Walter Mosley started writing fiction when he was 34 and has published more than 40 novels since, including some of today’s best-loved mysteries.
He was even later to playwriting, having premiered his first play, “The Fall of Heaven,” in 2010.
But, once again, he’s already moving at a fairly rapid pace.
The 62-year-old writer’s new play, “Lift,” which is his New York City theater debut, tells the story of two co-workers trapped in a skyscraper elevator. The show is at 59E59 through Nov. 30.
amNewYork spoke with Mosley by telephone about writing for the stage and his impressive work ethic.
What do you like about writing for theater?
When I started writing, I was really taken with dialogue, but when you’re writing fiction, you can’t have a whole novel of dialogue. I had to retrain myself to be descriptive and third person. Writing plays is the most difficult of all things to write — I think it’s more difficult than poetry and short stories, and it’s certainly more difficult than novels. I like to take on that challenge, to sit and just write language that’s going to keep people in their chairs not fidgeting for an hour and a half.
Why do some ideas come out as plays and others as books?
Who knows? When I wrote this play, first I went to theater people and they said, ‘Oh, this is not a play, it’s a movie.’ Then I went to movie people and they said, ‘This isn’t a movie, it’s a play.’ What that taught me was that anything could be anything. It just depends on how you do it.
This is your second play. What did you learn from the first one?
That’s like asking, ‘What did you learn from your first sexual experience to the next one?’ I’m sure I learned something, but for me, the whole idea of writing is so much about enjoying myself and having fun that I don’t take that kind of technical standpoint about it. I just keep writing and hoping for the best.
In addition to this play, you recently released a new book, ‘Rose Gold,’ and I hear you are finishing another one. Do you like being that busy?
It’s like asking somebody with OCD if they like having to remake their bed 15 times. The answer becomes, ‘Well, I have to remake it.’ I have to write these things. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it, but I’d feel worse if I wasn’t doing it.
If you go: Lift at 59E59, 59 E. 59th St., 212-279-4200, 59e59.org. $70.