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Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews


Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are coauthors of the bestselling novels Relic, Mount Dragon, Reliquary, Riptide, Thunderhead, The Ice Limit, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life with Crows, Brimstone, Dance of Death, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, Cemetery Dance, Fever Dream, Gideon's Sword, Cold Vengeance, Gideon's Corpse, and now City of Endless Night. Preston’s bestselling nonfiction book, The Monster of Florence, is being made into a major motion picture. His interests include horses, scuba diving, skiing, and exploring the Maine coast in an old lobster boat. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published four bestselling novels of his own. He is passionate about motorcycles, exotic parrots, and nineteenth-century English literature.


Please tell us a little about your upcoming book, CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT?


Lincoln Child: It’s our latest Agent Pendergast novel, and it features a series of frightening and inexplicable murders—committed by someone who becomes known as “The Decapitator”—that plague New York during a busy, frigid holiday season.


What do you think your fans will enjoy the most about this upcoming book?


LBC: Among other things, we hope they like the always-popular New York City locales Pendergast tends to haunt; the fact that he is working again with his old partner Lieutenant D’Agosta; and that the book is a standalone adventure requiring minimal prior knowledge of the protagonist’s history (and yet also tries to reward that knowledge when it exists!)


This is your seventeenth novel featuring Agent Pendergast. How do you keep his character both relevant and ever-evolving?


LBC: Keeping him relevant doesn’t really seem to be that much of an issue; we just make sure to update any necessary technological or cultural references in each book. In some ways Pendergast is a creature who inhabits a timescape of his own, which makes things easier. We try to keep him evolving by making him work outside his comfort zone, as well as by providing him with experiences that challenge his assumptions or beliefs.


Your first writing collaboration started when you, Mr. Child, edited a book about the Natural History Museum, called DINOSAURS IN THE ATTIC for Mr. Preston. How did that collaboration turn into this thrilling legacy?


LBC: When I worked as an editor at St. Martin’s Press, I was a big fan of New York’s Museum of Natural History. I thought that a behind-the-scenes look at the museum would make for an interesting book, and after some research I found that a museum employee, Douglas Preston, seemed the ideal person to write such a book. A contract was signed; Doug wrote DINOSAURS; we got to talking about fiction instead of non-fiction…and somehow that ultimately resulted in our first joint novel, RELIC.


 How does the writing process work for the both of you to make such cohesive novels, and do you ever argue?


LBC: We don’t argue as much as we used to. We have a lot of respect for each other’s opinion, and we’ve written so many books together that we’ve learned to listen when our writing partner has constructive criticism. In terms of the actual writing, we each tend to take a section of a book—a particular subplot, or a sequence involving a certain character—and write a draft, which the other then revises. And then we both take a final pass over the work to make sure the story is as taut and clean as possible.


 How much research goes into your books and how is that research divided up?


LBC: Depending on the subject matter involved, a great deal of research sometimes goes into our novels. We tend to write about what we enjoy or would like to know more about, which makes the process easier. Having two authors involved also helps, because we each have our own areas of expertise that we can bring to the table.


In what ways has writing together made you better authors?


Douglas Preston: Writing for a writer is like practicing the piano for a musician or skiing for an Olympic skier. You need to do it every day to stay in good form. What we do is encourage, inspire (and sometimes nag) each other to put in that good day’s work. No slacking allowed in a partnership.

I have learned more from Linc about writing than anyone else by far. We are each other’s teachers and pupils simultaneously.


What’s something you wish you had known in the beginning of your careers, that you would be willing to share with new authors?


DJP: In a weird way a lot of the decisions I made as a young author, in pure ignorance, turned out to have been good decisions. There isn’t much I regret. One thing though: I wish I had quit my day job, left New York City, and started writing full time a few years earlier. I spent eight years working in New York at a job when I should have spent four or five. Of course, I would’ve starved longer, but starvation is part of becoming a successful author.


Explain to aspiring authors and booksellers just how much work you do, even as a traditionally published bestselling author, to maintain your level of success?


DJP: When I was cast down by how poorly one of my books sold, my editor told me: “It’s not a book; it’s a career.” You can’t just write books; a lot of other work must go into it. No one out there really gives much of a damn if your book sells or not. Only you can make your books successful. Writing the very best books you can is, of course, the one absolutely vital ingredient. Linc and I have a mortal fear of falling into a rut or just writing books by formula. We always strive to be original, we constantly challenge each other to do better, and we also care a great deal about English and we feel privileged to be working in such a beautiful language. Writing evocative and original English prose is not easy.


Do you have a favorite local bookstore, and if so, what do they do that makes them your favorite?


DJP: The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale is my favorite. Barbara Peters, the owner, has been supporting me ever since I published CITIES OF GOLD in 1992, long before I became a bestselling author. She is a treasure. Another bookseller I love is Dorothy Massey, who owns Collected Works in Santa Fe. She also has been such a wise supporter of me for decades as well as of local New Mexican authors. We all love her.


What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen bookstores make? And how would you suggest they fix it?


DJP: In the age of Amazon, a bookstore has to bring to the customer something that can’t be found online. That would include author events, book signings, support to the local literary community, creating a warm and inviting environment, and building good rapport with customers. Having a children’s section where kids can sit on the floor, select and browse through books is also important. You can’t survive just selling books anymore, because bookstores can’t compete with Amazon on price.


What’s next for the two of you?


DJP: A new series, featuring a much-beloved character from the Pendergast books.