How did you become a writer? It was an accident. Seriously, it actually was an accident. I had practiced law for a couple of decades, doing mostly international corporate work, and I found myself involved in a complicated and rather hostile corporate acquisition. When the smoke eventually cleared, I ended up personally buying out of the deal a major interest in a little Hollywood production company that mostly made cable TV movies. Looking back, I can only conclude I was either in a highly inebriated state or temporarily possessed by a fit of unrestrained hubris. Either way, once I had gone and done it, I did my level best to make the company profitable. My principle strategy was to focus the company more tightly on what I thought it could do best, and I even dashed off an outline of the kind of movies I wanted the company to try to sell to its production partners. A copy of that outline got sent by mistake to one of the cable TV networks we worked with and one day the network called up and asked me to make it for them. Make what? I asked. The movie you wrote that treatment for, they said. We really liked it.
And that, girls and boys, is how I became a writer…
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). I've always figured one day I would sit down think up an uplifting answer to toss out when I’m asked this question, one that makes me appear thoughtful, reflective, and terribly, terribly intellectual. Sadly, I’ve never gotten around to it. I guess the simple truth is that every author I’ve ever read has influenced me to some degree. I see ways others have told stories that I like and wish I could manage to do similar work myself, and I see ways they’ve told stories that I hate and swear to avoid forever.
A number of reviewers compared my early books to Elmore Leonard -– ‘If Elmore Leonard had written a book about Bangkok, this would be it!’ — and some interviewers are still jumping to the conclusion that I was once bitten by a Leonard bug and am trying to go down that road with my own books. That’s just not the case. All the Leonard titles I’ve read have been too disjointed in their narratives and tried too hard for cleverness in their characters to engage me for very long. Great dialogue, of course, but weak narratives. And weak narratives ultimately make you care very little about the characters no matter how snappy their dialogue may be. So, no, not Elmore Leonard. And, honestly, not anyone else in particular either.
When and where do you write? I have libraries in both our Bangkok and US homes and my family accepts that those are my private retreats where I can work without being disturbed. The two rooms were designed to be very similar in order to minimize any sense of dislocation. Both are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and both have a carefully-positioned Eames chair where I listen to music, enjoy the view out the windows, and work on a laptop with my feet up. Okay, so owning two original Eames chairs is probably a definition of serious self-indulgence. I admit it. Guilty.
What are you working on now? I finished the final edits on my fourth Jack Shepherd novel last month and now it’s out of my hands and with the proofreaders. It will be published in January, 2014, as THE KING OF MACAU. Since the day after I let that one go I’ve been working oh the third Inspector Samuel Tay novel. It’s called THE DEAD AMERICAN and is scheduled for summer 2014.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? No such thing as writer’s block. You ever hear of doctor’s block or architect’s block? Look, writing is a job. John Gregory Dunne said that writing is manual labor of the mind. It’s like laying pipe. You show up every day, dig a few feet further, and put down some more pipe. You do your job. Wasting perfectly good writing time whining about so-called writer’s block is something professional writers don’t do.
What’s your advice to new writers? Sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard of your choice, and do it. I’m sick to death of people talking about the writing process, examining the writing process, and analyzing the writing process. That's just malarkey. You DO writing. That's all there is to it.
Jake Needham is an American screen and television writer who began writing novels when he realized he didn’t really like movies and television very much. He has since published six popular novels set in the cities of contemporary Asia and his seventh, THE KING OF MACAU, will be published in January, 2014. The Bangkok Post said, “Jake Needham is Michael Connelly with steamed rice.”
Mr. Needham has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty-five years. He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has absolutely no intention of telling you about. He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States.
The print editions of Jake’s novels have been distributed only in Europe, Asia, and the UK, where they have all been bestsellers. E-book editions of his novels are now available worldwide. You can learn more about Jake Needham and his books at his official website: www.JakeNeedham.com.