Author Interview: Leslie Glass
Author Leslie Glass is the creator of the popular (and wonderful) April Woo mysteries, featuring Chinese homicide detective April and her mother, the "Skinny Dragon". These are among the best police books being written at the moment, and if you haven't yet made April's acquaintance, you are really missing a bet. To find out more about her creator, read on; or check the website for reviews of several of her books.
Q: Most obvious question first - why a Chinese detective? It's a wonderful
choice, and you really get such a sense of both April's character and culture in the
books. Is she based on a real person?
A: April was an accident. I requested a female detective to interview, and NYPD assigned me a Chinese detective in Chinatown. I went down to talk to her at the Elizabeth Street Precinct. She was beautiful and smart, and I thought I would base a character on her for one book. She came from my imagination, and took over the series.
Q: What kind of research do you do, police-wise? April seems to "float"
a bit to different precincts - is that realistic?
A: Detectives are reassigned every few years. In an active career, a cop could move half a dozen times. I've done a lot of research and watched the careers of many NYPD officers. If they're going to move up the ranks, they have to have lots of experience in many units.
Q: I've noticed, since the start of the series, that your books have gotten
less graphically violent. I notice that with quite a few authors, and it's often welcome.
Any reasons for that?
A: Over the years, my work has gotten less violent and graphic. I never enjoyed writing those really evil scenes. To write them well, one has to live in them, and basically I'm not a sadistic person. And I don't love reading those books anymore. I find that violence has gotten gratuitous in some novels. When five or six people have to die to get a story across, I'm just not interested. I'm still pretty noir, though. That will never change.
Q: Do you do any kind of elaborate outlining? Your plots are so complex - and so
satisfactorily resolved. One of my favorites is Stealing Time with the missing baby.
There were a lot of threads in that book.
A: That's a great question. Some editor told me my storylines were too simple, and I needed more subplots. I had no idea how to do it. Now, complications abound even before my main story is set in stone. I look back on books like Stealing Time and can't even imagine how I did it. I'm always looking back on my work and saying: I did that? I wrote that? It's a mystery to me because outlines don't work for me. It's all a journey of discovery, and I never know if I can pull it off.
Q: What or who has influenced your writing. I really love Lillian
O'Donnell's Norah Mulcahaney series and wonder if she has been an influence
at all. Some of the same issues - woman in a male dominated department - are present
in both of your books.
A: I write what I know from my experiences in NYPD and New York. I'm a novelist first. My mentors are all the classics - the English novelists, the Russians, the French. I was a literature freak when I was growing up. I don't read any police procedurals and haven't for many years.
Q: I really like the use of the psychiatrist in the earlier novels - are you going
to go back to him? I miss reading about him and his clocks!
A: You asked about the complexity of the books. Well, writing police investigation and psychiatry in one book was really difficult to pull off. I often felt I couldn't give enough attention to either Jason or April because the plot had to move forward. Each of my earlier books could have been nine hundred pages long. But I do agree with you that they were wonderful.
Q: What are you working on next? A stand alone or an April Woo?
A: Not even my very favorite authors can keep my attention going for nine books. Dorothy Sayers wrote eight and was done with Lord Peter. I've written nine April Woos. She'll be back in a few years, but for now, I'm working on a mystery for young adults with my daughter. She pointed out that my protagonists went from April Woo to Julie Wood. I didn't even notice. But watch for Mischief, and do try Over His Dead Body and For Love and Money.
Q: And a last question about the "Skinny Dragon" - what a great
character! Lots of my customers read the books primarily for her. Is she based on a real
A: Skinny Dragon Mother is such a classic Asian mother - scolding and trash talking their children to their faces and praising them to their friends. I had a Chinese caretaker who was just like her. Oh yeah, I was raised in a Chinese household just like April's. That's the surprise of the series. When I was assigned Chinatown by NYPD it was like going home. My two caretakers were a Chinese chef and a Skinny Dragon Mother. I spent my childhood in Chinatown shopping with them on weekends because they wouldn't eat the Western food in my parents' kitchen. I was bullied and spoiled just like April, but didn't become a cop. I'm writing from my own background.
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