David Baldacci, bestselling author of nearly 30 novels, mostly suspense stories (his most recent is The Escape), will speak at a luncheon to benefit the Library Foundation for Sarasota County, on Feb. 11 at the Devyn. We asked him about his prolific writing career, literacy and more.
I read a great quote from you about libraries, that they are “the mainstays of democracy.” Do you speak often to library foundations?
I love to do that. Early on in my career, a lot of my events were sponsored by libraries and friends of libraries. Growing up, I was always in the library, and books meant the world to me. It’s the reason I’m a writer today.
I know that fighting illiteracy is a passion of yours.
Yes, our Wishing You Well Foundation awards grants to literacy programs. There’s a new wave of teaching literacy coming that’s going to turn the old model of one-on-one tutoring on its head, with the approach being more in community-college-type classes. That makes it easier for people to avoid the shame they sometimes feel of saying they’re going to go learn to read.
Reading is the one skill you need; if you don’t have it, you’re lost. If you do have it, the potential is unlimited. And whether you want to be able to read the Bible or to get a driver’s license, it equates to better job skills and a better life for families.
I’ve read that you sometimes write for 10-15 hours a day. True?
When you’re in the middle of a piece, you really can write nonstop. I don’t outline my books, because I don’t know the ending when I start. I like being spontaneous. If I wrote from an outline, it would read that way. I don’t know untiI I start writing what my characters are capable of.
I’m at my most uncomfortable when I’m between writing projects, really. I sometimes write two at a time. I did that recently, going back and forth between an adult novel and a YA novel.
Always a question for writers: What are you reading right now?
I recently picked up a collection of short stories, some unfinished, by Dashiell Hammett, so I’m in the middle of that. There’s also a new Hercule Poirot that was authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie; I’m reading that. And The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot [about a black woman whose cells were taken from her and used for medical research without her knowledge]. And of course I always read anything by John Irving.
What would you say your own strengths are as a writer? And your weakness?
I think my strength is that I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone. I tell students you don’t always to have to write what you know about, but what you would like to know about. My weakness—I try to do too much. I don’t have any co-writers or ghostwriters and sometimes I go overboard. But the research I do before writing is so interesting. I don’t just Google or use Wikipedia; I get out there and do it. I can tell in 10 or 15 minutes of reading something if the writer never got up from behind the desk.
For tickets to hear David Baldacci, call 228-6274 or visit sarasotalibrary-foundation.org.