Today's headlines seem to be taking cues from the pulpiest novels. Four prolific mystery/thriller authors who will appear on a panel today in conversation with Meghan Abbott, talk about where their stories come from, how they manage fact and fiction in the era of fake news, and their writing life.
In The Boy's Club: Sandra Brown
Brown has published close to 80 books, 68 of which have become New York Times bestsellers. Her next novel, Tailspin, will be released in August.
What kind of daily routine do you keep to maintain such a prolific publishing schedule?
I've kept an office for years since early in my career because I had two young children. I have male colleagues who say, "Social media, all of that stuff. Oh, my wife does that for me." But I don't have a wife. That's how it is for professional women. We still have to coordinate home and family with the job.
How do you determine if an idea will work?
When I determine the one thing that I know that the reader does not—that's when I know that the idea has become a story. It's like the piece of marble that Michelangelo saw when he made David.
Plus Ça Change: Walter Mosley
In Down the River unto the Sea (out earlier this year), award-winning writer Mosley delved into policing, the criminal justice system, and New York City's grittiest milieus. His next book, John Woman, will pub in August.
Your latest book seems very inspired by current events, particularly issues with policing and Black Lives Matter.
I was on a panel of mostly journalists and me. They kept on talking about Trump and his notion of fake news. After 10 or 15 minutes, I said, excuse me, I'm sorry, I don't like Trump any more than the rest of you guys, but I'm a black man in America, I've been listening to fake news for 400 years. Yellow journalism built America. It sounds like I'm talking about contemporary stuff, but really, this stuff goes all the way back.
It seems there is an increasing awareness of issues with policing, at least in some corners in America.
It's one thing to be in popular culture—all of these things kind of fall under that. It's another thing for things to be different.
Fact Finder: Brad Meltzer
Bestselling author Meltzer's latest book is The Escape Artist. His next book, The First Conspiracy, is set to be released in January 2019.
Your books often feature lesser known places or people that are part of the American experience. How do you find your material?
I was working on our TV show, Lost History, at an Army museum when they told me that the U.S. Army has a painter on staff who paints disasters as they happen. I was like, "That sounds like the craziest person in the world." I knew right then that's where my character, Nola, came from for The Escape Artist.
How do you know when a particular fact or secret world is the one that you want to explore in a book?
Years ago, I was doing research on one of my thrillers, The President's Shadow. I remember finding some footnote that said there was an assassination attempt on George Washington. I just couldn't shake it. You can tell a good story by the ones that after four or five years are still with you, so in January we're launching my first adult nonfiction book about a secret plot to kill Washington called The First Conspiracy.
Staying Ahead Of Washington: David Baldacci
Bestselling author Baldacci's most recent book is The Fallen. This November, Long Road to Mercy will pub with a new female lead, FBI special agent Atlee Pine.
Washington, D.C., has obviously changed under the new administration. How has it affected your writing, if at all?
With D.C. now, I'm competing with headlines. I think I've got an outrageous, over-the-top idea, and then I read about it actually happening in the paper the next day. Something's got to give.
You were recently quoted in the ‘Orlando Sentinel' regarding your Wish You Well Foundation as saying: "I don't know how you have a democracy if you have people who can't read." What steps do you propose we take to become a nation of readers?
Put more money—not less—into education. Allow young students to also pick some of their own books to read, and encourage them to read for fun, to instill a lifelong love of turning the pages.