Library of the Dead is a debut thriller about fate and predestination. Nine people in New York City are the victims of a serial killing and the only thing linking the victims is a postcard they received announcing their day of death. This is going to be the last case for a veteran FBI agent on a dissolute spiral to retirement and it’s going to take him to some dark and dangerous places involving a medieval monastery on the Isle of Wight, a secret post-World War II pact between Britain and the United States and the US government’s clandestine base at Area 51.
My inspiration comes from great writing, whatever the genre, including non-fiction. There’s nothing like reading (or hopefully writing) a beautiful passage. Steinbeck, John Fowles, Graham Greene, Ian McEwan are among my favorites. Within the thriller genre, there are none better, in my opinion, than John LeCarre and Umberto Eco. For concept and pace and sheer reader appeal, Leon Uris, Michael Crichton and Dan Brown have to be up there too.
I’m involved with a terrific peer group called International Thriller Writers which offers numerous resources and ways to connect with other writers. Aside from offering up great reads, I’ve been struck with the generosity of spirit and time of established writers like Lee Child, James Rollins, Steve Berry and David Baldacci. I try to read everything they write. I’ve recently started reading Michael Gruber too and I find him tremendously talented.
Books and films with gratuitous violence bother me; I don’t choose to read them, see them or write them. I’ve had my fill of real blood and guts from working in hospitals. That said, vivid violence if vital for character development or plotting is sometimes required and that’s perfectly fine.
I had a challenging corporate day job when I wrote Library of the Dead and that meant I was limited to nights and weekends with frequent starts and stops. It’s not the greatest way to write but most new writers don’t have the luxury of doing it differently. Historical detail is important to my books and about half my work involves reading and research. I try to keep on schedule by setting myself weekly goals rather than daily ones. I outline, of course, but not obsessively as I find this cuts off future creativity.
For inspiration, micro-environments are more important to me than city-scapes. Nothing gets me more revved up than my own cozy library in one of the oldest houses in Massachusetts.
My editors have been wonderful, personally and professionally. The biggest challenge was doing a coordinated three-way edit among the English-language editors(UK, Canada, US). Initially, there were some strong differences of opinion on a few structure and plot elements but we were able to forge a consensus and settle on one final version that made everyone happy, including me.
I think about my potential readers all the time and now with my first release I’m looking forward to having a real dialogue with some of them. I chose thrillers as a platform to reach the largest possible audience but I’m hopeful there will be a special appeal to readers who like to be challenged by complex plots and historical detail. I’ve lived and worked in the UK and Europe and I’m especially interested in having a connection with international readers. Since Library of the Dead is being translated into 23 languages, hopefully I’ve got a shot.
Library of the Dead, its sequel Book of Souls and the book I’m currently writing, The Périgord Manuscript, are all conspiratorial thrillers with dominant historical angles. I’m fond of this genre but I don’t want to be completely pigeon-holed. I’ve got other mystery and thriller ideas floating around, and even some comedies, and I’d like to be able to explore them. At the end of the day, I think it’s the readers who make the decisions about a writer’s future, not the publisher.
Book of Souls is going to be released in early 2010. It’s a sequel to Library of the Dead, tying up some loose ends and creating some new ones.
Library of the Dead is published by Arrow Books