Archer Mayor

In his own words: Archer Mayor

On finding the time to write amidst a busy schedule: It's not as difficult as it appears, especially now that I'm semi-retired as a cop, and completely retired as a firefighter/EMT (although still on the board of the department, and still employed by the ME.) I've always enjoyed working 7 days/week, and generally exceed the standard 8 hour work day, just by instinct. That being said, what might be considered a "normal" 40-hour week suddenly expands significantly in my case. It is true that for many years, I actually did work all those jobs simultaneously (meaning 3 "full-time" commitments to the writing, law enforcement, and the ME's office, on top of volunteering for the fire department,) but then I wrote whenever I had the time between emergency calls. Fortunately, I've been writing for so many years that doing so is an instinctive act, practiced as easily for me at 4am as at 4pm. 

On the realism and authenticity of his novels: I don't overreach for my material, simply put. I found out early on that if I paid attention to what was happening all around me (and I have been to over 2,000 emergency-related calls so far, and counting) the inspiration would surround me like flood water. The trick for me was to get out and mix with others in crisis situations. I do a lot of research, for every book, but it is undeniably my involvement with my other jobs that lends the greatest credibility to my "writer's voice."

On what he does in his "downtime": Woodworking is for me what it is for Joe. We share that same enthusiasm, along with reading history books. I also enjoy photography and riding motorcycles, either with Margot on the trike, or solo on my cruiser. Much as I have devoted over 40 years to writing—35 of them professionally—I do not consider it relaxing. I distrust writers who wax on about the "joys" or "fun" of writing. It had better be, in my opinion, carefully wrought, hard work, deserving of the reader's time and commitment. On the flip side, of course, it gives me pleasure to write—it is my means of expressing myself, and I take the pride in it that any artist should take in his or her work.

On book endings: I don't write from an outline, preferring to just follow the story, wherever it might lead me. But these are police procedurals by definition, and thus begin at the office and sometimes end there, as well, in preparation for the next case. In The Company She Kept, I ended with an action scene, but it was nevertheless a conclusion, leaving the team ready and able to move. By habit, I tend to end my stories when I feel I've told the reader everything that was on my mind.

On whether there might be a role for a Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI):
Nope. There are roughly 68 separate law enforcement agencies in the state. They all have their pride, their traditions, and the support of their backers to encourage them to hold tight to the status quo. It is unlikely that they would tolerate some governor taking away responsibility for all major cases and handing it over to a creation of his own making. However, the Vermont State Police, which is obviously the alpha dog of the pack, has just recently created its own in-house major case unit, which amusingly does resemble the VBI, in part.
On what constitutes his favorite book: The one I'm currently dreaming up, because I haven't screwed it up yet by writing it. That's a jokey response, of course, but it is true that once you've concluded an artistic endeavor—whatever it may be—it's only then that you can appreciate how you might've done this or that differently. In execution and completion, all art loses the "plasticity" it had in the conceptual stage, where everything and anything was possible.
On what he is reading at the moment: Paris, 1919 by Margaret MacMillan, about the so-called Versailles Peace Treaty, but more pointedly detailing how the immediate aftermath of WWI laid down the roots of much of the discords and tensions of the 20th Century and today.