New York Times Bestselling author Joseph Finder is taking your questions…


In October, Ben Mezrich answered your questions on writing, inspiration and rejection, Joseph Finder is up next.

Joe, a bestselling thriller author and hailed as the “CEO of Suspense,” has published nine novels including the bestselling High Crimes which was turned into a film starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. He has recently sold two more bestselling novels to Hollywood and his latest thriller, Vanished, landed on The New York Times bestseller list. Vanished, published in August 2009, is the first book in a continuing series featuring corporate security specialist Nick Heller.

Joe was born in Chicago, but spent his childhood living around the world, including Afghanistan and the Philippines. At Yale, he majored in Russian studies and sang in the school’s legendary a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs. He completed his master’s degree at Harvard and was recruited by the CIA, but decided to write fiction instead.

Finder_vanished-1 For the next week (or so), you get to ask Joe questions in the comments area below. Ask anything! Ask about his process and his writing routine, his favorite song or his most embarrassing moment. For more question inspiration, check out Joe’s website and/or follow him on twitter.

Be creative. Joe is now listening…

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  1. Hi Joe, glad to see another impressive name lending some time to the growing juggernaut that is WeBook.
    So, to get the questions rolling: What writing faux pas do you commonly find yourself falling victim to (and subsequently having to go back and fix) in your writing process?

  2. Hi Joe! I'd like to ask about your most embarrassing moment; I'm sure there are many! :> But since we initially met on twitter and facebook, I'd like to ask you to describe both positive & negative experiences that you may have had using these social media. You are very engaged with your fans, especially on twitter, and I'm wondering if at times it can be overwhelming or even "frightening?"

  3. Hi Joe! Wow, another star on WEbook!
    I'm a pretty young writer, so I have very little experience in this field. I enjoy writing, but I have a lot of trouble putting all my ideas on paper... It's a bit frustrating... XD
    So... How do you get a novel going? What steps do you take to put those first words onto paper? Thanks!!

  4. Hi Joe! I am a new fan. I just finished several of your novels, including "Vanished". They are all fantastic! I would like to know who your favorite novelists are?

  5. Good Evening Joe, I just finished reading your book The Moscow Club. It is a first edition that I recently bought from Powells books. It is a first edition and was wondering if I sent it to you that you could autograph it for me. I am a collector of signed first edition books. Thanks for your response, Steve Rand

  6. Deron Bissett, Ph.D.28 November 2009 at 15:01

    Hi Joe,
    I have tried to locate a first edition UK of Vanished published by Headline books. So far, I can only locate a 2nd printing. What gives with that?
    Did the Brits not publish a copy with "1" on the publication page. (I pre-ordered the book in June 09, so was wondering what happened to all the firsts UK?
    Deron Bissett, Ph.D.

  7. Hope Thompson - Jennifer H. Woody29 November 2009 at 00:06

    Hi Joe, I am an aspiring author. My first manuscript is Senior Year. I have been having troubles filling out the agentinbox information. I filled out the information. Eight times, it came back telling me that I was missing information. The nineth time I counted the words in the query letters instead of coping the word count form another part of the process. I am new at this and am trying hard to understand the process. Do you have any suggestions. My book is fifteen chapters long. Thanks.

  8. Aloha, Joe!
    I was re-reading some of your books and noticed that you seem to incorporate some facts from your own life, or that of people you know, as details in your stories. A Blackwing pencil, red sox, etc. are a few real life connections it seems. In Extraordinary Powers the character Ben, has a photographic memory. I was wondering if you knew someone who had this amazing ability?

  9. Joe,
    I've heard a variety of opinions from popular authors regarding outlines. Some writers swear by them, while others say they don't like constricting their narrative with a pre-set plan.
    You strike me as an outline guy, but I wanted to ask anyway: What are your thoughts on outlines? And have they changed at all over time?
    Many thanks,

  10. Could you tell us a little bit about how your first novel got published? Was it a struggle to find an agent? Did you do a lot of rewrites and revisions?

  11. Bonjour Joe,
    I have an idea for a comic spy novel set in Canada, and I'm working on the outline for it. I was wondering if you have suggestions on books that might help with the politics, tradecraft, or structuring thrillers?

  12. Only One word to characterize such a great post “WOW” that was a very interesting read

  13. how did you get your inspiration from all your books?

