1. How many rejection slips did you get before your first novel was published?
Rejection slips? Not that many, precisely because most people simply didn't bother to respond at all. I learned fairly quickly that if I heard nothing in a couple of weeks, I was probably rejected. A slip would have been a badge of honor because at least someone took the time to reject me, but for the most part I apparently wasn't worth officially rejecting.
2. Have you ever thrown away a book that you just couldn't make work?
No. Well, not completely thrown away. I've certainly changed the plot and direction wildly from what I first envisioned, usually because of two competing interests, forcing me to choose one over the other. One thing I've found, though, is that nothing is ever completely thrown away. Nine times out of ten, I'll end up using it somewhere else.
3. Is it still exciting to publish a new book even after all this time?
Ha! Seriously? I still take pictures when I'm grocery shopping and see my book in the rack, amazed that it's there. Yes, it's definitely exciting. I hope that feeling never, ever leaves.
4. Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind when you need one?
I get ideas all the time, but I rarely write them down. My wife says I'm Walter Mitty, constantly coming up with stories - usually to get out of trouble - and that's pretty much how I write. I see something that sparks an idea and I'll toy with it over and over. Sooner or later, all of those little stories end up as scenes in a book.
5. Do you have entire story arcs mapped out when you begin a trilogy or a series of related books?
No. I write a series but I don't have an overarching arc in my head. What I want the characters to do is grow naturally, like real life, based on the stories I'm creating. In other words, the story will drive how the character will grow, but each book is a standalone. I will say that the series does form an arc, completely on its own. I'd like to take credit for some genuis thinking, but it just happened.
6. Do you know how a book/series is going to end when you begin it?
Yes. Well, in a perfect world, yes. For me, it sure makes it easier. Some writers let the book just take them where it will, but that would drive me insane. I knew the last sentence for Enemy of Mine before I knew the first, and had the ending for The Widow's Strike mapped out in my head before I even had an antagonist. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. I didn't know how The Polaris Protocol would end, and it gave me fits, because the ending radiates out, reverberating throughout the book.
7. Would life be easier if you published under just one name?
Are you suggesting I should start publishing under a different name? What's wrong with my single name?
8. Do you have to enter a different mind-set to write different stories for different names/characters?
Yes, definitely. I strive to make all characters three dimensional, and to do that I definitely have to be in a different mind-set. A female Chechen terrorist has a different world-view from Jennifer Cahill, and in order to get that world view out, I have to be in a different frame of mind. Conversely, it would be very easy to write a Middle Eastern terrorist as some ridiculous parody of what Americans believe he or she would act like, but I'd prefer more nuance, and that requires a different mindset.
9. Is there any kind of book you would like to write but haven't?
Not yet. If I ever had that problem, I'd simply write it.
10. If you could change anything about your writing career, what would it be?
Nothing. I have been blessed to be allowed to write for a living, and very few get this opportunity.
11. What’s the most interesting question you’ve ever been asked about your writings, and what was your answer?
I was laying face-down, butt naked from the waist down, four minutes out from beginning a colonoscopy, when my doctor put One Rough Man in my face and said, "Would you sign this?"
I told him, "After we're done..."
I figured he needed the incentive.
12. If you could have written any single work – novel, screenplay, stage play, poem, history, biography – that you most admire and adore, what would it be?
Honestly, I'd be afraid to pick one. I write in my style and would never pre-suppose I could write someone else's book. I like other writers precisely because they're not me.
13. Anything you’ve always wanted to be asked about your writing but no one ever has?
"When's it going to be a movie?"