What would happen if a thriller novelist was suddenly forced to start thinking and acting like the fictional character they write about?
That was the premise for Lee Goldberg’s helplessly entertaining first Ian Ludlow novel, True Fiction, which saw one of Ludlow’s bestselling novels come to life and start to play out in real-time. So, imagine someone like Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum suddenly finding themselves in a very Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne-like situation, where, in order to survive, they have to suddenly become the character they created.
Since then, Goldberg has releases two follow-ups, last year’s Killer Thriller, and his latest novel, Fake Truth.
This time around, Ian attempts to help a Chinese movie star, only to once again find himself in another real-life thriller—one that involves the Russians and an attempt to use “fake news” in order to manipulate Americans into believing a dangerous lie . . . and it’s up to him to save the day before it’s too late.
Just before Fake Truth was released, Lee Goldberg agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for this book to what’s next for him and his other series, staring Eve Ronin (Lost Hills), which came out earlier this year.
A huge fan of Goldberg’s work, I was really excited to finally get a chance to ask him some questions, and he provided some really great answers. Check out the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of Fake Truth, now available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: What sort of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write?
Goldberg: On this one, I didn’t have to do much except use my own feeble imagination. I traveled to Porto, Portugal to research the portion of the book that’s set there, but otherwise, I just read the news and wept.
TRBS: What is your writing process like, and how has it changed over the years?
Goldberg: My writing process hasn’t really changed at all. I start with the characters. What situations can I put the protagonists, and obstacles I can throw in their path, that will reveal new aspects of their personalities, spark conflict with the other characters, and propel the plot? By starting with character, I know the story will have a strong foundation. (In the case of Fake Truth I had a head start, because the story picks up only hours after the events in Killer Thriller, though this book works as a standalone).
Once I have the general notion, I will do a bullet-point “beat sheet” outline of the major plot and character turns. If the beatsheet holds up, then I start doing the research I need — which, in the case of my international thrillers, often means getting on a plane to the locations I have in mind. Visiting the locale always inspires new twists and turns in the story, which I incorporate into my beatsheet. I will also interview experts and read books on various aspects of the plot, which inevitably leads to new twists as well… or even an entire replotting. And then I start writing. I write two books a year, so the plotting/researching process usually takes about two-to-three weeks and the actual writing of the novel takes about five months.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite writers, and what’s the last really great book that you read?
Goldberg: I read all kinds of things—mysteries, thrillers, westerns, literary fiction, and some non-fiction. I also read as much “vintage” stuff as I do new books. There are so many writers I like, so it’s hard just to give you a few. But I can say that Larry McMurtry, Robert B. Parker, Gregory MacDonald, Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, George V. Higgins, Trevanian, Lawrence Block, Robert Ludlum, Donald J. Sobel, William O. Steele, Ed McBain, and Elmore Leonard are just some of the authors who’ve had a huge impact on my writing. I gobble up John Sandford’s “Virgil Flowers” books and Ace Atkins “Spenser” novels the instant they come out. I thought Lou Berney’s November Road was terrific, though I was late to the party.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you, Bone Canyon? What can you tell readers about that one?
Goldberg: Bone Canyon is the sequel to my novel Lost Hills, and is about Eve Ronin, the youngest female homicide detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, a position that forces her to constantly prove herself. She works out of the Lost Hills Station, a jurisdiction that includes the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, and Calabasas. This novel, like the first book in this series, is inspired by a real event and begins after a wildfire has scorched the Santa Monica Mountains, revealing the burned, skeletal remains of a woman who disappeared years ago.
Bones don’t lie and these have a horrific story to tell. Eve tirelessly digs into the past, unearthing dark secrets that reveal that nothing about the case is as it seems. With almost no one she can trust, her relentless pursuit of justice for the forgotten dead could put Eve’s own life in peril.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.