My guest today is Andrew Kaplan, author of Carrie’s Run, an exciting international spy thriller that came out today. Carrie’s Run is the prequel to the successful Homeland TV series. Please scroll down for his interview.
Mr. Kaplan, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. You have served in the US Army and the Israeli Army and were almost recruited by the CIA. How much of these experiences are reflected in your writings of international thrillers?
My experiences in the service and in intelligence are reflected in the accuracy and reality, particularly regarding tradecraft, I bring to my books. Many knowledgeable readers have commented on their authenticity. For example, ex-CIA agent Reza Kahlili has written: “Andrew Kaplan has a masterful grasp of the inner workings of intelligence agencies and their fight against terror.”
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer and what steps did you take toward that goal?
I knew I wanted to be a writer in high school. I read voraciously, went to college, then into the Army and afterwards, travelled the world as a free-lance journalist. Eventually, I tried writing stories and novels, but had years of rejections, although unusually, editors would often write long handwritten notes to me about much they loved my work even as they rejected it. For a long time, I thought I was the most popular unpublished author in America. Finally, disgusted, I decided to do a genre book and since I enjoyed spy thrillers, such as Ian Fleming, Len Deighton and John Le Carre, I decided to try one. It worked like a charm.
A word of advice for new writers?
Think about the kind of book you like to read strictly for fun. If you’re at the airport and you have to grab a book for an airplane, what type of book is it? What elements does it have that draw you in? What in your life or imagination has elements that uniquely resonate for you the way those elements do? That’s the book you should write.
What is your typical writing day?
I get up, exercise for an hour, clean up, have breakfast and get to work. I will take a break somewhere in the middle of the day and get back to work in the afternoon. Since I’m usually on a deadline these days, I try to move forward at least six days a week.
What do you like to read and what are you reading now?
I like to read other thrillers, classic literature (like Conrad, Tolstoy, Faulkner), general fiction and history. Top of the list for thrillers is probably John Le Carré at his best (it’s not all great). One of the reasons I started writing spy thrillers was that just as Conrad showed that sea stories could be literature, so Le Carré showed spy thrillers could be serious fiction. I’m a fan of some of the classic thrillers, like Eric Ambler and early Len Deighton. The late Tommy Thompson (Blood and Money, Serpentine) was a close friend and early mentor. Some, like Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Vince Flynn, David Morrell, make it look easy (it isn’t). A lot of writers get the technical stuff right; some get the tradecraft right; only a few get the writing and the compelling plotting all the way through right. I just finished Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson, Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Increment by David Ignatius and The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. I am currently reading The Great Sea by David Abulafia, The Art of Intelligence by Henry Crumpton, Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden by Peter L. Bergen, The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz and The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds.