Nelson DeMille Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Nelson DeMille
Photo: Sandy Dillingham

Nelson DeMille

An interview with Nelson DeMille

An interview with Nelson DeMille, recorded by Talk City Network; reproduced by the permission of the publisher, Warner Books.

Time Warner Trade Publishing and Talk City Network are proud to present our special guest for tonight, Nelson DeMille.

Thank you, Nelson, for joining us today in Talk City!
Nelson DeMille: Good to be here.

TWBookmark says: What were you like as a boy? Hobbies, interests?
Nelson DeMille: I was very athletic, and played football, wrestling, and ran track in high school. My interests were girls. :-)

sushilvr-guest says: What techniques do you use as a writer to develop such a sense of suspense in your novels?
Nelson DeMille: Well, I use the cliff hanger technique. I try to end every chapter with an air of suspense. I try to leave the reader wanting to turn the page. I try to use short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters to keep the reader's interest.

pattyann10 says: I have enjoyed reading your books and find them unforgettable. I noticed that The Lion's Game is doing very well in the bestseller charts. Would you care to comment on that? Also, which book has done the best on the best seller lists? Do you feel that the competition in this regard is increasing?
Nelson DeMille: The Lion's Game is doing very well. It's number 5 this week on the New York Times bestseller list. If it wasn't for Harry Potter, it would be number 3. There is a lot of competition, but most of the competition is in the fall and the spring. My only real competition for this month has been John Grisham. So far, my last book, Plum Island, has been the best on the bestseller lists, with 22 weeks on the hardcover best seller list. I think The Lion's Game might match that.

Jester says: Where do you research information for your books? Your attention to detail in them is amazing -- I feel like I am right inside St. Pat's or the Charm School without being bogged down by dry descriptions!
Nelson DeMille: I do three kinds of research. Library research, which includes online--interviews with people in the professions that I am representing in the book--and field research, meaning going to the locations where the book is set. For instance, I spent a month in Moscow to research.

Effie says: Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write The Lion's Game? Is the story something you thought up right away, or did you cultivate it over time?
Nelson DeMille: The Lion's Game was probably written to bring John Corey back from Plum Island, partly because of my fascination with international terrorism. I hinted at this in Plum Island.

Jester says: Hi! I just finished your book and LOVED it! Is there any chance we will see future books with John Corey as the lead?
Nelson DeMille: First of all, thank you. There may be one more John Corey book, but not the next one, which features Paul Brenner from The General's Daughter.

Martin says: Not a lot of writers are as prolific as you. You are the author of over a dozen novels, and I'm sure there are more on the way. Do you find it difficult to come up with ideas for your books? If not, how do you continue to do it?
Nelson DeMille: I'm actually not that prolific, having written 11 novels since 1978, as opposed to writers who write one a year. Ideas are harder to come by, especially with the end of the Cold War and with so many other authors exploring so many subjects.

Hunter says: Do you remember the first story you wrote? Where have you hidden it? *grin*
Nelson DeMille: (laughing) The first story I ever wrote was in the 6th grade, and it was about the French Foreign Legion. I probably lost it. I got an A for it!

Jester says: I noticed in your book, The Lion's Game, there were a few subtle references to other books you have done. Have you done this in your other books, or was this a first for you?
Nelson DeMille: This was the first time I've ever made references to any of my other books. I had fun doing it...and I'm glad so many people enjoyed it!

pattyann10 says: I understand you wrote under the name of Jack Cannon. What type of books were these and why did you use another name?
Nelson DeMille: These were books written back in the early 1970s and they were New York City police detective novels. They were a series. They were about a homicide detective named Joe Ryker. I used the pen name because I knew I wanted to write better novels under my own name someday. The first novel under my name was By The Rivers of Babylon in 1978, and I have not used the pen name since.

krazykel says: Did your military background inspire some of your work?
Nelson DeMille: I was in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969. I was an infantry officer with the 1st Cavalry Division. I have used some of my army experiences in some of my novels, especially Word of Honor. Also in Spencerville.

