An Interview with Gayle Lynds
Author of The Book of Spies
MF: THE BOOK OF SPIES is an outstanding spy thriller filled with action, heart and suspense. With directing, there are tricks to build suspense. Are there tricks or common devices for writing a suspenseful scene in a novel?
GAYLE LYNDS: There are always several ways to approach writing a scene, and novels, whether they’re mainstream or romance or thrillers, are written in scenes. If one wants to enhance suspense, one can simply let the reader know early in the scene what the scene’s lead character needs to accomplish. For instance, in a chapter in The Book of Spies, Judd Ryder must track down Eva Blake. Once that’s known, the reader is put in a state of suspense, waiting to find out whether Judd will or won’t catch Eva.
Another way to enhance suspense is to compress time. Instead of the novel taking place over a week, try to reduce it to four days. And finally, one must always remember how critical it is that the villain is worthy. If the author doesn’t respect the villain, give the villain brains and power, then the hero has nothing to rise up to defeat, and suspense is significantly diminished.
MF: What most surprised you when you researched the illuminated manuscript library?
GAYLE LYNDS:I was surprised and entranced that the Library of Gold had ever existed. After the destruction of the great libraries in Alexandria, Pergamon, Antioch, and other ancient cities, the court library in Constantinople was the last hope of the Western world. Then the city was captured by the Ottoman Turks. Fortunately 800 of the books eventually went to Moscow on ox carts as part of the dowry of Sophia, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor. She married Ivan the Great, and their grandson, Ivan the Terrible, inherited the library.
Imagine it. Nearly a thousand volumes covered in gold and embedded with gems. It must have been fabulous to stand in the midst of them — and to remember that many of the volumes dated all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans and have been lost to us today.
I was utterly captivated by the library, and hope that someday it’s found.
MF: Are any of your books available in electronic format? What do you think about e-readers? Do you use one yourself?
GAYLE LYNDS: The Book of Spies, The Last Spymaster, The Coil, and Masquerade are available on e-readers. Although I don’t use an e-reader myself, I’m intrigued by the format and very glad readers are finding it useful.
Of course ultimately for writers the format is immaterial. Our stuff can be published on paper, granite tablets, or in the ether — our job is still to tell great stories.
MF: Do you ever kill off a character that is causing plot problems? Or delete them?
GAYLE LYNDS: I tend to delete. I’m picky about whom I kill.
MF: How much of your week do you spend on writing and revision versus research and publicity?
GAYLE LYNDS: I spend the vast majority of my week working on whatever my next book will be. The exception of course is when I have a new book out, and then the pendulum shifts radically, and my time is devoted to promotion. By the way, I enjoy promotion a lot because it’s intense with time I can spend with readers.
MF: Was there a moment when you knew you had to be a writer?
GAYLE LYNDS: For me it was never one single moment; it was a lifelong obsession. Or visitation. Or addiction. From the time I was a small child and lived within books, I wanted to create for others that same kind of excitement and joy and opportunity to experience different lives. Books have always been a blessing for me.
MF: What are you working on now?
GAYLE LYNDS: I’m deep into the next novel in the series. The Book of Spies is the first, and the second is The Spy’s Apprentice. I’m having a lot of fun — and of course a lot of head-banging — with it. All normal, and when I finish I can never figure out why the book gave me so much trouble. For an author, finishing is a big part of the magic.
Read our review of The Book of Spies at MostlyFiction.com