  14. Hi Joe,
    I'm a very young writer (still at school) and was just wondering how you would go about researching your books? If you were to write a book set in a country that you dont live in, how would you go about finding out more about their culture, accents, etc?

  15. Hi Joe!
    Great question from Mel, let me do a follow-up -- how would you then integrate that information in a way that was smooth and believable, and check to make sure it was represented accurately?

  16. Loreen Smallwood4 December 2009 at 17:18

    Hi, Joe I am a first time writer. I'm on chapter eleven right now and have over 17000.00 words so far. The novel is fiction. I have only been working on it since this past July.I am using no format for the story is in my mind. I visualize every thing I am a x interior designer,I majored in Art.My question is do I need a format and when should I Before I send to editors or should I even be worried about this at this stage. I have two ex prof.friends and some close girl friends reading it as I go. They are very supportive.I have never taken any kind of writing class. Should I? They say no,they always ask when the next chapter will be done and they want to know what's going to happen next. Should I continue on this way? When I read about how to write I get very nerves and want to stop writing because I just don't know if I can learn formats. I also am just learning how to use the computer. Help

  17. Hello Mr. Finder,
    Big fan of your astounding body of work. Question...
    How do writers keep focused when there are so many delicious distractions in this world? How do you focus on your writing?

  18. Hi Joe!
    I'm thinking about starting a novel set in the Victorian Era. How would I go about finding out the right information to find it believable. I'm 16, so I would want to make it seem for young adults.
    Also, how do I keep myself motivated to finish a novel I've started?

  19. Respected Sir,
    I aspire to be a writer too. However, the major difficulty that I face is that almost on the verge of completion of my first project I find it difficulty to search for a publisher. I have worked hard for my book & researched on it day & night, however i have not come up with any good feedback's from other end. Did you suffer from the dilemma when you were working on your first project?
    I wish you the best on your forthcoming plans on novels. I keenly look forward to your response.
    Thanking you,
    Yours Sincerely,

  20. Hello Joe,
    I was wondering if you have any tips on writing a synopsis? Is there a formula to follow? Thanks!

  21. Hello there Joe I recently finish my screen play and just lengthen it for the book and now I'm going to format it, what do you think of a book that is the next great Gatsby meets Harry Potter for adults?

  22. Hello Jigi Joe, start answering your mail!

  23. Hi Joe,Had to make a crack about the pen being mightier than the sword (or gun) in your case. Do you feel that your training in the CIA has influenced your success as a writer (write what you know)?How many hours a day do you write? Do you Keep a schedule or a minimum word count. I am always curious on how other writer's write, because I am so damn disorganized--you many best sellers,me none. Thanks a lot for taking time to answer us.Laura

  24. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for taking the time to address questions in this manner. I think it's great that you stay so connected with the public, even while working out Nick Heller's latest.
    My question involves studying stories for the purpose of analysis. One hears often that writers should study as many works as possible, but it is often left at that. Have you ever done an in-depth study of a novel to figure out what works versus what doesn't, and if so, did you have a method?
    Thank you, and best regards,
    Jeremy Jones


  26. Jeffrey Petit-Bois14 December 2009 at 06:13

    Hi Joe, I was wondering. Does it matter if a writer gets self published or published in the normal way? Is this choice of self publishing will cause the writer any trouble in the future? Thank you very much for your time.

  27. Jeffrey Petit-Bois15 December 2009 at 03:09

    Hi Joe, I would like to know is there any difference for a writer that self publish or a writer that does it the normal way? Does self publishing affect a writer's career later on or not?

  28. Dear Joe,
    How did you know that writing is what you wanted to do?

  29. Hello sir,
    I am young and have little experience in writing but it has always been a dream of mine, so i want the chance to fulfill my dream to professionally write books and become a best selling author.but the fact that i am young and can't think of how to make my stories interesting and good and i also need to know how i should write a poem book since i have been told i am a good poet by people that don't know me i would like to share my thoughts about the world through poetry and stories help me !!! :) <3

  30. Hello, Sir,
    I have a question about setting, but it seems pretty simple to ask. I was wondering, when writing a fiction novel that takes place in more "modern times," how hard is it to make the setting in a town or city you've never been to before? I'd appreciate any feedback and ideas you could give me. Thanks for the help. I'm sure everyone appreciates it.
    Thanks again


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