Special interview feature with author Barry Eisler + GIVEAWAY (part 3)
Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler’s bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous “Best Of” lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages. Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and, when he’s not writing novels, blogs about torture, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
For those of you who have just stumbled upon this post, be sure to catch up on Part 1 & Part 2 of this special interview feature with the always charming, incredibly witty, and phenomenal bestselling writer, Barry Eisler.
Interview with Barry Eisler Part 3
Mona: How long did it take you to get published?
Barry: From soup to nuts, from the first story I did, or first putting pen to paper to first sale of rights, about eight years. In one sense, my first manuscript was ultimately the first book I had published—that’s Rain Fall—but the truth is, the more accurate answer is, I rewrote that manuscript so many times in so many fundamental ways that it might as well have been my fifth or twelfth manuscript that got published. Because you learn by writing—reading and writing—and also by attending seminars and reading how-to books. But that’s pretty secondary to the main way of learning, which is reading and writing.
You can write five different manuscripts, and by the time you write the fifth one, you’ll have learned a lot, and hopefully you’ll be writing a lot better than when you wrote the first one. You’ll continually revise the first one until it’s something presentable, and yeah, that’s what I did. So it was technically my first manuscript, but I rewrote it quite a lot.
Mona: (laughs) I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that.
Barry: It’s a pretty rare person who just cranks out the perfect manuscript the first time.
Mona: Do you plot or do you just wing it?
Barry: I don’t wing it, but there are certain things I need to figure out before can I start writing. Once I know those things, I can write for a while then I have to pause and think again. But I don’t write super long, detailed, complete outlines by any means. My outlines are pretty short—maybe five-ten pages. When I know who the characters are, what’s the situation, what’s the inciting incident, then I start writing.
Mona: Do you have a crit partner or group?
Barry: Not as such, but there are certain friends of mine—and family—whose judgment I trust and who I go to with ideas. It’s not really collaborative, but I bounce ideas off them.
Mona: Do they tell you “that doesn’t work there”?
Barry: That or they’ll refine what I’m already thinking or point to some different direction I hadn’t considered. So I definitely do that, but it’s not a formal critique group or anything.
Mona: Our upbringing affects everything about us. Did you come from a large family, small family?
Barry: Pretty small. I’m a middle child with an older sister and a younger brother.
Mona: If I were to ask them what kind of a kid Barry was, what would they tell me?
Barry: Good question. I guess my parents would say I was always a nice kid, but also difficult, because as a kid, I didn’t have much direction. I was bored by school, and even though my standardized tests indicated I was reasonably bright, my grades certainly didn’t reflect that. So it was a challenge for them to try to find the lever, the crank, to get me focused in some way that would be at least more productive for me later in life.
That was a big challenge, and I know that was a fairly significant frustration of theirs trying to find out how to motivate me. And the truth is, they didn’t really need to do all that much—I just wasn’t ready.
Looking back, I went through what I think of as a kind of intellectual puberty in college when I was about twenty years old. That’s just when I was ready. It’s just like regular puberty—some kids hit it at a certain age, some kids hit it later. When you’re ready, you’re ready, and I was ready when I was about twenty. They could have intervened heavily, they could’ve just sat back and read all day, and I was probably going to hit that point in my life when I was about twenty either way. I’m sure glad I did hit it.
Mona: We’re all glad you hit it.
Barry: Thanks…But I think that’s probably what they’d tell you about me.
Mona: Thank you very much for sharing your time and thoughts with us.
Barry: And to you Mona!
*Paperback Dolls wish to thank Barry Eisler for answering some questions for us and allowing us to share the experience with everyone. Be sure to check out Barry Eisler’s website for information on his work, special tips for aspiring writers, lots of fun and cool extras and of course his books!