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A Conversation With Best-Selling Author Joe Finder
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Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

To read more about Norm Follow Here






 
By Norm Goldman
Published on June 16, 2014
 



Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures Interviews Best-Selling Author, Joe Finder





We are excited to have as our guest today, best-selling author Joseph Finder. Joe has authored eleven novels including his latest one, Suspicion which has just been released.

Good day Joe and thanks for participating in our interview

Norm:

Joe, please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background. As a follow up, when did you decide you wanted to become a writer and what keeps you going?

Joe:

I always wrote, and I was fascinated with the idea of being a writer from a young age, but what I really wanted to be was a spy — a James Bond-style spy. I studied Russian language, history and politics in college and at the graduate level, and I was recruited by the CIA — at which point I realized that, in the real world, most espionage is paperwork. Reading Russian factory production reports in an underground cubicle was not exactly what I’d had in mind.

I pursued a career in journalism for a while, and wrote a nonfiction book, RED CARPET, about the industrialist Armand Hammer’s ties to the CIA and the KGB. Dr. Hammer didn’t like the book. He threatened to sue me, and he had his minions buy up as many copies of the book as he could, so no one else could read it. Dr. Hammer was both extremely wealthy and extremely powerful, and that was a scary time for me.

Fiction seemed a safer way to use all that material I’d gathered. I decided to turn that story into a thriller, because thrillers were what I loved to read. With my wife’s support, I gave myself three years to write and sell a novel. I sold THE MOSCOW CLUB a week before my self-imposed deadline.

Norm:

What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?

Joe:

I treat writing as a job. Routines are important. I start early, writing through the morning with as few distractions as I can manage. I’ll check my Facebook and Twitter accounts early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but during the day I’ll often use Mac Freedom to lock myself out of the Internet altogether.

Sometimes I’ll listen to music, and I’ll sometimes find that a particular song becomes a theme for a book. COMPANY MAN’s theme song was a gospel song called “No Hiding Place,” and VANISHED’s was the

Johnny Cash song “All I Do is Drive.” (For some reason I didn’t have a theme song for SUSPICION.)

Every writing day starts with my reading over what I’ve written the day before. Sometimes I’m happy with the previous day’s work, sometimes I’m not, but that’s part of being a professional: if I don’t like it, I know I can fix it.

Now, if you’re asking do I reread my older books, I rarely do, but I’ve achieved a kind of serenity about them.  They were the best I could do at that point in my life given deadlines and constraints.  So I’m happy with all of my books. (I just happen to think that SUSPICION is my best.)

Norm:

Are you a plot or character writer?

Joe:

That’s a tough question to ask a thriller writer. Plot’s important, of course. Plot is what makes a book a thriller, and I spend a lot of time on plot. But character is the key. I spend a year plotting, writing and revising a book; I can’t do that if I don’t know and like the characters. I’m living with them every day, as if they were my coworkers or even my family members. I miss them when I finish the book.

I start with plot – with the “What If?” – then immediately ask myself, who’s the character whose story this is going to be?  So I’m both a plot and a character writer.

Norm:

What has been the best part about being published?

Joe:

It’s having complete strangers read my books and tell me, “I couldn’t put it down,” “I laughed when this happened,” “I cried when this happened,” “I totally had a boss like that.” Writing is solitary work, but when the book is published, people connect with it — and through the book, I connect to them. It’s an amazing experience, there’s nothing like it. After more than 20 years, it still doesn’t get old for me, seeing someone reading one of my books, or having someone write and say it gave them pleasure. I’ll never get tired of that.

Norm:

Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?

Joe:

I have to have some kind of plan. Years ago Lee Child and I were talking about this, and he rather notoriously doesn’t plan, he doesn’t outline. So I thought I’d try it his way: I’d take my idea and just write the book, without having an outline or a plan. Because I’ve seen that it’s absolutely possible to overplan a book. The late Robert Ludlum, whom I knew and admired tremendously, would outline his novels to such a minute extent that it seemed (to me, anyway) to take the fun and the spontaneity out of writing. That approach turns writing into factory assembly-line work, so I don’t do it.

But writing without a plan didn’t work for me either. It took me much longer than it would otherwise have taken, and I wound up throwing away pages and pages of story because I’d gone off on a tangent that wasn’t going to pay off. So I’ve gone back to my system, which I compare to planning a trip with an atlas instead of with the GPS. Before I start to write, I need to know where I’m starting, and where I end, and where I might take a sharp turn along the way. But I’ll give myself the freedom to take a detour if one looks interesting.

