Despite writing 22 books in 15 years, David Baldacci – who spent a family holiday in Spain last summer – almost “never knows” how his stories will end. Here he speaks to Nicole Hallett.
THOUGH many of David´s books deal with the US secret services, this is no reflection of time spent before becoming a globally respected author.
Prior to publication of his first novel Absolute Power in 1996 David was a trial lawyer arguing cases before judges and juries. “I was really a writer before I was a lawyer, but I couldn’t make a living writing short stories so practised law while I tried to make it as a writer,” he says
Absolute Power – published a couple of years before the Lewinsky scandal rocked Bill Clinton – was almost prophetic as the story line involved a US President having an affair.
“I had a lot of grief about that book. People thought it was far fetched that a president would have an affair and then bam Clinton had an affair. I even got letters accusing me of taking a national scandal and writing about it after the fact to make money.”
With his general writing style one that includes numerous intricacies, David carries out in-depth research for all his books.
“I go out with people in the field and observe what they do. I have been there when people have been arrested in some hair-raising experiences and have gone down to army installations and done incredibly stupid things.
“If you want to write about how it feels to fire a sniper rifle that can kill somebody you can’t even directly see because they are a mile away then you need to experience it yourself,” says David who lives in America close to a CIA headquarters in Virginia.
“Over the years I have got to know a lot of people from all the agencies.”
None of David´s stories has so far had a Spanish link, but the nation could feature in a future story.
“I have this one particular character Shaw, an international agent, who I think could very well end up in Spain where I have already absorbed the atmosphere during three or four visits.
“Last year we rented a place near Gaucin about 45 minutes from the coast in Andalucia on the Costa del Sol.
“We could see Africa from the villa. During our 10 days there we visited Toledo, Sevilla, and Madrid as well as hopping on the ferry to Morocco.”
One of his most recent books is Sixth Man, the fifth book in the Sean King and Michelle Maxwell thriller series.
David’s other recently published book One Summer is more a family drama about life and death and is a slight deviation from his usual story type.
The story idea came to him while in church.
“My dad had passed away, my mom was ill and my daughter was getting ready to go off to college. I developed the story in my head over an hour-and-a-half while saving seats in church for my son’s confirmation and then spent the next three or four months writing it,” he says
The nickname of David´s wife Michelle is Mikki, a teenage character in One Summer. “Names are important and sometimes a charity will auction the chance to choose a name in my next book for a character of my choosing.”
Since having his first book launched 15 years ago David has streamlined his life and now focuses more on writing. “The two books a year pace is one I am comfortable with right now,” he says.
But this does not mean David sits at his computer around the clock.
“I do not write every day or have a schedule but I am always thinking about the story, so when I do sit to write I am productive.
“In three days I may write 40,000 words while other days I may just write 20 that are crucial to the plot,” says David, who finds the first 50 or so pages the hardest of any book to write.
Despite being such a prolific writer, David is not short of new ideas
His next book, Zero Day to be published in November, is based around a character named John Puller, a former army ranger turned army criminal investigator.
“This is the first time I have written a story with the mind of it becoming part of a series, so I have laid his character out carefully and included foreshadowing that will pay off in later books.”
During one visit to Spain with his local publisher, while meetings with newspapers and magazines were arranged, no book signing events were arranged.
“Perhaps this was because of local culture, but if people were interested, I would be glad to do one,” he says.
Main photo credit:Yvonne Taylor