Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Author Spotlight: Stuart Woods

When he was about ten years old, Stuart Woods found a police chief’s badge in his grandmother’s home in Georgia. The old badge was bloodstained, and battered by buckshot. It had belonged to his grandfather, who had died a decade before Woods was born. The badge, and the stories surrounding it, were never far from Woods’ mind as he grew up. After earning a degree from the University of Georgia, Woods spent the 1960’s  writing advertising in Manhattan and serving in the Air National Guard in Germany before moving to London, and then Ireland, where he isolated himself to write the novel in his head inspired by that old police chief’s badge. But about a hundred pages into the book, the sea’s lure overpowered him, and he became a sufficiently skilled world-class competitive yacht sailor to compete in the 1976 Observer Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race. Those experiences resulted in Woods’ first published book, a nonfiction work titled Blue Water, Green Skipper. It was a couple of years after writing a travel book titled A Romantic's Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland while continuing his sailing adventures, that Woods finally returned to the novel stuck in his head since he found his grandfather’s badge back in Georgia.

Released in 1981, that novel was titled Chiefs. At first it didn’t fly off bookstore shelves, but when that book soon became the basis for a hugely successful CBS television miniseries of the same name starring Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, John Goodman and Billy Dee Williams, things changed rapidly for Woods.

Between Chiefs, and the recent publication of his newest book Severe Clear, Woods wrote 48 other novels. Each of his last 35 books has soared on the New York Times bestseller list. All of them are devoured by avid fans in dozens of languages in scores of countries around the world, making him one of the most popular novelists in history.

Severe Clear is the 24th entry in Woods’ series featuring attorney Stone Barrington. Since Barrington’s 1991 debut, the retired detective turned lawyer/private eye has proven to be ever at the top of his dangerous game. Severe Clear finds Barrington navigating through a swirl of celebrity glitz and glamour spiked with espionage and terrorism, entwined between two beautiful women while battling a conspiracy that threatens the lives of America’s and Mexico’s presidents. It’s every bit as juicy as it sounds.

We’re pleased Woods stole some time from his hectic schedule to take a seat in the blazing lights of the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight. Research indicates the man prefers to situate himself in locales featuring 70 degree temperatures, and it’s way hotter than that under our fierce kliegs. Without further ado, let’s see how Woods fares in the heat.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Woods:    Huckleberry Finn, because it is the novel that everything else American is built on; and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because it is in twelve volumes, and I may be there for quite a while.

Gazala:    Your latest novel is an excellent and gripping thriller in your popular Stone Barrington series, titled Severe Clear. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Severe Clear, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Woods:    It’s my fiftieth novel, and, apparently, I’m still compos mentos.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Woods:    My personal bookplate contains a Rockwell Kent drawing of a sextant.  A sextant is an instrument for finding one’s position on the planet; so is a book.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Woods:    I have only one rule, and it is called “The Rule of Woof.”  Explanation: A dog goes into a telegraph office (this was some years ago) and says to the clerk, “I’d like to send a telegram.”  The clerk grabs a pad and pencil and asks, “What is your message?”  The dog replies: “My message is as follows: Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof; woof, woof, woof, woof.”  The clerk says, “That’s only nine woofs; you may have one more at no extra charge.  The dog shoots him a withering glance.  “That wouldn’t make any sense at all!” My point is, if you want to write something worth reading, you must use exactly the right number of woofs!

Gazala:    I've got to get ready for my cliff dive. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Woods:    Q: Where do you get your ideas?  A: I have a fevered imagination and a rich fantasy life, which helps with the sex scenes. That’s all you need.

Woods did well, don’t you think? Given his resume, that’s not too surprising. If sweat’s what you want, check out how Stone Barrington negotiates the multitude of perils in Severe Clear. You can do that at Amazon by clicking here.

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