John Kelly is the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time and Three on the Edge: The Stories of Ordinary American Families in Search of a Medical Miracle. He has written about medicine, history, and psychology for many years. He lives in New York City and Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Where are you from?
Who are your favorite writers?
Max Hastings, David McCullough, Anthony Powell, Richard Yates, John Lucas
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I admired Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Max Hasting's Armaggedon
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Reading (and watching, in documentaries) European history and good independent films. Long walks in the country.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?"
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite."What is the question most commonly asked by your readers?
What is the answer?"Why are you so drawn to catstrophe?" (My answer: " I find it compelling to see how human beings behave in extreme situations. And these situations have an inherent drama unvailable in the more mundane corners of life.")
What inspired you to write your first book?
I'd been a medical journalist (solid, family-bill-paying work), though always had dreamed of writing European history. An offer came through an agent to co-write a book on a field that was big in Europe: prenatal psychology. The book ultimately became one of the biggest internationally-selling parenting books of the day. So I guess, in retrospect, you could call it a compromise between my day-job and my aspirations.
Where do you write?
In the city: Since our son has long left home (he's married), I have taken over the dining table (writing European historical disaster takes a lot of books and papers). In our country house (c. 1772), I have a cozy office upstairs. I submit to the tyranny of understanding the complex Irish Poor Law system and grain economics in room once slept in by some of Massachusetts's first citizens to have escaped the tyranny of British colonialism