‘It Might Be a Mistake to Write This Way’: Preston Lang Interview

Preston Lang returns for his third book with All Due Respect with Price Hike. Here’s the pitch:

Jane is a struggling con artist, estranged from her ex and her sick son, just trying to raise a little cash to buy some black-market meds from a mysterious seller called P8, a dangerous, raspy-voiced woman.

Kanganis is a widely-hated pharma executive, furious that the raspy-voiced girl he picked up at a chic downtown bar just ripped him off for millions in prescription drugs.

When Jane figures out a way to con P8 out of her entire stash of stolen meds, it’s great news for her kid’s lungs, but it also puts Jane and family in grave danger. Soon they’re on the run from a criminal network bigger and darker than they understand. And when Kanganis begins to use all of his resources and guile to catch up with his lost drugs, the game becomes even more deadly.

Price Hike is a fast-paced tale of con games, corporate greed, and one of the douchiest bros of modern times.

All Due Respect: One of the aspects of this novel I found fascinating was the parallel between Jane and Kanganis. One is a struggling con artist and the other is the CEO of a booming pharmaceutical company, but they both share a single-mindedness and they refuse to lose. How did this come about?

Preston Lang: You hear a lot about successful people who have this need to win at everything, even small things that seem unimportant: the basketball star who needs to beat everyone at ping pong and thumb wrestling, the CEO who has to get the best of every tiny little deal. I suppose this is partly why they are successful, but sometimes they overdo it and wreck everything. Both Jane and Kanganis have moments when they realize that they’re making a mistake by not looking at the big picture, but they take a risk anyway. They both hate it when they can’t think of themselves as the smartest person in the room.

ADR: Much of your work takes place in New York City. Who are your favorite New York crime writers?

PL: There are some really obvious ones: Donald Westlake, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, Lawrence Block. Recently I’ve also enjoyed Angel Luis Colon, Henry Chang, Hillary Davidson, and Tim O’Mara. There’s a lot of very different New York crime novels out there. It’s not all standing around drinking martinis in chef’s hats, or whatever people think we do here.

ADR: What’s your process like? Do you write every day? Do you try to squeeze in writing at work? Write by the seat of your pants or carefully planned?

PL: Definitely try to write everyday, mostly at home in a desk, but if I’m waiting in a lobby or riding the subway. As far as planning vs. pants, I think I’m somewhere in between. It’s easier when I figure out most of the story in advance, but that isn’t always possible.

ADR: What drew you to writing about the pharmaceutical industry?

PL: One of the best parts about the movie The Fugitive is the drug Provasic, which causes liver damage and starts all the trouble for Dr. Kimble. I think I wanted the chance to invent my own fictional drug–Lexproxovin. I’ve also done a good amount of research and writing on the industry outside of my fiction, so I had a decent background to put crimes in this world. That said, most of what I wrote wasn’t particularly realistic.

ADR: Great movie. One thing that sets apart your work is your ability to be fully embedded in your character’s perspective. Even when they’re doing objectively terrible things, they still have this unbroken line of logic as to why they’re doing what they’re doing–and often consider themselves morally superior. How do you go about developing that?

PL: I try to concentrate on what characters want then I throw obstacles in the way and figure out how they’d react to get where they need to get. I don’t really think about making characters moral or likeable or about any larger meaning. It might be a mistake to write this way.

Check out Price Hike here.
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