Special 3 part Interview with author Barry Eisler + GIVEAWAY! (part 1)
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 our readers who haven’t had the opportunity to read Barry Eisler’s books, do yourself a favor in 2012 and read at least one. You don’t have to be a thriller aficionado to find yourself fascinated with his characters. Let me tell you, John Rain is hawt. Dox, too *wink*.
You can tell by his writing that Barry loves his subject matter. His sharp wit and offbeat sense of humor give added flavor to the dialogue and action. If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on any of his workshops, do so. You’ll be very glad you did…trust me, I speak from experience.
Interview with Barry Eisler Part 1
Mona: Which comes first, your character or the plot?
Barry: That’s a hard question to answer. Some of my books started with a plot idea involving a character that then needed to be fleshed out in some way. Other books have involved more of a character or characters in a certain situation, in which case the plot then needed to be fleshed out.
I guess what I’m saying is it doesn’t matter so much where you start as it matters where you wind up and what’s the process in between. You want there to be some sort of balance, and that means the story should be a combination of plot, which is ‘what’ and character, which is ‘who’ and setting, which is ‘where’ and all those things should be inextricably connected so that you can’t really pull any one of them out without the whole story unraveling. How the story started probably doesn’t matter all that much.
Mona: Where do you find your inspiration?
Barry: Again, it’s all three for me. I get plot ideas because I’m a political junkie and news junkie so I read all the time about what’s going on in the world and the country. That gives me a lot of plot ideas, which then lead to character ideas.
As an example, in my book Inside Out the story idea came from reading about these ninety-two missing CIA interrogation videos. The CIA made (they say) ninety-two tapes that depicted waterboarding of terrorist suspects and other forms of torture, and then they destroyed the tapes. This was reported in the news in December 2009. December 2007 originally.
And from that I wondered, Why would the CIA have made these tapes? And why would they have destroyed them? And then why would they then publicly acknowledge having made and destroyed them? What if these tapes weren’t actually destroyed, they were just missing? What if someone stole those tapes and used them to blackmail the U.S. government? And then I thought here’s the plot idea.
That’s what this book started with, because I was reading a lot of news about this stuff. But then the next question would be the character question. Who would have taken these tapes—what kind of person? Well, it would have to be this kind of person. And that leads to more plot questions, which is the way a story gets written. It’s actually reflective of the way a story gets read.
In other words, everything that happens in the plot should affect the character’s personality or outlook or behavior in such a way that the character’s changed behavior then turns the plot, etcetera. That’s how a good story gets written. That’s both the process and the result.
Mona: Of all the characters you write, which one is your favorite?
Barry: They’re all my babies. I love them all for different reasons. It’s a hard question to answer. Probably whichever one I’m writing at the moment feels like my favorite until I get to the next one, but I really like them all.
Mona: Which one’s been the most difficult to write—the one you really had to work at? Which one was easiest?
Barry: Dox, my former marine sniper….
Mona: I like Dox.
Barry: (laughs) Thanks, a lot of people like Dox. I don’t know why Dox is really easy. I never have to think about what he’s going to say. When I write his dialogue, it’s like I’m taking dictation. I’m just listening to him and writing it down. So, I guess Dox is my easiest character. Compared to Dox the other ones are harder, but there’s no one character that stands out on grounds of difficulty.
To be continued. . .