Meet 2018 Pennwriters Conference Keynote Gayle Lynds!
Gayle Lynds is a New York Times bestseller and award-winning author of ten international espionage novels, including The Assassins, The Book of Spies, and The Last Spymaster. Her books have won numerous awards. Publishers Weekly lists her thriller Masquerade among the top ten spy novels of all time. Library Journal hails her as “the reigning queen of espionage fiction.” Lee Child says she’s “today’s best espionage writer.” The Associated Press calls her “a master of the Modern Cold War spy thriller.” With Robert Ludlum, she created the Covert-One series. The first – The Hades Factor – was a CBS miniseries. A member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, she is co-founder (with David Morrell) of International Thriller Writers, Inc. She lives outside Portland with her husband and a bossy geriatric cat. To learn more about Gayle, visit www.GayleLynds.com and www.RogueWomenWriters.com.
Gayle Lynds will lead two workshops at the 2018 Pennwriters Conference: The Eight Secrets to Creating Best-selling Thrillers and You, Too, Can Write Killer Plots. Her Friday night keynote address is titled “Confessions of a Spy Writer.”
To register for The Pennwriters Conference, visit http://bit.ly/2l7ooos
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Gayle: The best spy novels are whopping great tales. There’s a lot of excitement and mystery in them, and a chance to tell important stories about the hidden world of espionage, which affects all of us. The stakes can be enormous. The heroes and heroines often become larger than life, and the villains often start out that way. People lie. They keep secrets. They ache, bleed, want something. Holding on to one’s ideals while working for a better world can be the most difficult personal challenge. Those who succeed against the odds are the stuff of quiet legend, occasionally receiving clandestine honors and awards, and living out their days without telling tales. I like to show the selfless choices, the sometimes stupid moves, the costs, the humanity, the moral ambiguity of those who live in this gray world. And at the same time, I can indulge my lust for politics, history, and culture. All of this is why I love to read and write spy thrillers.
PW: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
Gayle: I wish there were a pill for this. Often we writers are simply creatively exhausted, or our unconscious is taking a break so it can secretly cogitate on character, plot, or somesuch. One needs time to recover, or to let one’s ideas percolate up to consciousness. Sometimes I can jump-start the process by asking myself, “What’s the villain doing?” The villain drives the plot, whether it’s in a minimalist literary piece or a grandiose potboiler. If you know what your villain is doing — whether it’s human, beast, or god — you’ll often be able to uncover where the book or story needs to go next.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?
Gayle: When I was in high school, my father built me a beautiful cherry desk with three drawers. It was an act of love and art, and now that I write on it, I feel his presence and the joy of his own work. His day job was as an engineer, but when he came home each night he’d head downstairs to his workshop, where he made magic in wood. Thank you, Dad, for your example and your unwavering belief in me.
PW: Is there something you always say to yourself when writing?
Gayle: “What am I really trying to say here?”
PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?
Gayle: Learn the rules of writing fiction, and learn them well. Then break them. By being smart about breaking the rules, you have a good chance of breaking new literary ground for yourself, and you’ll often surprise and delight your readers.
PW: You’ve been a writer for more than thirty years — including as an investigative journalist, a pulp fiction and YA author, and an editor and writer at a think tank — until ultimately you became known as the Reigning Queen of Espionage fiction. In your long career, what was your biggest high and biggest low?
Gayle: One of my lowest points was the unfortunate review Publishers Weekly gave my first novel, Masquerade. One of the highest points was several years later when it listed Masquerade as one of the top ten spy novels of all time. That was sweet. Masquerade was a book readers had loved enough to propel it onto the New York Times list. I loved it, too. But when that first review came out — the first of my career — I was devastated. It’s a lesson I never forgot — reviews are one person’s opinion, and not everyone is going to like what one writes. P.S. I sure wish they would, though.
PW: Very early in your career, you co-wrote books with Robert Ludlum before it was common for iconic authors to do so. How did that happen?
Gayle: In those days, I was being called the female Robert Ludlum. I was told Bob was reading my work and liked it so much he wanted to invite me to develop a basic idea he had into a thriller series, and to write the first book. That turned out to be The Hades Factor, which was made into a CBS miniseries. I went on to write a couple more of the novels in the series, and then retired. It was great fun, and I’ve always been grateful for the opportunity.
PW: If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
Gayle: In the future, say some 50 years hence. I’d be terrified to go there, but also terribly curious. Two of the themes of my life.
PW: Do you have a fear or a phobia?
Gayle: Yes and yes, which is why I write thrillers. Kill the bad guys!
To register for The Pennwriters Conference, visit:
Online registration ends May 15th, 2018 at midnight. Onsite registrations taken after that date.
All meal options end May 9th, 2018 at midnight.