I once read an interview in which Jim Lehrer from the PBS Newshour explained how he had time to write novels. His answer always stuck with me. “Butt in seat.” There’s no substitution for simply sitting down and finding the time to write. Also, publishing a novel is like running a marathon. The first twenty miles are the easy part. Writing a story is the initial part of the race. The real difficulty is making edits, making the book marketable, navigating the publishing industry, and promoting the product.
How do you get your inspiration? How do you do your research?
I write my books with Washington, D.C. as the backdrop. I keep my eyes and ears open every day. It’s amazing how ideas can pop into your mind if you remain observant. It’s best to write about something you know and love. I really enjoy politics and everything that makes D.C. tick. There’s never a dearth of fascinating stories and people surrounding me.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started publishing?
There are so many talented writers out there, it’s almost overwhelming. I feel quite honored to have a contract to write the Washington Whodunit series. There’s no room for the thin-skinned in today’s publishing world. If you can’t take criticism or a negative review, then find another passion. The internet and social media connect authors and readers in amazing ways, but they also allow consumers to express their true opinions with a few clicks on a keyboard. There is a certain degree of bravery and confidence that’s required.
Why did you write a mystery novel? Aren’t you a political scientist?
That’s a good question. I came up with the plot of Stabbing in the Senate one day when I was taking a walk in my suburban D.C. neighborhood. A few weeks later, I started writing and never looked back. Fiction is a great release for me. In my day job at the Library of Congress, carefully documented research is the name of the game. In fiction, creativity is rewarded, and the sky is the limit. Novelists have ultimate control over what happens in their books. That’s never the case in real political life. There’s something liberating about telling stories and writing the endings you want to take place.