Stuart Woods has been cranking out bestsellers for almost 30 years now. His debut, Chiefs, won the Edgar Award in 1981.
When sent an unsolicited copy of his last book I decided I wanted to interview this guy to see what makes him tick. While I’m not crazy about the last two books by him — they seem a bit on the light side for me — between reading them and doing this interview I think I better understand their appeal.
What follows is the interview we did via email.
Scott: I just read your “reader interview,” which you said you did in an attempt to curb people asking the same questions over and over. Does it work? I have to say I feel intimidated by it, like if I ask something which isn’t included but you’re tired of answering you may hit me on the head with a book or something.
It works if they read the interview, but they don’t always do that.
So I’ll try to ask questions not on that list. thus… Do you watch any cop shows or thrillers on TV? Which ones?
Rubicon, Rizzoli & Isles, Closer, Etc.
Are there ever any worries that when reading others’ books or watching TV shows or movies that you’ll accidently steal another’s idea?
I don’t read in my genre for that very reason. I think it would be an awful thing to, even inadvertently, pick up on someone else’s idea, and it would be even worse to get caught doing it.
Is it coincidence that Tip, as this book starts, is having trouble as a golfer with a wife (murdered) who was sleeping around, and all this while memories of all the scandalous stories about Tiger Woods are still fresh? Put a more direct way is Teddy and his wife’s infidelity problems based partly off of Tiger’s problems keeping his tiger in his pants?
This was written before all that happened.
I found fascinating the idea — which you mention in that reader interview — of selling off naming rights to charitable groups (an auction for a good cause). Can you say what names you have used in the books through these auctions? Also, why stop at names? Couldn’t you, in theory, sell off a title or a plot line?
I don’t remember the names and I don’t know how you would do the latter.
How much planning ahead do you do before you start a book? When I recently interviewed Jeffrey Deaver, for example, he said he sometimes has a 200-page outline before he starts his books.
None. I write improvisationally from the first paragraph. When I’m about 50 chapters into the book I start looking for a way out of the corner I’ve painted myself into, and, so far, I’ve always found a way out.
If someone is new to you would you suggest they start with a particular book? With your first?
It couldn’t hurt. There’s a printable list on the “past books” page of the website.
How do you think Barack Obama is doing? I saw you complimented him in the reader interview so I was curious if your opinion of him has changed?
I don’t see how any president could have done better, under the circumstances. Everybody should read The Promise by Jonathan Alter, about the first year of Obama’s administration, to see how hard and how expertly he works.
What have been the high and low points in your writing career so far?
I have not had any low points but a lot of high points.
I will end with what I call a bonus question: What question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they don’t ask? Here’s your chance to ask it then answer it.
There isn’t one. The most frequently asked question is: Where do you get your ideas? I always reply that I have a fevered imagination and a rich fantasy life, which helps with the sex scenes.