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Most Read Interviews

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What made you decide to switch from practicing law to novel writing? 

That little voice in my head.  Every writer has one.  It nags you every day, telling you to sit down and write.  I ignored that voice all during the 1980s while practicing law.  Finally, in 1990, I listened to it and started a novel.  That first attempt was long and awful.  The second and third attempts weren’t much better.  It wasn’t until the fourth try that I began to appreciate the reality that writing novels was hard.  I kept writing for 12 years and produced 8 manuscripts.   Five were submitted to New York publishing houses and rejected a combined 85 times.  Eventually, in 2002, on the 86th attempt, twelve years after I started, the right-editor-at-the-right-time-with-the-right-story found me.  I may or may not know much about writing, but I’m a world class expert on rejection.

Has your past professional experience influenced your writing?

Not much at all.   I adhere to the philosophy of never write what you know.  That’s not good advice.  Instead, write what you love.  If what you know and what you love are the same thing, great.  I was a lawyer, knew the law and, at the time, legal thrillers were hot.  But I did not want to write about that.  I loved action, history, secrets, and conspiracies.  So that’s what I gravitated toward, and I still do that to this day.

How does politics and history relate to your novels?

History is a huge element in my stories.  All of them involve something from the past.  Something lost or forgotten.  Something real, from which I weave a modern day thriller around.  I try and keep my stories about 90% to reality, tripping things up only about 10%.  There’s a writer’s note in the back of each book that tells the reader where all that happens.  As to politics, not so much.   Contrary to what some readers think, my novels are designed to entertain, not to expound any political beliefs.  

What have you learned since you first began writing to now? Has your style changed at all?

With writing all you can hope for is what you write today is a bit better than what you wrote yesterday, and what you write tomorrow is a bit better than today.  It doesn’t get any more rewarding than that.  So every day is a learning process.  And, yes, my style has changed.  If you read my first published novel,  The Amber Room (2003), then the latest, The Kaiser’s Web (2021), you’ll see a big difference.  The Kaiser’s Web is smoother, cleaner, tighter.  If I had the chance, I could trim about 5000 words from The Amber Room.  

What intrigues you about the 'thriller' genre? Why do you think it is popular for readers?

They are the perfect escape.  Readers can forget their troubles for a while and immerse themselves into another world where all things are possible.  And the  closer the writer keeps that imagined world to reality, the better.  This has always been the appeal for thrillers going back 2000 years, and it’s why they are still so popular.

Why do you think your books have reached the top of bestseller lists such as USA Today and Publishers Weekly?

If I knew that, I’d be on my yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean enjoying the rewards of selling that how-to information to everyone else.   Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know what makes a bestseller.  They just happen.  Of course, a good story, a dash of innovation, perseverance, time, and a little luck also play into the formula.

How has the pandemic affected your writing and how you connect with readers?

The connection turned exclusively virtual for most of 2020 and all of 2021.  I had just completed my last book tour, in February 2020, when everything hit.  The tour this year was all virtual.  That’s a good thing in that you can do many more events (as you never leave home), and those events stay on the internet forever to be viewed over and over.  So you reach a lot more people.  The bad thing is there’s no personal connection.  And reader’s want that.  Writer’s do too.  I think touring in the future will be a combination of virtual and in-person.  The pandemic has shown how that could work.  As to the writing, with being home all the time, I have definitely been able to get a lot of work done.

What is your role with "The International Thriller Writers" group?

In 2005, I was one of the organization’s founding members and served as its co-president for three years.  Then I was vice-president of publications for a number of years.  Now I’m just a member.

Can you tell us a bit about your character Cotton Malone and why he is popular with readers? 

He was born in Copenhagen while I was sitting at a café in Højbro Plads, a popular Danish square. That’s why Cotton owns a bookshop there.  I wanted a character with government ties and a background that would make him, if threatened, formidable. But I also wanted him to be human, with flaws.  Since I love rare books, it was natural that Cotton would too, so he became a retired-Justice Department operative, turned bookseller, who manages, from time to time, to find trouble.  I also gave him an eidetic memory, since who wouldn’t like one of those?  At the same time, Cotton is clearly a man in conflict.  His marriage has failed, he maintains a difficult relationship with his teenage son, and he’s lousy with women.  I think he’s popular because he’s not a super hero.  Just an ordinary guy who can, when needed, do extraordinary things.

What is your latest release and what will readers find inside its pages?

The latest is The Kaiser’s Web.  For a long time I’ve been wanting to involve Cotton Malone in an adventure with its roots set firmly in World War II.  But that subject had been done-to-death.  Then one day, while researching another matter, I came across something that both surprised and intrigued me.  Something that had not been tackled much in the past. And the novel was bornTwo candidates are vying to become Chancellor of Germany.  One is a patriot, having served for the past sixteen years, the other a usurper stoking the flames of nationalistic hate.  Both harbor secrets, but only one knows the truth about the other.  They are on a collision course, all turning on the events from one fateful day — April 30, 1945 — and what happened deep beneath Berlin in the Fürherbunker.  Did Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun die there?  Did Martin Bormann, Hitler’s close confidant, manage to escape?  And, even more important, where did billions in Nazi wealth disappear to in the waning days of World War II? It’s quite a trek too. Moving from the mysterious Chilean lake district, to the dangerous mesas of South Africa, and finally into the secret vaults of Switzerland, and all too finally expose a mystery known as the Kaiser’s Web.  I hope that intrigued everyone enough to check it out.

Interview provided by:

Award-winning Canadian authors, Jenna Greene (YA Fantasy) and Miranda Oh (Contemporary Chick lit) pair up to provide you with engaging interviews with authors from all genres to give you a sneak peak into their lives and writing styles.