How William Lashner Morphed into Tyler Knox
Earlier this month, I reported that the author of KOCKROACH, one Tyler Knox, was really the pseudonym for William Lashner, the author of the Victor Carl legal thriller series. Over the course of the last week and a half, Lashner (who admitted that he “wasn’t thrilled that the veil has been
pierced, even if the piercing is not unexpected”) and I exchanged emails on how and why he decided to write something so different from his usual output, and the answers are very interesting – and does not fall in line with expectation:
The reasons for writing the book as Tyler were not about rebranding or putting one over on the chains or my readers. I know that some writers have used different names to write the same kind of books for commercial reasons but that is not what I was doing at all. I wrote KOCKROACH as Tyler purely for the freedom of doing something completely new.
I love writing crime fiction, it’s what I do, and I especially love the diversity of the task. Within the contours of the minimal genre requirements, I can pretty much write about anything, and I do. For example, as the country geared toward the war in Iraq, I wrote what I consider my Iraqi war novel, FALLS THE SHADOW. There’s nothing about the war in there, of course, but the antagonist is a dentist who believes he has the right, indeed the duty, to meddle in other peoples lives, always with
the best intentions, even if it the results sometimes turn disastrously bloody. And lately, as old girlfriends started popping into my friends’ lives, one after the other in a veritable wave, I wrote my upcoming Victor Carl novel, A KILLER’S KISS, about an old girlfriend who comes back into Victor’s life, with the inevitably dire results.I feel free to write about whatever I want to write about because my readers trust that I will deliver on all the genre requirements too. I’m going to have a crime, someone will try to solve it, he will succeed or fail in spectacular fashion, and I’m going to write the whole thing with humor and drama and a bare minimum of navel gazing.
But I admit to a secret vice: I’ve always wanted to write small existential novels — I know, I know, it’s embarrassing, like a sickness that needs a twelve step program — but there it is. I love Beckett (but not Joyce), Camus (but not Sartre), I adore both Kafka and Kerouac and I had this urge to write something completely different than the crime novels. So I decided to give it a shot. Not as full time gig, gad, I’d end up bonkers, but sort of as just another thing I do. The books I wanted to write would be sort of strange and cool and let me play with stuff I normally don’t play with in the crime writing. Something to keep everything else fresh. And the first one would be about this bug that woke up to discover he had been turned into a man. But I didn’t want to fool my readers who really liked the William Lashner novels and who picked this up and then were unpleasantly surprised. This was not going to be the same – it was about a bug after all — I had no intention to follow even the minimum genre requirements, and even though I always think of the reader as I write, I didn’t want feel the expectations of my Victor Carl fans on this one. So the solution was pretty imple, follow the route of Evan Hunter and Ed McBain and use one name for crime and a different name for the other stuff. Thus Tyler. And writing as Tyler I was really free to just go for it with the bug book, let it drive itself wherever it wanted, and I ended up with KOCKROACH.
The funny thing, of course, is that the critics, while generally being quite laudatory, have called KOCKROACH a crime novel or sorts, even though his time as a gangster is only a part of the story. I guess, no matter what I write, that part of me will still bleed onto the page. But it was a blast to write the book, and when I have the hankering to write another small existential novel Tyler will arise from his slumber. And one interesting thing. On the Kockroach.com website, one of Tyler’s readers wrote that he should keep them coming, just as fierce, which means Tyler already has created a set of expectations that he will have to deal with as he writes his next book. I suppose that’s just the nature of the game.
As for the writing schedule, I started KOCKROACH a while ago, finished it up in the breaks between writing the Victor Carl novels, and only had it polished enough to even try to sell about a year and a half ago. The editing process took longer than I thought it would, many changes all for the better. And yes, I do think I’m pretty damn lucky to be able to have two tracks going at once. It helped that an editor at Harper went head over heels for KOCKROACH and became the book’s champion. Now I have these two beasts to feed, which is a bit of pressure, but I really do love the writing part.
I’d say he’s pretty damn lucky indeed.