• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Paul Cleave talks about Whatever It Takes

Updated: Aug 3, 2019


When Alyssa Stone goes missing, Deputy Noah Harper knows he’s going to have to cross some lines to find the young girl – lines there are no coming back from. Saving her costs him his wife, his job, and he’s kicked out of Acacia Pines with the promise that if he ever returns he’ll be thrown into jail and left there to rot.


Twelve years later and Noah has moved on. He owns a bar. He has a nice place. A nice life. He’s happy. Then there’s a phone call… Alyssa has disappeared, and Noah is asked the question – how far is he willing to go to find her? It would mean heading back to Acacia Pines. It would mean coming face to face with the past.

It would mean doing whatever it takes.


Whatever It Takes is the 11th novel from Kiwi crime writer Paul Cleave. One of the country’s most internationally successful authors, Cleave’s novels have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold over a million copies worldwide. He’s won New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh award three times over and been a finalist in the American Edgar Awards, Australia’s Ned Kelly awards and the Barry Awards.


When he’s not writing, Paul can be found throwing a frisbee, something he likes to do wherever he travels, with a recent trip taking his list of countries thrown in to 42.

Paul talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Whatever It Takes.

Well, Whatever it Takes is once again pretty different from the other books – and one of those big differences is that this one is set in the US. It involves a small town, Acacia Pines, with an isolated police force, and a deputy, Noah Harper, who will break all the rules to find a missing girl - which he does - which is how the book starts out. But for crossing the line in such a big way he loses his job, his wife, his friends, and he gets kicked out of town. The book then catches up with Noah twelve years later. He owns a bar, he has a pretty good life, but then his ex-wife, who he hasn’t spoken to in years, phones him - the girl he saved all those years ago has gone missing again.


What inspired you to write this book?

It was a conversation with another author I know. He got hold of me to tell me a pretty crazy story about a real life crime. Neither of us were thinking about basing a novel on those events, but at the end we were shooting the breeze, and we began to wonder this… if you have a character who leaves down and vows never to return, what would it take to get him back? I knew within seconds what it would take - and within a minute I had the whole start of the novel mapped out. Then was a matter of diving into Noah’s world and seeing where the story would take him.


What research was involved?

None. I hardly ever do any research. I did, for Trust No One, because I needed to know a whole heap about Alzheimers, but for this book it didn’t require any. Often they don’t for me - usually I’m dealing with a character who isn’t following any police rules, or forensics, etc etc - I’m dealing with characters who are playing well outside of the rules.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

The same as any other… when things are ticking along, I keep them ticking along. I’ll hibernate in my office and work all day long, and I’ll work forty or fifty or sixty days in a row until I either get to the end, or get stuck. This was one of those lucky times where I didn’t really get stuck - I spent the summer writing, taking only a few hours now and then to go to the gym or go for a run. I become a bit of a recluse, really.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

That’s hard for me to answer, because the books don’t have a soundtrack, but they are written to one. I spend last summer writing 2021’s book listening only to The Doors - I have some live concerts of there I listened to over and over. Next years book I wrote listening to Tom Petty - again some live concerts. This one… from memory - I wrote listening to Pink Floyd and Roger Waters albums… again live. Yeah - I love live music. I crank the stereo up loud and sing while I write - my singing is the only way to keep the cats out of my office.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Sheriff Haggerty - the later version - would be Clint Eastwood. Definitely. Noah would be Tom Cruise. Why not? Noah doesn’t have to be tall and weigh 250 pounds. Maggie could be Margot Robbie, and Drew could be played by my dentist.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Being in a different world. Originally I was bummed out not to be able to set this in Christchurch, because I feel loyal to my home town, and to readers who love seeing the books set there… but yeah, I enjoyed the different town because it gave me a different vocabulary to deal with. I got to switch up the speech patterns, got to describe things in a way I usually wouldn’t. Plus this was one of those books that just flowed - and that’s always a whole heap of fun. I love the story, and each rewrite got to take me back there. It’s easy to say the best part about writing a novel is finishing it - and often that’s true - but not this time. This time I really miss being there.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Nothing. I never really do. I finish a book, and sometimes I’ll go back to page one and start the rewrite, other times I’ll start work on the next book. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out for dinner, or taken a trip, or anything like that - I just get back to work.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Hangman by Jack Heath, and the sequel, Just One Bite. Jack is a really great guy, and a talented writer.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

Well, I’m a few drafts into 2020’s book, which is set in the same small fictional town with a whole different set of characters. I just got home from five weeks of travel, and I don’t know if there’ll be any more this year - we’ll see. So pretty much my life now is hunkering down and hibernating again and making bad things happen to good and bad people in my books…


Whatever It Takes by Paul Cleave ($37.99 RRP, Upstart Press) is available now. Click here to read an extract. <LINK: https://www.paulcleave.com/whatever-it-takes1>

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