Bestsellers World

Bestsellers World interview of Katherine Neville
“Interview with Katherine Neville”
July 9, 2002

Author Photo by Karl Pribram

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

I love all my books, but I love The Magic Circle best. It is the first book I tried to write, sort of like the first child you tried to conceive, and as such will always have an important place in my heart.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was “the thing for you”?

When I was eight years old, I had already written a book. So I would have to say, like Isadora Duncan, that my calling was already there in the womb.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

It’s something most people do not realize until you say it. To be a full-time writer, you have to LOVE being alone. Most successful writers have had major difficulties dealing with the fact that one hundred percent of their productive life MUST be spent completely alone, listening to your own ideas, to the voices of your characters, not of your boss, your spouse, your children, or your fans.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

Wow, that is tough. I’d have to say off the op of my head, Witness for the Prosecution, because it contains so many elements of suspense and humor. Plus I love Billy Wilder.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

All of them. The biggies are all dead, unfortunately: Dumas, Pere, Voltaire, Rafael Sabatini, Zola, etc etc. I confess, I love swashbuckling adventure novels laden with history.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

Life is research.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Banker, international consultant, computer expert, painter, waiter, photographer, model…of all these, working in a restaurant was my favorite.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Always, if time permits.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

Marie Curie. She had an attitude I really love: Why shouldn’t I discover radiation–and name it? Why shouldn’t I be admitted to the national academy? Why shouldn’t I be the first person to win two Nobel Prizes?

What led you to write mysteries?

Life is a mystery. Whenever I am asked this question by authors, I say, what’s interesting about a life lived alone in a room? (Which describes the life of most authors.) What is truly interesting about life is: What’s going to happen next?

Do you read reviews of your books?

As a reviewer myself, and lit major, I used to love the entire review process, the input from literary experts who knew the intellectual context within which an author’s works were placed. I have framed and hung in the library my own reviews of Don DeLillo and Milorad Pavic.

Those days are over. I sometimes feel I have to chew a rag to bring myself to read a review of anyone’s work, including my own. Many reviewers now do not even provide the courtesy of skimming the work they are reviewing. I call these Flap Copy Reviews. It is no wonder that most major periodicals have stopped or limited the literary review sections. I still read them–and I weep.

How would you like to be remembered?

With total recall.

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

I think the national poll in Spain, by El Pais, where my first book, The Eight, was chosen (along with Don Quixote) as one of the top ten books of all time.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

Since thoughts come to me even in my sleep, a fixed writing schedule, and a ruthless editor with a short attention span, are both necessary.

How did you get started in writing?

I started before the age of eight. But in grammar school, we were asked to write a story on a Saturday Evening Post cover (stories in themselves.) So I learned, at an early age, the additional discipline of writing around someone else’s “snapshot” of a story.

How do you come up with plots?

I paraphrase Saint-Saens on music: plots fall from me like apples from a tree. The secret ingredient is curiosity: about life, about fiction, about mystery, about everything. It is a trait I share with my readers.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

Too many to count. All at university. All nearly useless. I now believe, for those who are writers and aspire to become authors, the highly intensive workshop with someone whose style or approach is like what you want to write.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

I do not seem to be a good candidate for writers block, since I have ten or twelve books already in outline; but the events of life can often prevent us from writing fiction. My solution, so far, is to say that when crises descend, STOP WRITING until you can get back to that clear space you can live in, which is the fictional domain.

My own opinion is that much of writers block, for published authors, is the demand by readers, and especially publishers, to Do the Same Thing Again. That’s enough to make me fall on the ground in a stupor.

If you are writing what you want, what you love, no one can stop you–even snow, rain or hail, screaming children, pets, or spouse, will not prevent the postman from delivering a manuscript worth reading.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I have no hobbies. I am interested in everything.

How do you spend your free time?

Free time? What’s that? Is this a Science Fiction concept?–surely not a part of reality?

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Readers don’t need a message. Readers (and I am one) know what we like and we know who delivers it.

But for writers, I do have a message: Don’t write for anyone but yourself, not your family, not your publisher, not your friends, not your fans. If you write a book that you yourself love to read over and over, there will be enough readers out there who feel the same way you do. If you please yourself, you don’t have to worry about pleasing all of the people all of the time. If you please yourself, you will have a great book.

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