Jester says: Have any of your books been made into movies? If so, are they TV or big screen ones? I would love to see some of these if they have been!
Nelson DeMille: The General's Daughter was a feature film starring John Travolta and Madeline Stowe. It was released in May of 1999. It is currently on video, DVD, and Pay-Per-View in some locations.

shawksie says: Were you involved in the making of The General's Daughter movie? If so, what was it like to be on the set?
Nelson DeMille: I was involved with the screenplay, but only to a small extent. It was interesting to see some of the movie being shot in Charleston and California.

Shelf2Screen says: How pleased were you with the way Hollywood handled The General's Daughter?
Nelson DeMille: I thought that Paramount Motion Pictures did a good job with the movie. They followed the storyline. Also, the acting was very good. The cinematography was excellent, and the movie was very successful at the box office. My only objection was the Hollywood ending.

Jester says: Can we expect to see a future novel with the Internet being a central focus?
Nelson DeMille: (laughing) Probably not. I think someone with more technical background could probably work it into a good murder mystery or a book of espionage. But, I have no plans at the moment to use the Internet as the main subject of a novel, although the Internet plays an important part in The Lion's Game!

Jester says: Do you get to travel extensively for research when writing your books?
Nelson DeMille: Some of my books call for a lot of traveling. With The Lion's Game I traveled all over the country for the locales. For Plum Island I went out to the real Plum Island. For Cathedral I went to Belfast, Ireland. For my next novel, which is set in contemporary Vietnam, I plan to go to Vietnam.

CCCharisma says: Most of your books seemed to have heavy references to the Cold War days. Were you a spy during the Cold War, and if so, for what side? :)
Nelson DeMille: LOL No, I was trained in Army Intelligence, but spent most of my army career in the infantry. But like many people of my generation, I was very much caught up in the Cold War, and books and movies about espionage.

TheLoser4Life says: Are you currently working on any new books? If so, can you talk about it a little?
Nelson DeMille: I'm currently bringing back the character of Paul Brenner from The General's Daughter. Brenner, who is a Vietnam veteran and currently a member of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, is asked to return to Vietnam to investigate a murder that took place during the war 30 years before.

Donna says: Was The Lion's Game finished as a cliffhanger or left open for sequel possibilities?
Nelson DeMille: There is a possibility of a sequel, although I left the ending open because I didn't want a stock formula ending.

Want2SeeMore says: How long does it typically take you to put out a book, from concept to bookshelf?
Nelson DeMille: My books have averaged about 2 years, but this last one, The Lion's Game, has been two and a half years since Plum Island. My next novel should be out in the middle of next year.

BookClub says: Hi! We have read two of your books in our Talk City Book Club so far. (The General's Daughter and Plum Island.) Your books were very well received! Do you have any recommendations for another book for our group?
Nelson DeMille: Thank you for reading my novels. I would highly recommend The Gold Coast, which is a more serious novel that was well received by all the critics. It is still available in paperback. My second recommendation would be The Charm School. A lot of book clubs have read it.

FutureHitz says: Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie next?
Nelson DeMille:The Gold Coast, which is currently being developed by Castle Rock. We may begin shooting as early as this summer. Also, Word of Honor is being developed by Dino DiLaurentiis. The Lion's Game and Plum Island have just been purchased by Columbia Motion Pictures.

Donna says: Who are some of your favorite authors? Is there anyone in particular you draw inspiration from?
Nelson DeMille: Ernest Hemingway was the author I drew inspiration from. I also like to read Truman Capote and Graham Greene. Conan Doyle is another...so is Tom Wolfe and John Steinbeck.

pattyann10 says: Are your manuscripts open for public view at a library somewhere? I would love to see them. Do you type or handwrite your manuscripts?
Nelson DeMille: Yes, I do write my manuscripts by hand, in pencil on legal pads. Then they are typed on a word processor by my typist. Most of them are available at the Muger Memorial Library at Boston University. My archives are kept there.

