, are you a different writer now from this experience?

Mr. HAYWARD: Oh, very much so. And I am working on a novel of my own now, which is - when we were working on Heads You Lose, I just fantasized about being free from Lisa and her phone calls...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAYWARD: ...and reminders that my chapter was due. But that built-in discipline was really great to have. So I'm struggling now to get as much done without her harassment.

SIMON: And Lisa Lutz, how are you changed as a writer?

Ms. LUTZ: Well, I think I really just needed to do something new after writing four books and a series. And I have in the past been accused of neglecting plot for character. But, because I was forced to move the plot forward at every turn, I think I've gotten a little bit better at that.

SIMON: Well, I have a question for you that actually has been nagging me ever since we began this interview.

Ms. LUTZ: Hmm.

SIMON: What if this book is a success?

Ms. LUTZ: Yeah. Thats my fear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Publishers love sequels, you know.

Ms. LUTZ: I know they love sequels. Yeah. It scares me. You know, we would have to write together again. And I think I was very much in charge of this book and I dont know that Dave, after the book tour and, you know, all the adulation, would really let me be as in charge.

Mr. HAYWARD: I'm not sure how in charge she was.

Ms. LUTZ: I was totally in charge.

Mr. HAYWARD: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUTZ: Thats what I think.

Mr. HAYWARD: I think that idea helped her complete the project.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I can see what the special charm of this would be, particularly if youre working with someone who, forgive me, brings out the worst inside...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, very nice talking to both of you.

Ms. LUTZ: Great talking to you. Thank you so much.

Mr. HAYWARD: Thanks.

SIMON: I hope you try it again.

Lisa Lutz and David Hayward; their new book, a mystery, Heads You Lose. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.