Jeff Abbott Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott

An interview with Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott answers questions about his writing habits, the music he listens to while writing, and offers advice for budding authors.

Q: What influences have there been in your writing?

A: First my grandparents, who were great Southern-style storytellers. My grandmother was a 2nd-grade teacher for 37 years; she introduced me to books and taught me to read at an early age. (I wasn't extra bright - she was just a fantastic teacher.) In terms of other authors, you can't raise yourself up to your idols, but I think I've been influenced most by the short stories of Eudora Welty and the novels of John D. MacDonald, who are decidedly a mismatched pair. But both brilliant in their own ways.

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I wrote a "novel" (I use the term loosely) in high school. Handwritten, about five hundred pages. Truly horrible. But I had always written, usually stories revolving television shows I'd like to have seen. I never formally studied writing but I got serious about it in 1992, and my first novel was published in 1994.

Q: You've moved from writing more traditional mysteries to more mainstream suspense. Why?

A: It was a creative decision. The ideas I was getting for books weren't appropriate for the traditional series I'd written. So I had to make a change, and I think I've made the right one for me.

Q: What's your writing schedule like?

A: I write in the mornings, generally from about 8-12. Also late at night, after my kids are asleep, if I'm close to deadline or on a roll.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Like everyone else, at that secret aisle at Target. Kidding. A lot of writers hate this question, not because it's a bad question, but because 1) the idea is only the tip of the iceberg of what the book is and 2) most writers don't know where their ideas come from. An idea is meaningless until the book is written around it. Anyone can come up with an idea, and I have far more ideas than I could ever write books about. Some of my ideas are quite bad, and I sure wouldn't want to spend a year with them. But to try and answer the question, ideas tend to be related to something you see or hear or read about and it sticks in your mind, dormant but present, a seedling, maybe waiting for the fertilizer of another idea or stimulus to take the appropriate shape. It's not that you go somewhere to get ideas; it's that you make your mind receptive to all the ideas that are confronting you each day.

Q: Do you play music while you write?

A: Sometimes. I love listening to suspense soundtracks, like for "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Jackie Brown". Or big, sweeping soundtracks, like "Henry V". (I'm a Kenneth Branagh fan.) I like Southern music, bluegrass, blues, old country, or Seventies funk. Often, after a book is done, it feels to me like it has a soundtrack to it, or certain songs become suggestive of certain scenes. I think, for instance, in A Kiss Gone Bad, the soundtrack could include "In the Middle of the Night" by Louann Barton and Jimmie Vaughn, "Essence" by Lucinda Williams, "Simple Song" by Lyle Lovett, "It Comes to Me Naturally," by Charlie Robison, "Better Be Home Soon" by Crowded House, "That's Real" by Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and "You Owe Me Some Kind of Love" by Chris Isaak.

The older I've gotten and the more I've written, the more interested I am in singers who are also songwriters, like Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton, Robert Earl Keen, and Chris Isaak.

Q: What's your advice for aspiring writers?

A: Read heavily in the area where you want to write. Be aware of what's selling and what's doing well but don't try to write to market trends; they are fleeting. Set a schedule for yourself; novels are big and you should try to break the work down in manageable chunks. So write for an hour each day or write 2 or 5 or 10 pages a day and stick to that schedule. If you do, you'll have a book eventually. It may not be publishable, but you'll have a book. Also—don't worry about getting an agent until the book is finished. I wish I had a dollar for every time an aspiring writer asked me how to get an agent and they don't even have a first chapter written. First things first—finish your book.

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Jeff Abbott at BookBrowse
Inside Man jacket The Last Minute jacket Collision jacket Panic jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Jeff Abbott but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Lee Child

    Lee Child

    Lee Child was born in the exact geographic center of England, in the heart of the industrial badlands. Never saw a tree until he was twelve. It was the sort of place where if you fell in the river, you had to go to the ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Panic

    Try:
    Echo Burning
    by Lee Child

  • Harlan Coben

    Harlan Coben

    Harlan Coben was born and raised in New Jersey.  After graduating from Amherst College as political science major, he worked in the travel industry. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Panic

    Try:
    The Innocent
    by Harlan Coben

We recommend 5 similar authors

View all 5 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free

Discover books that
entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Women of Chateau Lafayette
    The Women of Chateau Lafayette
    by Stephanie Dray
    The Women of Chateau Lafayette, Stephanie Dray's latest work of historical fiction, revolves around ...
  • Book Jacket: Windhall
    Windhall
    by Ava Barry
    Ava Barry's debut mystery novel Windhall is centered around the salacious murder of a starlet named ...
  • Book Jacket: Libertie
    Libertie
    by Kaitlyn Greenidge
    Kaitlyn Greenidge burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with her award-winning novel, We Love You, ...
  • Book Jacket
    Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
    by Cho Nam-joo, Jamie Chang
    'Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, thirty-four Korean age. She got married three years ago and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Raft of Stars
    by Andrew J. Graff

    A timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure set against the vividly rendered landscape of the Upper Midwest.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Mountains Sing
by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award: A multi-generational tale set in Viet Nam.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.