What do you keep by your side when you're writing?
Years ago, in South America, I bought a cheap, small, wooden sculpture of a dog. It sat on the table next to my paper as I handwrote my first book. When that book was published, friends and family members thought the dog was the key. So they started buying me other wooden animals – cats, fish, a lion – and I have dutifully written a book for each of them. I’m about to start book number fourteen.
What book changed your life, and how?
Tom Wolfe’s The New Journalism. Not only did it launch a new writing style—creative nonfiction, but it offered great life advice. He described staying in graduate school as like “the worst part of the worst Antonioni movie you ever saw”— giving people the okay to bail out of situations they detested. I read the book, skipped a law school class, and talked my way into a writing assignment for New York magazine.
Do you cook? If so, is there any particular dish that you've mastered and would like to share?
Don’t look for new recipes in my Dr. Alexandra Blake series. In my latest book, she’s so busy tracking a killer that her idea of a gourmet dinner is mixing sliced apples and cheese with a can of tuna. I must confess, she got that idea from me.
What do you enjoy doing the most with your free time?
Writing thrillers has led to some great adventures. For The Silent Assassin, I traveled from the White House to a biological research facility in Vietnam. For Sequence, I sat in on a four month forensic genetics class and spent time at a crime lab. With Immunity, I learned to shoot so I could correctly describe the unmistakable metallic wallop from chambering a round in a Beretta 9 mm.
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