Writer Interviews: David Corbett

Posted by on May 9, 2012
















I first heard about David Corbett from the fabulous blog, Murderati. I immediately picked up one of his books and was not disappointed. He is not only a talented writer, but one of those rare writers who can actually teach a bit of his magic to others. I am thrilled he agreed to be on my blog and will be first in line to buy his book, THE ART OF CHARACTER, in January.

Please comment if you have questions as David said he’ll be available to respond.

Here’s David in his own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

On a good day, I’m at my desk by 7 AM and I write until 2-3 PM. I take a break for lunch and may get back to things from 5-7 PM, at which point I quit for the day. This schedule includes writing for blogs, articles, stories, essays and other requested items as well as fiction, and includes time spent on research.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

Keep writing. Writer’s block is just fear that you’re going to write badly. Admit that your first draft will be execrable and plow ahead.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

If I can plug, I’m coming out with a book this January from Penguin titled: THE ART OF CHARACTER, and I believe it’s an excellent and comprehensive text on the craft of characterization.

Oakley Hall’s THE ART & CRAFT OF NOVEL WRITING is one of the best general texts that exists. For more advanced tutelage, I’d suggest: Charles Baxter’s THE ART OF SUBTEXT, Robert McKee’s STORY, John Truby’s THE ART OF STORY, Elizabeth George’s WRITE AWAY; are all excellent. Although I’m not wedded to its approach, Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY is revered by too many people in the business to avoid. For beginners, I’d recommend Jim Frey’s HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL.

4. Who do you read for fun?

Most recently I’ve read or am reading: Nicholson Baker’s THE HOUSE OF HOLES, Denise Mina’s THE DEAD HOUR, Ann Patchett’s BEL CANTO and a few non-fiction books, specifically a book on the neurobiology of affection titled A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE and two history books, FREEDOM JUST AROUND THE CORNER by Walter McDougal and Gordon Woods’s THE IDEA OF AMERICA.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I wrote poems and such like any dimwit in high school. Then I became a musician and wrote some songs, only seriously turning to fiction after studying acting in my mid-twenties. As I was trying to decide which artistic path to choose — fiction or theater — I got offered a job at a private investigation firm in San Francisco. I took it with the understanding it would form my “years at sea,” giving me the material I would draw upon in my fiction for years to come. It did just that, and more.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

If you want to write for yourself, keep a journal. Otherwise, remember you’re writing for others — respect them by making what you write worthy of their time.

Also: Learn to write scripts, and don’t rule out writing for the video game industry.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

The ability to tell a story. I also think it’s important to have a unique and engaging voice, which is hard but not impossible to teach.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

I’m an omnivore, so that’s rough, but I particularly love the buche (spicy pig belly) tacos from Tacos Jaliscos, my local roach coach.

My favorite cocktail at the moment is a tie between a perfect rye Manhattan, a Negroni, and a nameless concoction a friend invented, a kind of variation on the Jasmine, which is itself a variation on the Negroni (with Cointreau instead of sweet vermouth, plus Meyer lemon juice). I also like an Old Fashioned, but good ones are hard to make or find (they make an excellent one at the Chop House in Oakland).

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Too many to name. I was very much influenced by these books: DOG SOLDIERS by Robert Stone, CLOCKERS by Richard Price, and GOD’S POCKET by Pete Dexter.


10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

Again, another bit of shameless self-promotion (thank you, Kristi): On May 15th, my first two novels, THE DEVIL’S REDHEAD and DONE FOR A DIME, plus a short story collection titled KILLING YOURSELF TO SURVIVE, are coming out in ebook format from Open Road Media in collaboration with Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Press.

A video profile of me, prepared by Open Road, can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEyBejWmjjQ

And the books are available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a number of other online sites.


David Corbett is the author of four novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), Blood of Paradise (nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar), and Do They Know I’m Running? David’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Mission and Tenth, The Smoking Poet, San Francisco Noir and Best American Mystery Stories (2009 and 2011). He has taught both online and in classroom settings through the UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, and at numerous writing conferences across the US.

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2 Responses to Writer Interviews: David Corbett

  1. CK

    Wonderful interview! Thanks, Kristi and David.

  2. Sarah

    Great interview as always, Kristi! So glad David was willing to give us a peek into his life. Fabulous advice, too!