Goldberg’s thriller True Fiction (Thomas & Mercer, Apr.) portrays a bestselling thriller writer, Ian Ludlow, as a reluctant action hero.
How did you come up with Ian Ludlow?
Ian Ludlow is me. I wanted to create a character with zero superskills. He’s not Jack Reacher or James Bond. He’s not Navy SEALs, Special Forces, or even a superlover. He’s a writer. He makes stuff up. He has to become a hero. Ludlow is out of shape and doesn’t have sex. He’s anything but the stereotypical super character. He faces danger and runs like hell—until he’s forced not to. The only person in the novel who has special powers is utterly insane.
True Fiction is full of humor. How important is it in your writing?
It’s crucial. Even in the most dire situations humor is instrumental to survival. Every dire situation contains humor. I find books that do not contain humor to not accurately portray life. Look at James Bond, Star Wars, and Star Trek. The challenge is finding the delicate balance between the story and the thriller plot line and the humor. You don’t want to cross the line into Austin Powers territory. Elmore Leonard was a pro at striking this balance. True Fiction is a thriller that also makes fun of thrillers, and it shows that a hero can be as human as you or me.
In True Fiction, the CIA studies an imagined terrorist scenario written by Ludlow. Is this based on fact?
Here’s what’s true about True Fiction, besides the humor. Writers such as Lee Child, Brad Meltzer, Michael Connelly, and others have advised the CIA in secret scenarios, and not just since 9/11. This goes back to WWII. There’s a special group at the University of Southern California that does just this. A lot of terrorist scenarios have been found in fiction first. The CIA comes to writers, musicians, graphic artists to garner ideas and then act on preventing them.
Does your background as a screenwriter help with your novel writing or is it the other way around?
Definitely screenwriting helps more. Everything that goes into writing a novel is the antithesis of a television show, where everything has to move the story forward. If it doesn’t, you cut it. It’s all show, don’t tell. A book can go inside a character’s head and supply heavy exposition. A screenplay moves through dialogue and action. It’s forced my writing to become lean and cinematic in nature.