For the last few weeks, bestselling author Joseph Finder (@JoeFinder) has been reading your questions. He answered so many (and wrote such thoughtful responses) that we are going to split the Q&A into several posts, one this weekend (now), one on Monday and the last one on Tuesday. It's a three part-thrilla-palooza! And there is quite a bit to look forward to...
Take it away Joe....!
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? –LISA
Thanks! I'm like most writers I know, in that I became a writer because I love to read so much. The first books that really captured my imagination — and gave me the idea that I could be a writer — were the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, etc.). I wrote Mrs. Cameron a letter, and she wrote me back; it was a revelation to me, as until then I don't think I realized that books came from regular people who just sat around and made them up. Then I fell in love with Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and so it began . . .
The novelists I love most as an adult are the ones who combine the power of storytelling with characters you can't forget, and many of these are "literary" novelists: Saul Bellow, especially Humboldt's Gift; Philip Roth; Robertson Davies, whose Deptford Trilogy is magical; E.L Doctorow, especially the pageant of Ragtime; John Fowles, in The Magus; and Sue Miller, who happens to be a friend but is also an amazing writer.
How did you get your inspiration from all your books? –ANONYMOUS
Inspiration is everywhere. I'm serious. Watch the news, drive the carpool, shop for groceries, and play the "What if" game. What if the person in the car in front of you were plotting to kill his boss? What if that nanny on the playground is secretly adding herself to all her employer's financial accounts? What if a deranged shoe store employee decided to take her revenge by dusting zombie powder inside that foot-measurer contraption, and planned to marshal a zombie army to take over the mall? More realistically, look for sources of stress and conflict in the world around you. Every conflict is a story: somebody wants something, somebody else wants something different, and the path to resolution is your plot.
Think of it as like the jacket copy on a novel: it grabs you, tells you what kind of novel it is, who the basic characters are, what the premise is, what kind of other books it’s like. A reader in a bookstore picks up a novel because of its cover, but then she or he reads to jacket copy to see what it’s about, and in 400 words or so she gets it. That’s all you need, but it’s highly compressed. If you’re doing a longer synopsis for an agent, it helps to think of it as a newspaper article that reports the events of your novel. Name your characters, establish their environment, lay out their goals and describe the journey they take to get there. Synopses should follow the narrative sequence of your book (that is, if your book is structured in flashbacks, the synopsis should reflect that), but in general, shorter is better.
What writing faux pas do you commonly find yourself falling victim to (and subsequently having to go back and fix) in your writing process? –RICH
You’d think that after having written 10 novels I’d have the process down perfectly, but I don’t. Someday, but not yet. I often give a talk at writer’s conferences that I used to call The Six Biggest Mistakes That Even Bestselling Writers Make, and then it grew into the Ten Biggest Mistakes, then the Thirteen Biggest Mistakes….. None of us is perfect, no matter how successful. None of us gets the book right in the first draft. Often, in my own first drafts, I find it takes me way too long to get the party started – I call this throat-clearing. Then I’ll re-read it and find myself mentally drumming my fingers – get to it, already! That’s a big one. Some mistakes I find I seem to just have to make as a way of finding myself into the story. For me, it’s just part of the process.
Hi Joe! I'd like to ask about your most embarrassing moment; I'm sure there are many! :> -MERLECHLOE
Ugh, do we have to talk about this? No, really, I've never done ANYTHING that embarrassed me. We won't talk about the time I broke my fly zipper the morning before interviewing a major corporation's CEO, and he found me dealing with it in the men's room on the executive floor immediately before the interview (before we had even been introduced), my pants puddled on the floor on top of my shoes. No, we'll just skip right over this question . . .
...keep reading...jump into PART 2
Joseph Finder is 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.