After a successful career in advertising, Marshall’s first mid-life crisis drew him into the TV and film business, where he met many of the people he kills off in his novels—a cathartic yet perfectly legal way for a writer to exorcise his demons. His first book, The Rabbit Factory, got a starred review in PW, of which he says, “I found very encouraging, so I’ve written a dozen more.”
On Marshall’s website, karpkills.com, you’ll find sample chapters of his work, words of wisdom for writers who are just starting out, and his feature film, Just Looking, a coming-of-age comedy, directed by Jason Alexander. You can connect with him on Instagram @karpkills, Twitter @MarshallKarp, and Facebook MarshallKarpBooks.
TFx: In your new thriller, Snowstorm In August, a helicopter strafes New York’s Central Park with tons of cocaine. How did you come up with something like that?
Karp: I keep three virtual files in my head. Ideas that are ho-hum, but maybe I can make them better. Ideas that sound really good—but how do I make them great? And finally, ideas that are off the wall, impossible to do, but if I can figure it out, it would make a hell of a book.
That helicopter was hovering in my brain for months. It came out of one of my “Think-So-Far-Outside-The-Box-That-I-Need-A-Road-Map-To-Get-Back-To-The-Box” sessions. But I didn’t know where to go with it. And then one day it crashed headlong into another wild thought I had—a courtroom scene that is more dramatic than any other courtroom scene I’d ever read or seen on film.
Neither idea worked by themselves. But put them together, and I knew I had the bones of a book. After that, all I needed was flesh, blood, heart, soul, and 87,000 more words. I don’t know if that answers your question, so here’s an alternate answer: I don’t think like other people. But my mother swears she never dropped me on my head as a baby.
TFx: The scenes in Snowstorm In August feel incredibly cinematic. Did your prior career writing for the screen affect the way you write novels, and do you see this novel being adapted for film?
Karp: Early in my film career I learned that producers read hundreds of screenplays. If you want yours to stand out, don’t make it read like a script. Make it feel like a movie. I do the same thing with my novels. I don’t think chapters—I think scenes. I try not to tell the reader what’s going on—I dramatize it. The truth is that I have a shameless desire to have every book I write turned into a feature film. As for Snowstorm In August, it just screams big budget blockbuster. If you look at the trailer on YouTube you’ll see what I mean. (Will somebody please forward this to Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Bay, J. J. Abrams, and the other brilliant action film directors in the business?)
TFx: What are you working on now? (if different from above)
Karp: Ten years ago I went to my good friend James Patterson with an idea. What if the New York City Police Department had an elite unit dedicated to solving crimes committed against the rich and famous? He loved it, and NYPD Red, one of the most successful series in the Patterson library was born. We produced six bestsellers, and after NYPD Red 6, James moved on to other projects, and I became the sole author. I started working on the next one immediately and promised James it would be the best one yet. NYPD Red 7: The Murder Sorority will be released 11/22/22, and I think fans will see that I kept my promise.
TFx: How do you think fans will react to NYPD Red 7: The Murder Sorority without James Patterson’s name on the cover?
Karp: James produces about twenty books a year. I think by now readers know that he doesn’t write them all. But for those who need reassurance, they can read the opening chapters of NYPD Red 7: The Murder Sorority on my website. The chapters are also included at the back of Snowstorm In August. I think once fans read those first 5,000 words, they’ll want to reconnect with detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald and hopefully they’ll preorder the book.
TFx: You’ve been writing for James Patterson for over a decade. How did you two connect?
Karp: It was 1990. We were both in the advertising business. He hired me for a number of freelance jobs, and we became friends. In fact, he asked me to read the manuscript of Along Came A Spider, and my response was, “Jim, I think you have a future in this book writing stuff.” Twenty years later he asked me to coauthor Kill Me If You Can. I said, “Yes! How much do I have to pay you?” I had already written four books in my Lomax and Biggs series, and it was a critical success with a cult following who kept asking me for more.
But I knew that teaming up with the world’s bestselling author would do three things for me: (1) I’d learn from the master. (2) I’d have the power of the juggernaut Patterson marketing team behind me. (3) And everything I wrote would go from the middle of the pack to the top of the bestseller lists. I took the job, and not only did it change my life, but I got a lot more respect at home. Now my wife says, “Hey, #1 bestselling author — take out the garbage.”
TFx: There are five books in your Lomax and Biggs series, and seven in NYPD Red. Are you planning a sequel to Snowstorm In August?
Karp: The late, much beloved, Dick Dorso, one of my mentors in the television business, once asked me if I knew why some shows become a hit and others crash and burn. I had no idea. “Characters,” he said. “If you have great characters, your audience will come back week after week because they look forward to the predictable emotional experience of spending time with those people.”
Predictable emotional experience. I never forgot those three words. When I wrote The Rabbit Factory I thought it would be one and done. But readers wanted to spend more time with LAPD Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, so I wrote four more books, and I still get emails and shout-outs on social media asking for another. The same is true with NYPD Red. The concept is unique, but it’s the characters who have readers looking forward to the next installment. I think that Danny Corcoran and his cadre of retired “super cops,” who are the heart and soul of Snowstorm In August, have that same charisma. So, to answer your question, “Am I planning a sequel?” I’d be crazy not to.
TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?
Karp: I can bend silverware with my mind, but I can’t bend them back, which is why people have stopped inviting me to dinner parties.
Get Marshall Karp’s latest release, Snowstorm in August, out now on Amazon
Snowstorm in August features a sneak peek at the forthcoming NYPD Red 7.
Imagine Central Park buried under tons of snow. Only it’s not snow. It’s cocaine.
Four thousand pounds of it. Uncut. Blanketing meadows and treetops. Knocking birds from the sky, dropping carriage horses to the pavement, and cutting a swath of death through the thousands of unsuspecting joggers, cyclists, and picnickers enjoying a summer afternoon in Central Park.
So begins the war between Joaquín Alboroto, the most powerful drug lord on the planet, and his most hated enemy: the city of New York. But the only NYPD unit trained to go up against this level of terrorism has been disbanded, and the new police commissioner is a bureaucrat, not a wartime commander.
The task falls on the shoulders of former NYPD captain Danny Corcoran. A trusted friend recruits Corcoran to a team of top cops—all retired. Funded by four anonymous billionaires, their mission is to stop Alboroto before his next “gift” to the city leaves a million New Yorkers blind.
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