You wrote your first thriller, Ghostman, right after graduating from Reed in 2011 ...

I studied narratology. My thesis was an attempt to understand better how suspense works. Suspense is the action of constantly suggesting that if the listener keeps listening, sooner or later the speaker will reveal the ultimate truth. 

So there’s a formula for writing a good thriller? There are formulae. You can do it in three acts, or you can do it in five. You can do it with one protagonist, or you can do it with three protagonists. But nonetheless, the same 27 dramatic incidents happen every time. A thriller is a very structured form. 

Do you have a favorite historical criminal? My favorite traditionally defined criminal would have to be Pablo Escobar. When he was finally arrested by the Colombian government, he negotiated a deal: they built him a private prison in his hometown, which he could live in like it was a villa. That’s power. 

You’re known for wearing a suit all the time. Why? It’s like a mental signaling game to myself. I’ll put on these clothes, and it signifies to myself and all the people around me that this is a real job. 

So you wear the suit when you’re writing? Yes, I do. I feel better when I’m wearing one. I recently have started wearing this bespoke blue linen jacket, which is absolutely gorgeous with pick stitching and a blue plaid pocket square. Absolutely delicious. I like the power it gives me. I get to control what I look like in the world.

Hobbs reads from his second novel, Vanishing Games, on July 9 at Powell’s City of Books.

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