Interview with Gil Reavill, Author of 13 Under the Wire

01 Jun 2016

What can you tell us about your new release, 13 Under the Wire?

Parents are not supposed to have favorite children, or if they do, they are instructed to keep their mouths shut about it. But somehow this third entry in the Layla Remington “13” series has wormed its way deep into my heart. Yes, there’s murder and mayhem in abundance, as befits a crime novel, but the book wound up steeped in nostalgia for young love, times gone by and remembrance of things past. The “Under the Wire” of the title refers to the U.S.-Mexico border, but also to the lines we draw to separate ourselves from one another, as well as to the boundary between life and death. That sounds much too weighty, because the book is actually a quick read.

What’s the last book you read?

I read mostly for research, and right at the moment for my next crime novel I’m immersed in astrophysics, astronomy and cosmology. I just inhaled a translation of Italian astrophysicist Giulio Magli’s encyclopedic survey of early civilizations and their relationship to the sky, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy: From Giza to Easter Island. Mind-crippling examples of the extraordinary lengths the ancients took to understand and engage with the heavens. I’ll read some of that, and then as a palate cleanser one by my fellow Alibi author, Teri Woods, Fixed in Blood.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I got into writing because I didn’t pay attention to the sign. When I was a teenager I found myself in a dark wood, also known as the Witch’s Forest, along with a scarecrow, a tinman and a lion, plus my little dog, Nihilism. On the horizon were vicious gangs of flying monkeys. The sign clearly spelled it out: “I’d turn back if I were you!” Did I listen to this sober voice of reason? Did I even notice the exclamation point that underscored the warning? No. So I wound up where I am today, wholly wizardless and not in Kansas anymore. Damn ruby slippers.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

See above. “I’d turn back if I were you.” But my teenage self would be loath to take advice from anyone, including his older self. I saw something that Helen Mirren said, that if she had a do-over in life she would be much quicker to employ two words: “F*** you!” I think she was talking about business matters, at least I hope so. The job of writers is to love their readers, so I guess I’d tell my teenage self to figure out how to love people better, more, and more often.

You’ve done many types of writing (journalism, screenwriting, playwriting, novels), which medium is your favorite?

I came to it late, but the crime novel is it for me. Well, maybe the screenplay, too. The crime element, for sure. Nowhere do the extremes of human behavior play themselves out to such a degree. If crime narratives are done right they have a cleanness, a lack of pretence and almost an anti-didacticism. Donna Tart states that the first duty of the novelist is to entertain, and she calls it a moral duty. I can certainly subscribe to that sentiment. I suspect bulls**t whenever my own writing veers toward any sort of grand statement. If I can just relieve the howling ennui of existence for a single moment for a single reader, my work here on earth is done.

What’s your favorite thing about living in New York?

Dr. Johnson suggested that if you are bored with New York you are bored with life. Actually, he said that about London. When I first arrived in the city (via Wisconsin and Colorado) someone pronounced a variation: “If you’re bored in New York, you’re boring.” Another friend told me that one should either be traveling or living in New York, because they amount to the same thing. The truth is, New York as the center of the universe is probably an outmoded concept. With the advent of the internet, anywhere is everywhere. But I keep the faith with a lot of outmoded concepts. The writing and reading of books, for example.

What scene in 13 Under the Wire was your favorite to write?

There is a group of four characters in their early twenties, and for me the scenes with them together cut closest to the bone. I was constantly aware of the doom hanging over these beautiful, precious, precarious young lives. For a long time I didn’t know which of them I was going to kill off first. I held back from deciding until the last possible moment. It was a self-imposed form of agony. But when a character performs an “exit, pursued by bear” as Shakespeare has it, a case of physical absence doesn’t necessarily have to mean a ghost can’t hover the action forever afterward.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

My political motto is “For the weak, against the strong,” and that plays out in my novels, I hope in a soft-handed, covert, unpretentious way. The strong among us will always get their due; that’s axiomatic. So to put one’s shoulder to the wheel in service of the weak is only trying to balance things out a bit. My father used to tell me, “If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards,” a motto he in fact did not live by and which I was careful not to transmit to my own daughter. But I appreciate the sentiment.


Gil Reavill is the author of the new book 13 Under the Wire.

Connect with Gil
Author Website

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