‘I’m actually ‘short-story-challenged.’ Cotton Malone author Steve Berry tells Chris High how he conceived the idea for the short crime story collection and why he thinks it works so well.
The writing of a compelling short story is an art form in itself and what better way to collate a compendium of short crime fiction stories, then, than to get 23 of the world’s best crime fiction authors to have their main protagonists work together to solve individual crimes.
That was the idea that author of the Cotton Malone books, Steve Berry, came up with and the result, Face Off (Sphere), is available now. “International Thriller Writers published the first Thriller anthology in 2006, which became one of the most successful anthologies ever,” Steve explained. “That was a tough act to follow, so this one had to be really unique. I decided to do something that can’t be done anywhere else and pairing these particular writers and their iconic characters together could never happen outside of this book. The various publishers for each writer would have strong objections and never allow it, but since the stories here are all donated and the proceeds from the book go to International Thriller Writers to operate the organization, we were able to pull it off. This book is truly one of kind.”
There is certainly an impressive array of authors contributing to Face Off. Dennis Lehane, Linda Fairstein, Ian Rankin, Lisa Gardener Jeffrey Deaver, Heather Graham and Michael Connelly are just a few big names to have become involved, so how was the pairing off process developed? “Some were intentional pairings, but some chosen were by the participants themselves and others just matched off in an attempt to bring something new and different to their characters and the writers. We wanted the pairs to be both interesting and novel, and I think we’ve accomplished that goal. Short story writing isn’t necessarily an important form of writing, but it is different and brings different challenges and being different is a good thing, since that tests your skills as a writer. I’m actually ‘short-story-challenged.’ Crafting them is difficult for me. I’m more accustomed to 100,000 words, as opposed to 7,000. Everything becomes compacted, yet you still have to fulfil all the requirements of story. A beginning, middle, and end have to be there, along with additional elements that make it a thriller. Mysteries deal with what happened. Thrillers deal with what’s going to happen. Cotton Malone is paired against James Rollins’ Gray Pierce and crafting a thriller in 7000 words was the toughest challenge we face, no question. Together we conceived the overall story and then Jim wrote the first draft. I re-wrote that draft, and he edited. We kept going back and forth until we had a finished product. In the end, Jim and I both loved the finished product which is an adventure that spans about two hours in the life of our two characters. Everyone enjoyed the experience and I’ve heard nothing but compliments from all who participated. I’ve written about a half dozen short stories and, I have to say, I enjoy the format.”
Face Off edited by David Baldacci is available now.