Tag: books

Author Interview: Author talks family history, inspirations ahead of Midtown Reader visit

“My mother taught me to read when I was five years old. It took six weeks, and I became a voracious reader.”

That’s how Stuart Woods, the author of more than 75 novels, explained his start to me—I although as it turned out, it was a short start.

Stuart will be at Midtown Reader on Thursday, Oct. 17, to talk about his newest thriller, “Stealth.”

“I made a stab at a novel when I was 9 years old, but I only got about three pages in,” he said. “It was hard, so I gave it up.”

If that had been the end of his fascination with writing, readers wouldn’t have been able to enjoy his collection of fast-paced, action-packed thrillers that have collectively sold millions of copies around the world. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

“When I was 10, I was at my grandmother’s house and I found a box with a police chief’s badge, half shot away and covered in what I thought was blood,” he said. “My aunt told me it belonged to my grandfather, who was the Chief of Police in our small Georgia town and who was killed in the line of duty.”

This discovery eventually became the inspiration for his first novel, “Chiefs,” which Woods said is his favorite of the books he has written.

Based on his family history, it was fulfilling to finish. But it took Woods about eight years to complete — six longer than he would have preferred. Now he writes four books a year, thanks in part to the discipline he learned during his 10 years spent in advertising.

“The most valuable skill a writer can have is the ability to plant one’s ass in a chair and write 1,500 words every day, whether you want to or not,” he said. “And the best cure for writer’s block is to just write something.”

At a pace of four books per year, Woods relies on his skills of improvisation to bring characters and scenes to life.

He said he starts with a blank screen and writes a scene, then evaluates it the next day and writes another scene, which eventually catapults him into his next story idea. He compared it to working on a jigsaw puzzle but in reverse, cutting out the shapes of the pieces as you go along.

“Once I have the events in my head it all fits together,” he explained, “although my characters are always turning left when I thought they would turn right.”

And as for book recommendations from the still voracious reader? Woods didn’t hesitate.

“Read everything by Mark Twain,” he said. “He’s the best writer this country has ever produced, and the funniest.”

This article was first published in the Tallahassee Democrat.

I’m a Republican and I enjoyed “Becoming”

I’m a registered Republican and I enjoyed reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming.” There. I said it.

And I feel like it’s important to say, mostly because I was chatting with someone a few weeks ago and when I mentioned the title, they pursed their lips a bit and said they probably wouldn’t read it because they didn’t agree with her politics.

How sad to hear. Why would anyone deprive themselves of a good and possibly challenging read, just because they might not agree with the author’s politics?

Here’s what I liked most about “Becoming” — Michelle Obama’s voice. Like her or loathe her (or her husband), you have to give her props for knowing what she wants to say and being an expert communicator.

Not once while I was reading the book was I unsure about her perspective or her point. And who doesn’t love a good love story? The Obamas’ is delightful, full of character, quirks, compromise and strength.

To be fair, I can see how people with stronger political feelings than me could go either way on the book; Republicans might see some finger-wagging, and Democrats might sigh in solidarity over the tribulations. But I didn’t read “Becoming” to suss out secrets about the Obama Administration or to seek some sort of acknowledgement of how terrible the first family had it during both terms in office. I read it because I wanted to hear a first lady talk about her life — her hopes, her dreams, her fears and her family. And she did, in a very real, down-to-earth manner.

Politics aside, Mrs. Obama should be applauded for talking about difficult topics like miscarriage and couples counseling, if for no other reason than to help people in those situations right now realize they’re not alone. And I about busted my gut learning she and Queen Elizabeth kvetched about uncomfortable shoes together, which may be the ultimate #FirstWorldProblem.

As political parties, opinions and Twitter feeds pull us further and further apart, “Becoming” is an excellent opportunity to put a pin in politics, even if just for a moment, and enjoy a book that is thoughtful and well-written.

This article was first published in the Tallahassee Democrat.