Noah Gordon



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by Noah Gordon
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(Frequently Asked Questions)

Q.  How long does it take you to write a book?
A.  Too long, probably.  I work slowly.  I average four years for each novel.

Q.  How much of this time is spent in research?
A.  For an historical novel, I usually spend about a year in research.

Q. Will you describe what you do during that year?
A.  Sure.  I  begin by searching the scholarly journals for anything having to do with my subject.  Just assembling the titles used to take me four or five weeks, but today with a computer, one can get a listing of every scholarly paper ever written on a subject in twenty minutes or so!  Then I choose the papers I want to consult; sometimes it's possible to read an abstract of the paper to determine whether it will be helpful.  Next I search the history books, and then contact the living historians with questions.  I have always found these experts generous with their time and knowledge.

Q.  And then you write your book?
A.  No.  Sometimes, but not always,  I write sketches of the principal characters; this helps me to give them complexity in the writing.  And then I write a long outline, usually a hundred pages or even longer, and when it is done to my satisfaction I begin to write the book.  I use the outline as a kind of map to remind me of where I'm going in the finished writing.  But I never follow it slavishly.  If the development of a character dictates that my writing should travel a different road than I took in the outline, I turn into that fork in the road.

Q.  Why are you so popular in other countries?
A.  Shortly after the publication of The Physician a publisher from Germany picked up a copy of the novel in New York and fell in love with it. He bought the German rights and promoted it strenuously. At the same time, the sales manager of my publisher in Spain and an influential bookstore owner in Barcelona also became enamored of The Physician and began a powerful word-of-mouth campaign. The book became a runaway bestseller in both countries (in Germany alone six million copies have been sold), and the successes in Spain and Germany caused it to become featured by a large number of other foreign publishers. The enormous popularity of The Physician led to each of my books becoming bestsellers in many countries.

Q.  Has the success of your books changed your life?  
A.  Inevitably there have been certain changes. Both my wife and I grew up in wonderful families without much money. When I was a young man, to support my family I worked simultaneously at three jobs (newspaper reporter, science writer at a foundation, and teacher at a junior college). Now I write novels. We have a comfortable home that we enjoy, but we live simply. It is a luxury not to worry about having enough money, and it is nice to be able to travel during my research periods. I had to write The Physician without visiting any of the sites I described, while I traveled through Spain several times (once for more than a month) researching sites I wrote about in The Last Jew.

Q.  Do you have plans for your next book?
A.  I have finished a new historical novelTHE BODEGAset in Spain in the 19th century. Work is very important to me. I've had a long career in which to develop my writing style (I'll be 81 on my next birthday.) The challenge to me now is to balance hard work with fully enjoying my family and smelling the roses.

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