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Eric Van Lustbader on Keeping Writing Ideas Fresh

Author Eric Van Lustbader has been a writing for over four decades, and he has always been able to craft new and exciting stories for his novels. To celebrate the release of his newest book The Kobalt Dossier, he wrote about how he keeps his writing ideas fresh after a long career.


By Eric Van Lustbader

“This is a masterly performance by an author who’s still fresh and original after a long career in a genre he helped define.”

Publisher’s Weekly wrote this at the end of their review of The Kobalt Dossier, the second novel in my Evan Ryder series. After a career that has spanned over four decades I’m often asked how I’m able to continue to gather fresh ideas. So many answers to that question I can’t cover them all in this limited space. However, here are the main ones:

I love what I do. I’ve been writing all my life, ever since I was seven, beginning with poems of things I saw around me, like rain, the beach, stars, or things I loved as a child, like a Brontosaurus (who lived in a world long before us!), my Teddy bear, owls (I’ve loved owls for as long as I can remember). I moved on to short stories, and then during my decade in rock’n’roll, interviews with star musicians and think pieces on new trends. Even then I had my eye on the future and what would come next.

No one knows anything, as the great screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote. At an early age I had already come to that conclusion. The so-called fog of war extends to everyday life. If no one knows anything, then what is really happening behind the scenes? As a teenager, I read spy novels by the truckload. One of the reasons they fascinated me was because they explained to me what no one else knew. They opened up a world of shadows, people living outside of society who kept the world from spinning out of control. And since control is what we all want so as not to be blindsided by life I wanted what those heroes had.

Since I couldn’t have that in real life I decided to create my own fictional world where I could have control – of everyone and everything. Ain’t fiction writing grand!

Combining my love of spies and their world with my innate desire, and ability, to extrapolate the near future from current events made writing through more than four decades not only (relatively) easy – writing is never easy, though it’s as often exhilarating as it is frustrating and anxiety-producing – but quite satisfying as well.

I recall with great pleasure my first meeting Robert Ludlum. It turned out that in the heady days of 1980 both he and I had novels on The New York Times Bestseller list. During the course of the evening we discussed our respective heroes, Nicholas Linnear and Jason Bourne. I was later to write eleven Bourne novels in 14 years, but that’s another story for another day. Bob was a terrific writer, but he came of age during the aftermath of WWII and was consumed by the myriad conspiracies that sprang up during those years. For him, everything led back to the war.

I’m younger. For me, the war and the 1950’s were parts of history I read about but did not feel viscerally as Bob did. Besides, I was all about looking ahead. Had I been born earlier I surely would have been influenced by the same issues Bob was, i.e. the US government recruiting Nazi scientists and spies, the rise and fall of Joe McCarthy, the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenburg, to name the most notable.

Dealing with the Big Lie. From the History Collection, “The “Big Lie” propaganda technique surfaced after Adolf Hitler wrote about it in his autobiographical book Mein Kampf (my struggle). A succinct definition of Big Lie reads like present-day political strategy: make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually the people will believe it.

The fact is the Big Lie keeps morphing. It was aided in those earlier days by radio, the first mass media, then by TV, and now, of course, because of the Internet, the most effective agent of mass media to date, it is disseminated across pretty much every country in the world.

Life keeps changing, but the Big Lie remains, producing endless fodder for writers like me, who feel a need to dig deep, turn a spotlight on the deepest shadows that seem every year to creep closer and closer to all of us.

Order The Kobalt Dossier—Available Now!

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