Norm:

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Joe:

I always say, plumbers don’t get plumbers block and professional writers don’t get writers block. But there are good days and bad days. Some days I know where the book is going, I feel confident in the characters and my story, and some days I might spend two hours on a single paragraph. That’s the nature of the work, and I’d distrust any writer who says otherwise.

Norm:

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Joe:

I’m surprised every day, by all kinds of things. One thing I’ll say is that I expected, 12 books into this, that some things might be easier, that the next book might be easier to write than the last one. But it doesn’t work that way. Every new book is new, and every new book teaches you how to write it.

Norm:

In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point.

But how much is too much?

Joe:

The novelist’s prerogative is to make stuff up. That’s why I’m a novelist and not a journalist — but I feel that I earn the right to make things up, even really outrageous and amazing things, as long as I get the real-world details right. I set my stories in the real world. They’re about ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. Readers identify with these characters because I put them in situations that readers find familiar: offices, schools, the family dinner table.

If I take too much of a liberty with something I’ve pulled from real life, a reader who recognizes the real-life model will stop and say, “Hey, that’s not right,” and the story’s illusion is shattered. I still get emails about a gun error I made in one of my first books.  (I’ve since learned that Glocks don’t have safeties.) I appreciate that people read so closely, and I’m grateful for people who offer to share their expertise with me — but I want to ask them, “Well, but didn’t you like the book?” I want people to write me because they liked the book, not because I stretched the truth too far.

That said, if my plot needs a one-way street in Boston to go east instead of west, sure, I’ll do that.

Norm:

Where do you get your information or ideas for your most recent novel, Suspicion?

Joe:

Ideas are everywhere. I’ll never have enough time to write all the books I have ideas for. I get ideas in line for coffee, or waiting in the car line at my daughter’s school (when I used to take my daughter to school), from the newspaper, from people I meet at parties.

But once I have an idea, I’ll realize that I may not know enough about the world of my characters to write a whole book about them, and then I pick up the phone. Since I started writing novels, I’ve been amazed at how willing people are to invite me into their worlds, and tell me surprising details about what they do.

SUSPICION was easier in many ways because Danny’s world has a lot in common with mine. He’s a writer, I’m a writer. Danny’s has a teenaged daughter he’s crazy about, and I have a daughter I’m crazy about who was a teenager until very recently. But I did need to ask lawyer friends, federal agents and other security experts about the latest surveillance methods, and about how the DEA operates. Over the years I’ve been lucky to build a big network of experts, and if they don’t know something, they’re almost always willing to call a friend who has the information I’m looking for.

Norm:

How did you go about creating the character of Danny Goodman in Suspicion? Is he based on someone you know?

Joe:

To the extent that Danny is based on anyone, he’s based on myself. He’s not me: I need to be clear about that. But all the characters in my books have more in common with me than they do with anyone in the outside world, because they’ve all come from my own imagination.

Norm:

What is your secret in keeping the intensity of the plot throughout Suspicion?

Joe:

Rewriting, and cutting my drafts to the bone. Thrillers have to be thrilling. I know far more about the story and my characters than readers need to know, and I want to give readers the bare minimum of what they need to know to keep up — until it’s time to reveal things. Pasted on my computer screen is a piece of paper that says, “Reverse—Reveal—Surprise.”

Norm:

What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

Joe:

Writing is the one profession you need no credentials for, no formal training. All you need to do is to read good books and try to imitate them. That’s how we all start, by imitating the books we love to read. Do it long enough, and your own voice will inevitably take over.

No one starts out being good at this. Well, maybe the occasional genius is good from the beginning — but as the Russians say, “the first pancake is always a lump.” You can’t get good at this unless you’re willing to let people you trust read what you’ve written and give you honest feedback — and then you go back and you revise, rewrite, and revise and rewrite again.

Rejection is part of the process. Self-doubt is part of the process. The most successful writers are not necessarily the most talented, but the most persistent.

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and your novels?

Joe:

My WEBSITE is a good place to start. I’m also on FACEBOOK, and on Twitter @JoeFinder. I’ve even got some videos on YouTube; just search for “Joseph Finder.”

Norm:

As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.

Joe:

Do you think the Red Sox can repeat this year?” And my answer would be, if everybody stays healthy, why not?

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

Joe

Thank you!


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Follow Here To Read A Review Of Suspicion