You don’t have to look far for evidence of Bloomington writer Michael Koryta’s success: A new crime novel, Never Far Away, comes out this month (February 9), and two of his other books were recently made into films. But a COVID-19 backlog means film release dates are up in the air, so it may be awhile before audiences find his stories in a movie theater.
“Everything this year is in flux,” says Koryta, who lives part of the year in Maine, the setting of his latest book. “It feels like being in a holding pattern, just circling and waiting to land. I’m keenly aware that with the real suffering of 2020, it’s meaningless. That said, I’d love to see it on the big screen instead of a computer.”
The film version of the 2014 novel Those Who Wish Me Dead stars Angelina Jolie. Prior to the delayed release, the film saw both a director and studio come and go before being replaced. Koryta jokes that it was “an aptly titled project.” The second upcoming film, So Cold the River, wrapped filming at West Baden Springs Hotel last March. At present, three more of his books are being developed into films.
In the newest novel, Never Far Away, the character Dax Blackwell returns from the 2019 book If She Wakes. The New York Times best-selling author likes to see if his fans are paying attention, and he works closely with an agent and lawyer to make sure recurring characters don’t create what he calls “problematic overlap” with the film rights. “I love to see those interconnected fictional worlds,” he says. “I have fun with it, as a reader and a writer. It adds a layer of entertainment.”
He’s a fan of Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and Stephen King, writers who connect characters and settings across their various series. King, incidentally, also lives in Maine, and the back of Koryta’s books includes this endorsement from him: “A master.” The two have had a couple lunches together.
“He’s been incredibly generous to me and to a lot of writers,” Koryta says. “It’s a cliché, but he’s humble and down-to-earth. Besides being so prolific, he reads more and watches more than me, and inhales everything and forgets nothing.”
Koryta, who got his start as a journalist (“the best training ground for anyone who wants to write a novel”) and private investigator, has had a prolific streak himself. In addition to his suspense novels, he also wrote his first book under the pseudonym Scott Carson in 2020. Koryta called the pen name a fun addition to his repertoire. “It was refreshing to do something that was not connected to me,” he says. And he has always wanted to have a name that’s easy to pronounce. (Note: It’s Ko-ree-ta.) With more books and movies forthcoming, you’ll be hearing it often.