PW: You started out writing historical romances, then you tried your hand at romantic suspense novels, and now you're writing FBI thrillers like Blindside. Was this a natural progression?
Catherine Coulter: My shtick at Putnam was to continue writing historical romances, but after writing nine of them, I was burned out. And then that wonderful thing called serendipity [happened]. I was back in Texas with my family, and my sister sidled up to me and whispered, "Hey, Catherine, have you ever heard of a little town on the coast of Oregon called The Cove? They make the world's greatest ice cream, and bad stuff happens." Naturally, Putnam's philosophy was "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but I simply had to write the book.
PW: In an interview with the Romance Reader in 1996, you said you didn't read widely in the romance industry because the market is flooded with bad books. Have your reading habits changed since then or is this still the case?
CC: I have favorite authors, and I will read them no matter what. It doesn't matter the genre. Somebody has to really swear to me on the head of their mother that "You're really going to like this book" for me to go out and spend eight dollars on somebody I've never read before.
PW: What challenges do you face writing thrillers, and how do they differ from the challenges of writing romances?
CC: Challenge isn't the right word. Each genre requires a different kind of discipline. With suspense thrillers, not only do I want you to care about the characters and keep scratching your head about the mysteries, but I've got to make you want to turn those pages. I have to stay on top of the logic of the situation: Are the suspects believable? Have they been questioned in the right way? None of these considerations exist with historical romances. Since historicals don't have to be tightly plotted, I can play with smugglers on the east coast of Scotland and introduce relatives who are wonderfully kooky.
PW: But funny, outrageous people exist in the present as well.
CC: This is true. I think the difference is that the characters [in the historicals] are cozy and warm and not caught up in life and death situations that go on for 400 pages. When I have an outrageous person in the contemporaries, I cannot let them go to their full outrageousness because I have to make you turn those pages.
PW: What research do you do before writing thrillers?
CC: You try your best to get this stuff right, but sometimes it's impossible. Sometimes, when I can't find something out, I'll think, "If I were the FBI, what would I do in this case?" And then I think, "Well, we're dealing with a huge bureaucracy." So I always do the opposite of what common sense would dictate. I have some readers in the FBI, but they're forgiving.
PW: How did you come up with the investigative duo of Lacey Sherlock and Dillon Savich?
CC: When I finished writing The Cove and it came time to write the next one, this man's voice said in my ear, "What about me?" It was Savich. He had been a secondary character in The Cove. In book two, The Maze, Sherlock came into the story. It was never meant to be a series. It just turned into one.
PW: Do you see yourself starting another suspense series anytime soon?
CC: I have no clue. I never know; it's serendipity. Life is just stuffed with it.
PW: You were once a Wall Street speech writer. How does writing fiction compare to writing speeches?
CC: Oh, that was fiction, too!