Meet Jack Reacher. The fictional hero created by author Lee Child. Reacher is a man of equal part brains and brawn. Millions of readers worldwide who have already discovered Child's novels know that after just one chapter of one book, you're hooked. Young and old, male and female, from every step on the social ladder and every side of the political spectrum, Lee Child's page-turners attract everybody. So what's the inside scoop? We went directly to author Lee Child to find out.
It's been boasted that the Lee Child reader runs the gamut. Is it true?
Absolutely! Having met a ton of fans and read even more letters, I'm proud to say that my readers come from all walks of life. In fact, one day's mail brought notes from a 10-year-old boy and a 100-year-old woman. I've heard from former President Bill Clinton ("I love Jack Reacher") as well as Newt Gingrich ("The finest adventure fiction being written in America today"). I've autographed books for people who rushed out to buy them the day they went on sale, and from others who had copies pushed upon them by friends saying, "trust me, just read it."
So, what do you think makes them so popular?
Two words: Jack Reacher. Reacher is a drifter and a loner with a strong sense of justice. He shows up, he acts, he moves on. He's the type of hero that has a long literary history. Robin Hood, the Lone Ranger, Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, Jack Reacher—they're all part of the same heroic family. Reacher just ratchets it up a notch. Maybe more than a notch.
Your new paperback, Persuader, is a great introduction to Reacher. And talk about ratcheting it up! This novel certainly does that.
Thanks! I didn't think of the book as a character introduction—after all, this is his seventh appearance––but it seems to be working that way. Reacher is an interesting guy. He’s a self-reliant ex-military cop. He has no possessions, no commitments, no family. He enjoys his solitude, but he worries about loneliness. He's brave, for sure—like many military people are—but more than that he's committed to doing what's right. That's an important part of his character. He's tough and ruthless and he breaks the rules, but his heart is in the right place. First-time readers will see that in the very first chapter of Persuader––here, he's hunting a man who wronged him ten years ago. Not a smart move on that guy's part.
What motivates you when writing these thrillers? Is there any single piece of the process to which you give "extra" attention?
As for motivation, deep down, I think we all enjoy the same things. First and foremost, I write what I want to read, and I've found that it's what others want to read too. For an "extra" push, I work really hard on the openings. They're very important. The first line, the first paragraph, the first page … they're make-or-break. My attitude is that it's the author who should do the work. The reader is there for the ride. If at the end, the reader doesn’t think "Man, that was some ride," I think I've failed.
Your strategy certainly works; you had us hooked! We defy anybody to reach the end of chapter one in Persuader and not stay up all night reading. How do you follow up a book like that?
Well, Reacher fans always have two questions: What made him the way he is? And what on earth was he like way back when he was still in the Army? So the next book––The Enemy (hardcover 5/11/04)––is set in the past, when Jack Reacher was a younger man, still an M.P. The Enemy answers those questions.