BookzFan says: Do you ever use friends or people you know as models for some of the characters in your books?
Nelson DeMille: No, I never use anyone as a sole model for any of my characters. But I sometimes use some personality traits to fashion part of a character. Most of my characters are composites of either people I know or people in the public eye.

Kujira says: What do you do in your spare time, and who is your fave thriller author?
Nelson DeMille: I do a lot of traveling, mostly to Europe...sometimes the Caribbean, and occasionally to Asia. My two favorite contemporary authors are Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

GeneralsDaughter says: With your next book, where you bring back Brenner, will this be a prequel or a sequel? I know in the movie The General's Daughter, Paul talks to the General about having met him before.
Nelson DeMille: The next book does feature Paul Brenner, and it will take place after the events of The General's Daughter. Brenner returns to Vietnam, but this is not exactly a sequel. to The General's Daughter.

Rob says: When the USSR collapsed, many thought there goes the spy game. Would you agree that we have plenty of petty despots and hot spots in the world to keep espionage (and spy thrillers) going?
Nelson DeMille: I think it's more difficult now to write a spy thriller with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many authors have tried, but few have succeeded in capturing the interest of readers. It's much different today than it was during the Cold War. The CIA is not the subject of many books anymore. But that might change, because of international terrorism and Red China.

marine2u-guest says: Will the prospect of industrial espionage provide as much fodder as the Cold War?
Nelson DeMille: No, this has also been tried in various books, including Michael Crichton's Rising Sun, but the subject doesn't seem to interest most readers. They couldn't care less about industrial espionage.

CareyFan says: If either Plum Island or The Lion's Game go to the big screen, who would be your ideal pick to play him? (Don't worry...we won't hold you to your picks!)
Nelson DeMille: I think the John Corey character reminds me of Bruce Willis, although I have heard it rumored that George Clooney may be interested in playing the Corey character. I think Mickey Rourke might also be good for the part.

Jeffrey says: Have you ever written in or considered a different genre? Or are you satisfied with what you know best?
Nelson DeMille: The Gold Coast was much different from my other novels. It's a book of social satire and manners and mores; it's also a love story.

Theodora says: Some writers tell us that a story has to 'age'--that sometimes, they may put an unworkable story in a drawer until something links with it, sometimes years later. Have you experienced this?
Nelson DeMille: No, I haven't. Most of my books are about contemporary subjects, and the world changes so fast that I'm lucky when events haven't overtaken the book I'm writing at the moment. For instance, The Charm School was published in hard cover less than a year before the Cold War ended, and the paperback came out after the Berlin Wall came down.

guest-Brulee says: Do you plan to do a reading/signing in the Boston area?
Nelson DeMille: Boston is not on my tour schedule, but if I do it will be late March and it will be announced on the Warner Books website.

Vonda says: Are you currently on tour for The Lion's Game? Where are you appearing next?
Nelson DeMille: I am currently on tour, yes! And I've been to Philadelphia, four Florida cities, Dallas, Denver, L.A., San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Oregon, and I'm currently in Seattle. In Seattle, I'm appearing at Third Place Books.

Ron-Guest says: Ok, pop quiz! You are going to a deserted island, and can only bring 5 books. What would they be? Nelson DeMille: I would bring George Orwell's 1984, The Complete Works of Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, and an Army Survivor's Manual! If I was with a woman, I'd bring a book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poetry.

TWBookmark says: Our time is up for today, Nelson. Thanks so much for being with us. Any final thoughts for our audience? Nelson DeMille: I thank everyone for their questions. They were thought-provoking and original! I hope everyone enjoys The Lion's Game. Thank you.

Posted with permission by Talk City, Inc. © 2000 All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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