Interview: Paul Cleave, author of The Cleaner

Paul Cleave is a New Zealand author with 6 titles already under his belt, and lucky for us here in the States, his titles have recently begun appearing on the shelves! Most recently we saw the release of The Cleaner and April will see the release of The Killing Hour! Paul was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog.

Paul, you have quite a catalog of titles already to your name, and luckily, here in the US, we’re finally getting a chance to discover them! Out of all of your novels, which one has been a favorite to write?
Ooh – that’s a tough question. When I think back over them, they were each my favorite at some point for different reasons. The Cleaner was a lot of fun – writing from Joe’s point of view made me laugh every time I sat down at the keyboard. That guy has a twisted view on life – and it was really fun to come back to him for 2013’s book. But my favorite to write was perhaps Blood Men because it’s fast paced, it’s dark, and I love revenge stories and this thing almost wrote itself.

What do you love most about writing suspense?
I love trying to create dark characters who are doing bad things, and yet are likeable. I think it’s more fun for the reader if they’re following a serial killer and wanting them to get away with it – it’s more conflicting if they’re reading about a serial killer and thinking “yeah, he’s not a bad guy.”

The themes of your novels are consistently chilling and play on some very dark subjects. What’s something that you find truly terrifying?
Getting older. And losing my hair. These are terrifying because every day they keep happening.

When you begin writing a story, do you usually know exactly where it’s going to go, or do you just see where the story takes you?
I have no idea where they’re going. In most cases I just have an idea for an opening chapter, then I see where it goes. I figure it out along the way – sometimes not till the end. With Cemetery Lake, I didn’t know who the killer was until I’d almost finished it – then I flicked through the manuscript, chose somebody, then rewrote the novel a few times to get it all to line up. I’m a bit of a speed writer, really – I’ll sit in my office (which is in my house) and crank up the stereo and pig out on coke and bags of chips, and I’ll write four or five or ten thousand words in a day, and I’ll keep that going until I get stuck – which I always do. I’ve had novels stay in that stuck state for months, where it’ll push forward at a few hundred words a day. That used to scare me. Now I know it’s just part of the process.

Weirdly, the only time I planned out a novel, which was last summer, I couldn’t get it to work. For some reason I couldn’t get it down on paper.



I read that you love the novels of John Connolly, Michael Connelly, and Lee Child in particular, which are three of my favorite authors as well! If you had to pick a favorite book from each author, what would they be?
Seriously – I just don’t think you can get any better than these guys. For Lee Child, it’d be Killing Floor. When I first started writing twenty years ago, I used to try and write horror. Killing Floor was one of the first crime novels I read – and that was right when it came out – and that was it for me – I wanted to be a crime writer. For John, it’d be his second book – Dark Hollow. The thing about John is that he combines that creepy supernatural element to his books – which I really love. Plus John is, without a doubt, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. As for Michael – well, I think every book of his is my favorite while I’m reading them. Lost Light stands out for me. Concrete Blonde. The Poet. Trunk Music. Okay – I’m about to list them all.

On that note, I have to ask…what do you think about Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the new movie?
Well – I really like Tom Cruise, and I really like Jack Reacher – so you’re combining two things that I really, really like. So it has to be good, right? I really loved the Mission Impossible movies – the fourth one was brilliant – I came out of that movie wishing I could write movies and wishing I had Tom Cruise’s hairline. So yeah – I think Cruise can do a great job. I know he’s not the physical embodiment that we all think of when it comes to Reacher – but it does annoy me when you see so many people slagging off the movie and refusing to see it because of that. Would I have picked him to play Reacher? No. Do I think he’ll do a great job? Yes. Am I excited to see it? Yes – it comes out in NZ next week.

If you were able to experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Geez, that’s a fantastic question. Weirdly, my mind first went to movies. Often I’ll say I wish I could watch ‘Psycho’ without knowing the outcome. As for books – you know, I’d probably go with Lee Child’s Killing Floor. There are only two books I’ve read more than once in the last twenty years – one is Killing Floor, the other is Catcher in the Rye.

What are you reading now?
Funnily enough, I’m reading one of my own books as we’re getting it ready for its US release. Aside from that, I’ve been reading a Dean Koontz novel over the last few months – it’s the fifth in his Frankenstein series. Koontz used to be one of my absolute favorite authors – his books in the nineties were amazing. I’m also reading The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I think it’s fantastic. My girlfriend just gave me The Bat by Jo Nesbo and the new Linwood Barclay one (I can’t remember the name…) for Christmas.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Sleeping. Or playing xbox. Actually, I just started playing tennis a few months ago – I’d never played before, and I’m really shit at it but still enjoy it. I enjoy it more than golf because when I mishit the ball I don’t have to go looking for it a hundred meters away behind trees.

What’s next for you in 2013 and beyond?
2013 is going to be a fun year for me as The Cleaner has just come out in the US, books two and three come out in the US over the following months, then Joe Victim, which is a sequel to The Cleaner, comes out in September. I’ll be travelling a bit again – off to Europe in March / April, where I’ll hang out for most of the year. I like chasing the summer. And I’ll work on 2014’s book – which I have no idea what it’ll be.
Keep up with Paul: Website | Facebook | Paul’s Amazon Page

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