David Baldacci crashed upon the publishing world in 1996 with the success of his first novel, Absolute Power, which was later made into a gripping movie. He has now written 11 other novels as well as seven screenplays and agreed to an email interview as part of promotions for his latest book, The Collectors, which comes out in mid-October.
With the possible exception of Michael Connelly, Baldacci is the most widely-read author I have interviewed, so I took the opportunity to ask him some questions about any problems resulting from being a best-selling author.
Scott Butki: How did you come up with the idea for this book? Do you consider it one of your best?
David Baldacci: I've long been interested in doing a story set at the Library of Congress, and in particular the rare books reading room, which is not very well known, despite being the repository for the literary treasures of this country.
The Camel Club was a unique vehicle to tell this story, especially since one of the characters, Caleb Shaw, works in the reading room. I do think it's one of my best because it combines an original story with great characters, an unpredictable ending, humor, excitement and you even learn something in the bargain. What more can a reader hope for?
SB: What's your writing regimen? Do you write every day?
DB: I don't write every day nor do I have a "words per day" goal. That is just too artificial. I think about what I'm going to write every day. I'm not happy unless there're plot ideas swirling around in my mind. I also spend a lot of time researching and interviewing people for the books.
SB: Most people I interview are not as well known as you. So I'd like to ask a few questions about that. Are there different pressures you face as a best-selling writer, such as a push to crank out another bestseller?
DB: It's not pressure to crank out another bestseller, at least it's not for me. It's about the challenges of not covering the same ground, not becoming formulaic, not becoming a book factory where you lose the original drive and motivation and love of writing that got you here in the first place. Success can be crippling and limiting, sort of give your readers what they've come to expect. I fight very hard against that.
SB: What is the best part about being a best-selling author? What is the worst part?
DB: The best part is being able to write full-time and be in control of your creative life. The hardest part is not letting all the ancillary things that come with being a bestselling novelist interfere with the creative time.
SB: Does being so popular discourage you – or other popular writers you know
– from trying something very different from what you have written in the past?
DB: I've written a number of different types of stories. Wish You Well has been compared numerous times with To Kill A Mockingbird; The Christmas Train was a romantic screwball comedy on a cross-country train. Even my thrillers are very different from each other. I didn't become a writer to write the same story over and over.
SB: This interview is coming out prior to the book's publication. In 100
words or less why should someone read this book?
The story line is totally unique. First, you have the Camel Club introduced in a novel of the same name last year. They give one a perspective on Washington D.C. and its power enclaves that has never been seen before in fiction.
Then, in The Collectors you take the political world and mix it together with the intrigue and danger of high-stakes espionage.
Lastly, you throw in the kicker — the world's greatest con, Annabelle Conroy. She takes both the politicians and the spies for a ride they won't soon forget. And neither will the reader.
SB: Which character in this book do you most identify with?
Annabelle Conroy. Who hasn't fantasized about being a high-level con
taking greedy people with far too much money already for a ride?
SB: What is the biggest misconception about you? This is your chance to respond to misconceptions or critics.
Many readers who meet me are surprised that I'm not white-haired and
pushing eighty. I guess because of what I write about and how much I
seem to know about interesting/secret things. I'm actually in my