Book Talk: Baldacci turns to family drama in new book

New York: Best-selling author David Baldacci is known for penning page-turners such as `The Simple Truth,` `Split Second` and `The Sixth Man,` in which he guides readers through mysteries at the highest levels of power.

His latest novel, `One Summer,` is a family drama, a genre Baldacci explored in short stories before his debut novel "Absolute Power" made him a star in 1996.

"One Summer" follows Jack Armstrong, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as he tries to keep his family together following the sudden death of his wife and his own life-threatening battle with a mysterious illness.

Baldacci spoke with Reuters about the stylistic departure.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: "I was at church for my son`s confirmation, and I`d gotten there early because my wife had asked me to save some seats for friends and family, so I had some time to think. I had a lot of things going on with my family at the time. My dad had passed away a year earlier. My mom was ill. My daughter was getting ready to head off to college. And I was thinking about my mortality, and this story hit me and unspooled before me -- the premise, the plot, the theme. I had to write it, and spent the next three months doing just that."

Q: "One Summer" is much different than the thrillers for which you`re known. What types of challenges did you face in writing the book?

A: "In some ways it was liberating. I didn`t have to lay out a lot of red herrings and clues. I could delve more deeply into the characters. Obviously, it`s a different sort of genre. But those sorts of stories were what I started with. I wrote short stories for 10 years before I became a thriller writer, and their themes were more like the themes explored in `One Summer.`"

Q: When do you know you have an idea worthy of a book?

A: "Usually, I rattle it around my head for a month. Earlier in my career I`d get an idea and say `Great!` But when I`d start the next book I`d realize I didn`t have enough material to justify a novel. As I`m thinking about the book, I need to layer the story to have plot and sub-plot, and then I have to think about the characters that could inhabit the story. And if all of that passes my litmus test, which is a feeling, an instinct in which I know I have enough material, I sit down and write it."

Q: What is it you hope readers feel when finished reading your books?

A: "Well, first of all, I hope they find it was an entertaining story that kept them engrossed as they went through the story with the characters. And I hope, with my thrillers especially, that they feel a little bit smarter than they were before they read the book. So if they feel smarter and feel like they`ve lived the story with the characters then I feel I`ve met all my goals as a writer."

Q: You`re prolific. How often do you write?

A: "While I love to write, I don`t write every day, because for me it`s a waste of time. Some writers stare at the page or screen until it comes. For me, that means I haven`t thought the story through enough. I don`t have an official word count that I work with. Some days I`ll write 100 words, and some days I`ll write 5,000 words."

Q: Will novels survive?

A: "Oh, absolutely. The world is a story and people have been engaged by stories forever. That`s how families swapped tales of each other. I think if books go away then humanity goes away, and I don`t think anyone wants that."

Bureau Report